International development cooperation and internationalization of the university: de-construct to re-construct with different types of knowledge

Angelo Stefanini


Universities are regarded as key institutions in the processes of social change and development. As such they are well positioned to be oriented to cooperation and technical assistance, with all that this implies (research, development education, human capital formation, etc.). They need however to carve out a more important space in the arena of international development cooperation (IDC) and adopt strategies more coherent to their social responsibility. IDC, from its part, may provide a fundamental contribution to universities that, through a process of internationalization, intend to acquire a global perspective and lead to consider under new perspectives the issues of local development and innovation. The exposure of students and faculty to IDC, both for ethical reasons and personal and professional growth, may create new skills and generate special sensitivity to appreciate diversity, combat prejudice, and manage change and the dynamics that shape society. On the other hand, universities should provide students and faculty with an innovative educational framework suitable to enable professionals to meet the realities of poverty, exclusion and inequality in the South as well as in the North of the planet.

To ensure that this task is not reduced to a mere transfer of knowledge and technology, in a sterile act of charity or indeed neo- colonialism, a process of “deconstruction” is needed of the many clichés and stereotypes that are part of the conventional “underdevelopment” and “development aid” discourse. A guided process of internationalization aimed at social transformation may empower universities in this undertaking. Building on the experience of the Centre for Studies and Research in International and Intercultural Health (CSI) at the University of Bologna, this paper discusses the need for a paradigm shift supporting an innovative educational practice that lead to deconstruct IDC’s mainstream narrative in order to re-construct it with other, different types of knowledge.


International cooperation; Development

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