Working on internationalisation in your programme

Why is internationalisation relevant for your programme? 

According to Ghent University’s Integrated Policy Plan for Internationalisation 2019-2023, an international experience offers students the opportunity to:  

  • enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills and creativity,
  • contribute to personal development, improve language skills
  • obtain a broader perspective on society.

Precisely those characteristics are of great importance in a globalised and diverse society, as well as on the labour market. 

If you are aiming for qualitative education as a study programme, you should ensure not only a good education structure but also pay attention to internationalisation. Offering students a maximum of opportunities to acquire international/intercultural competencies is the objective of the strategic education objective ‘internationalisation’. The next operational objective for the programme monitors of Ghent University is a translation of that strategic education objective: 

  • The programme has an internationalisation policy that is visibly anchored in the vision, mission, programme competencies (programme-specific learning outcomes) and the programme. (DS-0052)
  • The programme particularly focusses on internationalisation via incoming and outgoing student mobility and ensures, via internationalisation@home, the development of international and intercultural competencies for all students. (DS-0053)
  • The programme has lecturers who participate in teaching staff mobility and staff members who use the opportunities for professionalisation via internationalisation. (DS-0057)

Ghent University follows, in its perspectives on internationalisation, the vision of the Flemish Education Council (VLOR), the Flemish Advisory Council for Innovation and Enterprise (VARIO) and the initiatives developed by the European Commission for a ‘European Education Area’:  

  • The Flemish Education Council emphasised the importance of an internationalisation strategy for higher education in Flanders in 2017. This is imperative for the Flemish institutions of higher education to continue to play a pioneering role in the development of knowledge and in the preparation of students to function professionally and personally in a society that is becoming increasingly global and diverse. 
  • In Forging ahead. Aim: top 5 knowledge regions, the Flemish Advisory Council for Innovation and Enterprise (VARIO) underscores the importance of international (top)talent to turn Flanders into one of the most innovative knowledge regions in Europe. This is why Flanders must train, attract and retain international (top) talent.
  • At EU-level, the importance of internationalisation is strongly emphasized in the plans for a European Education Area. All EU-countries have an interest in using education and culture optimally in order to promote employment, economic growth and social cohesion, as well as expressing the European identity in all its diversity. 

What does internationalisation mean to Ghent University? 

In its definition of internationalisation, Ghent University is led by the definition from the European research report Internationalisation of Higher Education: “Internationalization of higher education is 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.” 

To Ghent University, internationalisation means more than ‘the exchange of students’ (“going on Erasmus”). For Ghent University, internationalisation covers far more services and activities that enhance the quality of education, research and the societal role of the university. Offering students a maximum of opportunities to acquire international/intercultural competencies is the objective of the strategic education objective ‘internationalisation’, a.o. via internationalisation projects, optimal student and teaching staff mobility, Internationalisation@home and virtual mobility.

Ghent University applies the European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education's definition of international and intercultural competences. International competence refers to "an ability to function in a certain discipline in other national contexts and regional settings of the world." Intercultural competence pertains to "an ability to value cultures without judging, and enabling effective and appropriate communication and cooperation with people of all cultures."

However, being internationally and interculturally competent means something different for a biologist, an engineer, a philosopher, a journalist, a psychologist, an audiologist… Programmes therefore have to design international and intercultural competences that best suit their specific context and internationalisation vision and strategy.

How can internationalisation be translated into programme competencies? 

What does Ghent University’s competence model state about internationalisation? 

For Ghent University, the internationalisation of its graduates is a serious matter. Ghent University’s competence model mentions the importance of internationalisation elaborately, both explicitly and implicitly. 

Especially competence field 5 ‘societal competencies’ offers explicit starting points for internationalisation at bachelor and master level. 

  • At bachelor level, the following competence of Ghent University is involved: having insight in intercultural and international debates. 
  • At master level: integrate a sensitivity to culture and respect for diversity into scientific work. 

Other dimensions of Ghent University’s competence model can be linked to international/intercultural competencies, e.g. to ‘international research’ under competence field 2 or competence field 4 concerning ‘collaboration and communication’. More inspiration can be found via the illustrated competence model of Ghent University

Which examples of international/intercultural competencies are there? 

Every programme must translate the competencies of Ghent University into more specific competencies, programme competencies (at the level of the programme) and/or learning outcomes (at the level of the course unit). 

