5 September 2017

Internationalisation worsens inequality in Irish universities

In a new article, Dr Aline Courtois highlights the unequal effects of higher education exchange programmes in Irish universities.

Dr Courtois argues that increased participation in such programmes, while a positive outcome, obscures a growing differentiation in the types of exchange programmes and destinations.

Based on documentary analysis and interviews, the article shows that there are combined pressures on universities to increase their students’ participation in international exchange programmes. However, this is coupled with budget restrictions. As a result, exchange destinations are becoming stratified, leading to differentiated experiences and outcomes.

Dr Courtois examines in particular the emergence of different models of exchange that have moved away from an academic focus. She suggests that socially unequal strategies mean the more vulnerable remain either excluded, or limited to ‘second best’ programmes.

Dr Courtois points out that the Irish case is not unique, as universities in other countries are similarly pressured to increase outgoing numbers in order to comply with the missions assigned to them in the ‘knowledge economy’. She argues that this is one of the consequences of internationalisation under the pressures of cost-saving, corporatisation and a focus on employability.

She concludes that this leaves open the question of practitioners and their role in shaping internationalising practices in the corporatised university.

It doesn’t really matter which university you attend or which subject you study while abroad” the massification of student mobility programmes and its implications for equality in higher education is published in the European Journal of Higher Education.