Sunday, November 2, 2014

Where is EU Bologna headed?

Reports are that Bologna will have to find more ways to harmonize learning and research throughout the EU or lose ground to other higher education providers in the U.S.A. and the BRIC countries. "Harmonize to compete" wasn't the only significant message. The report also indicated that the challenge after harmonization will be promoting transferable skills that graduates acquire through "more practical learning tasks such as group assignments and work placements." Student affairs educators should seize the opportunity of offering their expertise in experience-based learning pedagogies that are known to be more effective in fostering next generation innovation society attributes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Personal reflection on student potential

One of the major tenets of the Student Personnel Point of View (1937) was that student personnel workers (now known as student affairs educators) should help students develop to their full potential. I deeply believe that anyone who seeks to be part of student affairs work must espouse this fundamental purpose along with a commitment to holistic learning and fostering learning through a variety of in and out-of-class means. There are those who currently advocate that the different approaches emerging around the world require keeping the door open to those who believe that providing student services is enough. Student service is important and this role cannot be denied but neglecting the essential importance of "student affairs or development" as a central part of students' education is a short-sighted attempt to draw people into the field, a strategy that will ultimately water down its importance in the international arena.

As I near the end of my work in Qatar, it is becoming very clear that student affairs as a contributor to student learning and development is still not understood. The efforts of those who have helped build the HBKU Student Affairs area has been monumental and this has been pursued with deep conviction. Yet, due to the lack of awareness of the importance of holistic learning and a competitive organization climate in which managing people, facilities, and budgets is a driving motivation, advocates for student learning and development are losing ground.

I don't believe Qatar is unique from other international settings. My guess is that many of those committed to student learning and development are struggling to achieve credibility and support. This is why it is important for all those involved in international higher education to reflect deeply on the purpose of their work, clearly delineate its importance, and work together across institutions and countries to secure a place for student development work in their institutions. Student development is not a luxury! It is a real outcome of learning environments where students are taken seriously and where the long history of research and theorizing about student engagement is incorporated into practice. To do any less risks that students around the world will experience tertiary education in sub-standard and empty ways.

I had two meetings with students yesterday that drew me to draft this blog post. One was an alum of Georgetown's program in Qatar and the other was a Miami University alum who now works for Northwestern in Qatar. The first grew up in Bangladesh until the age of 14, moved to join his father in Qatar at that age, and learned English well enough in 4 years (primarily by watching soap operas in English) to gain admission to Georgetown; he graduated with distinction and received the President's Award from Qatar Foundation. The second student from Miami was born in Viet Nam and was sponsored by a Christian church in the U.S. so that she and her family could have a better life after the disruption of the war. Both of these young people are bright, energetic and hopeful - they were also disrupted in their youth, yet achieved despite being forced to learn new languages, cultures, and ways of being. They are 3rd culture kids who in many ways are the promise of the future.

The two students above benefited from institutions that took student development seriously. They had varying levels of involvement and engagement but the fact was that their learning was holistic, it occurred in many places, and it was focused on their striving to fulfill their potential. I sincerely believe that had real student affairs practice not been part of their experience, they would have fallen short of the potential that was so easy to see when I met with them yesterday. Those of us who value student learning and development need look no further than the proof of student success or failure. We owe it to our students to continue to seek the best in full student affairs practice and we should never compromise what is in our students' best interest.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Funding for higher education drops in Europe

Reporting for the Times Higher Education, Jack Grove provides country-by-country comparisons documenting that funding for higher education dropped across Europe. While austerity is a reality in low-growth economic times, is cutting off the pipeline for talent development the best response? A full report from OECD provides even greater detail on trends in funding and participation in higher education worldwide.

US communities seek to retain international graduates

The shortage of good STEM graduates is causing some communities to work toward retaining international students after their studies. The U.S. has benefited for many years from importing talent from around the world, the result of high quality higher education. When factoring the costs and benefits of funding higher education in the U.S., is this benefit recognized?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guidelines on international student recruitment

The practice of using college placement services among international students has been contested by many and embraced by others. The new National Association for College Admission Counseling International Student Recruitment Agencies guide is a much needed resource for schools, colleges and universities.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chinese university's effort to teach value of labor backfires in filth

Nanchang University's president Zhou implemented a policy to require students to clean their own residence halls, bathrooms, trash, and all. The strategy, designed to cultivate willingness to labor among young people who are largely pampered as only children, backfired in mounds of garbage and filth, not to speak of the students who personally hired back the workers who used to do the cleaning in the halls.

