The intercultural skills graduates and businesses in Europe need today

F. Halila, K. Pillalamarri, R. Bell, S. Ali, K. Moser, R. Prouska, May Tungtakanpoung, I. Godts, L. Mulier, M. Saraç, O. Bektaş

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


It was the aim of the two surveys with European graduates and employers respectively to investigate the importance of intercultural competencies and skills for student employability and business success for European enterprise, now and in the future. The two surveys gave important insights into key factors that support the development of intercultural skills and competencies for graduates and employers across four countries and five different European regions, as well as five distinct universities.Our analysis shows clearly that one of the most important factors is the key role of experience with, and exposure to, people from different cultural backgrounds. Both students and employers scored much higher on important intercultural competencies such as cultural empathy, cognitive flexibility, open-mindedness, and tolerance for ambiguity, if they had frequent interactions with people from other cultures. This was also true for speaking at least one or more foreign languages at an intermediate or advanced level. Foreign language competence is an important intercultural skill not only for communication but also an important way in which cultural empathy and cognitive flexibility are learned and trained. In line with these results, both students and employers who had more exposure to different cultures also felt there was more need to pay attention to intercultural issues and support the development of intercultural skills than those with less experience of different cultures.Furthermore, our results from both the student and the employer surveys seem to reflect differences between more urban/metropolitan centres and more rural areas with smaller towns. London and Bursa are the two largest cities and the most metropolitan areas in our sample with a more multicultural population, whereas Worcester and Leuven are both smaller cities and the regions with the least ethnic diversity. Halmstad falls somewhere in between with a similar size and ethnic composition of the city and region as Worcester and Leuven, but the university itself has a very multicultural and mature student body that is very similar to LSBU in central London. While we cannot directly influence these regional differences in urbanisation and multiculturalism it is certainly important to be aware of them.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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