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Empirical analysis model of the relationship between internationalization of higher education and students' cross-cultural competence.

1. Introduction

Since the mid-term of 1980s, a notable phenomenon in the field of higher education research is the attention focusing on the internationalization which is a manifestation of globalization on institutional levels (Poy-Castro et al, 2015). As Morrow and Torres (2000) note, the internationalization of higher education (IHE) is indeed becoming a key factor in the contemporary education al landscape. One of the important goals of internationalization is to cultivate students' cross-cultural comprehension and communication ability, which is emphasized by all the universities domestic and abroad, when setting up the development goals for the IHE. For example, in the Goals 2000-Educate America Act established in the 1990s, the US government emphasized internationalization of the education, by adopting a brand-new method to cultivate knowledgeable students to meet the world-class standards in knowledge area, and to improve students' global awareness and international understanding. To keep in pace with development of IHE, Korea established a special branch called the 21st Century Committee to promote students' studies on political, economic, social, historical and religious issues of the world and to enhance their international communication and cooperation and to strengthen the cross-cultural understandings. Japan also proposed its training objects in IHE--cultivating the talents, who will master foreign languages, the advanced technologies and know the enterprises' operation and management, have strong international awareness, and know about international trade, finance and law and can adapt to the globalized world.

Currently, the research universities in China have made it a strategic goal to nurture the talents equipped with international horizons and cross-culture ability. For instance, Peking University proposed to cultivate some leading talents in different sections with international horizons and innovation spirit. Zhongshan University aimed at developing the high-quality and compound-type top-notch innovative personnel with great international horizons, who can meet the demand of the nation and society. Thus, developing the cross-culture ability of undergraduates has become an intrinsic character of the IHE.

2. Research question

2.1. Internationalization of higher education

IHE is a concept with rich connotations, thus scholars can hardly reach a consensus on what exactly internationalization is. It could be a description of status, a goal or a process. In the late 1980s and beginning of 1990s, internationalization mainly referred to a series of activities that took places among the institutions. The definition proposed by Arum and Van de Water (1992) is a collection of international activities and programs, referring to "multiple activities, programs and services that fall within international studies, international educational exchange and technical cooperation". Later on, in mid and late 1990s, under the impacts of globalization, every country was plunged into global competition in every aspect with education as the main battlefield. So van der Wende (1997) claimed that the internationalization should be redefined and expanded. So he defined internationalization considering its interrelated relationship with globalization as "any systemic, sustained effort aimed at making higher education (more) responsive to the requirements and challenges related to the globalization of societies, economy and labour markets". After the beginning of 21st century, Knight (2003), a famous Canadian scholar, introduced her classical process definition of the internationalization as "the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education". Knight's definition emphasized the integrity of international progress and cross-cultural aspect of internationalization, providing a systematic way of thinking to assess institutional efforts of IHE. International programs and activities were considered as an integrated whole, not separated parts operated by different schools and centers within the institution (Gongalves et al., 2015). With deep consideration of the evolution of defining internationalization, internationalization of the university is defined for this study as the process of integrating international, cross-cultural and global perspectives into various dimensions of university practices.

As the IHE develops further and deeper, its concept and connotation has been extended more. One is the cross-boundary education, and the other is home internationalization, with the later one focusing more on the internationalization of the campus activities home universities, which mainly includes integrating international and multi-cultural education contents into educational activities to help the home students develop cross-cultural competence. This new connotation of internationalization explains and underlines the cross-cultural dimension and cross-cultural competence. This article is a responding to the new trend by empirical research on the home internationalization of universities.

2.2. Cross-cultural competence

After 1990s, with the development of globalization, cross-cultural competence has attracted more attentions and became a popularly used concept. Although the term intercultural competence is now widely used in the field of intercultural communication; it is still not widely understood, nor do intercultural lists agree upon a common definition. But what is the cross-cultural competence?

