Friday, July 31, 2015

Proposed laws in China could restrict academic partnerships

American institution managers are raising concerns, but indicate that they are willing to wait to see what the impact will be of proposed new laws in China. The laws would require foreign NGOs to register their activities with Chinese police authorities. The questions being raised relate to how broadly registration, and possible intervention by police authorities, will go and the fear is that the mere requirement to register activities will have a chilling impact on educational programs. Another fear is that the laws prohibit foreign NGOs from challenging state powers and security. The directors of NYU's U.S.-Asia Law Institute warn that the non-intervention restriction could even apply to activities outside China - meaning that action taken in the U.S.A. could jeopardize the ability to have a program in China or could result in prosecution of U.S.A. faculty, administration, and students who are in China for actions undertaken outside China.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Numbers and structures don't equal internationalization

A study of internationalization in UK institutions reveals that the proportion of international students doesn't necessarily result in constructive interaction across cultural groups. Nor does interaction across cultural groups necessarily result in enhancement of cross-national interaction and workplace skills that employers are asking higher education to deliver. The study cited Gordon Alport's "contact theory" and proposed that, in order for students to learn across culture and grow in their appreciation of each other, four conditions are necessary - equal status, common goals, institutional support, and perception of similarity across groups. Perhaps internationalization educators should return to some of these early (1950s) ideas about what it takes for groups, and individuals within them, to learn from each other - resulting in students who graduate with the world-wise dispositions to be effective.

Faculty international mobility enhances research and citations

A Times Higher Education summary on research productivity and number of citations of publications reflects that British faculty are more mobile than those in other countries and benefit as a result of their networks and associations. The pattern of faculty in the U.K. being more mobile is likely one of the outcomes of past colonial presence but it may also relate to the economic benefits that they receive from working outside of the U.K. - lower cost of living and no taxes in the U.K. Countries interested in expanding their academic reach will need to look at all the factors that contribute to international mobility and its relation to standard measures of productivity.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Having international students doesn't make a campus "international"

As the number of international students continues to grow at U.S. colleges and universities, some materials and statements by institutional promoters use their presence to justify the claim that the campus is internationalized. Confirming reports of international students many times not even feeling particularly welcome on some campuses, a new report indicates the fallacy of claiming internationalization simply because international students happen to be present in a student body.

No doubt about the impact of international students in the U.S.A. who contribute $27.2 billion to the American economy. With American students studying abroad only contributing $6.5 billion to other economies, the $20.7 billion net is important not only to U.S. higher education but to the general economy. Education Week indicates that, while international student numbers in the U.S. continue to grow (perhaps topping 1 million by 2017-18) there is a lot of competition from other countries that has resulted in a proportional decline of internationals coming to the U.S.A.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Are U.S.A. hiring processes relevant in other nations?

A job posting at Wenzhou-Kean University in China is raising concerns about different criteria being imposed in hiring at international partner campuses of U.S.A. universities. Specifically, the job posting expresses preference for candidates with Chinese Communist Party membership. Staff at Kean University (New Jersey), the U.S.A. partner, are affiliated with the New Jersey AFT which has criticized the posting as violating anti-discrimination agreements and raising concern over whether or not WKU has the academic freedoms advocated at universities in the U.S.A.

The concerns being raised demonstrate tensions that are present at many campuses that partner between the U.S.A. and other nations. Three questions come to mind:

  1. To what degree should U.S.A. laws, policies, and practices be observed when a U.S.A. entity is operating outside of the country?
  2. What local/cultural adaptations should be expected in partnerships between U.S.A. institutions and entities in other countries (WKU is a dual-degree)? The point in the WKU job postings are that they are for residence halls and discipline, both areas typically staffed in China by cultural officers who are Communist Party members.
  3. What should U.S.A. institutions expect in relation to their role in changing the international locations where they are going?
A distinguished law professor at the University of Houston is quoted in the article as advocating that U.S.A. institutions should not "acquiesce to regimes that need us more than we need them."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Internationalization in Russia

Internationalization in Russia may be rolling back, according to a Times Higher Education article. With a particular focus on the dismissal of the Rector at Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Elizabeth Redden pointed to a number of other indicators including policy statements and NGO targeting, that reflect governmental ambivalence about international academic cooperation.

