Engaging with the world

The International Office recently awarded an International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA) Golden Key award for Best Practice in Developing a Comprehensive Internationalisation Strategy.

International Office Director, Ms Orla Quinlan, accepted the award on behalf of the university at a gala dinner in Cape Town last month as part of the 16th annual IEASA conference. Over 20 South African public universities and representatives from many international universities attended the conference where Prof Ahmed Bawa, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology, pledged his commitment to support IEASA and to put internationalisation firmly on the South African Higher Education agenda.

For Ms Quinlan, it was a double honour as she had just been selected as the chair of the IEASA director’s forum prior to the conference. The award was presented by Dr Lavern Samuels, IEASA President and the Director of international Education and Partnerships of the Durban University of Technology. She is very pleased about Rhodes receiving the award, which she considers as an important benchmark.

 “The award is a helpful way to engage in conversations across the university, allowing people to think about internationalisation, not as an isolated concept, but looking at how it is reflected throughout the whole institution,” says Ms Quinlan.

The selection process was evidence-based and adjudicated independently by some of leading thinkers in internationalisation from the Netherlands and Australia. “The quality of the academic project is at the heart of internationalisation. We also need to be thinking about strengthening the global attributes and competencies that will allow South African graduates to work anywhere, with anyone,” she says.

“Many South Africans will find themselves working with people from other places, while remaining in South Africa and many others will find themselves travelling for South African and multi-national companies operating outside South Africa. This is a reality of globalization. Therefore, it is important for all Rhodes graduates to be cognisant of international developments across the globe and to develop intercultural competencies.”

Apart from being super busy this year, organising events such as an international parade and a panel discussion on Africa Day, the International Office has a two-fold aim to engage Rhodes staff and students: internationalisation at home and internationalisation abroad.

The former aspires to engage the majority of South African students at Rhodes with people, ideas and knowledge from all over the world. “It’s very much about how we benefit from each other’s knowledge, while on the Rhodes campus,” says Ms Quinlan.

Internationalisation at home focuses on events involving all students such as panel discussions and seminars. Students who do not have the opportunity to travel can still strengthen relationships with people from other countries by engaging with international citizens at Rhodes.

Internationalisation of the curriculum is another key component of the internationalisation at home project. The International Office recently hosted a seminar, engaging 20 representatives from different Rhodes departments in a conversation about the internationalisation of the curriculum at Rhodes.

“Internationalisation of the curriculum is about being conscious of what is informing the decisions about the content of the curriculum we select. It is a process of questioning our underlying assumptions. For example, do we tend to use Western ideas in our academic work, or do we include perspectives from other parts of the world such as Asia, Latin America and the rest of the African continent, for example,” says Ms Quinlan. “We are engaging with the world and the world is engaging with us.”

The International Office has been making great strides this year –not only celebrating and supporting international students at Rhodes, but encouraging critical engagement with all the various aspects of internationalisation. A significant number of Rhodes students are from countries outside South Africa with the majority of the international student body originating from SADC countries.

Caption: International Office Director, Ms Orla Quinlan receiving the award from the IEASA president, Dr Lavern Samuels.

By Anna-Karien Otto