Gertsen (1990) defined it as 'the ability to function effectively in another culture'. As for Bodycott and Walker (2000), they described the development of intercultural competence in learning and teaching as a self-reflective process which prompted learners and teachers "to rethink and confront their beliefs and biases". Turner and Trompenaars (2000) claimed that cross-cultural competence referred to turning the value of conflicts into the value of complementation, recognizing the cultural differences, respecting them and finally fusing all the differences. Cross-cultural competence is a learning ability to view the cultural differences critically. There were also some scholars who defined the cross-cultural competence from its main contents. That is cross-cultural competence involved human relationships and situational environments, the degree of decency and the effectiveness of the interaction, plentiful knowledge, power and actions. The ability was decided by the relationship and situation when the interaction happened. Gertsen (1990) thought it consisting of three interdependent dimensions: an affective dimension (personality traits and attitudes), a cognitive dimension (how individuals acquire and categorize cultural knowledge), and a communicative, behavioral dimension (being an effective communicator). Koester and Olebe (1998) pointed out that there are eight elements of cross-cultural competence: "display of respect, interaction posture, and orientation to knowledge, empathy, and task related roles, relational roles, individualistic roles, interaction management and tolerance for ambiguity". All in all, to be a successful communicator means to be able to analyze the environment and choose a suitable behavior model. Scholars' definitions of cross-cultural competence generally involved motivation, knowledge and social skills. So, Cross-cultural competence is a comprehensive ability reflected by knowledge, skills, attitude and cultural awareness. It includes not only the knowledge, skills, attitudes about the culture of native ethnic and goals, but also the comprehension, insights and evaluations of general cultural phenomena, characteristics and relationships. Hence, this article defines cross-cultural competence as the capability to reasonably use its own cross-cultural resources, namely knowledge, skills, awareness and attitudes to interact effectively and appropriately under different cultural backgrounds.

2.3. Problem descriptions

Generally, universities tend to take the task of realizing the internationalization and cultivating talents with cross-cultural competence and global awareness as the goals of their development plan. But they do not explain clearly what is the cross-cultural competence or global awareness. They only measure the internationalization by numbers, while lack of a deeper research and further evaluation on the effects of internationalization. Although the numbers are important evaluation indexes of internationalization, but the numbers themselves cannot represent for the real effects of internationalization. As Harari (1992) pointed out the international students on the campus do not stand for the realization of the internationalization of the university. Hence, this study will focus on the following two issues: (1) what is the correlation between the internationalization of universities and the Cross-cultural competence of students? (2) what are the differences of the effects on students' cross-cultural competence under different practices of internationalization?

3. Research design

Based on the discussion, this article describes the internationalization practices from six different dimensions: Cultural curriculums (the cross-cultural lessons that students take), International vision integration (the international knowledge and vision shared by the teachers in the class), Lectures given by foreign teachers (those academic courses and language courses taught by foreign teachers), Overseas Study (the exchange or study abroad program over a month period), Communication with foreigners (the communication between the students in home country and international students as well as foreign teachers), Engagement in international activities (students' participation in international conferences and international communication programs). The scale of students' cross-cultural competence is based on two aspects. One is the research literature, and the other is from the interviews with the policy-makers and practitioners of the universities. The whole questionnaire consists of 65 questions, among which 12 questions are about the personal information of the interviewees, 53 questions concerned about constitutes of the cross-cultural competence, including skill, attitude, knowledge and awareness. The first to 15th questions measure the skills, from 16 to 29; 13 to the 40; 41 to 43 are for knowledge, attitude and awareness respectively. SPSS19.0 is used when carrying out the correlation analysis of the test results of internationalization practices and the cross-cultural competence.

