Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Regional universities in Japan struggle

Sustaining the decline in college-age youth isn't easy for Japanese universities. With students preferring to attend university in Tokyo, smaller regional universities struggle to reach their enrollment goals. The National Governors' Association of Japan has proposed that the number of new programs offered in Tokyo be restricted but this defensive move may not work. In the meantime, regional universities such as Utsunomiya University are innovating by combining liberal arts and sciences students in inquiry teams to address local community questions. Such an approach is exemplary in terms of student engagement and innovation; the hope is that more students will buy into the kind of innovation that is emerging from the challenges of maintaining/growing enrollment.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The role of "truth-seekers in a post-truth world"

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Summit was recently convened to explore the question of what universities should do when their research, scholarship, and expertise has been pushed to the side as elitist and impractical. With Harvard as host and attendees including MIT, Oxford and other formidable institutions, participants were encouraged to explore how "truth-seekers in a post-truth world" can redefine their role.

Backing away from those who are hostile to higher education is not the answer. Ceri Thomas, director of communications at Oxford University warned, "it would be a dreadful mistake in my view for us to retreat to our core support and ignore the sections of society that see us part of a disconnected, globalised elite." As an example of striving to stay relevant, MIT has begun producing 30 to 90 second videos that they believe are effective. One of the most compelling recommendations was to engage the post-truth era as a stimulus for serious, engaged, and useful research, writing, and teaching. Paul Andrew, vice president for communications at Harvard, said, "There's nothing like a good existential crisis to mobilise people. It is unfortunate that it has to get to that point, but [faculty] recognise at the highest level, from the president through the entire administration, that we are in lock-step with them in supporting their work."

Friday, June 23, 2017

China's gap for women and people with disabilities

While Chinese higher education opportunity has expanded in gross enrollment from 15% in 2003 to 40% in 2015, women and people with disabilities have not faired well in proportional participation. Opening access has not expanded in proportion in mature higher education systems either but eventually governments realize that not providing equal opportunity for all neglects to develop the talent of citizens who are a resource for economic and social development.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Institutional impact as a measure of excellence

Reputation and elitism has dominated higher education rankings for a very long time. Attempts to challenge this approach have emerged in the U.S. through the work of Alexander Astin at UCLA's Higher Education Institute and more recently through the National Survey of Student Engagement housed at Indiana University. These other measures take into account the nature of students and the different kinds of institutions throughout the U.S., leveling the playing field from the hierarchy of resources that can only be won by institutions with lots of resources.

The U.K. rolls out its Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) findings in the coming days, which is another way to measure institutional impact outside of the hierarchy of reputation/elitism/resources. The TEF takes into account the differences in the types of students attending U.K. universities and the results are different than the conventional repetitional rankings. Some of the elite institutions emerge in the rankings but others do not while lesser known institutions are recognized for the good teaching they support in their faculty.

While the outcomes of the new TEF rankings are yet to be determined, including how students and families might change their priorities in university applications, the effort to measure institutional impact outside of the hierarch of reputation is laudable. The article on TEF questioned if the U.S. might not benefit from such a ranking as well. Jamienne Studley, former deputy under secretary of education for the Obama administration, opined that the critical issues to assess in institutional rankings are not only teaching quality and student experience but, "Is your employer satisfied, do you report five years later that you feel prepared for the things you're called on to do in the workplace, did you pass the licensing test in your field that tests practical knowledge of nursing or engineering? It's very hard to get at that fundamental [question of] where do people learn important things and where do they learn them in ways that have the most effect and significance."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Travel and study abroad in the "America First" era

Educators who prepare and guide U.S. students in their study abroad experiences are facing a new and interesting questions - What might be different about studying abroad in the context of "America First?" A Chronicle of Higher Education article suggests that studying abroad may be a little more complicated than in past years. The good news is that the numbers of U.S. students studying abroad seem to be holding strong and there have been few, if any, reports of students facing negative treatment in other countries. Proper preparation for students of all political perspectives can go a long way in preventing bad experiences but perhaps more attention should be focused on the impact of reverse cultural shock, especially when the political climate in the U.S. can change in a matter of weeks while students are abroad.

Having recently traveled in Europe for three weeks, I was relieved by not feeling that I needed to obsessively watch the unfolding saga of the Trump administration every day and I was further relieved by not once being asked, "What's going on over there?" For whatever reason, the Europeans I encountered either have separated Donald Trump from the American people or they are simply tired of hearing about U.S. problems associated with his presidency.

An important thing to remember for U.S. citizens traveling, studying, or working abroad is that we are the face of person-to-person diplomacy. The way we act, how we encounter others, and our presence send messages that are likely to have more impact than many realize.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The state of internationalization

The American Council on Education has published the latest of their assessments of internationalization in U.S. institutions. The report concludes that the focus on internationalization has accelerated at 72% of campuses, with "improving student preparedness for a global era," "diversifying students, faculty, and staff at the home campus," and "becoming more attractive to prospective students at home and overseas" as the first three and revenue generation rounding out the top four drivers of enhanced internationalization. The most often cited activities reported as part of institutional internationalization efforts were increasing the number of domestic students studying abroad and recruiting more international students. The full report can be downloaded.

The ACE assessment demonstrates the growing importance of internationalization on university campuses but noted that the overall data reflect an outward rather than inward focus on institutions and campus culture. The underlying belief is that, in order for internationalization to deeply impact students' learning, institutions should focus more on curriculum and the overall collegiate experience.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Whose history?

One of the most important questions facing educators in an environment of expanding internationalization is whose history should be taught in classrooms. NYU at Abu Dhabi instructor, Deborah Williams, explores this question in relation to teaching when classrooms are much more diverse than is typical of homogenous domestic environments. She also notes the power of learning when issues discussed in class seep into the informal conversations of students outside of class.

Preparing ourselves, both faculty and staff, to integrate different histories and cultures in our teaching and conversations is one of the most important challenges we face. There is no question that, when students are affirmed by including their histories in learning, the quality of learning is enhanced for all.