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International Higher Education as Catalyst for Social Change

Faculty Article by Dr. Fay Patel

International Higher Education as Catalyst for Social Change Abstract 

Developing cultural awareness and competence among learners and employees has been a topic of concern and challenge in higher education for several decades. The general focus in many organizations, including higher education, is on the development of cultural awareness and competencies with a general focus on intercultural communication and cultural diversity training.  The paper revisits the notions of cultural awareness and competency development initiatives reframing them within a critical perspective seeking socially responsible actions for social change. It introduces and clarifies global community building, glocalization, social responsibility and justice as requisites for social change. Finally, recommendations are made to ensure that international higher education institutions and communities move beyond awareness and competency level of engagement. The author asserts that higher education is a catalyst for social change demanding an institutional social responsibility ethic that enables and empowers communities to action change that is responsible, sustainable and humane. 


The exhaustive literature on the topic of cultural awareness and competence tends to highlight the surface level engagement among individuals and communities about the need for cultural awareness based on the cultural norms and practices of the ‘other’, that is, other communities. The literature (Eckert, 2006; Kobayashi & Viswat, 2011; Lustig & Koester, 2006a; 2006b) offers guidelines and strategies for effective design and implementation of cultural awareness programs and training based on the premise that cultures are different. Unfortunately, in the training program the focus remains on accommodation, assimilation and acceptance of the differences among cultures. 

In the higher education context, past and current cultural diversity awareness initiatives appear to be a rediscovery of and reinvention of effective strategies to train, develop and prepare students and employees about cultural awareness and competency for effective intercultural communication encounters. As with business communication literature (Beamer, 1992; Byram, 2001; Fantini, 1995; Kobayashi & Viswat, 2011; Zheng, 2015), the general focus on intercultural communication in regard to cultural awareness and competency development remains on the assimilation and accommodation of employees and students from foreign cultures into the host culture. The author asserts international higher education programs should go beyond surface level cultural awareness and competency programs to the implementation of actions for social change. International higher education institutions have an obligation to embrace and communicate a social change agenda to transform their policy, practice and structures to remain current. Social change, according to Dutta (2011) "is focused on those processes that challenge dominant structures and seek to bring about changes in them” (p. 292). 

The author regards third culture building, glocalization, social responsibility, sustainability, and ethics as requisites for social change. In her assertion that higher education is a catalyst for social change, the author argues in favour of higher education leadership moving beyond the superficial level of cultural awareness and competency skills development to action change. The role of higher education is critical in effecting change through actionable policies and practices committed to social responsibility and sustainability and which purposefully raise human consciousness. The author advocates international higher education's institutional responsibility to action social change and subscribes to Dutta's (2011) culture-centered approach to social change that "engages with the ways in which local agency challenges local, national and global structures through the strategic mobilization of cultural symbols in communicative processes." The culture-centered approach (Dutta, 2011) "concerns itself with the voices of marginalized groups and explores the interactions between culture and structure that create conditions of marginality" (p. 10) and places emphasis on disenfranchised communities that exist on the peripheries of the dominant system with the goal of disrupting the marginalization of the underserved sectors. Finally, the paper offers recommendations for international higher education institutional stakeholders to facilitate change that is sustainable and humanitarian in depth and scope. 

In the next section, the author reviews selected literature on cultural awareness and competency skills in a range of organizations and comments on the ongoing adoption of similar programs in international higher education. Relevant terms are introduced and explained in context, in addition to the common terms of reference such as cultural awareness, competency development, and intercultural communication. 

Literature Review

Literature on cultural awareness, competency skills, and intercultural communication, in past decades, has been written from the perspective of the dominant English first language western cultures and those who have been 'educated' in western cultural traditions. In writing and talking about the 'other', there is a tendency to generalize, stereotype and prejudice the potential of the 'other' which often leads to forms of discrimination. Corporate organizations have for decades introduced training and development programs to provide employees with opportunities to acquire cultural awareness and competency skills. Higher education institutions have increasingly adopted the corporate model of cultural diversity development.  

