Introduction to the Case Studies

These case studies have been updated


Much can be learnt from an examination of previous efforts at internationalisation. For this reason, a number of case studies have been compiled as an accompaniment to this discussion paper which illustrate some of its main themes. These are referred to at key points in the main body of the paper. However, they may also be read independently, because they raise other important issues not directly discussed in the paper.

Case study 1
Colonial, Privileged and Extractive Relationship
(Jan J Monk)

Case Study 2
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
(Ifan D H Shepherd)

Case Study 3
Taking Education Overseas
(Ifan D H Shepherd)

Case Study 4
International Textbook and Journal Publishing
(Jan J Monk, Ifan D H Shepherd)

Case Study 5
Academic research networks: the Transborder Consortium
(Jan J Monk)

Case Study 6
Teaching networks: The ERASMUS Geography and Gender Network
(Joos D Fortuijn)

 

Case Study 1

Colonial, Privileged and Extractive Relationships
Jan Monk

This case study has been updated

This case study reflects personal experiences and ideas from conversations in Australia, New Zealand and India, spanning the 1950s to the present. The presentation is thus partial and idiosyncratic, yet I believe offers some significant lessons for the network.

 

Australasia

My undergraduate education at the University of Sydney in the 1950s clearly incorporated the institution's colonial mindset -- symbolised by the University motto: Sidere mens, eadam mutato (although the star is altered, the mind remains the same). It was most evident in my history and literature courses: for two years we studied only British and European history, with in-depth treatment of such primary sources as Tudor and Stuart constitutional documents. Only in the final, third year of history (which, as a Geography student, I did not take) was Australian history introduced -- and rumor had it that most of the year was spent getting the First Fleet out of England [1]. The rest of the world was invisible.

I had a full major in literature (known as 'English') and over three years we studied British writers intensively, with three weeks on one Australian poet (the lecturer's research subject), and again, the rest of the world was invisible. These patterns were not significantly altered till the 1970s, when changes in the population, government, and sense of national identity began to be reflected in the curriculum. Jill Ker Conway (1989) and Andrew Riemer (1998) have documented the personal and institutional costs of the cultural (and masculinist) models of the 1950s, focusing on those two departments.

My undergraduate geography was a somewhat different story. Although theories, concepts and textbooks were largely from Britain and the US, we had field work and 'practicals' in the first year which exposed us to the local scene. Since geography was only just beginning to expand in Australia, the teaching staff were recruited not only from Australian graduates but included those who had trained or worked in New Zealand, the US, India, and Scotland. Naturally, they brought those experiences to their teaching. Geographers also seemed to be recognizing Australia's changing place in the world. The regional courses I recall most clearly dealt with North America (taught by an Englishman who had a US master's degree) and an Asian course, taught by a geomorphologist who freely admitted he was learning along with the students.

Looking back, and as I continue to read contemporary work by Australian (and other non-US and non-UK-based geographers), I am struck by the plurality of sources that are cited in the literature (mostly English language items in the Australian case, but drawn from US, UK, Canadian, and New Zealand as well as Australian publications -- a pattern that contrasts with much of the British and US literature, where references to national literatures seem to predominate). The international recruiting, study abroad by native geographers, and the smaller body of literature produced locally, support looking beyond the national. So while there have been costs to the 'colonial' model, it has also had advantages -- the 'periphery' may have substantial knowledge about the 'core', as well as knowing about the 'periphery'. The lesson for the proposed network supports one of the conclusions of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) study of international networks (Bernard, 1996) -- there is value in striving for diversity, in seeking multiple centres, not simply in diffusing the hegemonic.

 

India

My recent conversations with scholars in India about their collaborations with US institutions shed light on some issues of privilege and extraction. Re-orientation from the British colonial curriculum towards inclusion of Indian concerns was one of the priorities in Indian universities in the 1950s, but this was also a time when the United States was looking to spend its foreign exchange reserves in India, making it possible for Indian students to study in the United States, and for funds to be provided in support of US consultancies in curriculum development in India. Linkages were formed with specific institutions, resulting both in curricula that looked like those of the US-host institution and in staffing of the supported Indian department with graduates socialized and trained in the versions of the field practised in a limited range of US institutions. Indian scholars came to realize that, despite the work accomplished with the external support, they needed to revise the 'new' curriculum so that it spoke to local needs, rather than replicating the Midwestern US world view. Their revisions demonstrated resistance to the external hegemony while retaining the external relationships.

