Fiona Clyne and Roger Woock

Monash Centre for Research in International Education

Monash University, Australia

The research project, of which this paper represents one report, is the result of both thinking about and practising a set of operations that results in student exchange: the movement of students (without additional fees) from one country and university to another for a prescribed period (one or two semesters) with the understanding that reciprocal movement will occur.

In part this paper is an attempt to theorise student exchange. We believe it is important to do this for three reasons:

1. Theory helps to explain student exchange better and better explanation should lead to better programs;

2. Theory helps to identify student exchange as a positive aspect of the overall process of globalisation; and

3. Our anecdotal evidence suggest that something occurs during and after a student exchange which needs to be explained.

We take our theoretical orientation from the chapter "Globalisation, the State and Educational Policy Making" in Taylor, Rizvi, Lingard and Henry’s Educational Policy and the Politics of Change (1997) and the work of Richard Falk, most particularly his chapter titled "The Making of Global Citizenship" in Global Visions: Beyond the New World Order (Brecher, et al 1993).

We wish to locate student exchange as a university activity which belongs to and participates in cultural globalisation. We wish to distinguish it from certain other international activities of universities particularly the export of education ie full fee paying international students pursuing an entire diploma or degree course. These programs are best seen as activities of a corporate university engaged in the commodity of education. Different languages are used to talk about exchange and full fee. Reciprocity, cooperation, global understanding are terms associated with exchange whereas market share, the dollar value of qualifications and prestige of awards are stressed in full fee.

The theoretical starting point for our analysis is Richard Falk’s distinction between globalisation-from-above and globalisation-from-below. Globalisation-from-above, according to Falk, reflects "the collaboration between leading states and the main agents of capital formation". It may be either a "geo-political project of the U.S. government" or a "technological and marketing project of large scale capitalism" (Brecher, 1993:39).

Globalisation-from-below, on the other hand, "consists of an array of transnational social forces animated by environmental concerns, human rights, hostility to patriarchy, and a vision of human community based on the unity of diverse cultures ... seeking an end to poverty, oppression, humiliation and collective violence". It expresses the spirit of "democracy without frontiers" (Brecher, 1993:39-40).

We believe student exchange may contribute to globalisation-from-below through the production of particular forms of global citizenship. Anecdotal evidence suggests that studying abroad can be a dramatically life changing experience. In the words of Ricoeur (Morley & Robins, 1995:25):

when we discover that there are several cultures instead of just one, and consequently, at the time we acknowledge the end of a sort of cultural monopoly, be it illusionary or real, we are threatened ... (by) our own discovery. Suddenly it becomes possible that there are just Others, that we ourselves are an ‘other’ among Others.

Falk identifies types of global citizens associated with the process of globalisation from either above or below. His ‘multinational corporate citizen’ is clearly a product of globalisation-from-above. His ‘structure orientated’ global citizen holds a positive view of international organisations like the UN, UNESCO, WHO, UNICEF and sees these bodies and others becoming stronger and playing a major role in peace keeping and developing standards of work, health and education. This model has aspects of both ‘above’ and ‘below’. His ‘transnational activist’ is most clearly a type of citizen associated with globalisation-from-below. Transnational activists may be associated with the green movement, the international women’s movement as well as peace and human rights.

Our argument in this paper is that student exchange done well does contribute to the development of both the structure orientated world citizen and the transnational activist.

In Australia over the last few years, there has been a shift in the conception of international education away from a narrow, strictly commercial approach to a broader, more comprehensive understanding of the internationalisation of education. The growth of student exchange programs in the 90s is part of this phenomenon and one that has the potential to help students develop a global perspective.

The number of students participating in student exchange is still not large. In Australia, annual student mobility is in the order of 1,500, about 0.2 per cent of the undergraduate population (Hamilton, 1998). This compares with the situation in the US where roughly 100,000 students study abroad annually which is about 1% of the undergraduate population of four year colleges and universities (Australian International Education Foundation, 1998) and Europe where through the SOCRATES-ERASMUS program about 150,000 students or 5 per cent of the undergraduate population are now participating annually (Hamilton, 1998).

In their efforts to both quantify some aspects of their internationalisation strategies, and also to evaluate staff performance, many Australian universities have imposed either numerical or percentage target figures to be achieved for student mobility. Since student mobility includes short term intensive language programs, internships, project work and a variety of other overseas experience which may be undertaken independent of any exchange agreements, it is hard to compare institutional figures for student exchange because some institutions count some of these students in the figures for exchange. Also some institutions count students who had a year long exchange in both semesters while others count only the number of new students sent on exchange each semester.

However the awareness of the potential of student exchange has led to the provision of a sounder infrastructure of university support for its implementation. This includes the provision of better access to information, for example, more sophisticated web sites for student exchange, more dedicated staff positions as well as the allocation of funds, for example, Monash University has recently committed $900,000 in 1998 to support outgoing student mobility under the Monash Abroad program with substantial funding to follow.