Student development 101 tells us that any challenging new learning opportunity requires scaffolding or bridging from a former stage to the next. This example pushes the envelop in terms of how a student affairs educator might work to foster student willingness to work while not collapsing into unpleasant, and likely unhealthy, living conditions.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Higher education and workforce alignment

Saying that graduates of higher education need “soft skills as well as an entrepreneurial mind so that they will always see obstacles as an opportunity” a University World News article reinforced that resilience to a changing world and shifting job opportunities is essential, In another UWN article by Hans DeWit, an additional strategy to enhance employability within EU countries is internships or work abroad. DeWit noted, "in the United States the main driver for study abroad at the undergraduate level is to make students less parochial and more interculturally and globally competent, in Europe academic rationales and – increasingly – the employability rationale are more dominant.." The point of both of these articles was that more attention should be paid in international partnerships to the ultimate outcomes of preparing students for both international work and citizenship.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

International student satisfaction assessed

For the most part, international students studying in the U.S.A., U.K., and Australia, the U.S.A. and elsewhere are satisfied with their experience (3.09 for undergraduates and 3.08 for graduate students on a 4 point scale) but the patterns of satisfaction very with the country where they study as well as their own country of origin.  A study conducted by International Graduate Insight included 60,000 participants who studied at 48 different universities.

Some of the more interesting implications of the study include:

  • European students studying abroad are the most satisfied and Asian students the least satisfied.
  • First-generation learners (parents without tertiary experience) were generally less satisfied than those whose parents studied at university.
  • The degree of integration with domestic students of the country went down as the number of that nationality studying at the university went up.
  • While academic content exposure was rated high, social aspects of their experience such as friendship with domestic students, organized social activities, and help with work, visa processing, etc. were lower.
Overall, the assessment of international student satisfaction doesn't sound any alarm bells but the study sponsors encouraged policy makers and educators to not be complacent about study enrollment without some attention to what's working and what's not.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Unfortunate, but necessary, move at USC to protect international students

Inside Higher Education carried a notice about increased security/safety precautions at USC in the shadow of 3 killings of Chinese students over the last two years.  The article also notes mandatory safety training that will be enacted for international students.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Technology for international learning

Striving to increase access to learning about the dynamics of internationalization, the COIL course of Eric Pallant at Alleghany College paired students from his campus and a college in Pakistan.  The course resulted in some surprises when Pakistani students challenged the American students' understanding of foreign policy related to their country.  Pallant commented, "Lest you think this is all negative, what I ended up realizing and saying to my students is, 'You're going to go out there in this globalized world and you need to learn how to negotiate these things' - a different sense of time, accents, technology that doesn't work the way you expect it to, perceptions of Americans overseas."

It's great to see teaching strategies that expand international understanding for American students.  I wonder about the impact on the students in Pakistan or other countries who partner with American universities.  The fact that this was not mentioned in the article is telling and is an example of how internationalization is often conceived in ways that benefit one of the partners while giving little thought to the cost and/or benefit to the other.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trans-national education as an alternative to study abroad

A report from the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education summarized in an Inside Higher Education article indicated that "TNE (transnational education) allows traditional destination countries to act proactively and position themselves in a fast-changing market by participating in capacity-building efforts in source countries while this opportunity is still available."  The article's market-based language suggests that institutions in the U.S.A., UK and Australia (the most popular destination countries for study abroad) who want to maintain high numbers of students need to offer TNE options.  In expanding the options, the report indicates there are a variety of reasons that students choose TNE alternatives, including "the lower cost, visa restrictions in the destination country, a desire to stay close to family and friends, work commitments, local government policies intended to reduce mobility, the wide range of TNE programs available, and the reputation of the degree-awarding institution."

