Within the discipline of social work, internationalisation has been the subject of significant debate for at least two decades, with increasing importance placed on developing global perspectives. The impact of globalising forces on social welfare services accentuates the importance of preparing social work graduates for practice in complex, intercultural local and global contexts.

Enhancing student learning and competence in the international and intercultural dimensions of social work practice has been in part achieved through international student exchanges and field placements in many schools of social work in Australia. Anecdotally, there is significant diversity in the ways in which such international placements and exchanges are planned, prepared for and implemented. However, there is little concrete information or data on the ways in which Australian social work education providers are handling these activities or what might constitute good practice in this area. We need to know more about the current levels of student exchange that are occurring, the goals of student exchange, the benefits of exchange to host institutions and the elements of good practice in international exchange.

What will this project investigate?

The key research question for this project is:

  • What is the state of current practice in the area of international student exchange, within the discipline of social work?

The sub-questions are:

  • How do Australian Schools of Social Work engage in student exchange?
  • What is the number of social work student exchanges occurring through Australian Schools of Social Work, the nature of exchanges, the goals, requirements and outcomes of exchanges?
  • What are the benefits to host institutions?
  • To what extent does international student exchange enhance student learning and intercultural competence?
  • What are the best practice features of exchange programs within the discipline of social work?
  • How can exchange be facilitated to foster ethical, reciprocal, positive and sustainable relationships within the Asia Pacific region?

What this project will do

The project will draw on data from Australian social work education providers and their international partners, to document and analyse current practices.

Merging this data with a critical literature review, the project will develop draft guidelines for good practice in international student exchange.  A series of  workshops will be held during 2016 to reflect on project findings.

The workshops will provide the opportunity for to review the draft guidelines and collaborate across a range of disciplines in relation to good practice principles in student exchange.  A good practice guide will then be developed to be shared across all disciplines engaging in student exchange.