Perspectives on intercultural communication (Anokwa, Lin & Salwen, 2003; Lustig & Koester, 2006a, 2006b; Samovar & Porter, 2004;) to date incorporated some form of cultural awareness, competency skills training, and development of 'interpersonal communication across cultures'. More importantly, the perspectives are presented from a western centric hegemonic perspective with emphasis on creating awareness of the cultural norms, behaviors and attributes of 'others' as in 'other cultures, nations, races, ethnicities, and people who speak other languages other than English'. "Intercultural communication involves interaction between people whose cultural perceptions and symbol systems are distinct enough to alter the communication event", according to Samovar and Porter (2004, p.15). Lustig and Koester (2006a) suggest intercultural communication "is a symbolic, interpretive, transactional, contextual process in which people from different cultures create shared meanings" (p. 46). Embedded within these definitions are varied perspectives on the multiple factors that contribute to respectful communication among cultures. 

The terms of reference are defined in accordance with the context of the individuals and/or groups who interpret, understand and apply them from their standpoint. Among the common terms of reference in the paper within the context of organizational culture and communication, cultural awareness may also be expressed as raising one’s consciousness and awareness to the cultural behaviors of others who speak different languages and come from different geographical locations, nationalities, races and ethnicities. To become 'culturally aware' of the other person in this context refers to becoming more knowledgeable in their behavior patterns, nuances and social norms. In cultural awareness and competency training programs, there is a tendency for facilitators to encourage participants to view the world from the perspective of the 'other', to 'walk in the shoes of the other' and to develop empathy. However, this is a recently contested perspective.  Ravenscroft (2012), citing Joan Copjec and Parveen Adams, asserts "if vision is corporealised, by implication there is no viewing position that one can take up outside one's own body. To move subject positions is not to stand in another's position and look through his or her eyes, but to shift one's position in relation to other objects in a scene. Any subject only looks at the world through his or her own embodied vision" (p. 34).

Competency skills development, another term applied in an intercultural context, is commonly used by corporate training consultants and professionals who design programs for employees. These programs are designed to equip employees with a desirable level of cultural competency skills that will enable them to communicate with proficiency among 'other cultures' in the workplace and in the community. The health sciences developed a range of cultural awareness and competency programs for local and international cohorts of health practitioners. For example, the Health Education and Training Institute (HETI) in Australia, with the reference to international medical graduate information on their website, defines cultural awareness as "sensitivity to the similarities and differences that exist between two different cultures and the use of this sensitivity in effective communication with members of another cultural group" (Cultural Awareness, HETI, n.d.). The Institute defines cultural competency on the website as “becoming aware of the cultural differences that exist, appreciating and having an understanding of those differences and accepting them. It also means being prepared to guard against accepting your own behaviors, beliefs and actions as the norm” (Retrieved from  A North American perspective as expressed in the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) website literature within its policy and practice guidelines reiterates that cultural awareness is a fundamental component of cultural competence without which the development of cultural competence attitudes, skills, and knowledge may prove a challenge. Often, as noted in the literature (Eckert, 2006; Gudykunst, 1991) cultural awareness is framed in terms of being sensitive to and overcoming the 'differences' of the 'other'. It appears that the norm in the literature is to require participants in training programs to measure the level of their success through assessments (quizzes, reflections and enacted scenarios of verbal encounters) that require them to demonstrate their cultural awareness and competency in respect of becoming adept at accommodating the behaviors, beliefs and actions of other cultures. The literature is less emphatic about the need for self-awareness, critical self-reflection of one’s own social norms, stereotypes and prejudices in order to understand the social norms of other cultures.   