ACE Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement

All those involved in internationalization of higher education need to be aware of colleagues and initiatives that can complement their ideas and work.  The American Council on Education has launched the Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement which provides resources for how to internationalize the curriculum.  They are beginning to look at how to offer ideas related to offering internationalization opportunities in the cocurriculum as well.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Investigation of workers' conditions at NYU Abu Dhabi

The New York Times continues to follow the story they broke about worker conditions for the NYU Abu Dhabi campus construction.  The law firm expects to complete their investigation within the year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

International students drawn by MOOCS

A recent Inside Higher Education piece indicated that MOOCs can attract more international students to study in the U.S.A.  Speaking at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department, one official said, "Many institutions would like to boost international enrollment.  International students, ineligible for many forms of financial aid, frequently pay sticker-price tuition.  They also enrich campuses by bringing with them knowledge of different languages, cultures, histories, and landscapes."  The State Department's EducationUSA sees attracting international students to study the U.S.A. as an important form of diplomacy, adding another dimension of benefit to the U.S.A. and its higher education system.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brain drain, trade, or train

How does a country determine if it is ready for the knowledge-based competition of the 21st century?  One might start by looking at their relative position in brain trade, meaning the degree to which a country attracts and holds scientific talent.  The best place a country could be is where lots of scientists are coming to you (i.e. Switzerland, Australia, and Canada) but holding them is key, which is where the U.S.A. is most successful.  While China was not included in the survey, India was and the picture shows mainly brain drain which is what India is now beginning to address.  The best scenario is to be a country that has both an active inflow and outflow, an indicator of the "brain train" stance that attracts, nurtures, launches, as well as holds talent.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

China moving 1/2 of higher education to polytechnic institutes

The recent policy move to shift 1/2 of China's higher education sector to polytechnic institutes is driven by the expectation that students graduate with "practical" knowledge and skills applicable to the workplace.  This move contrast with the trend and preference of Chinese families for degrees in the humanities or preparation for management.  Report of the shift in University World News indicated that the fear of a glut of college graduates without prospects of employment could have broad implications; thus, the education policy change has both economic and political repercussions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

International Consortium to advocate for liberal arts

A new consortium has emerged, the Global Alliance for Liberal Arts, out of concern that attention being given to STEM subjects is eclipsing their contribution to the global community.  Carol Long, interim president of one of the member institutions, was quoted as saying "We need to be thinking globally and developing cultural competence...  Our students, they are eager to work globally but they don't always have the tools to do so."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

International Association of Universities survey reveals regional differences

University World News carried a survey summary that looked at differences in strategy, funding and values related to internationalization efforts at universities around the world.  Most institutions reported placing academic goals at the center of their efforts while respondents in the Middle East and Africa expressed more focus on scientific integrity and research ethics. Concerns about equitable access to internationalization experiences among students was the consensus risk related to internationalization efforts.  Beyond access, "wide divergence among the regional responses becomes quickly evident, with African and Middle East institutions pointing to the brain drain, North American institutions citing too much emphasis on recruitment of fee-paying students, Latin American and Caribbean institutions identifying issues related to regulating quality of foreign programmes, and institutions in Asia and Pacific finding excessive competition among higher education institutions as the second most important risk."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

International students' comfort on U.S.A. campuses

Research at Ohio State, Purdue, and Old Dominion informed discussions of how to make international students more comfortable at U.S.A. campuses at the 2014 NAFSA conference.  The research confirmed other reports that international students, especially the large numbers of Chinese, do not feel part of the campuses where they are studying.  The article covers assessment of international students satisfaction, how they perceive the campus environment, and what faculty can do make international students more comfortable.  The part left out of the report - the attitude, perspective, and willingness of American students to take responsibility for improving the campus ethos.  I can only hope that someone in the audience raised this question.