While there is little clarity about what constitutes internationalisation of higher education, inter-cultural experience is considered an essential component. So, for example, Back, et al (1997:1) define internationalisation of higher education as:

the process of integrating an international/inter-cultural dimension into the teaching, research and service of the institution.

Despite the recognition of the importance of student exchange in helping universities meet their objectives of internationalising the curriculum, little research in Australian or overseas universities has been done on key questions such as how? what? and, with what outcomes? This lack of data on the likely student outcomes of internationalisation has led commentators to point to a number of areas that need further work. Zhang (1998:12), reviewing the literature on the impacts of study abroad, poses the following questions:

how can study abroad professionals determine the relationship between the set-up of a particular program and the impact of the experience on the participants? To what degree can study abroad professionals help maximise the positive impact of study abroad by controlling the design and management of a program? How can study abroad professionals help integrate the intended and the unplanned outcomes to maximize the impact on study abroad participants?

The need for research is echoed in recent work in Europe looking at strategies for internationalising higher education (Knight & de Wit, 1995) and in Australia where the link between internationalisation and the acquisition of global skills by young Australians is acknowledged to be assumed rather than proven (Australian International Education Foundation, 1998).

This year, the Monash Centre for Research in International Education conducted a study which looked at student exchange from the perspective of the student (Clyne & Rizvi, 1998). It was one of the projects commissioned by IPD Education Australia for presentation at its annual conference under the theme, Outcomes of International Education: Research Findings.

The study was based on a questionnaire designed to explore the experiences and reflections of students from four Victorian universities. Each institution sent out 50 copies of the questionnaire to selected former participants in student exchange programs from the last three years. The participating institutions were asked also to supply the figures for the number of students who participated in exchange programs during the last three years as well as any public documentation that was available on their program.

Figures supplied by the four institutions showed that the numbers of students participating in exchange programs has remained reasonably steady with two of the institutions posting 100 students or more in each of 1996,7 and 8 (142 being the highest in 1998) and the others from 40 to 75.

Over 80 questionnaires were returned. This return rate should be interpreted within the context of the mobility of the students and graduates in question. A roughly 40 per cent response rate is considered respectable in market research, however we had expected a higher rate given that our anecdotal evidence suggested that exchange students find the exchange experience highly significant yet undervalued on their return. The questionnaire provided a chance to express this. A number of students thanked us for giving them the opportunity to reflect upon an experience that they regarded as highly significant to their personal development.

If the questionnaire is any guide then the modal exchange student is female, over 20 years old, Australian born, monolingual and private school educated. She has travelled overseas before she went on exchange at least three or more times although she has not lived overseas for more than a year or been to school overseas for more than 10 weeks. She is a Business student who travelled alone to the US to take up an exchange place in 1997 for one semester. She lived in university accommodation and the total cost of the exchange was $10,000 which was predominantly self financed and she did not need to take out a loan.

However, the devil is in the detail and a break down of the modal exchange student which shows more diversity is documented in the paper given at the IDP conference in October (Clyne & Rizvi, 1998).

We are highlighting several aspects of the survey which are directly concerned with institutional performance so that institutions could change their practice. In no case was the exchange a course requirement, however lecturers were both a source of information about the exchange program (almost 25 per cent of the time) and overwhelmingly encouraged the exchange (almost 65 per cent of the time).

This predeparture involvement was not carried over to a student’s return. Students rated the learning experiences they had during their exchange as very useful with regard to their further education plans (more than 60 per cent) and returned to Australia with a different to very different approach to education (more than 70 per cent ). Yet lecturers showed little or no (50 per cent) interest in hearing about their exchange or any inclination to make use of the exchange experience (almost 80 per cent). This was both a source of frustration to some students yet others were sympathetic because they could not see how it could be used. The students who experienced frustration felt that their experience should be incorporated into the syllabus either prior to or on return from exchange, that they were a valuable and willing resource on course development who should be encouraged to give a presentation on comparative differences including what materials were used in the same subjects at their host university, how the teachers taught and what different ideas were circulating around the host university, and that their overseas study experience could be used as examples in case studies or at the very least acknowledged. On the otherhand, a number of students questioned the relevance or transferability of the knowledge gained in their exchange experience.

University advertising was the primary source of information about the exchange program (almost 40 per cent of the time) with lecturers and friends being the other significant sources (each about 25 per cent of the time). Student perceptions of the quality of information provided by their home university ranged across the spectrum from very poor to very good with almost 40 per cent regarding it as poor to very poor with an additional 35 per cent plus regarding it as adequate.

Problems with credit transfer were common with 48 per cent of students experiencing some difficulty and 21 per cent a great deal of difficulty. In fact problems with credit transfer were nominated a number of times by students as one of the most negative factors about their exchange experience: "(having) to fight for the credits gained (despite) extremely good academic results". Another recurring negative factor was the lack of any contact, feedback or interest from the home intitution as expressed by one student:

absolutely no contact during or after my exchange from (the institution).The (student exchange office) was not interested and did not repond to my pleas for help with credit transfers - didn’t bother to contact me in any way. I could be dead in the USA and they wouldn’t know. Didn’t contact me on me return. Very disappointed.

