Research article

Exploring the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces through the lens of social justice

  • Fiona Price (Language Development Tutor, Language Centre, University of the Arts London, London, UK)


The internationalisation of higher education presents an increasingly urgent need to explore how universities can become more welcoming places for all students. Top-down implementation of widening participation and the inclusion of a more diverse and less prepared student population in higher education have led to social and academic exclusion, with systems failing to accommodate this change to support the less prepared intakes. Academic and social/cultural drivers are the key areas for bottom-up implementation of internationalisation strategies to support this influx and change in student profile. However, institutionalised separation of home and international students for academic support and language development provision, and separation of this support from subject disciplines, have increased the obstacles that block inclusive practice. An internationalised campus involves both top-down institutionalised intervention and bottom-up intervention of the academic self, enabling the potential for intercultural construction within and between communities, and promoting agency of the self in connection with others to enact change. Viewing university campuses as intercultural spaces that all students and staff need to navigate and inhabit has implications that this article explores through the lens of social justice and from the bottom-up perspective of language development provision, within the field of English for Academic Purposes, in an arts-based university.

Keywords: interculturality, English for Academic Purposes, EAP, higher education, intercultural spaces, internationalisation, social justice

How to Cite: Price, F. (2024) ‘Exploring the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces through the lens of social justice’. London Review of Education, 22 (1), 1. DOI:

Rights: 2024, Fiona Price.



Published on
16 Jan 2024
Peer Reviewed


Internationalisation in higher education defies a single definition. It can be viewed as mobility, which de Wit and Altbach (2021b) describe as meaning internationalisation abroad, and internationalisation at home, which relates to curriculum, teaching and learning, and learning outcomes, as well as global citizenship development. Internationalisation is an evolving concept reactive to global trends. It is a concept that has in itself become globalised (Jones and de Wit, 2014). As global internationalisation moves away from internationalisation as a Western concept (de Wit and Altbach, 2021b), it aligns with the goals of decolonisation in recognising and validating individual experience and diversity. Price (2020) reveals the need for a more inclusive conceptualisation of internationalisation, as emphasised by Knight and de Wit (2018: 3): ‘Economic and political rationales are increasingly the key drivers for national policies related to the internationalization of higher education, while academic and social/cultural motivations are not increasing in importance at the same rate.’

de Wit and Leask (2019: 10) call for new ways of ‘becoming and being international’. Maringe et al. (2013) include key considerations for future research, such as the need for universities with a focus on the global market to embed the ideals of equity, social justice and fairness, and the need to enable intercultural communication. Stier (2006) identifies three internationalisation ideologies: idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism. These reflect different perspectives embedded within higher education discourse. Stier (2006) believes that intercultural communication is the underpinning principle that connects all three ideologies and brings them all together.

This article conducts a critical literature review to explore intercultural spaces, how they could be framed through the lens of social justice and what the implications would be for teaching and learning. It begins by introducing and connecting to the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) context within a UK, arts-based university campus as the point of reference. In a search for ‘new ways of being and becoming international’ (de Wit and Leask, 2019: 10), it explores the need for a more inclusive conceptualisation of internationalisation (Knight and de Wit, 2018; Price, 2020). In addition, it analyses how to embed the ideals of equity, social justice and fairness, and enable intercultural communication (Maringe et al., 2013) by utilising Stier’s (2004) three ideologies of idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism, which produce and position contextualised understandings from specific viewpoints to provide a theoretical lens. It identifies connections between internationalisation and interculturality, internationalisation and social justice, interculturality and social justice, and interculturality, social justice and pedagogy.

It consolidates by providing a discussion in reference to the following research questions:

  • How can internationalisation support interculturality?

  • What is the connection between internationalisation and social justice?

  • What is the connection between intercultural spaces and social justice?

  • What are the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces for teaching and learning?

The article concludes by taking a social practices approach to establish a link between practice and context within social situations in a reflexive analysis of the process of this research.


EAP is seen as key in supporting students and researchers whose academic success is reliant on being able to communicate in English (Hyland, 2018). However, EAP, or English language development as it is referred to in the context of this UK, arts-based university, is seen as a support service. Ding and Bruce (2017: 194) describe EAP as ‘having an academically peripheral but logistically important support role within universities, similar to the provision of student health, counselling or accommodation services’. Conversely, EAP is also seen as being a commercial asset for universities, specifically in terms of presessional courses, which are lucrative in bringing in increased numbers of fee-paying international students (Hyland, 2018).