The report from Purdue mentioned the extra services they offer to international students - a result of the $2,000 USD surcharge for attending the university.  As I've noted in previous posts, since when have we charged cultural minorities, students with disabilities, or any other sub-group an extra fee for the services they need to be successful?  If the rationale is that international students' families don't pay U.S. taxes, that still doesn't make it in my book.  International students, by contrast to most other groups at U.S. institutions, are most often full pay.  Why isn't full pay enough to justify services required to be successful.  And, if the admissions staff doesn't believe an international student is not well enough prepared to attend, why would they offer admission in the first place?  And who is offering payment or incentives to international students to serve as cultural informants to American students who have little knowledge of what's happening in the rest of the world?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

International students in U.S.A concerned about financial aid and jobs

Inside Higher Education indicated that attendees of the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs received a report of new research on retention of international students indicating that a key issue in satisfaction and retention is financial aid and then job opportunities.  One attendee commented that an area that need early attention was, "how universities can help students better undersand the academic expectations and the financial burdens in the recruitment phase, prior to enrollment, so that when they get here, they're really set for success."  Since numerous international students come to the U.S.A. not understanding the role of private and public entities, some may even need to acquire an understanding that all public universities, and privates in other ways, receive funding ultimately derived from taxation to citizens of the U.S.A., something to which their families have not contributed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Engagement needs to be defined

This Times Higher Education article raises question about student engagement, what it means and the various ways institutions can foster it.  It asks if the term has become a new buzzword and properly traces its origin to Alexander Astin's earlier research and publications advocating for more student involvement.  The idea of student engagement actually could be traced even further back to the very origins of student personnel work in the early 20th century.  The democratic education ideas of John Dewey influenced early student affairs visionaries and these were central to the ways that the early deans of men and women interacted with their students.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Going Global" conference revs up higher education

A recent article on "Going Global" summarized the outcomes of the British Council's conference on the state of higher education around the world.  Shifting enrollments, growing needs, and the importance of preparing graduates for the workplace are just a few of the issues that emerged.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tools to improve dexterity in cross-cultural work

Finding tools and/or models to shed light on cultural diversity is challenging.  The reason - there are so many variations across cultures that it is hard to find a lens by which several different cultures can be viewed.  I think I might have found one that is simple enough, easy to remember, and brings some life to the differences across culture in a positive ways.

Although intended as a resource for expatriate workers, Molinsky’s Global Dexterity (2013) proposes a model that can be used for a variety of purposes – understanding the cultural differences among international students, affirming colleagues whose way of interacting is shaped by their family culture, or navigating cross-border educational initiatives.  Molinsky’s approach is based on his own fascination with the expatriate worker experience as well as research, consulting and coaching he has done to help workers in foreign settings acquire the adaptive responses to allow them to be effective.  The “global dexterity” model is not a developmental sequence of growing understanding, as some other cultural development models propose; instead it is a very intuitively understandable model that allows the “foreigner” to diagnose an environment, discern what is different about the new environment, and find an adaptive approach that maintains the guest’s authenticity and values while increasing the potential of being effective in a “different” place.  As an expatriate worker with a short experience in Europe and a longer period in Qatar, I found the model very useful in reflecting on the various cultures I have encountered.

The “global dexterity” model has a six-dimensional framework that includes; directness, enthusiasm, formality, assertiveness, self-promotion, and personal disclosure.  While there are certainly other clues one might use to understand another culture, including low/high context, physical space and power/SES consciousness, the six dimensions are very revealing.  The diagnosis stage using the model involves determining if the culture one is visiting is high or low on each of the six dimensions.  As just one example from the Arab world using the first dimension of directness, Westerners (particularly Americans) tend to be very direct in their communication, making statements or making requests in very specific and direct ways.  So, if someone had something you liked, an American would say, “I really like that – I wish I could have one like it.” The statement was direct but, in America, the other person would not likely offer it as a gift.  By contrast in the Arab world, indirectness is valued, most often as a way of avoiding embarrassing or putting the other in a difficult place.  So instead of being so direct in offering a compliment, the world “mish’Allah,” which means “God has blessed you with this,” always follows the compliment.  The reason - if one doesn’t say mish’Allah, the other person is culturally obligated to give it to you.  This is a form of indirectness that is highly valued.  Indeed, gifts are part of the culture of hospitality and visitors are often overwhelmed by these gestures.  However, the gifts are to be given freely and generously without any expectation of return.

The dilemma that Molinsky explains is that there are three core psychological challenges as foreigners attempt to adapt to a different cultural environment.  The first is authenticity, the second, competence, and the third resentment.  When trying to modify one’s behavior, even when we know we might be more effective if we adapted, the new behaviors don’t initially feel authentic, sometime they are delivered in clumsy ways, and some people just plain resent having to adapt.  These psychological obstacles have to be overcome in order to adapt in ways that will allow one to have dexterity in adapting to other cultures.