Self-awareness is a fundamental principle in moving beyond general cultural awareness and competency program goals. Knowing one's self (Patel et al., 2011; Samovar and Porter,2004) requires a critical self-reflection about one's cultural values and beliefs to identify which dimensions of cultural diversity are non-negotiable and which can be negotiated in an intercultural communication encounter. As cited in Patel et al. (2011), a tool that is useful in the critical self-reflection process is Loden's (1996) Dimensions of the Diversity Wheel as it defines the boundaries of the primary dimensions (age, ethnicity, gender, race) that remain beyond our control to change and that of the secondary dimensions (education, work role and geographic location) over which we have full control. Samovar & Porter (2004) maintain that in 'knowing yourself', four directions are necessary in the examination of one's self: "know your culture; know your perceptions; know how you act out those perceptions; monitor yourself" (p. 306). This is another challenging aspect for participants and trainers in cultural awareness and competency development and one that is least visible in training programs. It is usually easier to conduct cultural training programs about the 'other', keeping cultural awareness and competency discussions at the surface level. Literature on surface and deep levels of intercultural communication is limited and few references are made to deep level of intercultural communication.  Samovar & Porter's studies (2004) refer to belief and value systems as the complexities of the deep structure of intercultural communication. They highlighted the fact that the deep level of engagement in intercultural communication encounters challenges the very core of personal belief and value systems. Samovar & Porter (2004) assert, at the deep structure of culture (p.82), diverse communities have a common bond among them when it comes to sharing three fundamental social institutions (religion, family, and history) across cultures and that these institutions “shape our worldview and influence our perceptions (Patel et al, 2011, p.43)" . Samovar & Porter contend that if we had to develop a ranking of cultural values, "at the top of every culture’s list would be love for family, God (whatever form that might take), and country" (p. 83). In commenting on the first of Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's conclusions "that all cultures face common human problems” (Lustig & Koester, 2006b, p. 63), Lustig & Koester (2006b) concur with Samovar & Porter about the common bond among cultures at the deep level of interculturality.  Lustig & Koester contend problems "are more fundamental because they involve issues about our basic human identities, our relationships with others, and our orientations to our physical and spiritual world" (2006b, p. 63). 

In the Australian context, for example, there are various cross cultural programs at state, government, corporate and higher education level for one cultural group (the host Australian Caucasian community) or another (international student cohorts, academic and professional staff, and immigrants) instead of a combined program for diverse cultures to engage as one community. In consultation with Indigenous staff at one university, Parrish (2015) developed a mobile application that embedded walking trails through the university grounds as an "innovative approach to cultural awareness-raising" to "encourage the integration of inclusive teaching practices and behaviors of non-indigenous staff and academics and enhance the cultural safety of indigenous students and academics" (p. 4). Another program in South Australia for Indigenous Australians labeled the Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training targets non- Indigenous Australians for training in cultural awareness and competency in their interactions with Indigenous Australians. In past decades, it might have been 'appropriate' and 'adequate' to simply design and implement cultural diversity training programs to enhance competency among one group of organizational employees (migrants and immigrants, for example). The author contends those policies and practices may no longer be appropriate and adequate in the present and the future. If cultural awareness and competency programs do not mandate actioned change in the behaviors and policies of their organizations, and in the practices of employees, students and the wider community, then one has to question the purpose of implementing such programs.

Embracing the Glocalization Paradigm as a Change Agenda

In the author's perspective, higher education institutions have a responsibility as institutions of learning and agents of social change to ensure there is a degree of enhancement in the quality of life in the communities they serve. Why higher education?  Higher education is the agency that shapes our citizenry and is the critical space in which the local and global (glocal) communities meet. It is here that critical thought and inquiry is valued and dissent is welcomed. Often, higher education mission and vision statements are committed to equity, diversity, inclusivity with a promise to enable and empower students and employees. As noted earlier, requisites for social change include third culture building, glocalization, social responsibility, and sustainability. Third culture building is a concept introduced by Lee. Lee who asserts third culture theory "is expansive, responsive, future-oriented and open ended with growth potential" and is not "reductionist, ethnocentric" (2003, p. 7) or hegemonic. Lee's assertion is an acceptable approach to "building a global community" (Patel et al., 2011, pp.5,6) in which intercultural communication encounters are mutually respectful, focusing on cultural similarity instead of difference. Patel et al. (2011) contend, in order to contribute to building a global community stakeholders should demonstrate a "willingness... to integrate acceptable cultural norms and values in a meaningful and respectful way" (p. 6). Embracing third culture building brings an expectation that participant stakeholders will focus on "engaging goodness and exchanging cultural goods or wealth" (Patel et al., p. 9). Lustig and Koester (2006b) assert although "all cultures differ from one another - some more so, some less -yet there is something similar..." (p. 63).  Third culture building redirects our attention to the similarities among cultures to find common ground. Glocalization places emphasis on seeking common ground and focusing on the positive impact of local and global cultural perspectives and norms. The social responsibility ethic provides a filter to ensure cultural sharing occurs within an equitable and inclusive framework that celebrates the common ground and the cultural wealth of cultural diversity. Klyukanov's (2005) principles of intercultural communication (listed in the next section) present a reasonable context within which to set acceptable rules of engagement through to sustainable outcomes.

