- The IntlUni Principles for quality teaching and learning in the multilingual and multicultural learning space
(Coordinator’s note: In the course of its three-year project (2012–2015), the IntlUni Erasmus Academic Network1 has addressed the challenges and opportunities in the multilingual and multicultural learning space with the aim of
• identifying the quality criteria that should characterise teaching and learning in the multilingual and multicultural learning space; and of
• developing recommendations for how higher education institutions may develop and implement quality teaching and learning in this space.
The IntlUni Principles2 are part of the final outcomes of the project.)
In the development towards the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are facing new challenges. Students and teachers in higher education form much more heterogeneous groups than ever before, using a wide spectrum of languages and representing a wide spectrum of cultural backgrounds in what may be termed the Multilingual and Multicultural Learning Space (MMLS). To address these issues, the IntlUni project has produced a set of guiding principles for teaching and learning in the MMLS, which describe the development of quality in these highly diverse contexts in the EHEA. [End Page 199]
In the MMLS, as in any educational environment, certain conditions for learning must be in place for the students to meet the intended outcomes of the courses taught. However, the MMLS is distinguished by the use of an academic lingua franca and by students with different knowledge systems and diverse ethnic, academic, disciplinary and linguistic backgrounds. The IntlUni Principles therefore reflect the diversity of the actors and contexts in the MMLS, which not only poses special challenges to learning but also creates rich opportunities for enhancing learning and intercultural competence. These challenges and opportunities have resulted in a wide variety of innovative and locally viable practices among the IntlUni partner HEIs. Project partners have provided substantial evidence of these practices in the form of examples relating to the institutional environment, educational processes (teaching and learning) and students’ educational outcomes, and this has provided a significant foundation for the development of the IntlUni Principles. Yet it is also apparent that these practices are often localized or individual solutions produced by teachers or programme managers, whose dependence on specific local contexts may preclude transfer into different learning environments in other institutions.
We believe that the guiding principles which this project has derived from the examples of practice deserve greater and more explicit attention from all stakeholders, and that the implementation of such principles needs to be embedded in policy at institutional level and supported by adequate funding. Nevertheless, we recognize that, when addressing quality issues in the MMLS, the local environment must be taken into consideration, as the achievement of quality depends on the requirements and conditions within a specific context. This project has included participating institutions from across Europe, and the contexts in which these institutions operate vary enormously – as do the contexts of HEIs everywhere. This means that it is difficult to provide concrete recommendations for specific measures.
This has two consequences for the future implementation of such principles. First, every institution needs to make its own local definition of the stakeholders involved in the educational process, and then to ensure that these stakeholders are involved in making meaningful local interpretations of the principles in each specific context. Secondly, we cannot prescribe the means for implementation of these principles because every institution has its own organizational and decision-making structures. Needless to say, implementation and funding will depend on the support of the individuals, committees and other bodies that make the decisions in each institution, and this is what we mean in this document when we refer to the institutional level. [End Page 200]
Development of the IntlUni Principles
The IntlUni Principles are the result of a process of sample collection and analysis, consultation and validation in the group of IntlUni partners and among external stakeholders. They derive from almost a hundred different examples of local practices developed to meet a wide variety of challenges posed by the MMLS at the 38 European partner HEIs in the IntlUni network.