Whether working with students from another national culture on an American campus, preparing students and faculty for a study abroad experience, or working toward a partnership with an international campus, Molinsky's framework of global dexterity could be very useful.  Global Dexterity is a heuristic model with tools to use for analysis, many examples, and recommendations for how to walk the path of becoming a person of global dexterity.  His last piece of advice - “customizing your perceptions around cultural adaptation is quite simple: embrace the new culture’s logic.  Don’t just change how you behave: change how you think.”  From my experience, truer words have seldom been uttered when seeking to be a more effective global citizen.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Using agents to recruit international students

An article on agent recruitment of international students indicates that many countries are increasingly counting on this method to entice the ever-growing number of students seeking to study outside their home countries.  The U.S.A., the place where the largest proportion of international students study, uses agents less than its competitors.  Is the use of agents a quest to expand access or a practice that is turning higher education into more of a trade commodity?  And, does it matter?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Internationalization is best when conceived in "partnership"

Darbi Roberts and Dave Stanfield, two former staff of  CMU-Q, one of Qatar Foundation's Education City branch partners, capture the complexities of cross-border engagement as well as the necessity of seeking true partnership in their Inside Higher Education essay.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Survey of internationalization

A University World News report of a survey of 1,300 institutions around the world indicated that the highest ranked (at 32%) outcome of internationalization initiatives is increasing students' knowledge of international issues.  With this as the most favored outcome, it is unfortunate that the most significant obstacle to internationalization was the ability of students to pay for their experiences.  Which begs the question - if internationalization is central to higher education, then why would extra fees be required in order to partake of this essential experience?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Beware the export of fraternities

As a preface for this post, I need to claim my legacy...  I was in an undergraduate fraternity.  I fact, I was a founder and president of one.  I met my wife at a fraternity party.  Both of my daughters joined sororities while in college.  And yet, the export of fraternities and sororities as part of the Western university experience is not something I would suggest that anybody consider - not for a moment.

I am intentionally harsh on this issue and it is easy to be definitive.  The historical record indicates that fraternities emerged in the mid-19th century as essentially academic societies, attracting the best ot students and helping to shape the character of their members when colleges and universities in the U.S.A. had little else to offer.  What was good about fraternities was essentially adopted by early student personnel administrators, enhanced with other dimensions, and offered for all students.  When all students had the opporutunity to live together in self-determining communities, to engage in leadership, and to explore service to their campus and community, the gradual slide into irrelevance of fraternities began.  But it takes a long time for organizations with selective and elitist membership to recognize that they are no longer relevant.  The U.S.A. is in a very difficult spot.  Legal rights to free association provide cover for dysfunctional fraternities and campus leaders have a great deal of difficulty tackling the negative cultures that are prevelant on most campuses.

One of the most celebrated cases of attempting to eradicate fraternity problems is Dartmouth College in Vermont.  A new article admonishes that Dartmouth College tries again to address its problem with fraternities, alcohol abuse, sexual assault and other social problems.  While some readers of this post will say, "but there are good groups out there," with which I agree, the pattern and associated risks of fraternities are simply too great for anyone in international higher education to consider supporting them.

Fellow educators dedicated to advancing positive student learning and development around the world, think long and hard before entertaining the possibility of adopting/adapting fraternities as part of the student experience for your university.  There are too many other ways to enhance the student experience that don't incur the legacy and risk of fraternities.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Overall 7% increase among international applicants in U.S.A. graduate schools

The new Council of Graduate Schools report of 2014 applications indicates an overall 7% rise for international students.  However, the data reflects a continuing small decline in applicants from China (3% in 2013 and another 1% in 2014) while applications from India continued to soar (22% in 2013 and 32% in 2014).  Applications for graduate school among talented international candidates is a critical resource for faculty researchers and represents further potential when the best of these students, once they graduate, str given the opportunity to stay in the U.S.A. to contribute to the advancement of research.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chinese students' assets when studying in the U.S.A.

