Internationalisation in social work practice and education has been the subject of significant debate for over two decades, with increasing importance placed on developing global perspectives. In part, this has been accomplished through the development of international social work student exchanges and international field placements. While there are compelling reasons as to why international exchanges and placements are undertaken, there are many aspects of these activities that are not adequately explored in the literature. Of particular interest is the concept of transnational partnerships and how these are developed and sustained in and through international student exchanges. For example, many of the international exchange programs discussed in the social work literature are identified as unidirectional initiatives from the Global North, and the lack of reciprocity within their processes challenges the current conceptualisation of “exchange” and “partnership” in such contexts. This paper presents data collected from both Australian “source” universities, and institutions in the Asia Pacific which “host” Australian social work students on exchange or placement. Their perspectives on the nature of transnational partnerships in student exchange programs are described and the contested nature of “exchange” is explored.
Keywords: Social work, student exchange, partnerships