The validity of the research depends on whether the sample can provide what researchers precisely needed. In order to achieve this, the researcher adopted purposive sampling to select suitable research objects. Purposive sampling, also known as theoretical sampling, is a kind of non-probability sampling method, namely selecting out those research objects that can provide most needed information for the research. Based on the principles of purposive sampling, this article eventually chose senior students as research objects. The development of cross-cultural competence is an important result of university study, and senior students with the learning experience in university will be well-equipped with cross-cultural awareness and skills. Hence, senior students are most suitable objects for the study.

4. Empirical analysis

1000 questionnaires were send out and 818 pieces were retrieved, among which 680 were valid. Descriptive statistics are based on these 680 questionnaires with the results as following.

4.1. Reliability and validity analysis

* Reliability analysis

The reliability tests were conducted for the scale as a whole and each part respectively, and the Cronbach's Alpha of the Cross-cultural competence scale as a whole is over 0.95, which indicates a high level of reliability. Besides, the Cronbach's Alphas of the four sections-skill, knowledge, attitude and awareness are all higher than 0.8 as shown in Table 1, which means that the reliability of the four individual parts is high too. Thus, the scale is scientific and reasonable.

* Validity analysis

Factor analysis was carried out in Table 2 by using cumulative variance contribution rates to decide on whether the scale meets the requirement of validity. It is generally believed that the scale meets the requirement if the cumulative variance contribution rates of two factors reaches 40% or higher. The cumulative variance contribution rate of first two factors in this study has already reached 40%, indicating the validity of this scale.

4-2.The fundamental analysis of home internationalization practices

* High popularizing rate of cultural and communication courses

81.8% of the surveyed students have taken the cultural and communication courses systematically including Chinese History, British and American Society and Culture, International Relationship, Public Relationship, Foreign Affairs, Etiquette courses and so on.

* The rate of internationalization integration in class is not high

The distribution of the rate of internationalization integration in class looks like a spinner bait with two small heads and a big middle as shown in Figure 1. "Sometimes" accounts for a largest proportion, much more than other choices. Also, the proportions of "Never" and "Seldom" are greater than those of "Usually" and "Often" (Figure 1). The frequency of sharing experience abroad is much higher than the frequency of integrating international visions. These data illustrate that, on the whole, it is not so often for the internationalization elements to be integrated into class teaching. Internationalization is mainly demonstrated by the teachers' sharing of their international experience in the class and the true immersion is insufficient. So, the internationalization in the class teaching should be improved, especially the international vision integration should be enhanced.

* International communication and international activities

Among all the students surveyed those who have exchanged experience abroad only accounts for a little more than one quarter. In the home internationalization practices, the enthusiasm of students communicating with foreigners or participating in the international activities is low, the percentages of "Never" and "Seldom" add up to over 60%, while the total percentage of "Often" and "Usually" is only around 16%--17% as shown in figure 2. The results can be partly accounted by the insufficient international communicative platform provided by universities, benefiting only a small number of students and partly be explained by the lack of enthusiasm of students to participate in the international activities. It is necessary for the university to further enhance the establishment of the international communicative platform and promote the publicity of internationalization, and finally to improve students' enthusiasm towards international engagement.

4.3.The fundamental analysis of cross-cultural competence

* The students have certain cross-cultural competence

Table 3 shows that the average of students' Cross-cultural competence is 3.41, and the differences among scores of the four pars are not very significant. Roughly, the scores of the four parts rank as following: attitude>awareness>skill>knowledge. The rating result of interviewees' cross-cultural competence is close to the level of "Relatively agree", and the average and mode are mainly between 3 and 4; the minimum is between 2 and 3, namely between "Relatively disagree" and "Not sure", while the maximum is close to 5, namely "Totally agree". These results show that generally the interviewees have some cross-cultural competence but such ability is not very prominent, or they cannot sense the existence of cross-cultural competence.

