Transforming academic cultures

Relationships, respect and reciprocity

  • Janette Ryan University of Oxford


With unprecedented numbers of international students and rapidly increasing international partnerships between institutions, it is timely for Anglophone universities to consider whether their current responses to internationalisation take full advantage of the opportunities for interculturalism offered by these developments and truly reflect globalised perspectives.

This article examines whether current approaches to internationalisation continue to be based upon the promotion of ‘Western’ academic values (and maximising financial returns to universities) rather than taking advantage of the possibilities for mutual learning that increased intercultural contact can offer. Intercultural interactions, if underpinned by more respectful, reciprocal and transcultural mindsets, can assist staff and students to enhance their intercultural skills and to work more effectively across cultures and between nations. However, several barriers exist to achieving this, including: limitations in prevailing concepts of internationalisation; unequal relationships between international partners; imperialist attitudes toward different academic traditions; and resistance to different cultural modes of language and expression.

This article interrogates notions of internationalisation, interculturalism and transculturalism and considers issues such as the relationship between culture and language and the situatedness of academic knowledge and expression. It proposes a transcultural approach to take better advantage of the transnational flows of students and staff and their knowledge, skills and dispositions. Using the United Kingdom’s Advance HE’s Internationalising Higher Education Framework (2015), it sets out fundamental principles and values that should underpin higher institutions’ internationalisation policies, programs and pedagogy to cultivate more respectful and reciprocal intercultural partnerships and learning.

How to Cite
Ryan, J. (2020). Transforming academic cultures: Relationships, respect and reciprocity. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 14(2), 1-19. Retrieved from