The Language Centre in this specific context provides both presessional and insessional courses. Presessional courses support students who have been offered conditional places by focusing on developing academic literacies to enable making the necessary adjustment required to their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores to meet the required level of acceptance for progression on to their main courses and to prepare for university life. Weekly insessional classes are available on request from main course leaders. They provide academic language development support for those English as an Additional Language (EAL) students who would like help. In this latter context, EAP tutors, or, as they are known in this context, language development tutors, are already in position and preparing to operate within intercultural spaces or social groupings (Holliday, 1999, 2016, 2020, 2022) by instigating the process of collaboration with disciplinary subject specialists to unpack disciplinary subject-specific content and share experience and knowledge. The Centre is working towards increasing embedded provision of language development to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and inclusion (Wingate, 2015). However, this movement towards embedded language development provision is limited mainly to the minority of full-time language development tutors. In other instances, collaboration can be one-sided, and requests for language development provision can be acts of tokenism. Reasons can be systemic, as both language development tutors and main course specialists are mainly employed on a part-time, hourly paid basis, meaning that time constraints are a key issue. The institutionalised separation of home and international students for language development provision, and then the separation of language development support from subject disciplines, as in optional, non-embedded provision, all add to the obstacles that block inclusive practice.

There is also a hierarchy in place in terms of academic support lecturers and language development tutors. Academic support provision is available to all students, has a far greater status in terms of visibility and is usually embedded within main courses. Academic support is situated within an academic department, whereas language development is located within professional services, with no requirement to undertake research. EAP marginalisation is observable and palpable in practice, and well documented in published literature. Breen (2019) cites Lea and Street (1998: 163) as stating that in order to teach academic literacies, there is a requirement for an ‘academic world view’. Breen (2019) cites Raimes (1991: 243) in noting the difficulty of such a concept for EAP teachers operating on the periphery of academia, and often ‘in service of the larger academic community’. Smart (2019: 1) emphasises the frequency of references to Raimes’s (1991) butler’s stance metaphor for EAP, which illustrates this peripheral role as a service provider. Palanac (2022) extends and updates analogies, citing the following: handmaiden (Hyland, 2006), technician (Morgan, 2009) and even Cinderella (Charles and Pecorari, 2015). Palanac (2022) also offers her own analogy of the enlightened waiter.

Conditional offers require students to improve their level of proficiency, which is measured by gaining the required IELTS score from the British Council, IDP (International Development Program): IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. This measurable, administrative testing process creates and perpetuates another key issue, in that there is a lack of understanding by EAL students that this testing is linked to proficiency and not to academic literacies development, a vital component of their integration within the university campus. This misconception impacts on EAL student attendance in language development sessions. Attendance at language development sessions is optional, as it is non-credit-bearing. International students are sometimes accepted on main courses despite the fact that they have not achieved the level of proficiency required.

All these issues combine to create tension between this university’s guiding policies and their implementation. These policies reflect ideals of providing all students with the creative education they need in a changing world to more students than ever before, so as to make the world a better place through creative endeavour with a focus on social purpose and justice, and the implementation of language development provision. This tension between practice and policy culminates in a feeling of exclusion in terms of being regarded as being in such a peripheral role. Operating from the periphery creates a series of barriers, such as misconceptions of who language development tutors are, what they can do, and the difficulty of accessing and actively participating in specific discourse communities. These are barriers that language development tutors have to negotiate in trying to reach both the students we can help and the subject specialists whose help we need to do so.

The British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP) provides a competency framework outlining agreed best practice. The Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP, 2008: 4) states that ‘an EAP tutor will be able to recognise and explore disciplinary differences and how they influence the way knowledge is expanded and communicated’, and working with subject specialists is a prerequisite. Most EAP tutors in the context of this arts-based university have at the very least an interest in art and design, and some have prior experience in the field, while subject specialists have academic experience from gaining expertise in their discipline, and some are from an educational background. Such expertise and knowledge can be shared in regard to accommodating perspectives on knowledge communication, and can form a basis for inclusive practice (Price, 2020).

Inclusion is a key value to uphold in implementing internationalisation and issues of social justice and equity need to be addressed. The top-down institutionalised, imbalanced approach to internationalisation of higher education, driven by economic and political values (Knight and de Wit, 2018), presents an increasingly urgent need to explore how universities can become more welcoming places from the bottom up to influence the culture within academic and social areas.