Students have positive attitudes towards cross-culture, but the ability needs to be improved

After factor analysis on the Cross-cultural competence scale, eight most important factors are picked out in table 4. The average ratings of each cross-cultural factor are as follows: open and sharing attitude> awareness of cultural difference> respecting for cultural difference=foreign language proficiency>communicative skills> cultural knowledge> willingness of cross-cultural communication > the ability of establishing relationship. This inequality shows that students have a positive open and sharing attitude but their ability of establishing relationship requires further improvement. In terms of mode, the modes of open and sharing attitude and awareness of cultural difference are approximately 4, which illustrates that students' cross-cultural competence in these two aspects are relatively high, much better than abilities in other aspects. However, the mode of respecting cultural difference appears to be barely satisfactory and is only 2.5, which means that students cannot sense the cultural differences from different perspectives.

4.4-Regression analysis of internationalization and cross-cultural competence

* General correlation analysis of internationalization of university and Cross-cultural competence

Kendall rank correlation test is a non-parametric statistical method, using two groups of ranks to test the degree of correlation between two samples, and it requires the data to be a sequencing variants. When the P value for inspection is on the 0.05 level of significance, there are four dimensions standing for the internationalization of university which are significantly correlated to students' cross-cultural competence: courses taught by foreign teachers, abroad exchange experience, communication with foreigners and participation in international activities. However, other two dimensions, cultural courses and international vision are not significant as shown in table 5, and this shows that whether students have learned cultural courses systematically or whether teachers integrate international visions and horizons into class teaching have no significant impacts on the students' cross-cultural competence. From the value of correlation coefficient, it can be found that the effects of internationalization of university towards students' cross-cultural competence are all positive. Among all the factors, the abroad exchange experience is most correlated to the cross-cultural competence, and the coefficient has reached 0.521, a very significant level.

* Regression analysis of internationalization and eight dimensions of cross-cultural competence

Based on the results in table 5, a regression analysis model has been established from the four aspects: courses taught by foreign teachers, study abroad, communication with foreigners, and participation in international activities to analyze the effects of internationalization of university on the cultivation of students' cross-cultural competence, as following:

[Y.sub.i] = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1] [X.sub.1] + [[alpha].sub.2] [X.sub.2] + [[alpha].sub.3] [X.sub.3] + [[alpha].sub.4] [X.sub.4] + [[alpha].sub.5] [X.sub.5] + [[alpha].sub.6] [X.sub.6] + [[alpha].sub.7] [X.sub.7] + [[alpha].sub.8] [X.sub.8] + [epsilon]

Where, [Y.sub.i] stands for the courses taught by foreign teachers, study abroad, communication with foreigners or participation in international activities; [[alpha].sub.0] to [[alpha].sub.8] are the variable coefficients; [X.sub.1] to [X.sub.8] are eight major factors of cross-cultural competence: communication skill, respecting for cultural difference, ability of establishing relationship, foreign language proficiency, cultural knowledge, open and sharing attitude, willingness of cross-cultural communication and awareness of cultural difference. All the factors are classified independent variants, and c is the error term which is assumed to be uncorrelated with other independent variants.

Consistent with results of previous general or dimensional analysis, the overseas experience has the most significant impacts on students' cross-cultural competence. The correlation between overseas experience and the first six factors are significant on the 0.05 significant level, and the correlation between overseas experience and the last two factors are significant on the 0.1 significant level. Besides, the correlations with the first four factors are greater than those with the last four factors. The international horizon integration is significant correlated to only one factor, and the P value of correlation tests on international horizon integration is much greater than 0.1 level of significance. Given the analysis above, these results further prove that international horizon integration does not have significant impacts on students' cross-cultural competence. Whether having learned cultural courses systematically before is not significantly correlated to students' cross-cultural competence generally and dimensionally, but the cultural courses significantly influence abilities of establishing cross-cultural competence and awareness of cultural difference, thus having influence on improving cross-cultural competence. The courses taught by foreign teachers influence the ability of establishing relationship, foreign language proficiency and cultural knowledge. The communication with foreigners and participation in international activities both affect communication skill, ability of establishing relationship and foreign language proficiency.

