Internationalisation is one of the major forces that is shaping higher education, as it is to meet the challenges of the 21 century, according to Jane Knight, distinguished educationist from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada.

She was delivering the inaugural Erudite Lecture on the theme ‘Internationalisation of Higher Education in the 21st Century’ at the School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP), Mahatma Gandhi University here on Wednesday.

Prof. Knight said that internationalisation referred to different things to different people, and the overall picture that is emerging is one of complexity, diversity and differentiation. The internationalisation of higher education is a process that is evolving as both actor and reactor to the new realities and rather turbulent times facing higher education. She said that the international activities of universities dramatically expanded in volume, scope, and complexity during the past decades. These activities range from traditional study-abroad programs, allowing students to learn about other cultures, to providing access to higher education in countries where local institutions cannot meet the demand. Other activities stress upgrading the international perspectives and skills of students, enhancing foreign language programmes, and providing cross cultural understanding.

Prof. Knight said that although globalisation and internationalisation were related, they are not the same. While globalisation is the context of economic and academic trends that are part of the reality of the 21st century, internationalisation incorporated the policies and practices that are undertaken by academic systems and institutions—and even individuals—to cope with the global academic environment. The motivations for internationalisation include commercial advantage, knowledge and language acquisition, enhancing the curriculum with international content, and many others. Specific initiatives such as branch campuses, cross-border collaborative arrangements, programs for international students, establishing English-medium programmes and degrees, and others have been put into place as part of the internationalisation process. Attempts to monitor international initiatives and ensure quality are integral to the international higher education milieu, Prof. Knight pointed out.

Earlier, inaugurating the lecture series, University Vice Chancellor Rajan Gurukkal, said that “deeper knowledge is essentially subversive” but the current trends in higher education across the world tend to mould people to be “conformists” in every sense. In the emerging scenario, discursive practices are seen as uninvited guests and thereby taking away politics of deeper knowledge from the very process of developing critical consciousness, Prof. Gurukkal said.

Raju Thadikkaran, Director, SIRP welcomed the gathering. K. M. Seethi chaired the session. M.V. Bijulal, P.P. Raveendran, Suresh and others spoke.

Meanwhile, the University has informed that Prof. Knight will be the Scholar-in-Residence during January - February 2012 and will deliver a series of lectures on various themes of higher education. The programme is being organised in association with the Kerala State Higher Education Council.

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