Higher education institutions are best placed to promote third culture and global community building on an international level because they are the centers of the ongoing cultural migration of communities. Instead of their continued submission to the corporatization mantra of a brand marketed internationalization vision and policy, it would serve them better to redirect their energies and dollars to a value driven, ethical framework grounded in a sustainable, human centric higher education vision. Commitment to this vision will inspire future generations of scholars and innovators to uphold the quality of life of the local and global communities whom they impact in whatever shape or form. This approach to community building creates opportunities for glocalization of learning and teaching in higher education.  Glocalization in contrast to internationalization is not a marketing strategy oriented to attract international students and dollars and not a framework that will subscribe to the problemization of English second language cohorts in corporate and higher education organizations. However, glocalization brings with it challenges. For example, in advocating "glocalization as an alternative to internationalization" (Patel & Lynch, 2012, pp. 223, 229), how do we move past the challenges of bringing together local and global perspectives as a balanced view of the world at large? Who will be the agent of change in negotiating and renegotiating the glocal space (at the deep level of intercultural communication) as an enriched space for the exchange of cultural wealth to build common ground instead of raising concerns about difference as a negative force?

Glocalization in contrast to globalization is a harmonious blend of local and global perspectives and considerations and celebrates diversity as an enriching contribution to glocal community engagement and perspectives.  Byers (2005), cited in Patel et al. (2011), asserts that we are members of two communities (community of birth and broader community). The communities are bound by their commitment to issues and concerns common to both communities on a socio-economic and political level. In this regard, the glocalized or 'global' community "…subscribes to a diverse range of norms and values that inform their visions and perspectives about the world around them” (Patel et al., 2011, p. 6). They may also subscribe to the common vision and goals of social responsibility, sustainability, and ethics which are necessary to progress social change. The glocalization paradigm lends a glocal perspective to cultural awareness and competency programs as it encourages a collective engagement of diverse cultures in exploring the respectful exchange of cultural norms and values from local and global perspectives. Glocal perspectives emphasize the sharing of "common beliefs and values about what is acceptable and good for all humanity" (Patel et al., 2011, p. 6). 

The challenge of the glocalization paradigm lies in its strategic planning and implementation however Klyukanov's (2005) principles of intercultural communication, listed below, provide a supporting framework. The ten principles are briefly summarized in short phrases which elucidate the different stages required in developing a sustainable, glocalized framework that is equitable, diverse and inclusive with potential for growth, adaptation and innovation. 

Punctuation principle – draw mutually acceptable boundary lines 

Uncertainty principle – reduction of uncertainty through negotiation and sharing of relevant information 

Performativity principle – cultivate new shared meaning 

Positionality principle – position or ground themselves within a context 

Commensurability principle – finding common ground 

Continuum principle – considers multiple perspectives 

Pendulum principle – considers ongoing interaction in negotiating shared meaning 

Transaction principle – transaction component of global community building 

Synergy principle – cooperative nature and integration of resources 

Sustainability principle – long term mutually respectful relationship 

The aforementioned discussion places into context the broader issues of cultural awareness and competency programs designed and delivered by a number of organizations internationally. The author contests the notion that the programs are adequate and appropriate in the current decade and advocates a framework that will mandate social change through the mobilization of international higher education. In the next section, the discussion focuses specifically on the role of higher education institutions as catalysts for change within a socially responsible context on an international level.

