Intercultural competence for students in international joint master programmes

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-72
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Early online date5 Jul 2018
StatePublished - Sep 2018


The paper reports on the study focused on the identification of intercultural competence (IC) related learning needs of students enrolled in Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees. International joint master programmes pose multiple intercultural challenges for students (and those working with them). Such programmes, therefore, present a unique
opportunity for IC development, given appropriate pedagogical support. Limited research on the students’ learning needs specifically related to intercultural competence in this context has been undertaken prior to the current study. 42 semi-structured interviews were conducted with students, graduates, academics and administrative staff from four
Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees. Data on the context and nature of intercultural challenges faced by students was analysed and synthesised using thematic analysis. The main finding reported are intercultural challenges faced (their nature and context) and the IC learning needs elements. IC elements identified were structured around the IC building blocks (knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes – KASA elements), and emerging elements of supporting capacities (intercultural critical reflection and intercultural emotional intelligence) and meta-capacity (developing IC).
The paper proposes an IC theoretical model for this particular target group. The study contributes to the theoretical understanding of IC through confirming the KASA perspective from previous research and further developing the understanding of the complex and multifaceted nature of IC by linking the supporting and meta-capacities as relevant
considerations. The findings contribute to the practice of developing IC and related training and support for students, firstly in the joint degrees context but also for other educational programs involving international mobility. The study reported formed a part of the Erasmus Mundus Intercultural Competence (EMIC) project funded by the European Commission.


  • intercultural competence, international students, higher education