Many conversations among U.S.A. higher education staff focus on the challenges of working with Chinese students.  By contrast, research on Chinese undergraduate student assets reveals that, while they may experience some obstacles in their early studies, they seek ways to cope and ultimately access a variety of strengths in order to succeed.  The adjustment to, and ability to thrive in, the American higher education system is largely about cultural context, language, and a desire to do well.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Different perspectives on purpose of higher education

World News reports on the continuing gap between academics' and employers' perceptions of the impact of higher education.  Academics give themselves high marks on preparing students for the workplace but employers are less enthused.

What I'm left wondering is why this is portrayed as an either/or question.  The best educational experiences have for quite some time deliberately connected theory and pract, conceptual and experiential, detachment and engagement.  John Dewey was staunchly committed, and early student affairs educators advocated, that involvement with real questions and taking responsibility to discover and learn solutions to practical problems was key to education's service to society.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Compilation of Inside Higher Education articles

Inside Higher Education has compiled articles previously published by them for easy reference.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Advocacy for Study Abroad

Michelle Obama advocated the importance of study abroad during recent trip to China.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Turning away from branch campus model?

Lack of reference to Qatar's Education City in Elizabeth Redden's article on skepticism over branch campuses in today's (March 12, 2014) Inside Higher Education is interesting.  Perhaps it was not referenced because Qatar doesn't fit her model of failure (e.g. Qatar has the largest sustained collection of branch campuses anywhere in the world).  One of the issues Redden highlighted was that it is difficult, or impossible, to replicate the program of the donor university.  In this blogger's humble opinion - AND IT SHOULDN'T.  By contrast, educational practices should be adapted and focused on the local/regional cultural context.  If carefully adapted, perhaps the success could be even greater at a branch campus and the donor campus may learn how to be even more effective with its home campus students.

One quote in the article from the president of USC indicated that the only place a student can experience the quality of its "...residential campus environment – which in USC’s case boasts a larger number of international students than any other U.S. university" is at their campus in Los Angeles.  Going on, he said, “there’s no way you can replicate this environment anywhere else. It is not going to be the same."  Again, in this blogger's humble opinion, no, it won't be the same because it might even be better (e.g. Qatar's Education City LEED certified sustainable learning community includes students from 85 countries who study in top-ranked academic programs from 6 of America's finest universities).

At least the article concluded with a couple of positive voices, including Jason Lane who countered the "growing anti-branch rhetoric..." by saying that it was "something of a straw-man argument. They’re playing off this idea -- and I think it’s an incorrect one -- that branch campuses are just teaching outposts or they have very little engagement overseas. There are examples of that, but so many branch campuses that we’ve encountered, the longer they’re there, the more engaged they are in their communities and in the higher ed community and the research community.”

Branch campuses, or in Qatar's preferred terminology "partner universities," are a relatively new idea and they are small in number compared to the dominant models of higher education around the world.  There are issues to be worked out for sure but it is short-sighted for educators to rush to judgment without serious analysis of what works and/or can be improved in the branch model.  And, don't forget to consider the possibility that the branch model may have attributes that are superior to prospective donor institution current practices (e.g. explicit connection to human capacity building, integration of learning and living, fresh organizational models).

Monday, March 3, 2014

150+ U.S. universities agree to double study abroad numbers

The Institute for International Education has signed 150+ U.S. univerisities up for the Generation Study Abroad scheme, one designed to double the number of American students studying abroad to as many as 600,000 per year by the end of the decade.  The primary blocks appear to be curriculum planning to make study abroad easier and the cost of travel and study away from the home campuses.  With the goal of preparing American students for the era of globalization, encouraging students to see study outside North America as realistic and desirable is only the first step,  The more important goal will be to encourage American students to be thoughtful, curious and respectful cultural learners.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Innovation and education

Higher education advocates have turned to a video explaining the landscape for innovation.  It makes the case that, if the U.S.A. doesn't invest in the infrastructure that supports innovation, it could fall dangerously behind other countries that are committing substantial resources to education and research today.  Whether you are in the U.S.A. or in a country seeking to be one of the world's innovation "players," this video is a wake-up call for all.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Higher education as preparation for work

Many Western higher education faculty and leaders have been ambivalent about students' focus on their degrees as a bridge to employment but resisting students' aspirations and dreams may no longer be possible. A recent Gallup Survey indicates that, although academic leaders believe they are preparing graduates for the workplace, only 14% of the general population and 11% of business leaders believe this is the case.