Students responded enthusiastically when asked to identify what changes they would recommend to their home universities to prepare students better for exchange programs. The suggestions included:

better financial planning advice, better course advice, better promotion of the exchange program throughout the year, proper orientation before they leave, better organisation including the provision of contact numbers at both ends before they leave, establishing clear processes on enrolment and re-enrolment and transfer of credits, facilitating the opportunity to network with former exchange students and exchange students on campus from the partner universities, setting up a communication site (web page) so students can share experiences while away or an email user group address, putting a buddy system in place involving former exchange students, ensuring that the home university has a clear understanding of the host university’s subject criteria and structure of courses, better liaison on subject availability, debriefing on return.

Students’ expectations of the exchange experience included: the opportunity to see unfamiliar places, to build relationships with people from another culture, to return home with a great life experience, to have developed more knowledge about their discipline and about the university system in the host country, to be challenged academically, to have their preconceptions altered and "to have it stand out on my resume as a very positive factor in relation to my skills and understanding of the world". Their major anxieties revolved around whether they had enough money, how to move into a new institution and country without a network of support, travelling alone, making friends, personal safety, finding accommodation and failing.

Students demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm and excitement about their time on exchange. Almost 80 per cent of them left Australia with high to very high expectations and roughly the same percentage rated the overall experience as very good.

Students overwhelmingly (more than 90 per cent) rated the exchange experience as being very useful to them personally, an experience which has changed their plans for the future either somewhat (almost 60 per cent) or dramatically (almost 30 per cent). Among the significant differences which the exchange has made to them personally, students nominated that it gave them: increased self confidence and maturity, greater self awareness and self knowledge, an appreciation and understanding of other cultures, greater appreciation of the value of their family and friends at home and an international network of friends, more patience, greater open-mindedness, better self management skills and resourcefulness and determination:-

To know that I have the ability to stand on my own two feet away from the comfort zone of home and not just survive but thrive.

Another aspect of the survey which interests us is the effect that the exchange experience has on inter-cultural sensitivities. It is assumed that living and studying for a consolidated period overseas will increase inter-cultural sensitivity and that students will return to their home countries more aware of cultural difference, more receptive to different cultural approaches and with more insight into their home country. It is further assumed that these attitudes will persist and that students who have benefited from exchange will live and work with greater ease and confidence in multicultural environments whether in Australia or overseas; capacities that are cited as desired outcomes of the internationalisation of universities and capacities that are critical in the formation of global citizens.

Students acknowledged that they had become either more (almost 50 per cent) or much more (40 per cent) culturally sensitive as a result of their exchange with several of the few who responded that their cultural sensitivities were unchanged, adding that they considered themselves culturally sensitive already . Cultural sensitivity is obviously a desired personal attribute but what this means in terms of future behaviour is far from clear.

Among the most positive aspects of their exchange experience a number of students nominated: discovering the diversity of cultures in their host countries, linking with people who are proud of their culture, not being afraid of difference and living and learning in a completely different culture. As one student eloquently put it:

never.. assume an understanding of a culture one has not had contact with;
cultural differences can influence the smallest element of a person’s behaviour.

On their return, students overwhelmingly identified the people they had met and new friendships formed as one of the most positive aspects of the exchange. When they returned to their home environment the sorts of conditions which fostered establishing and maintaining friendships such as living in university residences and being in an unfamiliar environment no longer apply and it is more difficult to form new friendships with people from other cultures. However, almost 60 per cent of students believed that since their return their friendship with people from other countries, including international students, has increased.

We believe that the results of this survey supports our claim that student exchange is important and changes students. We also claim that the change identified is in the direction of developing ‘structure orientated’ world citizens and ‘transnational activists’. As we have said before (Clyne & Woock, 1997: 56-7):

Exchange supports values that underpin the building of a meaningful democracy in an ethnically diverse country such as Australia and values that are critical in countering race and gender discrimination. It has the potential of helping to forge global civil society and must be protected, encouraged and developed.

For this potential to be realised we need to conduct better research. We should begin by acknowledging serious research problems in this area.

1. The problem of self selection. Exchange programs are voluntary (or may be a requirement in a course that is internationally orientated) and it is clear that the participants are not a cross section even of university students . Would potential exchange students find substitute activities if they were unable to go on exchange? Are exchange programs only a small part of a global personal development for students?

2. The problem of the definition of student exchange. Does a three week internship count? In what ways is the ‘exchange’ aspect important?

3. The problem of the definition of global citizenship and global civil society. These concepts have been sketchily outlined at best.

More work needs to be done.

Paper delivered at the 26th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society Looking at the Past, Looking to the Future: Educational Change in Comparative Perspective, University of Auckland, 6-9 December, 1998.


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