Responses to collaborative projects of the 1980s highlight concerns of extraction and privilege. US funds have supported a variety of programs, through the US Information Agency (a unit within the Department of State) and the US Department of Education to strengthen undergraduate international studies within the United States by funding partnerships with foreign institutions, group projects abroad for US university teachers, and other mechanisms. These programs, worthy though they are in addressing parochialism in US curricula, can be problematic for the international partners. Financial control has (often) remained with the US institutions, setting up one form of privilege that may be accompanied by arrogance (intended or not) in personal encounters, setting expectations, seeking control, and making demands on local scholars. The visiting scholars gain much new information, but what do they give in return? Do they appreciate the sense of heritage (and a different form of privilege) held by their foreign counterparts? How can competing senses of heritage and privilege be negotiated?

In one of the Indian projects, local scholars were very aware of these issues, and negotiated to ensure that publications would not only be designed for, edited, and published in the US, but that Indian project leaders would have equal review and editorial rights with their US counterparts, and that publication would be by the Indian branch of an international scholarly publisher. Because the Indian project leaders were widely experienced cosmopolitan scholars and skilled in human relations, they were able to negotiate a more equitable partnership and product. However, such outcomes are not assured. Other examples, for instance a 1990s international distance education project in which a younger scholar is participating, indicate that the voices of the 'Other' are more likely to be dismissed.

These examples highlight the need for those developing international networks to ask who sets the agenda, who will benefit, who will be in control, how value is assigned to non-economic assets, how power and responsibility can be equitably negotiated, and will 'heritage' and 'privilege' be balanced so that international collaborations yield equitable, if not the same, outcomes for the partners?

 

Footnote

[1] Conway (1989) reports that primary sources for the Australian history courses were mostly reports written by English officials.

 

Case Study 2

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
Ifan Shepherd

During the mid-1990s, many thousands of NGOs were operating worldwide, spending an estimated $10 billion annually. (It should be noted that an untold number of local NGOs also operate around the world, many of which might be better referred to as 'grass-roots' organisations.) Many NGOs maintain a highly successful network of contacts at all levels of society in the countries in which they work. NGOs raise at least four important issues to do with the setting up of an international network for geography in HE.

 

1.  Role

A primary role of NGOs is to provide assistance in specific parts of the world when things (appear to) go wrong. War, famine, disaster, emergencies are the trigger for many NGO operations, and this is significantly different from the role perceived for the international network for geography in HE. Should the geography network broaden its remit to include 'interventionist' kinds of operations in local areas? If so, what lessons can be drawn from the operation of NGOs in informing us on how best to undertake such a role? Are there differences that reflect or follow from the mission of the NGO (e.g. humanitarian, developmental, campaigning) that can help to inform the development of an international disciplinary network in geography?

 

2.  Ownership

Most of the money spent by international NGOs is handled by 'Northern' organisations. In these countries, NGOs adopt persistent and low-profile publicity as well as episodic and high-profile publicity to gain the financial support of the general public and/or large donor organisations. Two issues are pertinent here: how should the geography network set about acquiring funding for its activities (if at all), and should its operations be based on a funding model that is largely centred on the 'Northern' countries of the world?

 

3.  Relationship between education and other activities

As with missionaries, many of the relief and humanitarian activities undertaken by NGOs involve education. A prime example is disaster relief: once considered largely as a short-term effort involving flying, shipping and/or driving in supplies and medical aid when disaster struck, it is now seen as including a longer-term effort of enabling local communities to rebuild their lives and attempt to mitigate the effects of, or even prevent, future disasters. What are the difficulties of associating geographical education with other activities? Which other non-educational activities are best linked with the development of geography in HE: business, cultural promotion, entertainment?

