Evaluating and supporting the intercultural capabilities of pharmacy undergraduates

Bridges, S.J. (2014) Evaluating and supporting the intercultural capabilities of pharmacy undergraduates. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The thesis takes a human development approach to the potential value of international higher education. It evaluates the intercultural capabilities of UK and international pharmacy students in one university. As graduates and professional pharmacists these students will serve a diverse population of patients and work in multi-professional, multi-skilled and multi-cultural teams. Despite internationalised higher education offering a multicultural space in which students could forge a more global outlook, the reality found was that the potential is not realised in the case of many students.

The notion of ‘cosmopolitanism’, conceptualised by Kwame Anthony Appiah as an obligation to value, respect and seek understanding of others who are different from us, was used as a basis for imagining the goals of the internationalised university. The capability approach, founded by Amartya Sen and developed by Martha Nussbaum, was employed to frame and evaluate the development of students’ cosmopolitan values. In this approach, social justice is served by promoting individuals’ freedoms - termed ‘capabilities’- to be, to do and to achieve what they themselves consider to be of value. The original capability sets referred to the whole of human living, as a way of reconceptualising poverty reduction and subsequently it was taken up in education to express educational goals in terms of the development of capabilities.

Drawing on this work, for the purposes of this thesis, a novel intercultural capability set that identifies the key attributes of being more cosmopolitan-aware was formulated. The framework was constructed iteratively by first drawing up a set suggested by reading and then testing and modifying it as interview data was analysed. The four final overarching capabilities are: Social Relations and Participation; Respect, Dignity and Recognition; Mind and Imagination and Enquiry and Reflection. Each capability has a number of attributes that allowed the building up of a nuanced picture of the intercultural capability of the students who were the focus of the study.

A series of 42 semi-structured interviews with 44 home and international pharmacy students explored their experiences and perceptions of an international educational environment. Analysis revealed a spectrum of intercultural capability amongst the students, in terms of the extent and type of capabilities and in terms of their functioning as people with cosmopolitan values. While some students had flourished through having been able to maximise opportunities in the internationalised environment to use and expand their capabilities to a significant extent, others were less able, either because of their initial capabilities or because of the constraining circumstances in which they found themselves. It was evident that the development of intercultural capability was effortful, but those students who were willing to make the effort appeared to connect its value with their own and other’s well-being. The possession of the capability and functioning of Social Relations and Participation was fundamental to enabling the development of other intercultural capabilities.

Further analysis, taking case studies of two individual students who appeared to possess little intercultural capability and two who appeared to possess high levels of intercultural capability, revealed the personal and situational factors which allowed students to experience intercultural contact and friendships as transformative and enriching, while others found themselves disempowered, frustrated and limited by social and pedagogical arrangements; there were barriers to their freedom to develop and flourish as more intercultural beings.

Social and educational arrangements can have a significant effect upon capability development and functioning. It was found that group working can act to support or hinder intercultural capability. The creation of a curricular space which provided the opportunity for collaboration and exchange, for some students had a profound effect upon the development of their personal and professional outlook and values, through exploration and development of a more cosmopolitan-aware self.

The thesis concludes by proposing that an intercultural capability set provides a powerful theoretically and empirically informed tool for evaluating the extent to which home and international students are and can become interculturally capable within the higher education environment and for identifying factors which enable or constrain their capabilities. Such an evaluation is a step towards understanding how higher education might enrich the student experience and produce professionals and global citizens of value to society as a whole.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: McLean, M.
Gu, Q.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 14095
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2014 09:24
Last Modified: 26 Dec 2017 04:53
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14095

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