Quality Learning mobility

Part Two: Quality Learning mobility


“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them,

but by building a fire within.”

(Bob Nelson)


2. 1 Why learning mobility?

2.1.1 Goals and objectives

For a majority of sending organizations, one of the most important is cultivating global citizenship. They thereby assume that an exposure to different cultures and to conditions of (extreme) poverty will turn people into global citizens, that is, into individuals who are aware of global development issues (Smith 2004) and whose consciousness has been transformed and for whom this transformation produces on-going changes in life choices (Heron 2011).

A global citizen, therefore, is someone ‘who knows how the world works, is outraged by injustice, and who is willing and enabled to take action to meet global challenges’ (Oxfam / Richardson 1997:1). Global citizenship is about a conceptual understanding of critical issues (such as globalisation and interdependence, social justice, sustainable development, peace and conflict, diversity, and international human rights declarations); at the same time involving skills such as critical thinking and argumentation, intercultural communication, cooperation and conflict resolution, and the ability to challenge injustice. It is also based on values and attitudes such as commitment to equality, respect for diversity, empathy, concern for the environment and an inclusive sense of belonging (Davies 2006). Once returned from an overseas experience,  people are expected to become the social and economic catalyst for pro-development change in their own societies (Plewes and Stuart 2007).

Another important objective additional to  global citizenship is the personal growth : growing self-esteem, critical self-knowledge and independence. Professional skills are also indicated as key objectives.

Important objectives also include the is the facilitation of skill transfer and capacity building in the Global South by student and staff from the Global North volunteering, interning or working in the Global South with local students and staff. (Plewes and Stuart 2007).


2.1.2 Realise the objectives

Initially, and still to a significant degree today, it was assumed that simply by sending people to the South, and by immersing them in a place different from home, objectives would be met and people would learn interesting and useful things on their own, and do so effortlessly ( Vande Berg et al 2012). However, research (Paige et al 2012) has shown that this does not happen automatically. On the contrary, people need to be very well prepared and require intense follow-up during and after their stay in the South, in order to offer them a positive and empowering experience and to guarantee that preconceived objectives are achieved. Most people function and learn effectively abroad only when an educator or coach intervenes, strategically and intentionally, through well designed preparation and training programs that continue throughout the cross-cultural experience (Vande Berg et al 2012).

 Given increasing recognition that young people need to be well prepared and followed-up. in order for the set of objectives to be achieved, there is an urgent need to think about the extent and the ways in which we should systematically involve ourselves(HEI’s) in the process of preparing and guiding people going to the South (Vande Berg et al 2012).


2.2 Global learning: challenges and opportunities

2.2.1 Growing interest, lack of research

Learning mobility with the Global South is a quite recent phenomenon  however its popularity for HEI’s and is rapidly on the increase. HEI’s and other institutions have gained valuable experience over the last few decades however, relatively little research has been carried out. This is evident from an overview of the available international literature. Despite the lack of available data on North-South mobility for HEI’s, the literature suggests that the number of students, and researchers, travelling from the Global North to South is growing consistently.  

HEI’s in Europe follow a common trend in the Global North (U.S.A., Australia, Canada, etc.) of an increased interest and demand in young people’s mobility to the Global South (Heron 2011). More and more, learning mobility is seen as an efficient and effective way to obtain the necessary skills to foster social cohesion, active citizenship, intercultural dialogue, gender equality, personal fulfilment, as well as a series of job-specific competences for a globalising labour market.

Nevertheless, while learning mobility with the Global South has become more important and an increasingly diverse, evolving and essentially complex activity, it remains an under researched topic. We know little about its impacts, changing forms and shifting meanings as well as important barriers and obstacles ensuring to good practice. .


2.2.2 Obstacles from within

Initiating, and organising learning mobility with the Global South can be quite a daunting task. It is challenging to liaise with partner schools, organisations and/or companies to set up a programme that is mutually beneficial and in the long run, worthwhile, for both sides. In addition to these  challenges, HEI’s face other challenges with their Global South partners which can include cultural differences, language barriers, institutional issues etc. In most cases there are also challenges in the home institution that need to be tackled.

Several of these challenges are outlined below



There are many different interpretations of the phrase “non-industrialised countries”. This has been evident even within the partners on the LEMONOC project. The terms developing economies, emerging markets or  developing countries  are also often used as what we describe as the Global South in this manual . It is important to decide the definition of these phrases within the home institution at the beginning of any mobility project to ensure there is a uniform understanding of the project, and its aims and objectives.


Using personal contacts or not?

At times initiatives for learning mobility (for instance: internships) start with the personal contacts from one of the home institution’s staff members. For example  a programme in Senegal, where the contact was established through someone’s local church, is looking  for interns to work on education project, or a hotel in Tanzania, used as income generating activity for local development projects,  is looking for  students to assist with business plans for a coffee shop. These personal contacts can come with great advantages which  include firstly starting from a basis of mutual trust.

Secondly, the staff member’s own time has already been invested in building this relationship, which makes it more cost effective for the home institution than to start building new relationships and partnerships from scratch.


However there are possible downsides of using the personal contacts of staff members to establish partnerships. Examples of these downsides can include a high level of dependency on the staff member who established the contact, their availability and their commitment to the project. Other examples could include potential conflicts of interests.   In other words: if for whatever reason the home institution prefers to let other colleagues handle the relationship, will it still be intact? In addition one can ask the question whether the staff member can remain objective about the characteristics of the partnership. Is it really the best partner for the home institution?