 

4.  Networking arrangements

There is a growing trend for NGOs to work together when responding to particular emergencies or needs around the world. Admittedly, this does not happen as often as one might like (many NGOs are successful precisely because they 'go it alone'), but the evidence is sufficient for us to ask whether the approaches taken by NGOs to set up collaborative arrangements can inform efforts within geography in HE. At a broader level, we might ask whether the needs of geography are best served by acting independently as a discipline, or whether its goals can best be met by forging links with other disciplines who are undertaking similar networking initiatives. This is perhaps particularly appropriate in view of the increasingly undermined position of geography as a discrete discipline in some countries. At a more practical level, it might be asked whether the arrangements made to coordinate NGO operations might illuminate our own efforts in geography. This second question will now be explored in further detail.

During the early 1990s, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) undertook a major project (entitled: 'NGO Coordination in Humanitarian Assistance'), which was aimed at generating a culture of more active coordination among NGOs. The emphasis of the project was on field-level coordination, and it led to the appearance of a book which described some of the options available (Bennett 1994b). From a large number of detailed studies of NGOs, eight models of coordination were identified in practice:

  1. Independent membership umbrella organisations of NGOs active at national and regional levels, usually across several sectors;

  2. Similar to 1, but usually specific to a single sector;

  3. Federations, unions or networks of grassroots organisations;

  4. NGO councils set up by the national government as part of a consultation process between itself and the NGO sector;

  5. Councils of Social Welfare or Social Services, mostly affiliated to the International Council on Social Welfare;

  6. Consortia which bring together a number of Northern and/or Southern NGOs, combining financial and staff resources for a specific programme of activities;

  7. Consortia dealing with relief and development activities within particular confessions (usually the Christian church);

  8. Sub-regional networks of NGOs which may either be sector-specific or whose membership comprises other national/regional umbrellas from groups 1-5 above.

Among the many important issues raised by Bennett (1994b), the following appear to have similar weight in the context of developing a network for geography in HE, and especially in relation to the possible creation of a coordinating body:

 

Case Study 3

Taking Education Overseas
Ifan D H Shepherd

This case study has been updated

Education has been one of the mainstays of the export trade of advanced nations over the past 200 years. Initially bound up with colonisation, and more recently with militaristic and marketing objectives, education continues to be a primary means for ensuring that the attitudes and behaviour of people 'over there' can be aligned to the principles and values adopted by people 'at home'. There are innumerable studies of the role of the curriculum as an instrument of social control, particularly in colonial societies. Bacchus 1996, for example, outlines the role of schooling in the British West Indies after 1834, in terms of cultural reproduction theories.

The acculturating role of schooling was replicated throughout the British Empire, and persisted for some years after the Second World War, and the subsequent dismantling of the Empire. Edward Said, for example, received much of his formative schooling at a colonial educational institution in the 1950s (Victoria College in Cairo), where the cream of Britain's colonial administrators had been educated for its role as an elite in the British Middle East (TC 1998). As the influence of the colonial power waned, the proportion of non-English pupils increased at such schools, though the same traditional standards of education persisted. Inevitably, this form of schooling subordinated both local history and local language to that of the colonial power and, in the case of Said, became a powerful formative influence in the development of the theory of orientalism.

But the UK has not been alone in exporting its educational expertise abroad. The US has been particularly effective in ensuring access to its own educational system for expatriates working abroad -- e.g. those in military service, and those undertaking business activities abroad. In Kuwait, for example, American schools provide a recognisably high standard of education. However, as the years have gone by, the doors of such institutions have been progressively opened to local nationals, though previous standards and methods (including disciplinary codes and national attitudes) often persist. An example of the US influence abroad is provided by The American Academy, which still has an institution in Limassol (Cyprus). Back in Cairo, where state-funded education is under considerable pressure, upwardly mobile families often opt to send their children to a range of foreign-run schools (including English, German, American, French and Pakistani) and, at the tertiary level, the American University of Cairo offers the lure of a curriculum modelled on US standards (Alrawi 1993).

Yet more recently, other initiatives aimed at providing internationally standardised education have begin to prosper. For example, the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) was founded in the 1960s in Switzerland (Geneva) "to establish a common curriculum and university entry credential for geographically mobile students", and now has 800 participatory schools in nearly 100 countries, connected among other things by an electronic network (IBO n.d.). One of the goals of the founders of the IBO was that a shared academic experience might foster tolerance and inter-cultural understanding worldwide.

