City Student Sustainability enggagement as a locale for developing intercultural competencies

Chris Willmore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contribution


Outline This paper explores the experiences of students from diverse national and cultural backgrounds at a city centre research intensive University taking part in Bristol Green Capital student engagement activities . It uses that case study to explore the role of student –city engagement for sustainability in fostering the development of intercultural competences.

Bristol as a city is a diverse community, ethnically, socio-economically and culturally. The student body is diverse ethnically with a strong international student presence, but is less diverse in educational and socio-economic terms. As part of the Bristol 2015 Project, students from both Universities in the city working with community partners across ethnic and social groupings in the city to deliver over 100,000 hours of volunteering, working with those groupings to co-produce sustainability transformations.

This paper uses the data from that research, including quantative and qualitative findings to explore the role of city-student sustainability engagement in building intercultural competence adopting a co-orientational model of intercultural competence (Spitzberg and Changong (2009). There is a strong body of literature about the role of direct intercultural experience in the development of intercultural competences, but this tends to focus upon formal contexts such as international schools. This paper looks at learning through engaged informal contexts, across ethnic and socio-economic groupings - and the role of sustainability projects as a vehicle for those engagements.

The data from the research to date indicates that sustainability engagement is a rich domain in which to develop intercultural competences and is particularly useful for international students as a means of engaging with the city in which they are studying, and fosters both a sense of belonging and a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures and communities of the UK than would be achieved by remaining in the University community throughout. .

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCopernicus Alliance European Network on HE for Sustainable Development Madrid
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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