International Higher Education’s Responsibility for Social Change

Higher education institutions remain a symbol of hope and inspiration in the most turbulent times. The current decade has seen a volatile global economy, a massive migration of cultures, and social and political strife around the world. Higher education institutions are commissioned with the task of discharging their social responsibility to their glocal communities by endorsing social change agendas committed to equity, diversity and inclusivity. Moving beyond the surface level cultural awareness and competency programs, higher education institutions must take the lead in mandating a cultural revolution driven by action for change in the quality of life and the condition of the communities whom they serve. 

In recent years, the international higher education discourse is refocusing on a commitment to a social responsibility ethic and an urgent need to re-examine the corporatization model.  Initiatives, projects and programs reiterate a call to return to a value driven and socially just and responsible agenda upon which to inspire the next generation of scholars and innovators so they remain committed to an ethical, human oriented and sustainable higher education learning space. Welikala (2011) maintains "the 21st Century University…has a social responsibility to equip the members of the society with necessary competencies, knowledge, understandings, and new skills so that they can constantly negotiate the changing nature of work, the labour force, information technologies and cultural identities of people" (p. 4).  This is an important component in developing the good citizen instead of the global citizen (Nicotra & Patel, 2016; Piscioneri & Patel, 2016) who will transcend the boundaries and challenges of work and life to contribute to the enhanced quality of life for the glocalized community.  

The social responsibility role of international higher education carries with it the need to clearly define the mechanisms which assess the quality and define the boundary of social responsibility and justice. Young (2011b) asserts that the social connection model of responsibility provides clear guidelines of engagement and commitment among stakeholders in that it is a proactive approach that requires commitment to shared responsibility and collective action. This assertion reaffirms the imperative for higher education institutions to commit to a social responsibility and justice ethic that embraces collective nature of global community building, collaboration, partnership and the glocalization of learning in an international higher education context. It is only within these parameters that higher education stakeholders will experience a safe and respectful space in which to negotiate, inquire, contest, and innovate, as higher education institutions were expected to do over the past centuries and decades before the corporatization model reared its ugly head.   

According to Martha Nussbaum citing Young (Foreword, 2011b, p.xiii), a demanding standard to assess responsibility requires  that "a responsible person tries to deliberate about actions before acting, makes choices that seem to be the best for all affected, and worries about how the consequences of his or her actions may adversely affect others."  In the international higher education space, such a standard to assess responsibility will require pristine leadership of the highest standard to model the desired level of personal and professional commitment to integrity. Commitment to social responsibility and justice in higher education requires establishing norms of engagement in which the stakeholders and the institutional community network are guaranteed a respectful space for engagement, voice, trust, and other fundamental conditions to deliberate in a meaningful manner that will lead to collective actions for change. According to Danielle Allen (2011a, Foreword in Young, p.ix),  "Young takes justice to consist of the social and institutional conditions necessary for creating nondomination and  nonoppressions, where the latter means the achievement of human flourishing, for all members of society."  Higher education institutions, as catalysts for social change, will have to ensure they provide the necessary social and institutional conditions necessary for promoting a safe environment in which social responsibility and justice can thrive. As noted by Patel et al. (2012) "one cannot advocate justice if one has not taken responsibility for providing an environment in which fellow human beings are treated in a just manner" (p. 138).  

Against the backdrop of the preceding discussion on the role of higher education as a catalyst for social change with commitment to social responsibility and justice, it is necessary to reiterate higher education institutions require a major shift in their visioning, purpose and role as social change agents. International higher education as a learning institution, a scholar's haven of inquiry, progress and innovation, and as an academic's personal and professional ground for intense deliberation, negotiation, contestation, and progress must reclaim its' place in a glocalized world. To be effective as a catalyst, international higher education institutions should once again become the ground swell for agitation, liberation to disrupt the disruption caused by the corporate agenda of technology driven capitalists, the cultural imperialists and neocolonizing forces that have stolen their academic freedom under guise of the corporate branding principle in the current turbulent political economy. 

Key issues, controversies and problems are reiterated in the next section with the intention of seeking innovative context based solutions instead of only best practice models that have a 'one size fits all' labels for products manufactured in foreign lands. 

