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 was 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. As educators and researchers working in the field of international student exchange, we felt we needed 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.