Generally, all the representative variants of internationalization are significantly correlated to the ability of establishing relationship and foreign language proficiency, which means that every perspectives of internationalization can have significant impacts on the ability of establishing relationship and foreign language proficiency. All the representative variants of internationalization are not significantly correlated to the willingness of cross-cultural communication, which means that every perspective of internationalization cannot have significant impacts on this willingness. It is probably because the willingness of cross-cultural communication is a kind of subjective feeling, which cannot be improved under a non-overall popularized internationalization. Respects for cultural difference and open and sharing attitude are only significantly correlated with the overseas experience, which illustrates that only overseas exchange such an international approach can improve students' respects for cultural difference and open and sharing attitude. Communication skills, cultural knowledge and awareness of cultural difference are all correlated with two or three aspects of internationalization, so there can be several ways to improve certain cross-cultural abilities of students.

5. Conclusion

It is the personnel that weigh much in the internationalization of universities, namely the teachers and students. Their international engagement practices are correlated to students' cross-cultural competence to some extent. From the above analysis, it can be drawn that the integration of teachers' international visions and the students' learning of the courses are not very helpful in improving students' cross-cultural competence. For one thing, the integration of teachers' international horizons is insufficient, which cannot provide substantial help and for another, teachers have misunderstanding in the internationalization practice of the university curriculum, in which teachers' sharing is much more often than integration. However, sharing is just a kind of simple explanation of knowledge, while the connotation of the internationalization integration is richer, including "what to teach" and "how to teach", with the former is mainly concerned with the international curricular system and educational contexts, and the latter "How to teach" requiring that teachers should master advanced teaching philosophy, methods and evaluation approaches. Based on the regression analysis model, the experience of participation in the internationalization practice of the students can have prominent effects on their cross-cultural competence, especially the four engagement aspects, courses taught by foreign teachers, study abroad, communication with foreigners, and participation in international activities, having salient effects on the cross-cultural competence. Duo to the comprehensive nature of internationalization practices, universities should carry out all-dimensional internationalization practices to increase students' participation in the internationalization, to improve their cross-cultural competence and finally to achieve the aim of cultivating talents with global horizons and competences.

Recebido/Submission: 30/06/2016

Aceitacao/Acceptance: 02/09/2016


The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers. The research was supported by Science Foundation of Ministry of Education for Young Scholars of China (Grant No.13YJC630250), the grant was from Development Program for Young Teachers in Central University of Finance and Economics (Grant No.JFJ1501), and the foundation for Key Research Items in Teaching reform Program of Central University of Finance and Economics (Grant No.JG201610).


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Jianbo Wen (1), Chunlei Qin (2),

(1) School of Foreign Studies, Central University of Finance and Economics, 39 South College Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100081, China.

(2) Personnel Division, Central University of Finance and Economics, 39 South College Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100081, China.
Table 1--The results of reliability tests of the scale

ReliabilityCoefficient   Cronbach's Alpha   NofItems

Skill                    0.850              15
Knowledge                0.860              14
Attitude                 0.829              11
Awareness                0.843              12
Total                    0.954              52

Table 2--The variance contribution rates of the factors
(characteristic root > 1)

Factor   Characteristic   Variance             Cumulative Variance
         root             contribution rates   Contribution Rates

1        16.069           30.901               30.901
2        4.854            9.335                40.236
3        3.423            6.583                46.819
4        2.871            5.521                52.340
5        2.322            4.466                56.806
6        2.230            4.288                61.095
7        2.045            3.932                65.027
8        1.834            3.527                68.554
9        1.674            3.218                71.772
10       1.456            2.800                74.572
11       1.410            2.711                77.283
12       1.286            2.473                79.755
13       1.032            1.984                81.739