After the Great War, there was a gradual replacement of voluntary (usually highly organised) missionary efforts at providing schooling, as governments around the world took responsibility for providing a basic education for their people. During the Cold War period following the Second World War, it was linked to the 'hearts and minds' efforts of Western governments, and included such influential efforts as President Kennedy's Peace Corps and the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) movement, where development, cultural exchange and educational activities were often rolled into a complex inter-cultural trade. More recently, charity-based educational efforts have become highly significant, often linked to the provision of humanitarian aid following wars or disasters in the Third World. (From the UK perspective, the role of education has been significant in the various Band Aid, Live Aid and Children in Need initiatives.) It is clear that the West's educational export trade still persists as we arrive at the end of the 20th century.

In the world of higher education, the University of London External Programme (EP) is a prime example of how a centre of educational excellence was able to extend opportunities for quality-controlled education, both nationally and internationally. Beginning in 1858, the EP reached out to many colonial, Empire and Third World countries, reaching a peak in the 1950s when 70,000 undergraduate students were enroled worldwide. Many African universities began life using the EP, famous students including Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela. Today, the number of students is down around the 26,000 mark, and is slowly falling, though some 5000 postgraduate students have been added to the EP since 1988. Few of the 150 institutions participating in the EP worldwide are of university status.

Franchising and twinning relationships between a growing number of Western universities and HEIs in the Third World are providing stiff competition for such pioneers as the University of London External Programme. In Britain, many of the 'new' universities have been aggressively validating courses abroad, often by franchising versions of their own courses overseas (Bennell & Pearce 1998). In addition, many British HEIs have come to rely heavily on the income generated by enroling overseas students at their home campuses. In Australia, the growth of overseas students has shown an even more marked increase during the 1990s, due largely to the proximity of the Pacific Rim countries, although this trade is numerically not as large as in the UK.

In these examples we are witnessing a further (largely economic) motivation for the internationalisation of educational opportunities. The interaction between money and education can also be seen in other quarters, both at home and abroad. In many Third World countries, for example, where governments have failed to sustain provision of basic education for all, business interests have sometimes stepped in (van der Gaag 1993). Back in the 'home country', big business is frequently stepping in to provide basic educational opportunities, most memorably in the form of the Burger King 'Academies', set up in a number of cities in the early 1990s (Kozoi 1993). In the UK, plans are already at an advanced stage by a number of large manufacturing corporations who are considering setting up 'universities' of their own.

 

Case Study 4

International Textbook and Journal Publishing
Jan Monk, Ifan Shepherd

This case study has been updated

There are two ways in which academic publishing provides significant experience for our networking initiative. The first is to do with commercialism, and the second is to do with language and, more broadly, academic cultures. Because two of the authors of this report have long-standing experience with one particular educational journal and its publisher (Journal of Geography in Higher Education and Carfax respectively), and one co-edits two book series (one with a commercial publisher the other with a university press), these will be used as the main sources of ideas in this case study.

 

Commercial Partnership

Academic publishers are perhaps the most benign of the commercial partners with which academics routinely get into bed. An increasing number of these publishers operate internationally, marketing texts and other educational materials in several countries. The case of academic publishers is pertinent for two reasons: partly as an example of international operation which could provide lessons on building an international HE network in geography; and partly as an example of the way in which a discipline network established for primarily educational purposes might become involved with a commercial organisation in order to achieve its goals. The example also raises some cautionary concerns.

Should the geography network involve a commercial sponsor and/or partner? If so, for what purposes, and for what elements of network activities? The advantages of commercial support include: access to start-up funding; international publicity networks and distribution channels; and high-quality facilities for the production of teaching and learning materials. Dangers include: the diversion of network activities into commercially-oriented goals (cf. the UK Geographical Association's recent list of money-making 'products and services' for members, and the National Geographic's overtly commercial goals); the loss of copyright, and other intellectual property rights problems; and the off-loading of commercial production costs onto academia (cf. academic journal publishers). The tightening of copyright control by academic publishers (and this is certainly the case currently in the UK) is perhaps a worrying sign that they intend education to 'pay its way' fully in making educational use of 'its' materials. How long would it take for such controls to appear if a publisher were to be provide financial support for (say) an Internet-based network that included educational use of materials that it saw as being created partly on the back of its funding?

