Humanities Blog

Sustaining institutional internationalization: Studying the intercultural competences at Tallinn University

The subject of international is topical in the academic research and for Higher Education Institutions (HEI) because it has the parameters for measure the global image of a HEI.

James Sunney Quaicoe

In the defended thesis, the author was seeking for answers to how Intercultural Competence could be used as a medium to sustain institutional internationalisation.  The thesis asserts that as a contributing factor in defining the international image of an institution Intercultural Competence impacts more on the human actors in the institutional internationalisation plan. Consequently, exploring the Intercultural competence of an institution with the intend of using the outcome of such study to sustain the internationalisation agenda of that institution is a step in the right direction.

In effect, the thesis situated the themes in the proceeding discourse within the Tallinn University Community, with the intention of:

  • Exploring the Intercultural Competence status and needs in the University community.
  • Exploring the relations between the local and international students in the context of the intercultural competence statuses.
  • Exploring the intercultural competence differences and similarities of the local and international staff members.
  • Exploring the views of staff and students about ICC agenda issues in the university,
  • Finding out how Intercultural competence can be used in sustaining University’s Internationalisation agenda.

The study was underpinned by the by Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT), Deardorff’s Intercultural Competence Model and Bennett’s Intercultural Sensitivity Model. In the process, the process the thesis advanced the Integrated Intercultural Competence Model (IICEM) as a framework for Institutional Intercultural Assessment. To situate Intercultural Competence in the operations of an institutional agenda, Jane Knights internationalization cycle was adapted as a model for designing an institutional internationalization agenda; within which the innovative and sustainable roll of Intercultural Competence would unfold. 

The was descriptive in nature and it used both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Staff members and students at the Tallinn University Community were the main participants of the study. Participants contributed to the study using online surveys and persona narrations.

In the final analysis, the study established using Deardorff’s ICC model’s constructs (attitude, knowledge, skills, internal outcomes) as input and Bennett’s Intercultural Sensitivity Model Constructs (Ethnocentric and Ethnorelative) as output in the IICEM, Members of the TLU community are more likely to exhibit an Ethnorelative Intercultural competence/sensitivity. The study further observed that areas ICC issues requiring further attention are ICC assessments, ICC training, ICC counselling and promoting collective institutional dialogue about those themes.

Again, the study established that, there is not significant differences between local staff and international staff when it comes to the reaction to ICC issues. The implication is that the professionalism and the global engagement of the staff might be the contributing factor for this outcome. However, the same cannot be the said about the ICC differences between local and international students. There statistically significant differences among students (local or international) on what is ideal and acceptable in the Intercultural Sensitive factor “Integration”. The differences arise around those factors that suggested that if you are Ethnorelative and reached the stage of Integration you can live in any culture or be considered as global citizen. While the international students were of the view that they can live within any new culture with ease, or fit globally the local students thought otherwise. Invariable, being Ethnorelative and at a level having competence stage of “Integration” is not a guarantee that one can live in every or any culture – the study explained.

Finally to situate ICC as sustaining medium the study proposed two alignments within the institutionalisation of the University based of Knights’ Internationalisation agenda. The alignments are: i) ICC Needs and Operationalisation of ICC services alignment and ii) Commitment to ICC Practices and reinforcement of ICC engagements alignment. The alignments are to be driven by the internationalisation, Intercultural/Multicultural education, Culture and Intercultural Competence and Communication experts in TLU. Thus functioning as expert caucus supporting management by making inputs with respect to ICC needs and services, ICC tools and resources for ICC agenda operationalisation and determining modalities for reinforcing ICC agenda for commitment to sustaining the Internationalisation Agenda of the University.