November 6, 2009, by Teaching at Nottingham

Course planning: managing modules across campuses

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Chris Barnatt: “If you are a Nottingham academic in the UK and the school which has got the participation of overseas campus is your role is different. There’s no question about that, it’s a role which involves you working with colleagues in other campuses, teaching material and developing material with them and that’s just now part of the job. But also the culture is now one which is a Nottingham UK culture and a Nottingham NingBo culture and a Nottingham Malaysia culture. So to some extent we’ve inherited other sort of values and that will change the mix and that’s probably a good thing. I think that will take a long time to bed down.”

Chris Barnatt: “Over time of course, degrees alter and each time we go to a course review and the business school tends to change quite regularly. You’re certainly in a situation where if we change all these modules oh they’re also taught somewhere else and therefore that issue starts to build potentially a tension and I think it’s fair to say we have had tensions over that more than anything else.

“So you have to, again, put more time into the process, you have to be much more aware that making a change to one module here might have big implications somewhere else. There are degrees that are only taught in Malaysia and China using modules which are core there and not core here or in different parts of the core. And therefore you start moving things around and problems can result so it’s… you have to be aware you’re working in a much more global organisation, you know.

“You actually have to be much more rigorous in ensuring that everything you’re doing from an international dimension of the module is absolutely right. And I’m not saying universities tend not to get everything right but it’s one of the things I tend to learn when I did text books in the past that there’s a big difference on doing a lecture on something than writing a text book. There’s a different level of requirement and almost the international dimension having international academics working on the same module gives you that same level of rigour

“There’s an awful lot of things we assume in UK higher education that we don’t ever explain. We’re very good at, for example, having notes for guidance. Now notes for guidance we know in the UK means you will do on pain of but we will send things over, these are the notes for guidance, oh those are the notes for guidance, you know. Or the external suggested you might wish to which actually means you will do. So I think sometimes we’ve had to learn to be more careful in the way we use language so we’re clear when we mean this is something that has to be done, this is something that doesn’t have to be done.

“I think that’s the big lesson of overseas campus working. It’s not about saying the UK will tell the overseas campuses what to do or indeed potentially vice versa, it’s about everyone being very, very clear about what they really meant rather than what they thought they meant again in their own cultural frame.

“The degrees are the same in every possible element they can be the same but they are taught in a very different context and you know it would be strange if they weren’t given they’re taught in different parts of the world. I think the universities work very hard to make sure that everything that we would see as critical to a Nottingham degree and to a UK, our education experience is maintained. But there are bound to be distinctions and most of the time those are a positive thing, you know, it would be very strange to try and run an exact clone of Nottingham, not just the university but as a cultural environment somewhere else in the world and that’s… So it’s just really having the awareness that things will be slightly different.”

Martin Binks: “I therefore have to moderate a lot of their marking and things like that, and I look at their exam papers and I send them mine to make sure that we get it right. So it does… you know, yes it’s more work, but that’s alright, we’ve got resource, you know. It gives it a different twist, and a different angle, and makes you less parochial and more international in the way you think about things.”

Christopher BarnattMartin Binks
Nottingham University Business School

Extracts from interviews with staff and students about experiences of internationalisation. This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Learning from internationalisation collection. Produced November 2009.

Posted in Curriculum designInternationalisation