Background study

The need to support the development of Intercultural Competence in the Erasmus Mundus (EM) programme was identified by the Erasmus Mundus alumni taking part in this project proposal (Dane Lukic, Maria Yarosh, Helena Martins and Melina Solari). Having all experienced EM programmes, they recognised the need for supporting Intercultural Competence development in EM. This idea, articulated in the first issue of the Erasmus Mundus Alumni Association Magazine (EMANATE), prompted a background study to explore the present status of Intercultural Competence and quantitatively test the real need for Intercultural Competence training in EM programmes. The study was carried out during the period December 2010 to February 2012 by the four core partner institutions: Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Deusto, University of Porto and University for Peace. The objective of the background study was to identify the existing support provisions for Intercultural Competence in different Erasmus Mundus Master courses (EMMCs) and the needs and opinions of students and alumni in relation to Intercultural Competence and training. Data was gathered through a training needs analysis survey instrument distributed to EM students and alumni via Erasmus Mundus Association newsletters and the Coordinators of all EMMCs.

Figure 1. Distribution of respondents by continent of country of origin.

The training needs analysis study involved 626 participants from 72 EM programmes; 48,7% were female and 50,6% were male (0,6% of respondents did not reply to this item). Respondent ages varied between 18 and 52 years (Mean=27,58, SD=4,41, Mode=25). Participants were from 109 different countries of origin (distribution by continent is shown in Figure 1) and spoke 99 different native languages.

First year students, second year students and alumni represented 32,6%, 27,5% and 38,2% of the participant sample, respectively (1,8% of respondents did not indicate their status (missing responses).

Nearly half of the students (51,6%) had already lived in a foreign country before joining their EM programme, but only about a quarter of them (25,4%) had received any intercultural training prior to the EM Course. Nearly all respondents (93,37%) indicated that there were situations where they had experienced intercultural issues during their EM Courses. Various intercultural issues in different situations and contexts during the EM period were noted (Figure 2).

Figure2

Figure 2. Situations where students reported having experienced intercultural issues during their Erasmus Mundus Courses.

The overwhelming majority (97%) of these students indicated that, in their opinion, the provision of an Intercultural Competence training programme would be beneficial: only 3% thought the existence of such a programme would not really make a difference. Figure 3 shows the main benefits respondents believed Intercultural Competence training would bring.

Figure3

Figure 3. Benefits of a training programme for intercultural competences.

The background study showed that there is a high need for increasing the understanding of and developing training support for Intercultural Competence within the EM programmes. The EMIC project and the network composition were developed on the basis of the results of the EMIC background study.

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