Internationalisation and interculturality

Stier (2006: 5) argues that ‘common sense tells us that internationalisation, in one way or another is about intercultural communication’. Massification of the international market has resulted in the increasingly rapid pace of growth in international student mobility, and massification of the home market has created a situation where university study is no longer only for the academically prepared elite. In widening participation, there needs to be a balance of internationalisation-at-home policies to support this changing profile of students who are increasingly ill-prepared for academic study, as referred to in de Wit and Altbach’s (2021a: 122) list of the key characteristics of internationalisation: ‘Benefiting a small, elite subset of students, faculty and institutions rather than aiming for global and intercultural outcomes for all.’

Stier (2004, 2006) argues that the reason that internationalisation is difficult to define is that it is interconnected within divergent conceptualisations and motives, and within divergent ideologies. Stier (2006) makes the connection between each ideology and intercultural competence in terms of instrumentalism, as a valued commodity in the global market; from the perspective of idealism, as a measure of highlighting social injustices; and in regard to educationalism, as the goals of personal growth in the strategies of self-reflection and training in intercultural competence. Stier (2006) promotes the need for research by both university administrators and academics into how interculturality could be integrated and implemented into higher education systems. However, he highlights the complexity and multifaceted nature of interculturality, expressing the need for caution and awareness of conflicting interpretations, resulting in the marketing of oversimplified, stereotypical material based on a normative ‘cookbook-recipes approach’, which need to be debated (Stier, 2006: 4).

Ryan (2011) compares interpretations of internationalisation to highlight contrast and diversity in understanding by citing Knight (2004) and Gu (2001). However, both interpretations also serve to support the link between internationalisation and interculturality, as ‘Internationalisation is the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education’ (Knight, 2004: 11, as cited in Ryan, 2011):

The internationalisation of education can be expressed in the exchange of culture and values, mutual understanding and a respect for difference ... The internationalisation of education does not simply mean the integration of different national cultures or the suppression of one national culture by another culture.

(Gu, 2001: 105, as cited in Ryan, 2011)

In terms of impacting language development provision, the internationalisation of education offers the opportunity for intercultural exchange with the potential to challenge barriers and promote inclusion within specific discourse communities.

Internationalisation and social justice

According to Stier (2006: 3): ‘idealism draws from a normative assumption that internationalisation is good per se. It serves to highlight global life-conditions and social injustices and offers an emancipatory worldview.’ From an idealist viewpoint, the rationale behind internationalisation is that it is a force for good, to create a better world with goals of mutual understanding, respect and tolerance (Stier, 2004). However, Stier (2004) notes the paradox this presents in an ideology that considers higher education as a means to promote economic growth and sustain profits to reflect governmental and commercially driven ideologies.

In exploring links between internationalisation and cosmopolitanism in education, Sanderson (2008: 295) suggests that a largely instrumental view of the intercultural and a largely humanistic view ‘are not necessarily incompatible’. Sanderson (2008) highlights the fact that although internationalisation has been institutionalised, there is an urgent need for the internationalisation of the academic self. He cites Luke (2004) as proposing the need for teachers ‘to reinvent themselves as cosmopolitans not only in response to current global forces but also because of the impact of neoliberal, market-driven forces on their profession and education in general’ (Sanderson, 2008: 293). Sanderson (2008: 294) refers to the call for cosmopolitanism as a call for the development of ‘intercultural knowledge, awareness and skills’, citing Eisenchas and Trevaskes (2003: 87).

Cosmopolitanism is a key concept of social justice. Embracing cosmopolitan ideals can foster inclusivity and mutual understanding. Similarly, internationalisation can contribute to a more inclusive educational experience. Policies for promoting equal access are crucial for fostering social justice in higher education. Language development provision addresses the specific needs of EAL students to ensure equal access to their specific disciplinary communities. However, the specific needs of language development tutors should also be integrated to support successful achievement of their role. An internationalised campus involves both top-down institutionalised intervention and bottom-up intervention of the academic self in connection with others, enabling the potential for intercultural construction within and between communities, promoting agency of the self in connection with others to enact change.