A few examples of programme competencies are:

  • Act correctly and tactfully in diverse communicative situations on the basis of acquired competencies, drawing on insights in similarities, differences and interactions between cultures. (Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics)
  • Integrate cultural sensitivity and respect for diversity, pluralism and tolerance into the scientific work and the functioning as a starting lawyer. (Master of Laws in Laws)
  • Establish links between chemistry and society, taking into consideration questions, concerns and (innovation) needs that arise from society and hereby taking into account an international context. (Master of Science in Chemistry)
  • Analyse and assess (inter)national scientific information in the domain of physical education and movement sciences critically and honestly, from an evidence-based perspective (Bachelor of Science in Physical Education en Movement Sciences)
  • Apply current, (inter)national scientific insights in a broad multicultural and disciplinary societal context (Master of Science in Movement and Sport Sciences)
  • Function as advanced and knowledgeable academic speech therapists and/or audiologists, practitioners and communicative social entrepreneurs within a broad (inter)national context. (Master of Science in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences)
  • Insight in intercultural and international commercial developments. (Bachelor of Science in Business Economics)
  • Integrate the cultural specificity of research results and respect for diversity of participants in scientific work. (Master of Science in Psychology, main subject ‘Theoretical and Experimental Psychology’)
  • Insight in cultural differences and integration of respect for diversity in pedagogical, educational and orthopedagogical contexts. (Bachelor of Science in Educational Sciences)
  • Situate the social, ecological and socio-economic role of agriculture and ethical aspects in an international context during professional activity. (Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering: Agricultural Sciences)

How to work on internationalisation within educational and learning activities? 

Through easily accessible to more intensive work forms

International/intercultural competencies can be conveyed via a multitude of work forms

  • Work with activating work forms in a culturally heterogeneous setting. Involve international students in these types of work forms (e.g. interaction forms, individual assignments, authentic contexts, learning through collaboration) or work (online) with international peers on certain cases.  
  • Integrate international cases and literature in traditional classes and/or study materials. 
  • Provide an international context for certain cases.
  • Invite a guest speaker, in class or virtually.
  • Integrate a window of opportunity in the study programme, i.e. space in the curriculum which allows students to acquire international/intercultural competencies. Offer, for example, a diverse set of complementary learning opportunities within a semester and include a semester abroad as one of the opportunities. 


A number of study programmes in the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy offer a semester abroad in language and/or culture programmes. This semester abroad is included in the study guide. Students specialise in the specific language and/or culture of their destination. In this way, internationalisation is incorporated in the core of the programme. 

These semesters originate in a clear vision and objective and take into consideration the structure of the programme, the acquisition of competencies and a strong partner network. Preparations in terms of intercultural skills, language, etc. are made in the years prior to the semester abroad.
  • Offer forms of student mobility, such as: 
    • the ‘classical’ credit mobility which allows students to follow part of their training at a (non-Flemish) partner university, 
    • a short study stay (e.g. a summer/winter school, an international study trip), 
    • internships or research in the context of the master’s thesis, etc. with an international component.

Via an internationalisation learning path

Would you like to give students the opportunity to gradually develop their international/intercultural competencies? This can be achieved through an internationalisation learning path, which will make the topic of internationalisation more visible. You can read here how to developed a coherent learning path which is supported by and feasible for all lecturers. A learning path demands more time, (financial) space and staff engagement. 

Practical examples of integration of internationalisation in teaching and learning activities 

Possible activities, a few of which might be prepared and/or implemented with the financial support of e.g. the Erasmus+ programme:

Integrate international cases in your classes 

International cases in classes or study materials provide an easily accessible way to provide different visions, insights and concepts. This way, there is also a link with Ghent University’s strategic educational objective of  ‘multiperspectivism’.

Organise an international classroom 

A diversified student population offers possibilities to mix regular students and international (exchange) students consciously. If this happens on a large scale, in combination with international contents, guest lectures, an adjusted teaching approach and an adjusted classroom management, this can be called an international classroom

Integrate international students

International (exchange) students can be used as assets in a class. When doing so, it should be taken into consideration that interaction between different groups should be stimulated actively.


Within the course unit ‘Culture Studies’, students participate in a number of cultural activities. On the basis of an individual portfolio, students reflect on these activities, in ways which are linked to the course lectures.

This course unit has recently been turned into an elective course unit for international students, which results in a very diverse audience. For this reason, an ‘intercultural trajectory’ was also developed throughout the course. 

In practice, this means that students are divided into groups with a maximum of diversity in terms of disciplinary background and nationality. At least half of the groups consist of international students. Throughout the course, students are given three ‘statements’ for discussion (in English) via a group forum in Ufora (tool ‘Discussions’). These statements are always linked to the theory covered in the lectures and the aim is to initiate an intercultural dialogue. Students are motivated to integrate insights which they have acquired through this forum in their individual portfolios.

