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Faculty of Applied Social Sciences

TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences)
Ubierring 48, 50678 Cologne


Prof. Dr. Matthias Otten

Angewandte Sozialwissenschaften
Institut für interkulturelle Bildung und Entwicklung (INTERKULT)

  • Campus Südstadt
    Ubierring 48
    50678 Köln
  • Phone: +49 221-8275-3360

iComposer - inclusive Communities of Practice of Study, Education and Research

Rational of the project

The project iCommposer is aiming at the development and implementation of a process to foster the intercultural and inclusive competences of the professional members of the university, which is to be considered as an incremental element of the internationalisation processes. The main target groups are academic professionals and administrative staff who are in charge of the overall cultural and social climate on campus and in class. The rational of this project is the assumption that the full intellectual potential of a diverse student population can only be explored if higher education institutions (HEI) constantly striving for an inclusive campus culture.

With this specific notion, academic faculty members (professors, lecturers and researchers) and university administrators (student officers, library staff, programme coordinators,...) are addressed in their function as mediators und facilitators of an inclusive campus development. HEI can only succeed to install an inclusive, diversity-oriented campus climate if the various functional groups co-operate in a systematic way to unraveling the educational and social potential of (cultural) diversity for all students. While such activities need full support by the heads of university, they also rely on non-directive and non-formalised flows of disperse intrinsic motivation, and intercultural competences among people and institutional units.
Thus, iCommposer combines institutional networking between the different functional stake-holders of the internationalisation process, as well as actions for capacity-building and personal competences on the individual level. The conceptual approach of „communities of practice“ (CoP) by Wenger et al. seems to be an use theoretcial basis to describe the process of non-directive knowledge networking that we seek to initiate with our project. The specific „domain“ of knowledge is „cultural diversity of academic teaching and research“. The initiation of such CoP´s will be supplemented with specific intercultural training and coaching programmes focusing on teaching, counceling and research.

Partner institutions

The project is funded by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) for two years (2011-2012). The co-operating partners are two different types of HEI, the TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences) and the University of Hildesheim. Both institutions involve other internal partners, e.g. International Offices, Career Services, and other relevant stake-holders within the universities.
The project is run by two research institutes, the Institute of Intercultural Education and Development, based at TH Köln (Prof. Matthias Otten, Ms. Sandra Hertlein) and the Institute for Intercultural Communication at the University of Hildesheim (Prof. Stephan Schlickau, Dr. Elke Bosse). The co-operation provides complementary academic expertise for the project. Intercultural organisational research and diversity training methods will be combined with sociolinguistic research and applied discourse analysis.

Major steps of the project

During the first year (2011) we will establish cross-disciplinary and cross-functional Communities of Practice (CoP) at both universities, involving people from various academic and functional backgrounds to exchange experiences, needs and visions for an inclusive university. The communities will meet several times over the next two years to explore and discuss their experiences and requirements on the individual and institute´s level. The function of the CoP is to encourge intense networking, and to identify the contents and conditions for intercultural qualification and support actions. Two intercultural pilot-workshops are planned for the end of 2011, one focussing on intercultural academic teaching and the other one on programme administration and student services.
In 2012 the revisioned workshops are open for people from other HEI in the region, hoping that this will stimulate and spread the approach of an inclusive campus climate at other universities in the region. A documentation and a conference at the End of 2012 are planned for the dissemination of results.

An international advisory board of experts in the field of international higher education research and intercultural communication supports the project. The board members are invited to provide critical reflection as well as information on international best practices in similar fields in other European countries. The following experts have agreed to join the advisory board:

  • Jos Beelen, Hogeschool of Amsterdam, NL
  • Dr. Anke Diez, KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, GER
  • Dr. David Hoffman, University of Jyväskylä, FIN
  • Dr. Terri Kim, Brunel University, UK
Activities an Co-operation structur of iCommposerActivities an Co-operation structur (Image: INTERKULT)