Reciprocity in international student exchange: Challenges posed by neo-colonialism and the dominance of the Western voice


  • Ines Sofia Zuchowski James Cook University
  • Narayan Gopalkrishnan James Cook University, Cairns
  • Julie King Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
  • Abraham Francis James Cook University, Townsville



International student exchange, International social work, Social work education, Reciprocity, Partnership, Neo-colonialism


INTRODUCTION: Internationalisation of social work education is part of a rapidly growing international tertiary education sector; one that is actively being promoted by governments and universities to support student learning and engagement and to develop global citizens. International partnership programmes form a core part of the internationalisation of social work education, and these programmes may involve inequity in the benefits to the different partners. This article critically reflects on, and explores, concepts of reciprocity and collaboration in international social work student exchanges with a specific focus on exchanges between Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

METHOD: A critical lens was applied to the literature that conceptualises international student exchanges with a particular focus on reciprocity and collaboration. The concept of neo-colonialism is used to explore international student exchanges and consider ways forward; the term is used to refer to newer and more subtle forms of colonialism that are often based on linguistic or cultural domination.  The discussion is further drawn out with anecdotal evidence from the authors’ own long-term engagement with international student exchange as well as an Australian government funded project “Going Places” that explores internationalisation in social work education.

FINDINGS: A critical review of the literature highlights the continued dominance of the Western voice and issues of neo-colonialism as challenges to ensuring equitable processes in the internationalisation of social work education. Reciprocity is a contested concept that needs deep engagement to support transformative partnerships.

CONCLUSIONS: It is argued that concepts of reciprocity, voice and collaboration have to be carefully considered in order to create transformative partnerships in international social work education.

Author Biography

Ines Sofia Zuchowski, James Cook University

Lecturer in Field education in Social Work And Human Services, College of Society, Arts, Society and Education.


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How to Cite

Zuchowski, I. S., Gopalkrishnan, N., King, J., & Francis, A. (2017). Reciprocity in international student exchange: Challenges posed by neo-colonialism and the dominance of the Western voice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(1), 77–87.



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