10 December 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
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The iKUDU kick-off meeting sets the tone for a three-year collaboration between 10 universities that share a vision for internationalisation

In order for higher education institutions to stay truly relevant and impactful, they need to be able to respond to global trends and patterns of higher education and internationalisation. Digitisation is one of the critical aspects of 4IR, which is currently unfolding.

The iKudu project is an innovative project that will connect large numbers of students utilising digital technology, thereby allowing students to gain international exposure irrespective of socioeconomic background, gender or disability status. Internationalised and transformed curricula, which integrate Cooperative Online International Learning (COIL) and virtual exchange, are a new model for the higher education teaching and learning. This will allow all students to develop the graduate attributes required for success and employability in a globalised world.

The University of the Free State (UFS) is the coordinator of the iKUDU project, which has been awarded €999 881,00 funding from the European Union’s Erasmus + Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE) framework. It held its kick-off meeting from 25 to 26 November 2019 at the Bloemfontein Campus. The Office for International Affairs coordinates the project and hosted this meeting, which mapped out the project’s trajectory for the next three years. The co-coordinating University of Antwerp and all partner universities attended.

Inclusive and decolonised curricula

Over the next three years 10 partner consortium universities, consisting of five European partner universities and five South African partner universities, will have the responsibility of developing a contextualised South African concept of Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC), which integrates COIL virtual exchanges. This is an ideal firmly anchored in our university’s Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP).

Dr Jos Beelen, a professor of Global Learning at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, referred in his keynote address to the 2014 Erasmus Impact Study, which assessed the effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions.

According to the findings, 64% of employers considered international experience important for recruitment which was a significant increase from 37% in 2006. In addition, the study showed that 64% of employers said graduates with an international background are given greater professional responsibility. Although conducted in Brussels in the European Union, the results reflect the growing view that internationalisation is the future.

Bridging the mobility gap

COIL Consulting Director, Jon Rubin, also presented a keynote address in which he stated: “International education has long suggested that the way to expand one’s view of other cultures is to travel, usually by studying abroad, and that modality, when engaged with intensity and self-reflection, is probably still the best way for students to learn about the world.”

Coloquium Content
Delegates who attended the iKUDU Colloquium at the University of the Free State ( Photo: Charl Devenish) 

However, only a select few university students and professors have the chance to blend study and research with travel. “COIL is a method for re-purposing the tools and affordances of online education so that they serve a new goal – that of providing meaningful international experiences for students and instructors. I think we can do more to build true online bridges to other cultures and I believe we can accomplish that through COIL linkages,” said Rubin.

UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, alluded to the project in his welcoming speech saying: “The focus of the iKUDU project is curriculum transformation.” The iKUDU kick-off meeting served as a platform to develop a project implementation plan that will ensure that equal, bilateral international collaboration between institutions and in the classroom remains a high priority.

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