CIVICA consists of eight European leading higher education institutions in the social sciences. And about 30% of CIVICA's 50,000 students are international students. But what does internationalisation mean in the CIVICA context? Why is internationalisation a core concept for the alliance? What are the challenges that internationalisation raises for our network of social science universities?
To find answers to these questions, we interviewed Diana Iancu, Dean of the Faculty of Public Administration, SNSPA, and member of the CIVICA Management Team on behalf of SNSPA.
What do you think internationalisation means for CIVICA − The European University of Social Sciences?
Diana Iancu: A recent study1 written at the request of the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education proposed a revised definition of the internationalisation of higher education as "the intentional process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society."
I believe CIVICA takes this newly-amended definition2 and makes it happen. We aim to provide an internationalised curriculum for all, to focus on social engagement, to enhance the quality of teaching and researching, and to critically and ethically deal with today's challenges in politics, economy, society and the environment.
SNSPA, my home university, is leading CIVICA’s internationalisation work package (WP8) (and this year it also ranks first in the top of Romanian universities investing in internationalisation). I am responsible for the coordination of all CIVICA activities on making students, early-stage researchers, faculty and society at large aware of what we, as an alliance, represent and value.
What does internationalisation mean in the context of European higher education?
Seventy years ago, UNESCO initiated the first association of universities in the world, the International Association of Universities. In 2017, the European Council called on the Member States, the Council and the Commission to embark on several initiatives. Relevant to our discussion is "strengthening strategic partnerships across the EU between higher education institutions and encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty 'European Universities', consisting in bottom-up networks of universities across the EU which will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several EU countries and contribute to the international competitiveness of European universities"3.
Today, the need for higher education institutions to connect and jointly address challenges like social injustice, populism, xenophobia – to name but a few of the current turbulences – is, perhaps more than ever, pressing.
The European Commission provided, through the European Universities Initiative, a just response to this need. And I believe CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences is adequately equipped to overcome the tensions (still) generated by societal changes worldwide.
What are the tensions that you have mentioned? And what role does the internationalisation work package play in overcoming these tensions?
In his seminal 1996 report "Learning: The Treasure Within," Jacques Delors spoke of some of these tensions. Let us briefly develop and simultaneously explain CIVICA's perspective.
The global and the local
CIVICA students learn in an inter-university, international campus, developing sustainable solutions to the problems of their local communities and growing ideas to support the progress of their nations.
The universal and the individual
The social sciences curriculum stems from the belief that individuals need to achieve their full potential by making their own choices and by carefully placing their legacy next to the increasingly globalised culture around us.
Tradition and modernity
The social sciences nurture progress, advance knowledge and aim at boosting innovation to help society deal with the present and its turbulences—yet not at the expense of the past. Transformations (be they digital or otherwise) need to consider the richness of history, and reformists need to fully acknowledge the impact of their solutions on communities and their traditions.
Long-term and short-term considerations
We live in a time when 280 characters (a tweet) can change our long-term reality, and a 60-second video can trigger our emotions and impact our lives. In this world, teaching and learning need to adapt. I believe our network of higher education institutions provides the necessary tools to critically and timely assess problems and identify strategic solutions for our common good and our sustainable development.
The need for competition and the concern for equality of opportunity
CIVICA encourages lifelong learning and, in doing so, I believe it "reconciles three forces: competition, which provides incentives; co-operation, which gives strength; and solidarity, which unites" (J. Delors). Also, CIVICA is a university for all and pursues actions in favour of marginalised groups, to strengthen societal coherence nationally and regionally.
The extraordinary expansion of knowledge and human beings' capacity to assimilate it
CIVICA unites eight powerful higher education institutions and brings together more than 50,000 students and 10,000 faculty members. These numbers would have been impossible in the higher education landscape seventy years ago. The growth in higher education is coupled with exponential advances in knowledge. Today, quantum supremacy is reached, and we learn every day of discoveries capable of impacting our lives and the next generations. Social sciences curricula need to account for all these changes and offer ways for students everywhere to learn by doing and keep their minds open to new avenues of growth.
The spiritual and the material
I am particularly fond of the way Delors's report defined the purpose of education: "It is thus education's noble task to encourage each and every one, acting in accordance with their traditions and convictions and paying full respect to pluralism, to lift their minds and spirits to the plane of the universal and, in some measure, to transcend themselves" (J. Delors). And I am happy that CIVICA is built as a network that strives to achieve intercultural dialogue while putting academic freedom and critical thinking at the core of its teaching and researching.
It may all seem quite ambitious, but we live in challenging times, and we need creative ideas and strong leadership to ensure that our students receive the best from us. And I am firmly convinced that our internationalisation activities will grant everyone interested in new, innovative ways of developing their communities or in a career in the social sciences plenty of opportunities to discover alternative pathways of action. I invite you to stay tuned to the CIVICA website and social media and find out first how to become a valued member of our alliance.
Interview conducted by Cătălin Mosoia (SNSPA)
Photo credit: Diana Iancu
1. Hans de Wit, Fiona Hunter, Laura Howard and Eva Egron-Polak (2015), Internationalisation of Higher Education, European Union, available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/540370/IPOL_STU(2015)540370_EN.pdf
2. The original definition belonged to Jane Knight (2008, Higher education in turmoil. The changing world of internationalisation, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers).
3. European Council (EUCO 19/1/17) – 14.12.2017, available at: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/32204/14-final-conclusions-rev1-en.pdf