Throughout the course, two face-to-face group discussions are organised in which student groups meet with the teacher to continue the intercultural dialogue. 

Develop an ‘international collaboration’ learning path (Collaborative Online International Learning or COIL) 

Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) means that you develop an online learning path in which students with different backgrounds collaborate on a specific international/intercultural case. 


The pilot project Interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development is a collaboration between students of different nationalities from different disciplines (Economics, Philosophy, Global Studies and Bioscience Engineering). 

The programme runs entirely online. The practical information and communication is conducted via a Ufora-course site which was especially made for the project. The group process itself is supported by both  ‘Padlet’ and ‘Google Sites’. Virtual communication between the students is enabled through a virtual classroom. 

Students who participate are divided into interdisciplinary and intercultural groups and are randomly assigned to a ‘case’ about sustainability. These ‘cases’ range from the topics food and environment to politics and health. Every case is allocated to two student groups who discuss the case at the end of the trajectory. The group project runs entirely online and consists of an ‘exploration phase’ and a ‘debate preparation phase’. At the end of this project, an ‘online debate’ is organised in which a group ‘in favour’ and a group ‘against’ debate the case.

Both at the start and at the end of the project, students complete an online questionnaire in order to measure their intercultural competencies. Afterwards, they write a concluding reflection in which they indicate how they have applied their learning objectives throughout the group trajectory. On the basis of a second measure of intercultural competencies, insight is given into the possible effects of the project on the intercultural competencies of the students.

Via a ‘peer feedback form’, using Google forms, insight is also given in the contribution of every student in the group process. 

Certain work forms offer opportunities to combine educational topics. In this example of  ‘interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development’, there is a clear link with sustainability.

Organise a virtual exchange 

Next to COIL, other virtual exchanges exist in which students participate in educational activities online with an international partner.

Stimulate collaboration in comparative research 

Students can be stimulated explicitly to collaborate with other students in research activities, e.g. in the context of their master’s thesis or in research tasks within other courses. This can be achieved through a collaboration with international students who study at Ghent University as an exchange student, but students from Ghent University can also collaborate with students from partner universities remotely in order to compare results, match them to local contexts and draw conclusions. 


At the faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, many students participate in an exchange within the context of their master’s thesis. Students at the partner university are involved in the research project. The research that was carried out must be reported in the master’s thesis. For the final score, both the research results, as well as the presentation/defense at Ghent University are taken into account. The master’s thesis is mainly carried out abroad but the defense and the assessment take place at Ghent University. 

Ensure interaction with representatives of other cultures (local)

Interaction with representatives of other cultures can also be stimulated locally. To this purpose, also read the education tip ‘diversity in your study programme’.


The university-wide elective course unit ‘Coaching and diversity’ offers opportunities to acquire international/intercultural competencies via community service learning, more specifically for students who take on the role of mentor of a first-year student with a different mother tongue than Dutch.

Engage guest lecturers in classes (virtually or not)

International guest lecturers can add an international/intercultural dimension to the curriculum. For this, it is crucial that a context is provided for their contribution and that it contributes to an overall strategy. 

Provide online (open source) material 

An increasing number of universities develop online learning materials that are made available as open educational resources. Especially materials (in English) from partner universities of which the quality is guaranteed and about which agreements are made, can be used effectively.

Assemble an ‘interstitial curriculum’

Multiple researchers point to the importance of a so-called interstitial curriculum, i.e. a broad educational environment which focuses on the intellectual habits and skills of students at the intersection of curricular and extra-curricular activities which reinforce international/ intercultural competence acquisition. The working language that is used in the laboratory, the books offered in the faculty library, the images that are used in the communication of the programme, buddy programmes by student organisations, etc. all contribute – sometimes indirectly, but always effectively – to the acquisition of international/ intercultural competencies. 


A number of faculties have a buddy programme in which international students are guided by local students. Study programmes can opt to give credits to students who participate in the buddy programme. 

Offer short study stays abroad

Validate a short study stay such as a summer/ winter school, an international seminar, etc. in the student’s curriculum. 


The course unit International portfolio is offered as a selective course unit within the Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, and Public Administration and Management. It includes a series of short internationalisation initiatives (summer school, intensive programme, international seminar, etc.) that students can register for, and which, following approval by the lecturer can be included in, and validated as part of the curricular course unit. Specific information with regards to assessment is included in the course sheet. 

