What does internationalisation mean for teachers in higher education?

The international classroom, globalisation, cultural diversity: buzz words that we are exposed to on a daily basis. But how does this trend towards increasing internationalisation affect teachers in higher education? In this new column we will highlight different aspects of the international classroom to provide you not only with background knowledge but also with practical tips and ideas. In this first column we want to sketch a picture of what internationalisation is all about and how it affects both students and teachers. 


Internationalisation partly relates to how a university or institution of higher education can attract more international students. But there is also the concept of ‘internationalisation-at-home (IaH)’ which can apply to a setting with only Dutch students. IaH refers to the use of online international resources, collaboration with foreign universities or using internationally-focused research topics or case studies. Although internationalisation is related to globalisation, globalisation is more about the economic perspective, brought about by free trade, free capital mobility and increased migration.

Skills students need

What skills will our students need in a globalised economy and how can they compete in a market that is more and more internationally orientated? Apart from learning to communicate and think in English - the international language - students will also be exposed to a larger cultural diversity. Therefore they will need the interpersonal skills, cultural sensitivity and communication and language abilities which are in demand by today’s employers.

Internationalisation: more than translating course materials

What does this mean for teachers in higher education? Teaching in the international classroom involves more than translating course materials into English. A good starting point for teachers is to reflect on own norms and values regarding teaching (and learning!) in higher education. How many of these norms and values are based on ‘the Dutch model’ and how many are applicable in a wider international setting? As an example, does the literature that is used include different cultural perspectives and do case studies even occur in other countries? 

Although teaching in the international classroom will probably take an investment of time and energy, it also offers teachers a great opportunity for personal development. It provides the chance to take a fresh look at course materials and at your role as a teacher. After all, the dedication and enthusiasm of teachers in the international classroom directly influence students’ learning!


Educational Consultancy & Professional Development offers the courses 'Teaching in the international classroom', 'Developing Intercultural Competences', and 'English Pronunciation' for teachers who are interested in the intercultural, language-related and didactic implications of teaching in the international classroom. These courses will provide you with practical tools for teaching in an international context.

Written by: Nathalie Veenendaal (former employee Educational Consultancy & Professional Development)
Published: April 2018