Ikudu and Erasmus

Welcome to the iKudu Project

iKudu Blog

Welcome to the iKudu blog, which aims to amplify the diverse voices of the iKudu stakeholders. In this space, members of the iKudu team will regularly share their views on our project and related international education topics. 

The iKudu project is based on the fundamental belief that it is necessary to rethink internationalisation in an uncertain world. First, it is crucial to recognise and transform the power dynamics underlying international academic collaboration. Second, it is essential to develop pedagogies which allow every student to participate in international education, integrating technology where appropriate. 

However, while we agree on the fundamental tenets of our project and our principal goals, all our stakeholders contribute different perspectives. The iKudu project plan reflects the diverse insights of a team hailing from South Africa and Europe. In this blog, we aim to provide a space for intellectual discourse on our project and related international education topics, which allows for constructive, critical engagement

Cornelius Hagenmeier
iKudu Project Coordinator 

iKudu Blog – Shaping a Transformative Internationalisation Research Agenda in an Online Environment

by ikudu Blogger | May 02, 2021


By Dr Alun DeWinter, Research Centre Global Learning: Education and Attainment, Coventry University and Prof Lynette Jacobs, Head of Research: South Campus for Open Distance Learning, University of the Free State  

The iKudu project is now well underway, with Global South-North COIL projects being crafted and delivered. However, it is absolutely essential that learning and teaching delivery is supported by a robust research agenda. In turn, the experiences of iKudu COIL project delivery should feed back into research to help disseminate findings and support decolonised, co-equal COIL delivery across the world.

This blog, adapted from a recent webinar presentation, delves into the importance of having a transformative, decolonised research agenda for online internationalisation at a higher-education level. 

By Lynette Jacobs and Alun DeWinter

The world is changing rapidly, and issues of equality and equity within education are in the spotlight more than ever before.  We, as academics and educational professionals, need to take stock – not only of the current body of knowledge on internationalisation of higher education – but also to critically consider the philosophical and theoretical foundations of scholarship in the field.  Our research should therefore critically consider WHY we deliver internationalisation content, more than the HOW.  We need to be critical of internationalisation for the sake of marketing and metrics, and we must analyse the underlying academic discourses that steer internationalisation.  If we talk about internationalisation, global citizenship, and the ‘common good’, whose version of that common good are we focusing on? Whose voices are heard, and who are silent in existing research? 

If we are to tackle issues of equality, diversity, representation, and making voices heard, research must be transformative. We, as social sciences and educational researchers, have a duty to add new knowledge and to offer new or alternative takes on existing knowledge, and to challenge what Miranda Fricker calls ‘epistemic privilege’. It could even be argued that it is unethical to undertake research that does not challenge norms and strives to make our world a better place. Transformative research challenges conventional wisdom and helps to redefine the boundaries of education. This must inevitably include conversations around decolonisation and the challenging of pre-existing structures in order to attain a better understanding of what works best in certain contexts.  

Indeed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that traditional Eurocentric practices are simply not appropriate for learners worldwide, so the context of education must be taken into account.  Drawing from Comparative and International Education , one must consider the influence of historical, political, socio-economic, cultural, demographical, geographical, and philosophical factors in the societies of different countries.  This must be done with an understanding of diversity and context, and certainly not be approached from a deficit perspective.  Going even deeper, we also need to be critical of the inequalities that comes with different contexts.  We must furthermore be mindful that there is not a single ‘context’ in a country; for instance, while South Africans share commonalities, there are many ‘different worlds’ in this country.  This diversity must be respected and taken into account in research; again, not from a deficit view, but in order to deepen understanding. We must engage on ways to remove barriers to educational opportunities, and this requires resilience, adaptability, and innovation.  

Clearly, understanding of marginality and diversity and the nature of being diverse is essential for research around internationalisation. Equality within diversity does not imply sameness, but rather an appreciation for differences, something that is really coming to the fore in this project.  In the case of iKudu, we are taking a well-established tool for the internationalisation of education – COIL – but we are also using it to explore issues of equality, equity, decolonisation, and Africanisation. Indeed, although COIL is a proven tool for internationalisation at home, this is a far more complex task than simply porting a tool or approach across from European context and expecting it to work in South Africa.  Instead, we are seeking to tailor the use of COIL to a South/North collaborative situation to develop our understanding of what Africanisation is, and to challenge existing Eurocentric norms that are embedded in many of our educational practices.

