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Fostering Cosmopolitanism in A Technical University Article

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Cultivating Engineers' Humanity: Fostering cosmopolitanism in a
Technical University
Alejandra Boni
a
, Penny MacDonald
b
, Jordi Peris
a
a
Development, Cooperation and Ethics Study Group, Department of Engineering Projects,
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain. email:
aboni@dpi.upv.es, jperisb@dpi.upv.es
b
Department of Applied Linguistics, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n,
46022 Valencia, Spain. email: penny@idm.upv.es
Corresponding author at: Development, Cooperation and Ethics Study Group, Department of
Engineering Projects, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022
Valencia, Spain. E-mail address: Alejandra Boni Aristizábal aboni@dpi.upv.es
Prefinal version of a paper which was published in 2012 in the International Journal of
Educational Development, 32, 179-186.
Abstract
This paper aims to explore the potential of a curriculum designed to develop
Nussbaum’s cosmopolitan abilities through two elective subjects offered to future
engineers in a Spanish Technical University. To this end, Nussbaum’s proposition of
cosmopolitan abilities is presented in relation to the broader academic literature on
cosmopolitanism and higher education. From this perspective, the origin, context and
pedagogical rationale of the curriculum is described including the discussion of an
exploratory study based on discourse analysis and how it has informed our
pedagogical practice. Finally we argue for the importance of electives that develop
cosmopolitan values for students of technical programmes in Higher Education and the
need to consider the implications of their cessation as a consequence of the Bologna
Process.
Key words: Cosmopolitan abilities; capabilities; university; learning and
teaching; discourse analysis; engineering.

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1. Introduction
In her latest book on the subject of Higher Education, Not for Profit. Why
Democracy needs Humanities, Martha Nussbaum alerts us to the fact that humanities
studies are being reduced in both primary/secondary and college/university education
in virtually every nation of the world. She predicts: if this trend continues, nations all
over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than
rounded citizens who can think for themselves, criticize traditions, and understand the
significance of another person’s suffering and achievements (2010:2).
One of the outcomes of the process of adapting university curricula to the
requirements of the European Higher Education Area has been that the humanities
content in the curriculum followed by future engineers, at least in Spain, (the country in
which the authors of this article teach), is being seriously threatened. As a
consequence of the reduction in the length of engineering courses, elective subjects
are being discontinued. It was precisely these subjects that provided Departments and
faculties with an interest in the humanities, an opportunity to include in the curriculum
social, ethical and environmental issues (Boni and Pérez-Foguet, 2008). As Robbins
(2007) emphasizes, quoting studies based on the sociology of engineering from the
1970s until now, engineers have come to regard themselves as appropriate leaders of
society, possessing abilities which allow them to solve social problems using science
and logic as agents of technological development, whilst also showing qualities of
being impartial and logical and responsible for ensuring positive technological change.
Additionally they perceived themselves as having a greater capacity to make decisions
than lay people and to have a professional identity and status which qualifies them to
exercise power in organizations. For these reasons training in cosmopolitan abilities as
proposed by Nussbaum (1997; 2006; 2010) appears to us to be crucial if we are to
prepare professionals who have a commitment to social justice (Walker et al, 2009).
In this paper we wish to explore the potential of a curriculum designed to
develop Nussbaum’s cosmopolitan abilities, that is, one which sees education as a
means of education for global citizenship. This education proposal can be understood
as a formative process whose main goal is to empower people through a teaching and
learning process which develops knowledge, skills and values in learners to enable
them to become members of a global community of equals (Boni, 2006). This vision of
development education reflects what is known as fifth generation development
education in which a global perspective is particularly emphasised (Mesa, 2000;
Ortega, 2008).

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Cultivating Engineers' Humanity: Fostering cosmopolitanism in a Technical University Alejandra Bonia, Penny MacDonaldb, Jordi Perisa aDevelopment, Cooperation and Ethics Study Group, Department of Engineering Projects, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain. email: aboni@dpi.upv.es, jperisb@dpi.upv.es bDepartment of Applied Linguistics, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain. email: penny@idm.upv.es Corresponding author at: Development, Cooperation and Ethics Study Group, Department of Engineering Projects, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain. E-mail address: Alejandra Boni Aristizábal aboni@dpi.upv.es Prefinal version of a paper which was published in 2012 in the International Journal of Educational Development, 32, 179-186. Abstract This paper aims to explore the potential of a curriculum designed to develop Nussbaum’s cosmopolitan abilities through two elective subjects offered to future engineers in a Spanish Technical University. To this end, Nussbaum’s proposition of cosmopolitan abilities is presented in relation to the broader academic literature on cosmopolitanism and higher education. From this perspective, the origin, context and pedagogical rationale of the curriculum is described including the discussion of an exploratory study based on discourse analysis and how it has informed our pedagogical practice. Finally we ar ...
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