Issues, Controversies, Problems

Issues, controversies and problems related to the theme of cultural awareness and competency and to the role of international higher education as a catalyst for social change are identified in this section. 

First, the issues that emerge in the discussion relate to the need to establish norms of engagement within the high standards of measurement of justice and social responsibility, as espoused by Young (2011a, 2011b). It is important to set the parameters (voice, trust, space, just and responsible engagement principles) for safe and healthy engagement on critical issues that require change.  

There is also an urgency to re-evaluate the cultural awareness and competency discourse so that it moves away from the superficial level of engagement among stakeholders and embeds itself in the deep level of raising the social consciousness of the higher education stakeholders and their glocal communities. Related to this issue is the imperative to retrain the trainers of cultural diversity programs who themselves have to engage at deep level of intercultural communication principals to self-reflect on their own stereotypical behaviors, beliefs and value systems, prejudices and discriminatory practices. 

Controversies that emerge in the discussion and the literature again lean toward the deep level of intercultural engagement in which pertinent questions arise. Among the questions are: who should be responsible for deep and surface levels of cultural awareness training (host communities, migrants, immigrants, Indigenous communities or a cooperative); what are acceptable and unacceptable boundaries for education of the critical issues emerging within the cultural awareness programs; should there be 'political correctness' in training programs or should we respectfully confront our histories, spirituality and filial relationships; if we belong to a culturally diverse group that is labelled black, white, brown or other color, do we own the derogatory/offensive language that denigrates our being when it is spoken by the 'other' or should we too respect ourselves and ensure that no man, woman or child abuses  the derogatory/offensive language under claim of ownership and rights; and is it necessary to censor what the 'other' can and cannot question and comment on if the 'other' does not belong to the same history, spirituality and filial ancestry? 

Problems that become visible in such deliberations about cultural awareness and competency relate to the different dimensions of diversity as described by Loden (1996). On a primary level, visibility of race, ethnicity, age, gender, for example, create a challenge to who we are as a people and what we aspire to as humanity. The features we cannot change about ourselves define who we are in the larger mosaic of human consciousness and yet, in our personal spaces as we self-reflect, we bleed the same blood, cry the same tears, feel the same pain, and love with the same passion. On a secondary level, our work role, home location, and religious belief, for example, become less visible in the broad space. And yet, we can redefine these spaces at will. Will and determination are required for social change and to enable one to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.  

Another problem that emerges when we posit higher education as a  catalyst for social change perspective is that of seeking impeccable leadership. Where do we find such leadership in an era that is fraught with clandestine engagement, corporate greed, and in which the truths lay hidden deep within the chasms in the academic halls? 

Finally, how do we reclaim higher education internationally as a space in which to uphold integrity, contest untruths, debate fervently and research issues that will change the course of the present and the future in an enhanced and progressive way?  Do we continue to follow or do we lead? The author is of the view that higher education should reclaim her role as an institution of value based learning, development of citizens with integrity, and a revitalization of research to uncover the truth. It is higher education's responsibility to lead so corporations can follow with a renewed commitment to integrity in their engagement with glocal communities. It is important to heed Dutta's (2011) call to disrupt the marginalized communities and to bring them to the mainstream so that the interrogation of ethics and values remains constant.

Solutions and Recommendations

In re-establishing higher education institutions as social change agencies on an international level, the institutions will reclaim their original mandate as institutions of higher learning in which inquiry and dissent are the norm and where deconstruction of policy and practice will lead to ethically sound decisions about their impact on glocal communities. In adopting Dutta's culture-centered approach to social change communicative processes, higher education would benefit from the deconstruction of hegemonic structures and processes. Dutta (2011) asserts that "essential to the idea of social change therefore is the construction of departures from the accepted configuration in society, as a process that departs from the hegemony of the mainstream, and furthermore, as a process that challenges the hegemony of the mainstream" (p. 3). 