Within iKudu, equality is a key consideration for the research we are undertaking, and the use of online spaces is central to this. In terms of the South-North collaborative element of the project, the online space does open up a more equitable platform regarding access to internationalisation for all. Traditionally, internationalisation has included overseas travel and mobility; this is a luxury that is prohibitively expensive for many, something that we all perhaps forget too easily. It is a privilege to travel, but internationalisation should be accessible to all, especially if our goal is to create global citizens through education. With this in mind, the ability to engage with people anywhere on the planet by using the online space is so powerful for all involved.  For researchers, we are able to share insights, challenge assumptions, and create transformation by working with non-local partners. For students, it is a more accessible portal to the wider world that helps them to develop critical intercultural competences. That being said, the use of online tools is not a perfectly equitable answer. Our European partners are fortunate enough to have high-speed, persistently available internet connections, but this is not always the case for the South African colleague who are not always able to engage in synchronous audio-visual communications due to connectivity and the cost of data.  

We must therefore be cautious and avoid trying to claim that the online space is truly equitable to all.  Although our research does indicate that online technologies are transformative, we just have to be careful to quantify this and to explore limitations within iKudu.  As iKudu continues to deliver COIL activity, we need to focus on authentic, appropriate, and inclusive research methodologies so that we can truly understand to what extent internationalisation and curriculum transformation are advanced though online endeavours. As such, our research must unpack and confront assumptions that drive the internationalisation of higher education and any assumptions that may arise from a global South-North collaboration. We need to be critical about what we assume in terms of acquiring knowledge in this complex environment and rethink the question ‘how can we know’.  This again involves decolonised thought and considerations of power relations across the iKudu consortium. 

In order for our research to be truly transformative, we have to challenge our assumptions about human nature and about each other, not just in terms of South- North, but also in terms of other binaries.  We must confront our subjective views about the relationship between people and their environment.  We need to unpack our values. While doing this, we must be mindful of the purpose of our research and not fall into the colonial traps of reinforcing colonial practice. Within iKudu, we are using COIL as the tool of choice for embedding internationalisation at home across the consortium, but we have to look hard at whether or not this is another Eurocentric practice that may inadvertently be contradicting the underlying decolonisation focus of iKudu.

Although COIL is a flexible enough tool that can be tailored to different contexts, we need to make sure that we are focusing on the subjectivity and really look at the needs of each of our partners. This should not be, and is not, an exercise in ‘selling’ one way of doing COIL, but we do have to be very mindful to keep our sights on the decolonised, Africanised agenda to ensure that we are harnessing online practices for the purposes of delivering meaningful transformation. 

Finally, we must not lose sight of who internationalisation is ultimately for.  The initial phases of iKudu focused on capacity development, staff training, and the development and implementation of COIL activity. As the project progresses, we must recognise and draw from all the varying funds of knowledge within all of our consortium’s stakeholders. As part of this, we need to look at the students, as well as local knowledges and local practices, and really unpack how these can be used to make the experience of engaging in COIL relevant, meaningful, and exciting.  iKudu workgroup 1 (WG1) is currently conducting an Appreciative Inquiry (AI)  to appreciate and map attitudes towards internationalisation at home and how each of the consortium member institutions is currently engaging with internationalisation. This is not to compare or rank the universities, but rather to explore what works across the consortium, with a view to offering insight into different forms of practices across all ten institutions. This is a particularly powerful tool for the decolonised approach, as it is not a deficit model – we do not focus on what cannot be done or what is not achievable; instead, we look towards discovering, dreaming, and designing for a truly transformational destiny. WG1 is still in the early stages of completing this AI, but please look out for iKudu outputs in the future, as this is a great example of transformative research in action and, hopefully, a worthy example of ‘doing transformative research right’.


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Chevon Slambee 
Chief Officer: Strategic Projects, Institutional Reporting, and Research Internationalisation
       T: +27 51 401 2501
          E: jacobscs@ufs.ac.za

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