Intercultural Communication in Higher Education

Introduction and Background of the Study

The 21st-century world is becoming more global, and intercultural communication and interaction are becoming an everyday necessity. We live in a rapidly evolving time, and globalization is the buzzword in the twenty-first century. Almost everyone feels the presence of globalization, be it in economics, culture, politics, or education systems. The most notable global trend in contemporary educational systems is internationalization and integration, leading to a single world educational space. The current wave of globalization has created high demand for intercultural competency at higher education levels for graduates who will soon transition to the twenty-first-century workforce (Griffith et al., 2016). The present study explores the need for intercultural competence and strategies for developing intercultural communication skills during higher educational studies.

Research Question:

Q1: What is the needfor intercultural competence in higher education?

Q2: What strategies are used to develop intercultural communication skills during higher educational studies?



This study adopted a literature review method to explore the need and approach for developing intercultural communication skills during higher education studies to equip learners with intercultural competency needed in the 21st-century workspace. The literature review method was selected as the researcher intended to link the research problem to previous studies. The researcher searched through internet search engines, google scholar, and journal finder in the areas concerning intercultural communication and competence, practical learning, and inter-comprehension. The literature searches resulted in 14 articles. Hence the researcher applied inclusion and exclusion criteria to select the most relevant studies. The article must have been published in not more than five years and examined intercultural communication and intercultural competence to be included in the study. The inclusion criteria included studies done in higher education environments. Several articles were excluded from the list of potential articles for review, leaving only four studies examining intercultural communication and competence in higher education settings.


            The literature review shows that the current wave of globalization has surpassed the corporate world, technology, transportation, and economics, which has now encroached on the higher education world. As such, colleges and universities’ administrations must prove that their institutions equip graduates with desired intercultural communication and competence to effectively match the global workforce demand to compete effectively in the worldwide arena (Wello, Nur & Azis, 2017). It is only through robust intercultural competence and communication programs and curriculum that higher education institutions can solicit international student revenues, attract high-potential global students, and nurture effective institution ambassadors to market the institution at the international level (Griffith et al., 2016). Various strategies are used in classroom teaching to promote intercultural communication and competence in higher education settings.

Philosophy of Synergetics

            A novel approach in the teaching of intercultural communication in higher education settings is the synergistic method. The system emanates from the depths of natural science and infiltrates progressively into the social sciences and humanities spheres. The scientific approach to intercultural communication from the synergetics angle provides a new look into common intercultural problems, including the revolution of inter-cultural tolerance, personality, the interactions between the West and the East, the display of individualism, and collectivism in intercultural communication. Philosophy of synergetics promotes dialogue as the primary method of teaching higher education students. It borrows on Plato’s belief that a real science manifests only when constant dialogue between the tutor and the students (Thomas & Inkson, 2017). Dialogue promotes critical thinking, listening, and rhetorical skills and has an educational value since it promotes respect between the instructor and the student. 

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Innovative Paradigms for Inter-Cultural Communication Teaching

Besides the traditional approach to lecturing, innovations including lecture-press, lecture problem, lecture-discussions, lecture-conversation, lecture-case study, and lecture-conference are being developed and used for teaching intercultural communication and promoting intercultural competence (Thomas & Inkson, 2017). For instance, a lecture conversation, also known as a dialogue with the audience, asks a question to the entire learner at the beginning of the lesson.

Seminars and intercultural communication training

The seminar is where the knowledge acquired at the lectures rooms is further developed. It encompasses a more practical class where learners gain valuable intercultural communication skills and interactions (Thomas & Inkson, 2017). The primary goal of the practical classes is to promote mastering the application of theoretical knowledge acquired during lectures.


Griffith, R. L., Wolfeld, L., Armon, B. K., Rios, J., & Liu, O. L. (2016). Assessing intercultural competence in higher education: Existing research and future directions. ETS research report series2016(2), 1-44.

Thomas, D. C., & Inkson, K. C. (2017). Cultural intelligence: Surviving and thriving in the global village. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wello, M. B., Nur, S., & Azis, A. (2017). Intercultural communication in higher education context: portraits and practices. International Journal of Language Education1(2), 8-16.