Solutions to the issues, controversies and problems presented in brief in the preceding section are based on a broad, 'big picture' level however it is necessary to seek context based innovative solutions that are driven by the goals of quality enhancement. Among the recommendations presented in the paper to uplift the quality of life of glocal communities, there is an imperative for international higher education leadership and communities as a collective, to reinstate ethical frameworks as critical standards for social responsibility, justice and sustainability. The following recommendations provide a way forward toward that goal. 

Establish quality measurements of social responsibility and justice

Policies should be established to promote social responsibility and justice. Equity Ambassadors should be appointed with autonomous guidelines to ensure equity principles are not compromised at all levels including senior and middle management. Establishing quality measurements as espoused by Young (2011a; 2011b) to be widely applicable to deliberations among local and global communities will allow for desired progress to be documented at a reasonable pace.  Within Young's guidelines, the rules of engagement will provide a safe space for respectful engagement.  

Re-evaluation of cultural awareness and competency programs 

Organizational senior management teams require to call a stakeholders conference to select a team on the basis of equity, diversity and inclusivity that will re-skill trainers as facilitators and guardians of responsible and just social practice and who will re-design 'training programs' as open dialogue forums  that subscribe to equity principles. Future programs for skills development in intercultural communication will focus on upskilling diverse teams together within an inclusivity context. Future programs cannot be designed by 'us to train the other' culture or group (migrants, international teams, Indigenous communities, immigrants). Programs must be designed in partnership with diverse stakeholder groups and conducted among diverse stakeholder groups as one community. The education of diverse communities and stakeholders requires an intensive ongoing continuous improvement program within a glocalized framework so community building, partnership and collaboration become the norm for negotiating socially responsibility, just and sustainable policies and practices that will benefit all cultural groups in a glocalized context. 

Raising consciousness at the deep level of intercultural communication 

Within the established parameters and rules of engagement, all stakeholders should receive the same level of training and development in the facilitation of discussions, problem -solving, negotiation, and mediation skills enabling them to conduct discussions at the deep level of engagement. This ensures that open dialogue forums are conducted by qualified facilitators who have undergone intensive coaching in the partnership model within the equity, diversity and inclusivity context. This is imperative in negotiating social change at the deep level of intercultural communication. 

Critical self-reflection of Loden's (1996) primary and secondary dimensions of cultural diversity 

Glocal communities are encouraged to critically self-reflect upon Loden's dimensions of cultural diversity at a deep level of intercultural engagement to ensure that they can negotiate partnerships and build community based on mutually respectful cultural exchange. 

Searching for impeccable leadership 

One of the greatest challenges beyond the cultural awareness and competency development issues in higher education is to search for impeccable leadership. Current international higher education news headlines (Chapman, 2013) indicate leaders with the best of intentions, with profiles of high integrity standards and with commitment to equity principles tend to fail to promote a just and socially responsible and sustainable higher education agenda.  Perhaps a solution is to move this into a shared stakeholder leadership role that operates within the established parameters of respectful social change communicative processes as expressed by Dutta (2011). 

In summary, higher education institutions should establish Higher Education Social Responsibility (HESR) strategies that will support projects and programs in uplifting the quality of life of glocal communities. The HESR projects and programs should be embedded into curriculum design and form the basis of project driven research, volunteerism and glocal engagement among scholars, students, professionals and relevant stakeholders. The HESR initiatives will enhance the quality of learning design and implementation on a glocal level. 

Future Research Directions

Future and emerging trends in the international higher education space suggest higher education is struggling with the corporate model it adopted. Technology enhanced learning brings with it various challenges of the technology and innovation divide (Patel et al., 2012). The future of corporatized higher education is uncertain and in peril as it continues to be tossed by the volatility of the political economy. Unless a values based, ethical framework is embraced by international higher education resituating it in the mainstream, senior leadership, scholars and innovators in international higher education should prepare for further disruption from the marginalized communities in the periphery, as cautioned by Dutta (2011).  Social justice education frameworks bring their own challenges. Goodman (2011) contends one of the challenges is "working with people from privileged or dominant groups -those who are in the more powerful position in a particular type of oppression" (p. 2). 