The home institution can try to mitigate these possible risks by ensuring that the partnership is not exclusively managed by the staff member who has made the initial contact. Making sure more staff members are involved in the partnership next to the colleague who initiated it, might prevent possible problems.


Cultural differences

The students will typically experience personal growth during their time in the Global South. They are expected to prepare themselves for the challenges that will arise with intercultural communication and HEI’s are advised to support their students to find techniques to withhold judgement as much as possible. Although the HEI’s have an expectation for students to adapt to cultural differences and sensitivities while participating on the programmes, the same standard is often not applied to the supervising staff members or teachers. Although this sounds  logical, there are examples of institutions who have damaged their relationships by letting culturally less sensitive colleagues handle the partnership management. Cultural differences ideally should be taken into account from the initial discussion and especially during the hiring process .


Partnership: Legacy of Imbalance and Inequity

The history of partnerships between universities in the North and the South can make partnerships potentially problematic (Samoff and Bidemi, 2004). Historically, linkages and partnerships usually followed an inequitable model: the colonial relationships between institutions of the colonizer and the colonized nations were designed for intellectual domination (Ibid). According to Bailey and Dolan, North-South partnerships are often characterised by a range of asymmetries between the two partners, in resources, institutional capacity and power, with the partner controlling finances, often determining the terms of the partnership (2011). We advocate for building high quality partnerships on a foundation of mutual respect, reciprocity, equity, and transparency.


Safety and security

Students and staff travelling to the Global South will face different challenges in terms of health and safety than at home. In the institution, an agreement should be made on level of risk deemed acceptable. Various categories of travel advice from the home country, for example  the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, should be used  as a starting point for the health and safety for participants travelling on programmes..  When the advice given from the Department of Foreign Affairs reads: ‘all but essential travel is  advised’  there is a high level of danger involved in students travelling and it would be advisable for HEI’s to deem this an unacceptable standard of health and safety If exceptions to general rules have to be made, it is important to outline from the beginning who this decision making will lie with for example The executive board, deans or other parties?


Commitment from the top

Initiating learning mobility with the Global South developing countries is quite a task. Commitment from the top is essential. First, this applies to clear external communication as well as internal. A clear message sent from the board (that it is firmly behind the creation of a programme for learning mobility) to the Global South can provide extra support to a process that may be lacking momentum.

Secondly, students can be stimulated by their teachers, staff members and the executive board to participate in more challenging mobility i.e. to the Global South. Sharing best practices and testimonials from participating students is a way in which the institution can promote this type of learning mobility. Thirdly, financial incentives are possible as well for example a scholarship programme earmarked for the learning mobility to the Global South. If the board can show their support financially with the addition of investment into the project, their commitment to learning mobility to the Global South is reinforced. Developing a programme to the Global South can be considerable costly and require centrally allocated funds.

The firm backing for the executive board will be necessary for internal reasons, especially when processes, and staff members need to be aligned, the support from the higher echelons in this case will be crucial.

Finally, the bureau of education will also be required to create space within the curriculum to make the mobility possible. Study programmes will have to be more flexible with the assessment of the learning outcomes during the mobility.



In decentralized educational institutes it is  possible that various study programmes are developing their own programmes for engagement with the Global South There are benefits to trying to harmonizing existing programmes. First of all there will be the efficiency of shared preparation and execution. Sharing various contacts can lead to more quality programmes. Students from various study programmes preparing for their period overseas, and working together when overseas, will benefit from the advantage of working interdisciplinary sector . Depending on the chosen destinations, the needed critical mass to be able to justify a programme of learning mobility might not be guaranteed by a single study programme, Aligning interest from various study programmes by resolve this issue

Different study programmes have different selection criteria when selecting target countries for the learning mobility. In addition the selection of organisations and partners overseas depends on the criteria of the different study programmes. The desired learning outcomes are leading here.



Evaluation of the programme is vital. Not just in terms of student / staff satisfaction, but also in terms of satisfaction of the host organization/ institution and of whether the goals of the programme  are being reached. Feedback from the programmes participants , sending organisation, and receiving organisations should be taken into account when taking next steps in the programme and for future programmes.


Bailey, F. and Dolan, A.M. (2011). The Meaning of Partnership in Development: Lessons from Development Education. Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, 13, 30-48.


Davies, L. (2006). Global Citizenship: abstraction of framework for action? Educational Review, 5-25.


Heron, B. (2011). Challenging Indifference to Extreme Poverty: Considering Southern Perspectives on Global Citizenship and Change. Éthique et économique/Ethics and Economics, 8 (1), 109-119.


Oxfam (1997). A curriculum for global citizenship(Oxford, Oxfam).


Plewes, B. & Stuart, R., (2007). ‘The Pornography of Poverty: A Cautionary Fundraising Tale’ in Ethics in Action: The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations, Bell, D.A, & Coicaud, J-M., (eds.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press


Samoff, J. & Bidemi, C. (2004). The Promise of Partnership and Continuities of Dependence: External Support to Higher Education in Africa. African Studies Review, 47(1), 67-199.


Smith, M. (2004). Mediating the world: development, education and global citizenship. Globalisation Societies Education, 2 (1), 67 – 82.


Vande Berg, M., Paige, R.M. & Hemming Lou, K. (2012).Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it. Sterling, VA: Stylus.