Intercultural spaces and social justice

The meaning of interculturality in this article is understood as defined by Holliday (2022), who moves the idea of the intercultural to a specific space. The meaning of culture is understood as defined by Geertz (1993: 14, as cited in Holliday, 2022: 373): ‘As interworked systems of construable signs ... culture is not a power, something to which social events, behaviours, institutions, or processes can causally be attributed; it is a context, something within which they can be intelligibly – that is thickly-described.’ Holliday (1999: 248) conceptualised the distinction between culture as described in reference to the notion of ethnic, national and international groupings, and the notion of small culture in reference to any social grouping: ‘Small culture is thus a dynamic ongoing group process which operates in changing circumstances to enable group members to make sense of and operate meaningfully within those circumstances.’ The need for this distinction was prompted by his concern about the use of interculturality in reference to large culture in applied linguistics and the need to differentiate for purposes of clarification.

Exploring literature on interculturality reveals references to terminology such as intercultural education, intercultural competence, intercultural learning, intercultural training and intercultural communication, which Holliday and Amadasi (2022) suggest restrict exploration by linking interculturality to institutional standards of achievement and success. Holliday (2020: 46) cites Dervin and Gross (2016) in articulating the transient nature of interculturality and positioning far from Centre expectation of achievement: ‘Dervin and Gross’s (2016: 103–6) picture of interculturality as a reflexive and uncertain digging beneath the surface of discourses and politics – as an elusive quality to be searched for and researched rather than to be achieved as a result of staged intercultural learning.’ Holliday and Amadasi (2022: 8) provide a definition of interculturality drawing on the terminology of threads and blocks: ‘Threads are resonance we create to connect with others. They need to be deCentred to avoid being blocks. Blocks are resonances we create that relate to Centre narratives and discourses that construct boundaries between ourselves and others.’

Holliday and Amadasi (2022: 10) provide a visualisation to show how threads that are defined and patronised by the Centre can become essentialist blocks. This marginal world has the effect of framing a ‘process of Othering as an apparently well-wishing though in reality deeply patronising West as steward discourse’ (Holliday and Amadasi, 2022: 17). This marginal world, defined and patronised by the Centre, relates to Stier’s (2006: 4) previously noted warning about the need for debate around reductive ‘cookbook-recipe’ approaches, and Holliday (2020: 45) provides reference to many others who make similar observations.

Holliday (2022) describes large cultures as essentialist, creating divisive blocks through the generation of what he describes as Centre discourses and grand narratives, which relate to the role of ideology as one of ‘divide and rule’. He refers to Stuart Hall (2022) in reference to the idea of the deCentred, and he explains his own use of capitalisation to focus on the ‘reality and the importance of the Centre’ (Holliday, 2020: 42).

Holliday (2020: 50) situates interculturality within the sociological paradigm of postmodernism in its ability to escape from Centre to engage with deCentred small culture formation, which he describes as ‘on the go’, meaning ‘not situated in any specific culturality’. Instead, he positions interculturality as being constructed or negotiated in everyday social groupings everywhere (Holliday, 2022), leading to a critical cosmopolitan approach, as described by Sanderson (2008), and a constructivist ethnography. This is in contrast to a neo-essentialist approach to interculturality in postpositivism (Holliday, 2020). He emphasises caution, in that positioning ideology within a positivist or postpositivist paradigm projects an essentialist or neo-essentialist approach to interculturality while claiming attention to cultural diversity and a belief in diverse social realities. This positioning maintains a positivist belief from an objectivist structural-functional view, meaning that ideology is seen as a feature of the structure of the culture itself rather than, as seen from a social action view, being positioned within the person investigating, which places the ideology within the description of culture, and therefore as personal and subjective.

Holliday (2020: 41, emphasis in original) reviews the conflicting aspects between these two paradigms that define the ways interculturality is understood in greater depth and provides exemplification by considering the idea of critical thinking from these contrasting sociological perspectives:

The structural-functionalist view: If a society is structured in such a way that students are not allowed to express critical views in the classroom, they will lack critical thinking everywhere.

The social action view: Not being allowed to express critical views in classrooms in one particular social system does not mean that students do not think critically in private or that they cannot express critical views when moving to other social systems.

