Internationalization stopped, but then the brainstorming began!

In the spring, it seemed that internationalization had been canceled and there was no time to do anything about it.

However, suddenly new versions of old ideas were flying across Europe like in a very enthusiastic brainstorming session.  

Let’s go back to early summer and I’ll explain what I mean by this. As I wrote in my previous blog, the physical exchanges of the fall were canceled and virtual exchanges were cautiously discussed at some universities. However, the truth is that no one had a complete picture of what virtual exchanges or digital mobility meant. Both became buzzwords nevertheless.

Virtual exchanges and digital mobility are, of course, issues that have been discussed in the European education field for many years. However, the debate has progressed very slowly, because these ideas never received very much support. As a result of this exceptional year, all things related to a digital leap and fast degrees popped up. Because of this, it seemed to me as if there was an endless debate about short degree packages and virtual exchanges in summer and fall, without anyone actually knowing what they meant.

But the strangest thing is that everyone’s been trying to understand what everybody else is trying to say by the same words. There was no guarantee that the terms people have been using were understood the same way by everyone else. And this makes advocacy work all the more challenging as we are using the same words to mean quite different things.

So here is my suggestion for a dictionary entry:

Digital mobility

  1. Completing studies abroad
  2. Exchange studies without physical cultural contact
  3. Spoken language: Virtual exchange

For example: I just attended a virtual lecture as part of a digital mobility period.

See also: Exchange studies, studies, higher education

According to SYL’s updated policy paper, internationalization at home and digital mobility are excellent means of internationalization in terms of accessibility, but sustainably implemented international physical mobility must be the primary form of mobility and should be supported.

In other words, we see the benefits of virtual exchanges, but we will continue to be a strong defender of physical mobility. For this reason, it is also great to see that our European umbrella organization, the European Students’ Union, is going to clarify its opinion on virtual exchanges and internationalization at home. The main debate about the future of digital mobility is taking place right now. Will it be discussed in the future as a cost-saving option to physical mobility or as a complementary part to mobility that would improve accessibility in specific situations?

 

Frans Cederlöf

Member of the board

Saara Tenhovuori
Board Member, social policy (student health care, well-being, equality), working life, development policy

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