Authors such as Thomas Friedman advocate that more attention should be placed on what employers want.  Citing Google as an example, Friedman noted that the proportion of college graduates has dropped among the Google workforce and that grades and test scores, the currency of academic excellence, are irrelevant to selecting good workers and contributors. The traits mosts prized by Google include; emergent leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and loving to learn.

International educators will be wise to observe and sort through the debate on preparing graduates for work.  In many emerging environments, to think that a university degree is not a pathway to a job may almost seem humorous.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contact with international students has positive impact only if intentional

Speakers at the AIEA conference challenged those attending to sttive for more intentional interaction between international and American students at U.S. campuses.  Exposure to international students can have a positive impact in reducing xenophobia and globalization anxiety but only if students engage with their classmates from around the world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Educators seeking relationships in India need to take the long view

A new report cautions higher education institutions in the UK (but applicable to others) to take a long-view perspective when developing relationships to establish universities to meet India's goal of increasing its college-going 18% to 30% by 2020.  The 12% increase will require 14 million new seats for India's higher education sector.

Friday, February 14, 2014

UK Consortium strategy lowers cost and brings degrees to China

The Times Higher Education says that British universities are offering quality education at lower expense by joining together in a consortium of multiple branches.  The strategy allows students to study in China and in the UK (for part) receive instruction in English, and get a less expensive British degree than they would have by studying abroad, or at more expensive branches of U.S.A. institutions.  Interestingly, no mention is made of student experienc...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fundamental change needed in higher education

Whether ready or no, change is coming for higher education.  The critique is that graduation rates are not acceptable, life experience is not affirmed, and current educational practices ignore the reality that students expect higher education to prepare them for the workplace.  These issues, and more, are the challenges that educators must tackle in order to maintain relevance in the 21st century context.  The problem is, although higher education seeks to break the intellectual boundaries through research and knowledge creation, introspection about the effectiveness of its practices is rare.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Growth in student services in U.S. raises questions

A Chronicle of Higher Education article reported on a study of faculty and staff increases from 2000 to 2012 that concluded that increases in student services staff has been growing faster than faculty.  This is sure to stimulate considerable protest among faculty members at U.S. institutions and the ripples will likely reach international higher education as well.

For those engaged in international student affairs work, an area just beginning to gain some credibility, the push back from the U.S. could be difficult to manage.  It should be noted that the Delta Cost Project that conducted the study is part of the American Institutes for Research, a private non-profit organization in Washington, D.C.  While "private and non-profit" may suggest lack of bias, review of the Delta Cost Project web site provides insight on the issues in which they have interest - labor expenses, college athletics, and public financial support.  AIR and others in both the U.S. and internationally should pay close attention to costs that can limit access to higher education.  However, it would be tragic to scapegoat student services and development programs without careful analysis of what is being contributed by whom.

 "What is being contributed and by whom" is the essential question that anyone engaged in international higher education should consider.   If student affairs and services cannot demonstrate substantive contributions to student retention, satisfaction, success, and development, then watch out because questions will be raised, if they aren't already.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GWU pulls back from China operation

Inside Higher Education reported that George Washington University will not establish a campus in Beijing and returned the Dean who advocated for the plan when he was Dean of the Business School and VP for China Operations at GW to duties as professor of international business and management.  Beijing campuses for Duke, Kean and NYU will apparently proceed.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Call for more engagement in Middle East

In response to the American Studies Association resolution to boycott academic programs in Israel, an essay calling for more engagement in Middle East higher education by a university president proposes that more, not less, partnership will achieve the best end.  My experience in Qatar has certainly reinforced the positive outcome of partnerships, but the question of how partnerships are chosen and for what purpose is relevant and important if higher education is to maintain its integrity.  Some U.S.A. educators have labeled the boycott of academic partnerships in Israel a violation of academic freedom which I have trouble understanding.  Academic freedom is protection for scholars to be able to express their opinions through research and publication without fear of reprisal for their opinions.  What does that purpose have to do with making strategic decisions to partner with people and programs that are aligned with your goals and where both (or all) partners benefit in substantial ways?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Drop in UK international students

TheTimes Higher Education reported that, for the first time since numbers were recorded, the number of international students studying in the UK has dropped.  The largest drop is among Indian students.  Interestingly, the article attributes the drop to a combination of visa changes and cost.  I wonder how much perceived quality and opportunity elsewhere (perhaps even in their home country) have contributed to the shifts.  Certainly one year does not establish a trend but perhaps this is something to watch.