Holliday (2020: 47) positions small culture formation on the go as ‘the core domain of the intercultural’. He explains that ‘on the go’ attempts to capture the dynamics of the transient aspect of this domain, where people constantly come and go, and interact in all the possible ways that social conventions take place, a place in which universal cultural processes are shared from childhood, and from where engagement with the intercultural happens from wherever it is found (Holliday, 2022). Holliday and Amadasi (2022) refer to an extract from a blog post written by Holliday in 2016, in which he acknowledges that it is unquestionable that we are all culturally different in terms of where and how we were brought up. However, who we are and what we think are hugely influenced by systems, such as educational, political, economic and/or media, and resources, such as climate, geography and agriculture, but it is what we do with this input and how we position ourselves in relation to these backgrounds that is significant. According to Holliday (2022: 9), ‘Interculturality is the quality we all potentially possess to enable deCentred threads.’

DeCentring acknowledges diversity but refuses to allow the imposition of restrictive boundaries to contain and reduce people to prescribed viewpoints. However, although deCentred spaces are where prejudice can be addressed by dissolving large culture boundaries, Holliday and Amadasi (2022: 11) emphasise that this is a possibility not a certainty: ‘Small culture formation on the go therefore has the potential for interculturality; but the narratives and discourses of the established world are sufficiently seductive and intrusive for this not always to happen.’ While people can vacillate between deCentred threads and Centre blocks, even within a single statement, the certainty is in the fact that, as Holliday (2016: 321) argues, ‘cultural threads are actively employed to cross boundaries, while cultural blocks build boundaries and restrict cultural travel’.

Holliday (2016, 2022) relates intercultural communication to theories of cosmopolitanism encouraging cultural exchange and understanding, and the idea of building a sense of responsibility and solidarity across borders by addressing challenges collaboratively. Cosmopolitan values promote equal access to education and can enhance interculturality. All of these ideals intersect with social justice in higher education to contribute to a more just society, and exemplify best practice in terms of language development provision.

Intercultural spaces, social justice and pedagogy

The internationalization of higher education demands more elaborate pedagogical approaches to utilise the experiences of multiethnic student groups and to facilitate every student’s acquisition of intercultural competencies. Drawing from three internationalisation ideologies embedded in the educational discourse, it is argued that intercultural communication – as a field of study or as a discipline – can play a key role in this endeavour.

(Stier, 2006: abstract)

Gorski (2009: 88) situates social justice within intercultural education, arguing that intercultural education foregrounds equity, social justice and human rights as in ‘eliminating injustice’, rather than cultural understanding and intercultural relationships as in ‘resolving conflict’. Holliday (2022) notes that narratives are often in conflict when interacting within the wider environment, necessitating positioning or repositioning through negotiation between learned essentialist grand narratives that bring divisive blocks and personal non-essentialist narratives that create cultural threads to make sense of interculturality. Randolf and Johnson (2017) suggest that by making the link between communication and culture, intercultural communication competence (ICC) links social justice education to the goal of achieving language competency. They highlight Byram’s (1997) five objectives of intercultural competency: attitudes, knowledge, skills of interpreting and relating, skills of discovery and interaction, and critical cultural awareness/political education, which they argue link directly to social justice. In addition, they cite Byram (1997: 106) in reference to transformative learning: ‘Because ICC requires students to see the world in new ways, decentering their own experiences and taking up the perspective of the interlocutor (Byram, 1997), for many students the language learning experience becomes transformative.’

Byram’s (1997, as cited in Randolf and Johnson, 2017) influential model has served as the theoretical construct for intercultural competence curriculum development and materials development. His model challenges the idea of communicative competence and provides the qualities of interlinked competencies that reflect the speaker’s insight into the knowledge (savoir) skills required for intercultural communication. Although Byram’s stance has evolved, and critiques of Byram have surfaced, his model continues to be influential in teaching and research. Hoff (2020: 57) offers the following critique:

Critiques of Byram’s model have mainly revolved around the claims that it represents an instrumental, performance-based approach to intercultural teaching and learning and that it does not adequately encompass the complexities which govern 21st century intercultural communication.

(e.g., Dervin, 2011; Dervin and Gross, 2016; Hoff, 2020; Matsuo, 2012, 2016; Orsini-Jones and Lee, 2018b; Ros i Solé, 2013)

In Dervin and Gross (2016), Ribut Wahyudi (2016) offers an alternative framework for intercultural competence in postmodern times, calling for a multi-dynamic, intersubjective, critical and interdisciplinary approach. Rambiritch (2018) explores finding a universal definition for social justice and settles on Freire (1970), who advocated a pedagogy in recognition of student experience and respect of their culture, and on whose views and those of others form the basis of critical pedagogy:

According to Freire (1970), social justice in education is allowing students to be inquirers, not containers; to present an education that encourages dialogue, problem solving and critical thinking. Freire’s (1970) ideas have been instrumental in transforming the way educators think about and approach language teaching and learning.