Future research directions require a change in the aspirations of higher education institutions internationally and a will to embrace change. Recommended research focus in the future include the following areas of exploration: 

Partnerships and Collective Stakeholder Engagement 

Instead of competing for recognition as technology experts and corporate brands, it is recommended they embrace partnerships and collective stakeholder engagement under glocalization as a global community building strategy. 

Reinstate a value driven academy 

Academics should once again be given the respect, time, and resources to do what they were trained to do: explore critical questions that will bring new innovations, inspire students to become scholars,  motivate communities to lead instead of follow, and return to the over spilled halls of intense debate about values, ethics, responsibility, justice and truth. 

Examine the deep level of intercultural communication 

Research in the field of intercultural communication requires a shift to a deep level of cultural engagement in academic and community discourse; creation of collaborative spaces and partnerships so that communities can work as a cooperative in advancing research outputs in the fields, the cities and industries that support socially responsible and sustainable living for all communities.   

Investigate the opportunities and challenges of the glocalization of learning paradigm 

Glocalization of learning provides a wide range of research opportunities in the socio-economic and political realm. 

Establish a Higher Education Social Responsibility (HESR) strategy

The higher education institutions can explore creative ways in which to establish a Higher Education Social Responsibility (HESR) strategy to ensure glocal (local and global) community projects are adequately funded on an ongoing basis. More specifically, the glocal community project partnerships should provide adequate opportunity for institutions to engage students, academics, researchers, professional staff and community partners in generously resourced research projects and volunteer programs.  


The paper presented a broad overview of perspectives on cultural awareness and competence in higher education with the author advocating for a social responsibility role for institutions to lead social change.  Emerging trends, issues and concerns in international higher education were identified and discussed within a third culture and glocalization context. Solutions and recommendations were explored to enhance the quality of life for glocal communities. Concluding remarks summarize the key assertions in the paper: cultural awareness and competency programs require education at the deep level of intercultural communication; higher education institutions are well placed catalysts for social change; there is an imperative to advocate for change that is socially responsible within social justice frameworks and that ensures sustainability; institutions should consider adopting a Higher Education Social Responsibility (HESR) strategy within which to also design glocalized learning and teaching models; corporatization of higher education should be contested; and searching for impeccable leadership remains a challenge in the present and future to promote the proposed social responsibility and justice education agenda. 

The radicalization of the international higher education space requires strong leadership with a conviction to rebuild the esteemed institution of learning in which debate, research, innovation and creative energies flow in harmony with each other. Communities would benefit from partnerships, cooperatives and collective voices that support a value based and ethical higher education. Leadership, refreshed within the social responsible and justice framework, will inspire stakeholders to uphold integrity through equity, diversity and inclusivity principles in curriculum design and implementation, and through innovative research networks with glocal communities. Higher education institutions have the privilege of influencing stakeholders within and outside the institution through their mobilization of and "the agency of local participants, with the communicative processes of social change participating in creating entry points for listening to these voices that have been historically erased from the dominant platforms of knowledge production and praxis" (Dutta, 2011, p. 292). 

Internationally, higher education institutions are well placed as agencies to lead the culture-centered social change communication (an approach advocated by Dutta, 2011). As agencies in social change, higher education institutions present a deconstructive space in which critical questions (for whom, for what purpose, why, and why not) can be asked when seeking solutions to problems and "the ways in which problems and solutions are defined for the purpose of the change initiatives" (Dutta, 2011, p. 293). Dutta (2011) contends that "such interrogations would engage with the questions of ethics and values in understanding problem configurations and solutions developments" (p. 293) and "...creates entry points for engaging with the oppressive elements of the institutions of development” (p. 293).  From the perspective of the social justice education paradigm, cultural diversity development requires a social justice commitment. Goodman (2011) asserts that " justice requires changing unjust institutional structures, policies, and practices, and challenging the dominant ideology" (p. 4). As catalysts in social change, higher education institutions are likely to impact the quality of life among local and global communities. More specifically, higher education institutions are charged with the burden of responsibility to develop a just and sustainable society which embraces humanity as a fundamental departure and arrival point in glocal (local and global) community development.


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