Organise your study programme in collaboration with partner institutions 

A far-reaching decision is to organise your study programme in collaboration with a consortium of universities and to build the curriculum in such a way that students study at (a) different institution(s) for several semesters.

Combine different internationalization teaching and learning activities 


The study programme Speech Language and Hearing Sciences aims to anchor internationalisation within its educational culture by guaranteeing students’ international and intercultural competencies. Its mission is to make these competencies accessible for every student, which is why the programme offers a diverse range of possibilities to absolutely guarantee that every student has the opportunity to gain international experiences.

During the two-year master, students define their personal trajectory on the basis of personal interest, motivation and challenge, and inspired by ‘an international menu’ in the programme. Students consolidate these experiences in an internationalisation portfolio which is the core of the process of discovering, acquiring and evaluating competencies of internationalisation and interculturality. The menu contains clusters from which students can choose: (1) semester exchange, (2) internship abroad, (3), research, (4) community service learning and (5) internationalisation@home (I@home). The portfolio is first of all a tool for the students. It is also used for purposes of assessment at the end of the trajectory. 

Internationalisation in the master years is part of the course unit ’internship and internationalisation' . Every academic year, students take up 8 credits from an international menu, which is spread over the two semesters. In order to achieve this, a pass-or-fail system is used. In case of a fail on the international menu, the student can no longer pass the course unit as a whole. The student is question will have to retake these credits during the summer. In the second master year, students are also expected to present their international and intercultural experiences in a Pecha Kucha presentation.

How can internationalisation be assessed? 

  • Every international/intercultural programme competence social impact must be assessed at least two times within the programme (cfr. test principle 3). A useful instrument to evaluate whether this is achieved, is the competence matrix, which maps how specific programme competencies, and which aspects of them, are included in the teaching and learning activities and the assessment of the study programme in general. After all, the programme competencies are translated more specifically into the learning outcomes of individual course units. The learning opportunities to acquire the programme competencies are offered in the teaching and learning activities of specific course units. Finally, also the assessment of the programme competencies takes place via the assessment of the learning outcomes of the course units.  
  • Mutually align the assessments of international/intercultural competencies within a study programme. Programmes with an internationalisation learning path gradually build those competencies throughout the programme and align their assessment automatically. What if there is no learning path within a study programme? Then the assessments can be aligned via a common set of assessment criteria or a rubric in different projects or course units. 

When international/ intercultural course units are assessed, there are a number of points of attention that need to be heeded: 

  • Choose an appropriate assessment form. International and intercultural competencies include not only knowledge and insight but also skills and attitudes. The learning outcomes of course units always specify the course objectives. In addition, assessment should also be aligned with the teaching and learning activities through which students learn international/ intercultural competencies, from ‘classic’ exchanges of course credits to sporadic I@H-teaching activities.
    • In order to assess knowledge and insight regarding international/ intercultural competencies, e.g. knowledge of own cultural rules and biases, classic examinations are an obvious choice. 
    • In order to assess skills (e.g. collaboration in an international team) or attitudes (e.g. systematically taking into account intercultural diversity in professional activities), (group) assignments, projects, self-evaluations, peer assessment, portfolio are more suitable.
    • According to the SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence, the combination of direct and indirect assessment forms works well to assess international/intercultural competencies. For example, in the context of an international classroom
      • a deliberately constituted and mixed group of students demonstrates that they can function in an international team in a group presentation (i.e., via direct product-oriented assessment)
      • the same group of students demonstrates that they have acquired international/ intercultural competencies via a reflexive journal in which they reflect on collaboration issues (and solutions for them) (i.e., via indirect assessment
  • Watch out for this pitfall: international mobility as such does not guarantee that a student has automatically acquired the international/ intercultural competencies. It is instructive to assess the competencies explicitly in the exchange context. 
  • Use clear, observable assessment criteria in order to assess the more complex aspects of international/ intercultural competencies (especially attitudes), and make sure to specify what you mean by those international/ intercultural competencies. Work with slightly broader assessment criteria based on your learning objectives, complemented by levels or standards which indicate to what level every criterion is met. Rubrics effectively visualise the combination of assessment criteria and levels or standards. The rubric for intercultural knowledge and competence can be adjusted according to the purpose of the assessment in the course unit. 
  • In the master’s thesis and the internships, near-graduates show that they can apply the acquired knowledge and skills in an integrated manner. In this way, it is important to include international/ intercultural competencies that must be acquired in corresponding forms of assessment.

Further reading?

You can download the introductory guide on international and intercultural competences for all Ghent University graduates.

UGent Practices

Last modified March 28, 2023, 3:43 p.m.