Another issue concerns the content of books and journals. In the case of the series International Studies of Women and Place, the publishers (Routledge) reject some of the projects proposed by series editors because it does not see enough mass market for them. Proposals for books on cities outside America or the UK, on small/peripheral nations, or even major geographic regions, have been rejected because the publisher's history indicates they will not sell. In slightly different ways, university presses are also making niche market-based judgements, rejecting works, for example, set in parts of the world which the press has not generally featured. In some cases, the UK publisher pushes for the inclusion of UK authors in order to penetrate the British market. By contrast, authors from the 'margins' are regarded as less 'saleable'. Commercial support thus implies setting priorities on other than intellectual criteria.

But does the proposed network need external funding? One counter argument comes from the economies of scale provided by global participation in a network. As has been shown by the GeographyCal courseware consortium based at Leicester University in the UK, the pooling of even small amounts of resources by a large number of 'club' members could provide sufficient support for the production of mutually required teaching and learning resources. Because the acquisition of external funding has considerable potential for driving wedges between network partners, we should think long and hard before seeking commercial support for our activities.

 

Language and Academic Culture

The vast majority of journals emanating from the geography subject area worldwide are published in English. Many of these (notably Dutch and Scandinavian) appear in English despite being produced in non-English speaking countries. If French was once the language of diplomacy, then English is most certainly the current language of academic discourse. The Journal of Geography in Higher Education (JGHE), which aims to be an international periodical, reflects this completely; in its 22 years of continuous history, it has carried not a single paper in a language other than English, and only a tiny number of papers (probably fewer than half a dozen) have been written in another language and then translated into English for publication. In the Netherlands, academic prestige rides on one's ability to publish papers in international (i.e. English-language) journals, whereas a decade or so ago, it was advantageous -- but not essential -- to do so. The important question for the network is: does this academic 'fact of life' really matter?

On a point of principle, it has to be assumed that it does. If it is true, as Whorf (1956) and many others claim, that language frames thought, then it can only be the case that an English-only journal constrains thoughts that are best expressed, maybe only expressible, in English. This is, of course, not just a matter of vocabulary; it is also to do with culture. English the language no longer reflects or defines England the country; it is a world language. Or, rather, it is a language used in (admittedly large and growing) parts of the world. But it still clings to the shirt-tails of a particular culture. And where there are other cultures, wrapped up in other languages, then it must surely be the case that the alignment of ideas and issues that are important in those cultures may not be immediately expressible in English.

There are two problems with an English-only journal and, by implication, an English-only discipline network. The first is the (in)ability of potential authors to source their ideas in the English language for submission to the journal. (The JGHE Guidelines for Authors state unequivocally that all MSS must be in English.) The second problem is that even if an author has the ability to write in English, the fact remains that the majority of existing journal papers come from countries where English is the native tongue. And thus there is an in-built cultural bias in the topics discussed and the educational systems described.

The issue of paper reviewing is also pertinent. UK reviewers' assessments of manuscripts submitted from the US to the JGHE routinely criticise the 'Americanness' of aspects of the papers which would not be appropriate for an 'international' (read 'UK'?) audience. Often these have to do with different ways in which higher education is structured in different systems -- e.g. the US focus on breadth in undergraduate education versus the English focus on depth and disciplinary specialization; the relative centralization of educational funding/evaluation in some contexts as opposed to the decentralization in others. (It should, however, be noted that the JGHE editorial board is continually trying to reduce the country-specific content of papers submitted from all countries.) The North American commissioning editor for the JGHE judges from her reading of papers published in the journal that the same caveats do not seem to be so readily applied to UK manuscripts as to those from beyond its borders. (It is a matter of fact that the reviewing of North American manuscripts involves about six UK reviewers and one US reviewer, plus the commissioning editor. By contrast, UK manuscripts are not routinely reviewed to the same extent in other countries; usually, no more than two 'overseas' reviewers are asked to look at a UK paper.)

