Fear or Fun ‐ Motivation to study from an international perspective


  • H. Saari
  • B. Sunilkumar
  • H. Liu
  • P. Rudawski
  • V. Alekseev
  • C. L. Arnold


The authors of this article, who originate from different cultural backgrounds in Asia and Europe,
namely Malaysia, India, China, Poland, Russia, and Germany, became interested in the difference
between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation for learning by reflecting about how much their own
education in these six very different educational environments was determined by either the one or
the other motivation. We try to identify the main reasons for young individuals to decide for a
university degree in the respective environments. For the sake of simplicity, we will mainly
differentiate between Asia and Europe. More specifically, we focus on three countries, which are
Poland, China, and India. It is quite generic for all three environments that many of the reasons to
study at university are of extrinsic nature, motivated among others by cultural, social, and
economical considerations. Having understood that often the initial decision to enter university is
biased by extrinsic motivation, the authors analyze, involving their own experiences, to what degree
the process of learning at universities in Asia and Europe is determined by extrinsic and intrinsic
motivation. It should be noted that this study is not exhaustive by any means, in particular taking
into account the limited time of the course.
The last section of the article focuses on our current role as university teachers in Sweden with
international background. Swedish universities, as a result of their general academic quality and the
reduction of possible language barriers by willingness to interact and teach in English language, are
magnets for international graduate and PhD students as well as for international staff members. It is
our assignment to create a learning atmosphere, benefitting intrinsic motivation and deep
understanding, suited for this international environment. We highlight the tools university teachers
have at hand in order to achieve this goal. For that purpose a number of Lund University teachers
were interviewed about their teaching methods and their expectations from teaching and from
students. We reflect on these individual opinions and try to point out how the expectations can be
achieved in practice by different teaching methods.