Explore UCD

UCD Home >

Inclusive and Intercultural Learning

What is Intercultural Learning?

Intercultural Learning at UCD


UCD is Ireland’s most international university with people from over 130 countries studying, researching and working together on our campuses. Our culturally-diverse student and staff community reflects an increasingly multicultural Ireland and a globalised world.

A key objective of UCD's 'Rising to the Future' Education Strategy (2020-2021) is to be a "globally engaged" university, preparing students for a future where global knowledge and intercultural competence are vital to developing solutions to the challenges of the twenty-first century. Intercultural learning involves learning with and from diverse people who embody different knowledge, experiences and perspectives. We can enhance learning by creating opportunities for students and faculty to share diverse insights that reflect the cultural differences of our campus and our world. 

Intercultural learning is about the opportunities and experiences of working with and learning from people across different cultures.

O'Sullivan, C. & Quilty, A., UCD Fellows in Teaching & Academic Development 2020

Introduction to Intercultural Learning

This section provides an overview of topics and terminology related to intercultural learning that will be referenced throughout the website.


Using readings, resources, examples, case studies, models and data from around the world can help to integrate a wider range of perspectives and knowledge into the curriculum. Reference to international contexts and issues, contemporary practices across the world, or the exploration of professional practice in different cultures can support students to explore module and programme content through a global lens. 


Intercultural competence refers to the ability to communicate effectively with those from different cultural backgrounds. Studying, working and researching with people from around the world is increasingly the norm in UCD and in workplaces across the globe. Building intercultural competence is key to ensuring our graduates can work effectively to solving the complex global challenges of the twenty-first century.

Hidden: unintended messages we send to students about the unwritten ‘rules of the game’.

We may unconsciously select content, textbooks and reading lists, data, models, exemplars, case studies, artefacts, perspectives and approaches in modules and programmes that unintentionally reveal whose knowledge is valued in the curriculum, and whose knowledge is not.



Designing assessment that is responsive to cultural diversity is a more equitable approach to learning for all students. Culturally-responsive assessment supports students to make connections between their learning and cultural backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and perspectives, enabling them to play to their strengths and interests as well as enriching disciplinary knowledge. This might include using assessments that encourage students to consider a topic from a range of cultural perspectives or take problem- or enquiry-based approaches to assessment that are based on authentic assessment contexts i.e., real world contexts or problems that impact global society at social, economic or environmental levels. 



This refers to the implicit norms and expectations that we may have in relation to student behaviour and performance. This may include expectations related to in-class behaviour and participation e.g. expecting students to ask questions, be respectful when discussing sensitive topics, critically analyse and challenge different perspectives or ideas or assuming background cultural knowledge and norms that shape group work dynamics or student-faculty interactions. 

These implicit expectations also apply to assessment e.g. the conventions related to essay-writing in Irish higher education, the capacity to engage in critical thinking and demonstrate analytical skills, etc.

Developing our own self-awareness in relation to the largely unstated expectations we have of our students is an important first step. Students may be supported in developing a better understanding of Irish academic culture using clearly written guidance on our expectations of students as well as creating in-class opportunities for peer-to-peer and peer-teacher discussion about assessment. 

Clear assessment criteria and rubrics, the sharing of assessment exemplars and peer review of assessment can support all students to develop a stronger understanding of academic norms and expectations. 


Intercultural learning creates opportunities for students to share and exchange knowledge with people from different cultures. Designing teaching, learning and assessment strategies that enable students to learn from each other’s experiences, perspectives and knowledge can build cross-cultural understanding, intercultural competence and communication. 

Intercultural Learning: Why? What? How? and What Do UCD Students think?


Intercultural Learning is still relatively new concept in teaching and learning and while from its definition we understand that its main aim is to learn about other cultures from each other, it is important to first gain an understanding and awareness of one’s own culture and inclinations to interpret other cultures in line with our own. The importance of this step towards practicing intercultural learning in higher education is both hinted at by UCD students and discussed by Dr Stephanie Doscher and Dr Hilary Landorf in the videos below.