(Rambiritch, 2018: 50, emphasis in the original)

Dover (2013: 5) states that critical pedagogy has an explicit social justice agenda: ‘Critical pedagogues challenge the political neutrality of curriculum, pedagogy, and education systems and seek to develop students’ sociopolitical consciousness through co-investigation, problem-posing, and dialogue.’ Both Dover (2013) and Hackman (2005) offer conceptual frameworks for social justice pedagogy that facilitate content learning, critical thinking and cultural competence. Hackman (2005) suggests that there are five key components for a social justice pedagogical lens: content mastery; tools for critical analysis; tools for social change; tools for personal reflection and an awareness of multicultural group dynamics.

Content mastery is the first essential component, which Hackman (2005: 104) describes as vital: ‘Without complex sources of information, students cannot possibly participate in positive, proactive social change.’ Students need to be informed that gaining an understanding of academic literacies development is vital to gain insider disciplinary knowledge, and language development academic literacy instruction provides the opportunity to facilitate their access into academia (Price, 2021). Taking on the role of activist rather than supporter is a challenge promoted in critical EAP by Benesch (2001, as cited in Wingate, 2015: 51). Critical EAP focuses on awareness raising of inequalities and power hierarchies, as does an academic literacies approach, taken by EAP tutors working in language development in the context of this research, in understanding writing as a social practice that is context-specific and dependent on institutional and disciplinary conventions (Price, 2021). Palanac’s (2022) analogy of EAP practitioners as enlightened waiters empowers the role by raising awareness of the degree of agency in how EAP practitioners choose to work within third space. Third space is defined by Holliday and Amadasi (2022: 8) as ‘a place where normality is sufficiently disturbed for us to deCentre’, citing Whitchurch’s (2008) portrayal of the ‘bounded’ and ‘unbounded’ professional, and Benesch’s (2001) call for activism and social justice. In terms of content mastery, Wingate (2015: 50) describes academic literacies as involving the ability to communicate competently in an academic discourse community and cites Lea and Street’s (1998) seminal article to show that the issues students face with competency in academic writing are epistemological rather than linguistic.

Wingate (2015) states how power hierarchies have a prejudicial influence on the construction of identity, relating these prejudices to lecturers and peers in their tendency to assign identity to nationality stereotypes, in making prejudgements in terms of linguistic ability, and to international labelling. In terms of international students themselves, she argues that these prejudices impact on their own self-perception, citing among others Morita (2004) and Leki (2006). In contrast, Lesiak-Bielawska (2015) promotes using students’ expertise as a source of discipline-specific knowledge, referencing Strevens (1988) in regard to the basic principles of learner-centred teaching and Dudley-Evans (1997) in regard to the need to learn how to learn from and with their learners and how to engage with students in genuinely participatory-based explorations of specific discourse domains in which a critical and constructivist approach to interculturality encourages and promotes social justice outcomes (Randolf and Johnson, 2017).

Wingate (2015) cites Paxton (2014) to exemplify how institutional power can suppress identity by requiring assimilation to institutional English practices and discourses. All these prejudices can be equally detrimental to students labelled as ‘home’. Wingate (2015) cites Fotovatican (2012) in warning that such labelling can amplify the space between ‘international’ and ‘home’ students.

Language development provision operates in third space where the potential for deCentring can take place (Holliday and Amadasi, 2022), by establishing a variety of social groupings involving EAL students or different discourse communities. Language development tutors can play a key role in bringing together social justice and pedagogy within these intercultural spaces.


How can internationalisation support the intercultural?

Using Stier’s (2006) three ideologies of internationalisation to provide a theoretical lens to frame the internationalised institution within the established world, as described in Holliday (2020), enables the positioning of the internationalised university campus in the Centre position to show how internationalisation can support the intercultural through the possibility of small culture ‘on the go’ formation. Exploring the literature reveals connections between internationalisation and the intercultural (de Wit and Altbach, 2021b; de Wit and Leask, 2019; Gu, 2001, as cited in Ryan, 2011; Knight, 2004, as cited in Ryan, 2011; Maringe et al., 2013; Stier, 2004, 2006) in terms of being interconnected in one way or another.

