• Ivan A. Kirchgaesser

Top down or bottom up?

Updated: Oct 13, 2018

My first conversation with someone who was involved in the Global Citizenship discussion in my university for many years, brought to light some key issues.


Note from my conversation with Juliet Henderson

The first thing Juliet Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Communication, Culture and Language, said when we sat down, was that she is actually quite critical of the idea of Global Citizenship [GC]. Having worked for many years to get it recognised as one of five 'graduate attributes', key outcomes of higher education for every student no matter their discipline, she became concerned as to how easily GC can get co-opted by different agendas. These include employability and the neoliberalist idea of production of the self.


She pointed out that another problem with the implementation of the graduate attributes was that it didn't reflect the spirit of GC. Instead of acknowledging and building on the good practice that was already there in people's teaching, it largely happened as a top-down procedure which came with no resource. According to Henderson, taking into account multiple lived perspectives would have been a more inclusive approach, and sustainable in the sense that it would have been supported by those working with it on the ground. These circumstances could explain the resistance of many colleagues to adopt the graduate attributes, including GC, into their practice.


When I asked her whether she thought that the graduate attributes - given the unfortunate circumstances of their implementation - are pointless, she replied that there is also something good about them. Generally, she does support the idea of bringing the notion of citizenship into education, because it creates an awareness of the more rounded perspective that students are also members of society. In the most positive sense, then, global citizenship education could enable people to develop an openness to the Other, as well as to learn to conceptualise and relate to the Other.


Currently, Henderson is no longer involved in the Global Citizenship discussion at Brookes (in as far as it still exists?). However, she mentioned that aspects of it are being taken forward by people working on diversity and inclusion. To be continued...


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