Week 3: Internationalising education: cosmopolitanism and cultural competence

For students receiving and education in a foreign country, it is a daunting experience with things such as culture, language, customs and norms and social slang often hindering their ability to interact socially. The ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds is called cultural competence and it comprises of four components: (a) Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) Cross-cultural skills.

Marginson (2012) explains that overall, international students possess high levels of motivation and determination, are expert cultural negotiators and cannot be categorised into the deficit model: a stereotype that assumes international student are weak, lacking or helpless. Students often adhere to different conditions to successfully fulfil these roles and fit in to the foreign society. These conditions include;

  • Cultural plurality

A condition in which minority groups participate fully in the dominant society yet maintain their cultural differences to form a new identity – assimilating into society.

  • Multiplicity

Whereby they have multiple identities to connect to different cultures and settings – changing behaviour to match environment.

  • Cultural relativism

A more conscious and deliberate approach to personal choices and identity formation – choosing to adopt a certain personality

Despite most international students’ attempts to adapt and fit in with society, many are targeted for attacks due to their vulnerability. In 2009-2010, there was a string of high profile violent attacks on Indian students in Australia with the Australian police initially denying that these attacks were racially motivated. Consequently, protests were held in Melbourne and there was extensive coverage in Indian media. These events as a whole greatly impacted education, tourism and trade between Australia and India by damaging Australia’s standing in India, straining relations between Delhi and Canberra and plunging Australia’s education system into turmoil.



Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’ Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012, available online at http://focusonteaching.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@cedir/documents/doc/uow119828.pdf


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