Intercultural spaces have the potential to dissolve barriers to alleviate the tension highlighted between internationalised university policies and language development provision by making the connection between ideologies and the intercultural to initiate deCentred threads. The fact that internationalisation defies a single definition supports the intercultural in resisting any particular ideological Centre narrative and discourse, and so enables the possibility of deCentred spaces for prejudice to be addressed. Understanding from a different perspective and ideology requires repositioning to adjust one’s stance, and if normality can be disturbed to the degree necessary to enable deCentring, there is the chance for interculturality to take place (Holliday and Amadasi, 2022). Sanderson (2008) highlights the urgent need for the internationalisation of the academic self in reference to developing intercultural knowledge. Academic structures that create barriers to access, participation and equality need to be challenged. Social groupings within the internationalised university can support the intercultural, and offer the space and agency for students and staff to actively participate in discourse communities in order to do so.

What is the connection between internationalisation and social justice?

Exploring the need for a more inclusive conceptualisation of internationalisation (Knight and de Wit, 2018; Price, 2020), and how to embed the ideals of social justice and enable intercultural communication (Maringe et al., 2013) by utilising Stier’s (2004) three ideologies of idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism to provide a theoretical lens, uncovers the following insights. Exploration reveals that ‘the key to the postmodern critique of positivism and postpositivism is the positioning of ideology’ (Holliday, 2020: 41). Positioning ideology within a postmodern paradigm enables the realisation that what is presented as a reality is in fact grand narrative ideology. Taking a critical cosmopolitan approach reveals deCentred marginalised hidden realities and offers the choice to take possession of the creative agency to dissolve and transcend the constraints of prescribed viewpoints held within Centre boundaries by considering these realities as socially and subjectively constructed. The connection between internationalisation and social justice can be found from the perspective of idealism, as a measure of highlighting social injustices. Language development tutors play a crucial role in helping to balance the benefits of internationalisation with a commitment to ensuring a just and inclusive learning environment for EAL students.

What is the connection between intercultural spaces and social justice?

Holliday (2016, 2020) and Holliday and Amadasi (2022) explore how cultural prejudice underpins essentialist discourses of culture. According to Youth Celebrate Diversity (2022: n.p.), ‘prejudices are learned and can be unlearned’.

Intercultural spaces reflect the creativity, uncertainty and untidy nature of a deCentred reality in the margins, whereas ideologies create order by containing a system of ideas to support the interests of a particular group of people, imposing essentialist constraints on, and promoting prescribed perceptions of, reality. As noted, Dervin and Gross (2016), Holliday (2020) and Holliday and Amadasi (2022) warn of neo-essentialist approaches to interculturality and advise the need for exercising caution. However, exploring the literature reveals links from a variety of intercultural approaches to social justice (Byram, 1997, as cited in Randolf and Johnson, 2017; Dervin and Gross, 2016; Dover, 2013; Gorski, 2009; Hackman, 2005; Hoff, 2020; Rambiritch, 2018; Randolf and Johnson, 2017; Wahyudi, 2016). Intercultural spaces offer the potential for the demarginalisation of language development tutors by supporting the possibility of small culture ‘on the go’ formation, and by providing agency to take decisive action against essentialist constraints.

What are the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces for teaching and learning?

The implications for teaching and learning can be seen from an example provided by Holliday (2020) to contrast how silence is viewed in education from a dominant neo-essentialist view, which focuses on difference and creates a divisive block that reinforces boundaries and constraints to perpetuate learned behaviour, and from a critical cosmopolitan perspective, focusing on a small culture deCentred approach where learned behaviour does not have to be confining and where there is a possibility for new behaviour to emerge.

Framing interculturality within the internationalised university campus means that implementation can be facilitated from the bottom up in terms of culture, as it involves a bottom-up change in the values, attitude and behaviour of students and staff. However, as highlighted by Bee Bond (2020: ix) in reference to increased collaboration between language and subject specialists, ‘change needs to be implemented through policy rather than on an ad hoc basis by individual teachers and … this involves a change to institutional educational and academic cultures.’ Adopting a holistic, top-down/bottom-up approach could develop both the structure and culture of internationalised university campuses to promote and support inclusivity for teaching and learning.