Based on my experience and interaction with others in international higher education, ambivalence about imposition of "Western" perspectives and the desire to replace expatriate workers with locals is typical. These may or may not be motivated by governmental politics.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Higher education in post-conflict settings

The Brookings Doha Institute has issued a report on the importance of higher education to countries recovering from conflict, with a particular focus on the Middle East. The report proposes that higher education is key to "combat violent extremism, address economic challenges, and encourage social stability." Citing the Brookings report, University World News asserted that capacity building at the local level is key, indicating that the "conventional 'neo-liberal' reconstruction policies, which are partly responsible for the poor record of reconstruction efforts, have not sufficiently realized the importance of higher education for addressing it."

Students' views of European higher education

Two articles in the University World News pose important questions for the continuing evolution of higher education in Europe. The first article, focused on students' perception of the Bologna agreement, expressed concern about unevenness of implementation coupled with a lack of will in pursuing commitments to open access to greater numbers of students. The second article indicated that fees will remain stable but raised questions about the quality of French students' university experience. A new report compiled by students and French officials indicated that several issues needed to be addressed - "simplifying procedures and access to rights; improving students' conditions of living and studying; improving student healthcare; galvanizing campus life and student involvement."

Some European countries offer incentives for improved teaching and learning practices, a strategy that could address some of the quality concerns students expressed. This map shows the differences in strategies among those countries that have adopted this approach.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Internationalization partners - shoppers beware!

With the momentum around internationalization in higher education, many colleges and universities are seeking to establish partners across national and regional borders. How to find and then secure the partnership will impact cost, fit, customization, sustainability, and outcomes.

Let me illustrate by using the analogy of shopping for three types of cars. The first is a Bentley Flying Spur Mansory. The salesperson will probably serve cocktails and caviar while you shop, will personalize your potential purchase to whatever degree you wish to pay, and the price is non-negotiable (how rude to talk price if you’re shopping for a Bentley!). The outcome will be an incredible vehicle sure to draw attention wherever you drive, an engineering/technology wonder that you may or may not be able to completely utilize (who drives at this Bentley’s top speed of 204.4 miles/hour?), and it will cost $600,000 and change. The second is an Audi A6. The showroom will be lively as a result of the recent popularity of the Audi brand, but you’ll have an attentive sales assistant who will approach you when you slip behind the driver’s seat. Three trim and engine packages are available with powertrain variations within the three; interior and exterior packages can be mixed and matched and numerous accessories can be added. The price may be a little negotiable, but primarily on the higher-end models and you’ll pay anywhere from $46,200 on up to $63,700 for maximum impact when you drive out on the street. The third is a Toyota Camry. As one of the most popular cars on the road, you’ll join many people shopping at the dealership and you’ll have to work to get the attention of a salesperson. You have several options from which to choose but no customization; you can haggle price a little. The outcome is that you’ll join the throngs of look-alikes, struggling to figure out which is yours in the parking lot, it will be predictable and easy to service and you may drive it until the wheels finally fall off at 200,000 miles and it will cost $22,970 and change. (Apologies to U.S.A. auto-makers who have many great options as well!)

What’s the point? Comprehensive internationalization pursued with the intent of substantive impact will likely require one or more partners to make it happen. Whether the institution is in the U.S.A., looking for ways to internationalize as a value-added piece of their portfolio while generating a little extra revenue, or in China, seeking ways to bring prestige to their institution and to create ways to hold Chinese students in China, the shopping excursion should be undertaken with caution. At present, far too few institutions have seriously looked at their ultimate vision in partnering for internationalization let alone tried to determine if they are in the market for a Bentley, Audi, or Toyota.

