Indigenising internationalisation: intersecting the global and local

Indigenising internationalisation: intersecting the global and local

Like many who study international education, I was pleased when 2015 brought us updated definitions of internationalisation, internationalisation at home and of the curriculum. i, ii, iii I then began to realise that, although these revised definitions attempt to more explicitly connect internationalisation efforts with educational and societal outcomes, they may not be sufficient to guide the Canadian approach. Anchored in the global Indigenous movement, Canadian higher education has other concerns.

Though these new definitions originate from national contexts with histories tangled in imperialism and colonisation, they fall short of acknowledging the global Indigenous movement. Moreover, they fail to address the Canadian context where, also in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action urged our institutions to acknowledge and remedy the difficult history of relations with the First Peoples of the land.

Even prior to the TRC’s Calls to Action, many Canadian institutions had been working to meet sometimes parallel, sometimes competing, mandates to both internationalise and indigenise. While indigenisation and internationalisation have different agendas and rationales, as an intercultural educator, it seems that building bridges across these efforts may be effective in meeting the common goals of both – specifically in regards to student learning.

If one of the central goals of 21st century education is to prepare students to be effective professionals and citizens in increasingly complex – interconnected and opposed global and local – contexts, then critical, transformative, and inclusive pedagogies will be required to actualise both internationalisation and indigenisation. In lands that carry the legacy of colonisation and oppression of indigenous populations, it seems reasonable to look for ways in which these mandates may complement one another; yet, does the responsibility to consider indigenisation remain in the former colonies? What about those that did the colonising? Should they be excused from the exercise?  How do these legacies inform current mobility and migration? Are some of our international students also indigenous students?

Global and local

Recently, the term ‘glocalisation’ has been applied in educational discourse. Perhaps this combining of the global and the local can inform the way in which internationalisation might seek to engage with cultural diversity both beyond and within our borders, and begin to address the complex legacies of contact, and current patterns of displacement and mobility.

According to Patel and Lynch, a glocalisation pedagogy moves beyond current internationalisation frameworks in embracing social justice, responsibility and commitment to local and global sustainable futures. iv This sounds promising, but how can it be achieved without relapsing into patronising or essentialising the ‘other’? In pondering this question, I think we might consider what Andreotti termed ‘epistemological pluralism’ – the idea that multiple knowledges should be acknowledged and intentionally explored by inviting multiple perspectives. v Or, even, the idea of how cross-cultural encounters may need to open up a new or ‘third space’ in which something new can be co-created., vi

What these frameworks share is critical, dialogic and inclusive pedagogies as core principles for learning and teaching across and within difference. In order to encourage exchanges that value multiple perspectives and responses to the human condition, learning and teaching might embrace encounters where the principles of critical reflection and discourse – central to transformative learning – provide the basis for inclusion and mutual meaning making.


It is certainly not sufficient to suppose that the structural diversity of our campuses will result in increased understanding, nor is it realistic to suppose that those fortunate enough to engage in mobility programmes abroad will become advocates of equity or social justice at home. Learning for the current reality should include developing capacities to engage with other ways of knowing, and being and to co-construct meaning within complex local and global contexts.

Higher education is currently interrogating what internationalisation means or could mean. Therefore, we are at an ideal moment to critically consider where the intersections between our local and global diversities can enhance student learning and support the broader goals of cultivating social responsibility, social justice, cultural and environmental sustainably through engagement and action. As internationalisation considers its future, it may be wise to pay attention to the global movements to indigenise – even for those who are not settlers on Indigenous lands.

Kyra is Intercultural Coordinator at Thompson Rivers University, Canada.


i de Witt, H., Hunter, F., Howard, L., & Egron-Polak, E. (2015). Internationalisation of higher education. Brussels, Belgium: Policy Department B: Structural Cohesion Policies, European Parliament. Retrieved from
ii Beelen, J., & Jones, E. (2015). Europe calling: A new definition for internationalization at home.International Higher Education, 83, 12–13.
iii  Leask, B. (2015).  Internationalizing the curriculum. Abingdon: Routledge.
iv Patel, F., & Lynch, H. (2013). Glocalization as an alternative to internationalization in higher
education:embedding positive glocal learning perspectives. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 25 (2), 223-230.
v Andreotti, V. (2011). The question of the “other” in global citizenship education: Postcolonial analysis of telling case studies in England. In L. Shultz, A. A. Abdi, & G. H. Richardson (Eds.), Global citizenship education in post-secondary institutions: Theories, practices, policies (pp. 140–157). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
vi Bhabha, H.K. (1994). The location of culture.  London: Routledge.