Even at the level of English language usage, some reviewers seem unable to accept multiple versions/terminology as valid. One recent reviewer, for example, wrote: "Use of Americanisms such as 'hydrologic', 'curriculums', 'modeling' and 'professor' ... should be replaced by 'hydrological', 'curricula', 'modelling' and 'lecturer/convenor' respectively." One of the funnier examples was when a colleague's reference to 'beach houses' was changed some years ago in the published version to 'beach huts' (in an article about teaching applied to geomorphology). What he was referring to were expensive mansions built along the shores of Lake Michigan, rather than the insubstantial summer cabins that are to be found at a number of resorts along the south coast of England!

These practices have several implications for the network: How do we judge what is 'quality' for inclusion in any Web sites, publications, symposia, etc.? How can we use the network to widen our understanding of the contextualization of paradigms, broadening our (and our students') understanding of what questions are asked, of ways of knowing and of their situatedness? And who will be the gatekeepers?

 

Case Study 5

An Academic Research Network: the Transborder Consortium
Jan Monk

The Transborder Consortium for Research and Action on Gender and Reproductive Health at the Mexico-US Border involves researchers from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (a multi-campus institution with branches in six cities on the northern Mexican border), El Colegio de Sonora, and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW), a unit within the inter-disciplinary Women's Studies department at the University of Arizona, which brings together over 30 colleges and universities in collaborative projects. The Transborder Consortium links researchers and action agencies across national boundaries. It is externally supported with a significant budget that began with a two-year planning grant, and then a three-year implementation grant. It also draws on the time of institutionally paid staff.

The Consortium is, to use current foundation terminology, a capacity-building effort. Its work thus includes, but extends beyond, research to incorporate efforts to strengthen research, teaching and action, such as building three specialised databases (a bilingual bibliography, a database of researchers, and a database of community organizations); conducting an intensive faculty development seminar to revise existing courses or create new courses that pay attention to gender and border themes; workshops to enhance networking and knowledge within community-based organisations; small grants for student research, larger grants for collaborative research action projects linking US and Mexican researchers and community-based agencies; and a major conference and publications.

This model (which involves intensive labour) raises several pertinent questions: whether a Geography network should develop some topical foci for efforts that cross the boundaries between research, teaching and action/outreach to the community; whether it should engage in a combination of collective work and individual work; whether it should attempt to integrate students; and whether it should organise periodic events and issue products? Moreover, it also raises the question of the extent to which members can commit the time that developing efforts of this scale and scope requires, and how such time investment would impinge on other commitments.

A second area in which SIROW has worked that is relevant for the proposed Geography network is faculty development aimed at bringing international teaching (across disciplines) together with Women/Gender Studies. Begun in 1984, these efforts, which have been designed to assist in course development and revision in universities and colleges in the southwestern United States, have gradually shifted their scope. Initially focusing mainly on content issues, they have increasingly attended to pedagogical strategies for dealing with 'the Other', especially to consider issues related to students' attitudes and values.

In implementing this focus, faculty have found the ideas of geographer Roger Robinson (1988) useful - he discusses 'empathy and realism' compared with 'sympathy and paternalism'. Faculty discussions and efforts centred around ways of incorporating diverse voices (for example, by making more use of film and fiction in social science courses), of developing role-playing activities, introducing decision-making dilemmas, and so on.

 

Case Study 6

A Teaching Network: The ERASMUS Geography and Gender Network
Joos D Fortuijn

This case study has been updated

How it began

The ERASMUS [1] Geography and Gender network started with a book and a budget. The book was an introduction in Geography and Gender written by a collective of members of the IBG Study Group on Geography and Gender, and the budget was provided by the University of Amsterdam for visiting professors in gender studies. A group of students and teachers in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Amsterdam (including the author) applied successfully for a grant for a 1986 conference on 'Women and the man-made environment' and invited the members of the IBG Study Group. After the conference, the first plans were laid to start a network and to apply for a grant from the ERASMUS Bureau in Brussels for an intensive course on geography and gender in a network of British, Dutch, Spanish (Catalan), Greek and Danish geographers. It was decided that the University of Amsterdam should become the network coordinator, because an ERASMUS application from the Netherlands was predicted to be more successful that an application from a British University.

