Internationalisation through the Linnaeus-Palme programme

The Swedish Council for Higher Education outlines the benefits of exchange programmes such as Linnaeus-Palme…

Linnaeus-Palme is an international exchange programme that supports long-term, bilateral collaboration at the department level between higher education institutions in low and middle income countries, and Sweden. In 2015 the qualitative effects of the programme were summarised in a publication based on 2 earlier reports1.

The importance of reciprocity

Reciprocity is one of the basic pillars of the Linnaeus- Palme programme. The collaboration takes place in the form of projects based on teacher and student exchanges, each of which must have a concrete academic purpose and usefulness. The studies indicate that a mutual understanding within the programme is of great importance and plays an important part in the success of any given project. Both Linnaeus and Palme participants2 agree that projects which are founded on close collaboration, common interests and a mutual benefit achieve the best results with the greatest effects.

Global knowledge

One thing that unites almost all of the teachers interviewed is their belief that the knowledge gained during an international exchange cannot be gained through theory. It is in the meeting with phenomena perceived as different – in the place that is being studied – that the added value we understand as global knowledge is founded. One teacher expresses the experience like this: “It’s when you meet others that something happens, and something new is created. The exchange does not just shape the research, but also the way you write and think. It gives you a new perspective and raises new questions.”

For teachers, this can involve new methods, educational models and new teaching perspectives. Several of the teachers interviewed stated that the Linnaeus-Palme collaboration has enabled structural changes to take place, as it has allowed elements of other educational systems to be introduced into their system.

Specialist knowledge in a different way

However, the predominant view is that the major academic gains are at content level. One way of adding content is by exchanging specialist skills. New specialist knowledge sometimes leads to the institutes developing new courses together, or offering more courses in English; yet, the greatest benefit is usually described as a change of perspective. As one of the teachers interviewed explains: “The skills are perhaps not that different, compared to Swedish teachers. It’s more to do with the South African perspective. Their context – which in turn shapes their research – is very different and we cannot access it if we bring in a lecturer from Sweden. When South African teachers use examples from South Africa this often proves successful. We are not doing something entirely new, but the ordinary is given a new angle. It is done differently.”

New perspectives

The academic specialities do not depend on the teacher’s origin. The difference is the contextual starting points. Shifting perspectives means seeing the world in a new way, and this forces teachers and students to formulate new problems and ask new questions. New knowledge is created and this results in a greater understanding of global contexts and problems. Teachers who have participated in the Linnaeus-Palme collaboration note an increased understanding of political, financial, social, and environmental situations. This can be defined as a form of global knowledge that increases the ability to interpret and question global issues, for instance. As such, this kind of global knowledge establishes common and nuanced images of global problems. This process develops reflective thinking and creates greater diversity within their teaching.

Other effects

Apart from global knowledge and new perspectives qualitative effects shown in the studies can be summarised as:

  • Personal development;
  • The teachers’ professional development meaning the gain of new insights into the subject and their own teaching – a consequence of having to explain ideas in another context and having the time and opportunity to review and reflect;
  • Development within the participating institutes as the teachers and organisations complement each other. This leads, amongst other things, to the exchange of specialist knowledge and the creation of new networks and generates an interest in moving forward together, for instance through offering joint courses.

This in turn creates new formulations of problems and new pedagogical approaches and often lay the foundations for collaboration to continue, even after the project has ended. Another positive effect is that the participating institutes often attract talented students to their masters and doctoral programmes. One might also come to the conclusion that teachers with this new experience and knowledge, as well as foreign teachers participating in an exchange, also cause impacts for their students.

Read more about the effects of the Linnaeus-Palme programme in the publication Internationalisation through the Linnaeus-Palme programme – effects and result that can be required at

1 To develop global learning with Linnaeus-Palme – Added value through international collaboration within higher education. Report no. 37, the International Programme Office for Education and Training, 2011. Site visit to Indonesia in 2014. Internal report, the Swedish Council for Higher Education, 2014 and Internationalisation through the Linnaeus-Palme programme – effects and results, the Swedish Council for Higher Education, 2015.

2 Within the programme the Swedish participants are referred to as Linnaeus and foreign partners are referred to as Palme.

Swedish Council for Higher Education


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