University of Strathclyde



A first-year UG coursework (15% weighting for CL120 Construction & the Environment) for civil engineers to help establish an organic growth for the department UG international society (see An Undergraduate International Society 2014-15 Session) and to provide links to other curricular and non-curricular activities (CL327 Engineering for International Development / ERASMUS) that have EU / International context.

Students were required to undertake collaborative learning (within existing groups) leading to the production of a group poster to showcase civil engineering technology in a foreign country. Each group (n=65) was aided by an International student mentor enrolled on a UG or PG course within the Department of CEE. The role of the mentor was to provide guidance on their home country (culture / customs / life) as well as some ideas about appropriate civil engineering buildings & structures.

Once completed, the posters were displayed for all students to view. Each student (n=260) then submitted a one- page reflective blog on their experience undertaking the coursework. Students who participated in the production of the poster and who submitted their blog received a 100% grade. Whilst this approach to grading may appear unorthodox, the overarching aim of the coursework was to expose the students to a multicultural learning experience.

The immediate gains can be gauged from the positive statements (verbatim) made by students in their blogs. In the longer term, it is envisaged that the students will develop a growing maturity in relation to cultural and global issues, particularly those issues that will have a bearing on their profession.


Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Contact Details

Dr Michael Murray





Students studying in UK universities can expect an international and cosmopolitan education, learning with and from people of all nationalities, gaining new perspectives and beginning to see themselves as citizens of the world.(1)

The diversity evident in a contemporary UK university, both in its domestic and international student and staff population as well as its community context, offers prospects for imaginative curriculum design…. students or staff coming to the UK from other countries can offer alternative perspectives on the curriculum and should be valued for this.(2)

Developing intercultural competence and understanding in students is an aim that universities commonly express for their undergraduate programmes. This can be encouraged through intercultural dialogue and the attendant exposure to alternative perspectives. The inevitable misunderstandings, which demand patience and tolerance to overcome, form an essential part of the learning process for all involved.(3)

The idea of ‘decolonising education’ is concerned with deconstructing dominant pedagogical frames which promote singular worldviews to extend the inter- cultural understanding and experiences of students, plus their ability to think and work using globally-sensitive frames and methods. To decolonise the HE learning experience also means creating more inclusive learning environments and encouraging the kind of informal learning that takes place through cross- cultural socialising and co- curricular activities.(4)


  • To provide a learning space for first-year undergraduates to engage in informal peer learning and socialise with students from different countries.
  • To promote, recognise and reward intercultural engagement.
  • To assist the creation of explicit knowledge related to the design & construction of civil engineering buildings and structures.
  • To promote a ‘global engineering mind-set’ amongst students thereby preparing graduates to live in and contribute responsibly to a globally interconnected society.(5)

  • To assist students to develop graphical and oral communication skills and to be exposed to a foreign language, as recommended by the JBM (2017)-Communication skills and working with others are imperative for all engineers. Students should be encouraged to create and use sketches and diagrams as a direct means of communication or to complement written material or verbal presentation. An opportunity to learn and to use other languages should be encouraged. (6)

(1)    Wintrup J Nascimento J D’Aeth a Phillips L Wheeler L Laosebikan P Adams J and Truman J (2015) Purposeful partnerships and practices: An international education collaboration in global health. (accessed 02/01/2017).

(2)    Jones E (2015) Should Internationalisation begin at home? The International Unit (accessed 02/01/2017).

(3)    Scudamore R (2013) Engaging home and international students: A guide for new lecturers. The Higher Education Academy. (accessed 02/01/2017).

(4)    Ryan, A and Tilbury, D (2013) Flexible Pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas. The Higher Education Academy. (accessed 02/01/2017).

(5)    Higher Education Academy (2016) Essential frameworks for enhancing student success: 05. Internationalising higher education.

        (6)   Joint Board of Moderators (2017) Guidelines for Developing Degree Programmes: (accessed 02/03/2018).


A full set of results (Thematic analysis of student blogs) can be found in the attached document.

This piece of coursework was unorthodox yet very rewarding. At the initial stages I was sceptical regarding its relevance to the course, however as we delved further in to the coursework and as I got to know my group much better, I realised that this coursework was extremely useful and inspiring. It was something new and exciting and to tell the truth it was the first piece of coursework I was genuinely looking forward to completing.

I found the whole experience to be enlightening and feel that we taught each other about engineering and social aspects of both of our countries, increasing our knowledge and appreciation of how foreign nationals view engineering projects from a different perspective, based on their history, culture & education. In conclusion, I am very glad to have taken part in this project and would highly recommend that it is continued in the years to come.

I really hope this is a coursework that will still continue to be given to students in coming years to help them integrate themselves better in this country. As a foreigner I really appreciate the fact that the University of Strathclyde is helping people like me meet more people and feel at home even so far away from their actual homes.


  • In the face of self-doubt (and that of students who prefer a transmission approach to learning) have persistence to carry through what you know will be a worthwhile learning experience for your students.
  • Maintenance of the morale and effectiveness of collaborative learning amongst students within each group. Prepare to make interventions where tensions between students arise.

Lessons Learnt

  • Undertake more planning and allow for more time to secure assistance from EU / International mentors.
  • The case study appears to align itself to the concept of “culturally responsive pedagogy”. The verbatim from the students’ blogs indicates a high degree of potential for further collaborative learning where the students are exposed to ethical and cultural dilemmas that are experienced in both academic and industry practice.
  • EU /International students provide a largely untapped resource to help (themselves and peers) promote the development of graduates who are engaged, enterprising, enquiring, and ethically, globally and culturally aware; work-ready graduates with impact who engage with societal and global challenges.


This example involved 65 groups (3-4 students) of first-year students (n=260) with an additional set of EU / Industrial mentor (n=65) volunteers (over three academic sessions). Coordinating the meetings and arranging for poster production and presentations requires time and unexpected problems did arise. Increasing or decreasing the number of students involved would no doubt have both positive and negative impacts on the allocation of time required to arrive at a successful outcome.

Suggestions for Transferability

Whilst this example involves UG engineering students the industry sector and the theme of the poster could be changed for any UG /PG course offered at Strathclyde.