Social constructionism can transcend the constraints of essentialism, and deCentring addresses marginalisation by offering the choice of creative agency to both teaching and learning to transcend and dissolve Centre barriers. Academic structural blocks need to be challenged, and deCentred threads need to be created to connect with others in our everyday interaction. Academic and sociocultural drivers are the key areas for bottom-up implementation of internationalisation strategies to empower teaching and learning, and to re-tell the story from the bottom up.

Interdisciplinary spaces already exist within university campuses. EAP tutors are already in a position to operate within intercultural spaces by instigating the process of collaboration with disciplinary subject specialists to unpack disciplinary subject-specific content on insessional courses. These spaces can potentially become small culture on-the-go formations, where interculturality can be constructed or negotiated in everyday social groupings everywhere (Holliday, 2016, 2020; Holliday and Amadasi, 2022).

Turner (2004: 96) states, ‘I am with Johns (1997: 157) when she says that we should not “wring our hands and bemoan our marginality”, but I want to suggest that, through its own self-understanding, EAP has to a certain extent colluded in its own marginalisation.’ Taking decisive action in bottom-up intervention to promote academic literacies within subject-specific disciplines is maybe just what we should be doing to clarify our role (Price, 2021). The formation of intercultural spaces on university campuses offers the conditions needed for how such decisive action could be realised.

Sanderson (2008) suggests that it is an opportunity for teachers to reinvent themselves as cosmopolitans and develop intercultural knowledge and skills. However, intercultural spaces need to be developed and supported by creating conducive conditions (Hoff, 2020), and, as Dervin and Gross (2016) suggest, understanding needs to be searched for and researched. Holliday and Amadasi (2022) provide ethnographic exemplification to show that the conditions needed for interculturality are within us all, and are found in how we choose to position ourselves in relation to our Centre-system backgrounds.


In this article, I have explored the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces through the lens of social justice by making connections between and within the internationalised context of higher education university campuses from the bottom-up perspective of a language development tutor.

As a novice researcher, my findings are socially – albeit so far through literature – and subjectively constructed. ‘Exploring the implications of university campuses as intercultural spaces through the lens of social justice’ in the title of this article may seem to be an unnecessary tautology when acknowledging interculturality as defined by Holliday (1999, 2016, 2020) and Holliday and Amadasi (2022). However, I feel it portrays the urgency and focus on how universities can become more welcoming places for all. This research has updated my position in relation to previous research (Price, 2020, 2021). Interculturality not only offers the potential for ‘new ways of being and becoming international’ (de Wit and Leask, 2019), but also new ways of teaching and learning that both promote activism and social justice (Benesch, 2001) and potentially enable.

From the perspective of language development and EAP, seeing university campuses as intercultural spaces provides the opportunity for feelings of marginalisation to be addressed. Disconnection exists in the gaps between how situations are perceived. The gap between language development/EAP liaison and subject specialists needs to be addressed for all students to gain content mastery in order to gain insider disciplinary knowledge to facilitate their access into academia as an issue of social justice. DeCentred spaces are where prejudice can be addressed by dissolving large culture boundaries (Holliday and Amadasi, 2022). Although the emphasis is on possibility rather than certainty, interculturality offers the means for agency and the capacity to fill the gap. Increasing embedded provision of language development/EAP in this creative, arts-based context is actively working towards addressing this gap by enabling the formation of intercultural spaces to reimagine current practice.

Research indicates that small culture formation in intercultural spaces can provide the necessary conditions for all relationships on campus to develop through negotiating threads and blocks to make connections in a process of sharing from personal perspectives, to create a more interconnected future. A sense of belonging has to be an on-the-go feeling before one of place. As the paradigm on which this view of interculturality is based, further research into social action theory is needed. Further research is also needed to provide a follow-up empirical study of intercultural spaces as practice on university campuses in higher education.

A bottom-up approach means that everyone within the educational system needs to navigate and inhabit intercultural spaces to exemplify and model home-making practices by negotiating threads and blocks in order to foreground students’ experience and create a more connected and welcoming place for all by working together as agents of change.

Declarations and conflicts of interest

Research ethics statement

Not applicable to this article.

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Not applicable to this article.

Conflicts of interest statement

The author declares no conflicts of interest with this work. All efforts to sufficiently anonymise the author during peer review of this article have been made. The author declares no further conflicts with this article.


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