Internationalization - for whom and why? A discourse analysis of the concept of internationalization in national policy documents

  • Susanne Jämsvi, CLU, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden

    Internationalization in higher education is taken for granted, and most researchers in "globalization and education" agree that we live in a global knowledge economy (Lundgren, 2010). As early as 1978 Lyotard (2009) prophesied that knowledge would change from having an intrinsic value to being a commodity, something that is consumed, produced and sold. A question for higher education is how the intentions and ideas of internationalization is formulated in national policy documents, and what kind of discursive shift has occurred since the government report on internationalization in 1974.

    In this research seminar I will briefly present the findings from a critical discourse analysis (Fairclough; Halliday) conducted on Swedish policy documents in higher education, briefly drawing on texts from the European Union Council and the European Commission. Focus in the analysis is on how globalization/internationalization is described and presented.  

    Preliminary findings hardly surprisingly show that the notion of economic interests is strong. Internationalization is described in terms of a world economy and a global labour market where mobility of people and international elements in professions are benchmarks.  Internationalization is also presented in terms of quality, where international cooperation contributes to new perspectives, and where people at universities, e.g. students and teachers, from other countries or with international experience are seen as assets. Internationalization in higher education is also about promoting understanding and respect for different viewpoints, international solidarity and joint responsibility for the world.

    In the discussion I would like to raise questions on the impact and consequences of the national (and supra-national) policy discourse emerging in the findings. Possible perspectives to problematize could be knowledge as an item for sales, knowledge as an investment, reciprocity and power, and English as lingua franca and as a business language.

    Discussions could be held on societal and organisational level as well as on individual level. The analysis and its findings can also be subjected to discussion.