Pen & Book
Office of the
Associate Vice-President (Academic)

Internationalizing Courses

Internationalizing courses is to "globalize" content, giving the curriculum a cross-cultural perspective. Students can begin to develop an awareness of the essentials of cross-cultural relations within disciplinary knowledge and an understanding of world issues and the possible impact to the particular field of study.


  • Global perspective- developing new courses with an international focus or adding more globalized content to existing courses. For example, using appropriate course readings, case studies, projects or papers
  • Cultural sensitivity- valuing diversity by understanding and empowering each individual student regardless of race, gender, religion or creed. We are a nation of diverse populations and groups. The future of our society depends upon our ability to effectively talk with one another, to reach mutual understanding, and to realize that there is strength in diversity
  • Participating in international conferences- faculty have the opportunity to share their research interests with other people around the globe. This can yield new perspectives and understandings of research and teaching issues
  • International research collaboration- is an excellent way to approach internalizing courses by working with colleagues in other countries and combining research and teaching interests for a global perspective


Rationale for Internationalization-from Ryerson Polytechnic University:

The University System
A 1993 survey showed that 72% of Canadian universities make reference to the international dimension in their mission statements. Furthermore, 59% of responding universities indicated that internationalization has resulted in, or encouraged, more interdisciplinary collaboration within their institutions, and 74% were taking steps to encourage the introduction of an international perspective into undergraduate curriculum.
The final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education (the Smith Report), published in 1991, emphasized the imperative of internationalizing higher education and recommended that "internationalization should form part of the mission statement of every university and should offer increasing opportunities of a year abroad and split programs, as well as educational exchanges".
The president of the Canadian Bureau of International Education had this to say, speaking to the Canadian Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education in 1990:

"... given the world's increasing multiparity and interdependence, internationalism is now key to any country's scientific, technological, and economic competitiveness. Canada's universities must become bastions of internationalism if Canada is to improve or even maintain its position in a variety of sectors ... internationalization will be the measure of quality of universities."

In 1992, the federal government's Prosperity Initiative recommended that universities increase their focus on international curricula, research, and scholarship; develop access to training in foreign languages and programs leading to internationally recognized credits or diplomas; and provide challenge credits for individuals who have acquired skills and knowledge outside Canada.

The Rationale Beyond Our Borders
The world's major problems--the deterioration of the global environment, nuclear proliferation, the increased incidence of ethnic wars and genocide, the denial of basic human rights, and the continued income disparities between rich and poor nations--must be addressed internationally. Global citizenship requires a reasonable understanding of the interconnectedness of the human race, in political, social, economic, cultural, and ecological terms.

In taking a global perspective on the internationalization of higher education institutions, there are three key reasons which seem to emerge:

  • To make students, the institution, and the country more competitive in global economic markets;
  • To reduce prejudice and develop mutual understanding of, and solutions to, global problems; a primary goal being self-development; and
  • To give students the knowledge and tools to work actively and critically toward social transformation that would result in greater equality in the world.

The Imperatives
Internationalization of education will benefit our students by better preparing them to function in a world dominated by transnational corporations, some of which are bigger than most nation-states; by computerization and changes in communications technology that have radically increased the speed of communications; and by massive cross-border movements of people and capital. Internationalized education will help to:

  • Prepare graduates who are internationally knowledgeable and inter-culturally sensitive
  • Challenge students to appreciate the complexity of issues and interests that bear on the relations among nations, regions and interest groups
  • Prepare students to take account of the new and changing global phenomena that affect political, economic, and social developments within and between nations
  • Encourage critical thinking and inquiry about contending concepts and theories of international relations, and heighten sensitivity to moral issues and human rights in Canada and abroad
  • Enhance employability on the international market
  • Contribute to Ontario's and Canada's economic, scientific, and technological competitiveness
  • Ensure that research and scholarship address local, national and international issues
  • Contribute to national security and peaceful relations among nations
  • Acknowledge and reflect increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of Canada's population
  • Address through teaching, research and service the increasingly interdependent nature of the world (environmentally, culturally, economically, socially);
  • Contribute to social transformation processes in Canada and around the world
  • Develop an awareness and critical perspective of the differential advantages and disadvantages of globalization

Even Canadians who never leave Canada are affected by international capital markets and nearly one in three Canadian workers depends on a pay cheque derived from an export or import trade activity. Foreign language competency, skill in relating to other cultures, and knowledge of foreign markets are becoming essential, especially for today's graduates.




© 2006, University of Guelph