Equality in partnerships
Many students and staff have benefited from this widespread international collaboration. However, if we look at the dilemmas within the internationalisation of education, we see that partnerships do not always take place on an equal footing. This means that partnerships may not be equally positive for all partners. How can we improve that?
Challenges in partnerships
A partnership is a collaboration for the interests of all partners. In practice, however, schools and institutions face challenges in cross-border cooperation. This is due, for example, to unequal resources, as well as different organisational structures and institutional practices. Cultural differences and historical relationships also influence partnerships. Knowledge transfer and capacity development can become one-dimensional, or even patriarchal. Unequal power relations between the partners play a role in this.
In many partnerships, the partners exchange resources, people or ideas. If one partner supports the other financially, the relationship can be disrupted. One partner has greater financial stability or is located in a more privileged part of the world. That can cause power imbalances.
Unequal partnerships are very likely to achieve the goals of only one or a few partners. There may even be a negative impact on a participating school or institution. Also, some educational institutions never achieve a partnership, as more prestigious partners are preferred.
What we do
We are working towards responsible internationalisation by raising awareness of this dilemma and taking concrete actions to improve our work and programs. We want an internationalisation of education that benefits all parties.
It is a complex dilemma that we cannot solve quickly or on our own. Equality is also about fairness, reciprocity, and inclusion. But what does it mean in concrete terms when it comes to the implementation of our programmes such as the Orange Knowledge Programme, Erasmus+ and eTwinning? And what does it mean for all the different partners involved in these programmes?
We have started a working group within Nuffic to find out the answers to these questions. This working group will enter into discussion with our partners and stakeholders. We hope to learn from good initiatives. We are looking critically at Nuffic's current programmes and future partnerships to see how we can ensure equality throughout the process.