Table 3--Ratings of cross-cultural competence of different

Dimensions       Average   Mode   Minimum   Maximum

Cross-cultural   3.41      3.69   2.38      4.50
Skill            3.37      3.67   2.20      4.53
Knowledge        3.32      3.21   2.07      4.50
Attitude         3.49      3.00   2.45      4.45
Awareness        3.48      3.75   2.42      4.50

Table 4--Ratings of each factors of cross-cultural competence

Factors of Cross-cultural          Issue   Average   Mode   Minimum

Communicative skills               Q1      3.22      3.10   2.24
Respect for cultural difference    Q5      3.30      2.51   2.38
Ability of establishing            Q11     3.05      3.05   2.07
Foreign language proficiency       Ql2     3.30      3.19   2.38
Cultural knowledge                 Q17     3.19      3.15   2.19
Open and sharing attitude          Q32     3.73      4.05   2.45
Willingness of cross-cultural      Q36     3.16      3.10   2.20
Awareness of cultural difference   Q42     3.59      3.90   2.43

Factors of Cross-cultural          Maximum

Communicative skills               4.45
Respect for cultural difference    4.53
Ability of establishing            4.45
Foreign language proficiency       4.50
Cultural knowledge                 4.50
Open and sharing attitude          4.45
Willingness of cross-cultural      4.53
Awareness of cultural difference   4.50

Table 5--Results of Kendall rank correlation test on
internationalization and cross-cultural competence

Cross-cultural competence        Correlation   Pvalue

Cultural courses                 0.148         0.286
International visions            0.126         0.331
Courses taught by foreign        0.285         0.04
Study abroad                     0.521         0
Communication with foreigners    0.265         0.038
Participation in international   0.277         0.03

Table 6--Results of regression analysis on internationalization and
cross-cultural competence in eight dimensions

Correlation coefficientand           [X.sub.1]   [X.sub.2]   [X.sub.3]
P value ([Y.sub.i])

Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.1])   0.221       -0.05       0.388
P value([Y.sub.1])                   0.15        0.764       0.012
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.2])   0.447       0.451       0.426
P value([Y.sub.2])                   0.004       0.003       0.006
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.3])   0.473       0.155       0.308
P value([Y.sub.3])                   0.001       0.267       0.031
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.4])   0.491       0.228       0.547
P value([Y.sub.4])                   0.001       0.101       0

Correlation coefficientand           [X.sub.4]   [X.sub.5]   [X.sub.6]
P value ([Y.sub.i])

Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.1])   0.508       0.369       0.277
P value([Y.sub.1])                   0.001       0.017       0.073
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.2])   0.488       0.372       0.347
P value([Y.sub.2])                   0.002       0.016       0.024
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.3])   0.447       0.173       0.173
P value([Y.sub.3])                   0.002       0.221       0.222
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.4])   0.362       0.233       0.108
P value([Y.sub.4])                   0.011       0.1         0.445

Correlation coefficientand           [X.sub.7]   [X.sub.8]
P value ([Y.sub.i])

Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.1])   0.201       0.203
P value([Y.sub.1])                   0.195       0.183
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.2])   0.303       0.271
P value([Y.sub.2])                   0.051       0.075
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.3])   0.097       0.055
P value([Y.sub.3])                   0.498       0.694
Correlation coefficient([Y.sub.4])   0.179       0.124
P value([Y.sub.4])                   0.21        0.377

Figure 1--Whether the class teaching is filled with international
experience sharing or international vision integration

              international     international vision
           experience sharing      integration

never      2.7                  8.1
seldom     18.9                 32.4
sometime   62.2                 45.9
usually    10.8                 8.4

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2--Communicating with foreigners or participating in
international activities

           Communicating with         participating in
              foreigners        international activities

never      24.4                 32.3
seldom     45.8                 31.3
sometime   13.7                 18.5
usually    10.9                 15.8
often      5.2                  2.1

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Wen, Jianbo; Qin, Chunlei
Publication:RISTI (Revista Iberica de Sistemas e Tecnologias de Informacao)
Date:Nov 15, 2016
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