Phillip Altbach commented on the UK and other trends and attributed the shifts in enrollment to commodification of higher education and competition to balance budgets.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Preparing for cultural encounter

We host many groups in Qatar throughout the year – some educators, others politicians, and from many different countries and cultures. With Qatar’s Grand Mosque having opened a couple of years ago, I’ve included a tour of the Mosque on several itineraries, relying on Funar Islamic Center for guides to take us through the building as well as to explain practices within Islam and its relationship to other religions. These visits generally go very well, with participants expressing great appreciation for the opportunity. One of the things required in order to visit the Mosque is that guests have to be dressed conservatively, must remove their shoes before going inside, and females must cover (both Abaya and scarf).

I recently had a very different response from some participants in a tour. The tour unfolded in a different way than is typical – due to the time overlapping with regular Muslim prayer. This overlap resulted in our being able to observe a group of men in actual prayer but this also meant that the females in the group were separated from the males, something not typical in other tours. The combination of females covering and being separated resulted in one participant commenting that the experience was highly politically charged and suggesting that it was not appropriate as part of a professional academic program. Part of the reaction, as noted by the participant, was that females were not informed in advance that they would be asked to cover and said that the organizers had not fully thought through the political and personal implications of the experience.

My immediate reaction was to accept that, yes, preparation would have been helpful. Certainly, preparation would have helped as preparing for a new experience almost always improves the chances that the participants will be more receptive. However, on further reflection, I began to wonder if educators and others as well might need to begin to take more responsibility for their own preparation and receptivity to cultural experiences. Reflecting on my privilege as a white American, I choose where I go and I am generally well received anywhere and anytime I want to go. Sure, there are some cultural settings that are a stretch but I can totally avoid these if I wish. By contrast, international visitors to the U.S.A., or cultural minorities in the U.S.A., don’t have the option to make the same choice; they have to negotiate the new cultural territory with or without guidance or assistance, even when there are aspects of the new culture that may be very uncomfortable to them – they just have to “deal.” Even in a setting such as Qatar, some westerners adapt to Arab/Islamic cultural norms (for example, modesty in dress) while others do as they wish, assuming that their western ways will simply have to be accommodated.

I am conflicted in coming to a conclusion about preparing people for cross-cultural experiences that might be uncomfortable for them. In general, preparing, guiding, and context-setting should probably be provided for everyone engaging across culture. On the other hand, the wonderfully complex world in which we live likely means that preparation will not always be a luxury that we will have. When preparation is not readily available, perhaps it behooves all of us to understand our relative place of privilege in the world and take responsibility to prepare ourselves, especially if it is an experience that is completely new and potentially fraught with personal and political implications. Privileged individuals may have become somewhat passive, expecting others to help prepare them, when those without privilege just have to “deal.”

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stenden Qatar Exec. Dean advocates to remember students

A World News article authored by Executive Dean of Stenden University in Qatar critiques the way we define internationalization.  His point was that the central focus should be about the impact on students of whatever internationalization strategy institutions adopt.

Outcomes for investing in higher education in developing countries more than anticipated

A study concluded that investing in higher education in developing countries pays off in multiple ways.  The economic benefits of enhancing higher education is one of the areas most important to developing countries but other outcomes such as better health, happiness, and openness to others should not be undervalued.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Questioning the value of Western degrees in China

An Inside Higher Education on January 2, 2014, drew attention to an troubling question emerging among some Chinese students and their families - Is the value of a Western degree worth it?  With the large number of Chinese students attending Western universities, coupled with flatter economic conditions  in China, Western institutions may want to measure the impact of Western-style education and make sure Chinese students are making their decisions based on solid information.