Not long ago I interacted with an international team visiting the U.S.A. on a shopping trip for a partnership. My sense was that they were in a hurry and really needed to have something to show for their efforts – now! They wanted a broker to help them secure a partnership and when I probed to ask what they were looking for, what they had to gain and to offer, and shared my experience in negotiating the complexity of partnership in Qatar, they at first seemed interested. Not far into the follow-up correspondence, I found that they had selected a partner institution and that a representative from the U.S.A. side was en route to visit. I cautioned about the importance of mutuality, cultural appreciation, and shared responsibility and funding; I never heard from them again. The bottom line is that this international partnership, initiated by a foreign entity seeking a U.S.A. partner, slid toward finding a “prestige” partner where I suspect bargaining would be very limited, customization might be available but certainly not compromising the “Bentley” brand the “selling” partner believed they had, and may ultimately result in an arrangement that is very costly, unsustainable, and underwhelming in its impact.

This is clearly an editorial piece and represents only my own opinions. It is, nevertheless, based on considerable direct experience and interaction. Regardless of which side of the partnering you may be on – seller or buyer – anyone involved in shopping for internationalization partnerships - BEWARE!

Education hubs in Asia drive innovation and economic growth

With a focus on driving innovation and stimulating economic growth, Asian countries have continued to established education hubs to serve students from their own and other countries in the region. The models vary by country but the purpose is unmistakable - attract more institutions to open universities so that national/regional students will stay in Asia to complete their higher education studies and remain as workers in the emerging economies of the region.

These education hubs stimulate economic growth, allow students to study closer to their homes, and blend exposure to Western models while still preserve cultural traditions important to families and students. That is, if the institutions engage in ways that create mutual benefit and are founded on the assumption of respecting the local cultural environment. For Western higher education institutions to participate and sustain such programs, humility will be required and a view of the long-haul will be essential. There is huge potential in numbers and in potential impact.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

English instruction - requires educational rather than economic/ideological rationale

Hans DeWit summarizes the important discussion about English instruction around the world. His summary indicates that advocating for local/national language isn't just coming from conservative nationalist-oriented perspectives but includes those who are pushing for educational rationale for English instruction. For example, a statement by Dutch educators says that decisions on English instruction should be made on "content-based arguments and not on economic or ideological grounds, such as the recruitment of international students or progress in international rankings." The statement went on to link language of instruction to goals of preparing students for career and service to society.

Looking at language proficiency from the multi-lingual perspective, European universities require students to learn at least one language other than their first language in order to graduate, resulting in fluidity and opportunity throughout Europe.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cultural awareness and proficiency

One of the greatest challenges that many organizations face today is how to develop awareness about cultural difference and increase proficiency engaging across culture among their employees. A UK company, People Development Team, offers programs that address dynamics of unconscious bias, leadership development for female employees, and inclusion dynamics that could be important for higher education to understand. If this is what for-profit businesses are asking for, how is higher education helping to cultivate this kind of awareness through the education and experience of students? How will graduates from universities throughout the world respond when they are either expected to come with an inclusive disposition or welcome and support their employer's staff development programs that advocate this perspective?

UK now offers student affairs/services degrees

Two UK schools are launching degree programs to prepare student affairs/services staff. The rationale - to recognize the importance of student affairs/services as a method to increase retention and graduate students prepared for the world of work. The two programs, one at Kingston and the other at Anglia Ruskin, offer course and content structures that do not require the extended residence required in many U.S.A. programs. Anglia Ruskin's program includes the possibility of a period of study in the U.S.A., complete with an internship.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Top Chinese universities compete for highly qualified students

The Wall Street Journal reported that competition over recruitment practices for top Chinese students has resulted in a public dispute between two of its top universities. Part of the issue is that increasing numbers of top students are also applying to study outside of China. The article raised two additional issues that are perhaps more interesting to those who will work with Chinese students. The first is the educational outcome for students - the article indicated that admitting excellent students shouldn't be the primary focus but instead the focus should be on on producing excellent talent. The second concern was that in general Chinese students have not defined for themselves what they care about and therefore what they are most motivated to study.

Applications for international graduate students up 2% in U.S.A.

The number of international students applying to enroll in U.S.A. graduate programs continued to be stable with a 2% rise overall. The two countries with the greatest numbers are China and India, contributing 67% of the total. However, the number of applicants from China continue to decline while those from India are rising at double-digit levels (12% in the most recent figures).