 

The course

The first 8-day course took place in 1990 in Amsterdam with the participation of staff and students of the University of Amsterdam, the National Technical University of Athens, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Durham, and the Roskilde University Centre. Later, the University of Sheffield joined the network.

The first course was planned and organized by the Dutch following the Dutch education tradition: formal lectures, informal workshops, field trips, visits to women's organisations, presentations by students on the last day, and an evaluation of the course. The Dutch organization committee drew up the programme and prepared a course book with basic text and study material for the workshops and field work. Each teacher in the network gave at least one formal lecture; there were also guest lecturers. The workshops and project groups for the field work were multi-national: each group consisted of 8 - 12 students from at least four different countries, and was supervised by two teachers from two different countries. This format was reproduced in later courses.

No business meeting was held before the course started. In fact, the first time the course tutors met each other was on the evening before the first day of the course; this was an informal meeting held at the coordinator's home. The course was prepared using communication by fax. During the course one business meeting took place to prepare the application for the following year and to prepare the next course.

 

The rotation system

Most participants in the first course preferred to have all subsequent courses in Amsterdam. However, the group who organised the first course insisted on a rotation system, for one main reason: time. The time load was too heavy for a handful of part-time working women (with very young children at that time): they thought it possible to organize a course once every 5 years, but not once every year. The other partners agreed with the idea of a rotation system, and courses since then have been held at: Durham (1991), Barcelona (1993), Athens (1994), Roskilde (1995), Durham (1996), Amsterdam (1997) and Barcelona (1998). In 1992 and 1999 no subsidy was received from Brussels; it is now uncertain as to whether there will be a course in the year 2000.

The rotation system was introduced for practical (time) reasons, but it also appeared to be essential to ensure an equal sharing of power and responsibility, and for egalitarian ownership of the course. The exclusive task of the coordinator is to draw up the application, to write the financial and activity reports, and to prepare and chair the yearly business meetings. However, each of the participants was in turn responsible for most of the work and, indeed, for the important aspects of the work, such as making the programme, making the course book, and making the schedule for each teacher and student. The rotation system is also essential as a catalyst for learning about differences in educational systems between participating universities, differences in geographic paradigms between participating departments, and differences in institutional contexts between participating countries.

The adoption of the rotation system does not mean that there are no problems of equality within the network. In terms of workload and responsibilities there has always been equal sharing, but in terms of academic prestige and influence in the discussions there have been feelings of inequality between the British and the others, and also between those from the North and the South.

 

Sharing of money

The ERASMUS grant has been used to pay for student travel and accommodation and for part of the teachers' expenses. Because of the unequal economic conditions within the European Union (EU), more students from Athens and Barcelona have been subsidized than from the other universities (6 from Athens and Barcelona, 4 from Amsterdam and Roskilde, 3 from Durham and Sheffield). In practice, more students did participate than were supported by ERASMUS funds; some payed partly for themselves and partly from other grants. There have been several discussions about payment by the students, but the Greek students in particular do not agree with it. There are no other financial differences between the partners.

 

Language

Each of the courses has been taught in English. There is a difference in the mastery of the English language between the partners: for most of the British students it is the mother tongue (there has sometimes been a non-British student from a British university); Danish, Dutch and a few Greek and Spanish students speak English fluently or sufficiently well; most Greek and Spanish students have difficulties with understanding and speaking in English.

There is a problem with using language as a selection criterion, because the excellent and motivated students are not always the students who speak enough English. For this reason, during the formal lectures and in the workshops some time has been set aside for the preparation of discussion, questions, comments with students and staff of the non-British language group before starting the plenary discussion. Nevertheless, British staff and students dominate the discussions slightly. Speaking slowly, giving time and helping each other informally with translation has worked well for the non-English groups, but most of the British students find it difficult to adapt.

It should be noted that the problem of language is not only a problem of mastery, but also one of academic paradigm: there are different ways of saying things and different priorities in saying things (i.e. in what is important to say) in different languages.

 

Footnote

[1] ERASMUS is the European Community Action Scheme for Mobility in University Students, which was one of the major funding initiatives that followed the setting up of the European Union in 1992. The scheme encourages students to study abroad by finding placements and exchanges lasting between 3 and 12 months. Most of the ERASMUS-funded activities involve the setting up of networks.


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