Thursday, March 31, 2016

GDP increases along with expanded higher education opportunity

A study of the impact of expanding higher education opportunity found even greater positive impact than the researchers expected. Utilizing six decades of data from UNESCO's World Higher Education Database of 78 countries, per capita GDP grew a minimum of 4.7 percent within 5 years of doubling the number of higher education institutions. For those who might question the investment in higher education, the net increase far outweighed the financial outlay of expanding educational opportunity. The accompanying improvements that support increased GDP include workforce enhancement, improved research and innovation, and pro-democracy views among citizens.

Advice for international students studying in the U.S.A.

An international student from Viet Nam offered tips through the American College Personnel Association to international students studying in the U.S.A.  Among the pointers for first-year students was advising international students to speak up for themselves and getting involved in a romantic relationship. To this practical advice, I would add from an educational point of view that international students should do as much as possible to get involved in at least one experience outside of class and make friends with students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The impact of terror concerns on U.S.A. study abroad

The recent terrorist attacks in Belgium have raised concerns among university officials about the safety of U.S.A. students studying there. The article reports that most study abroad offices have strategies in place to account for students and offer assistance when difficulties arise but students and families still may react. Texas Tech University officials noted that there students, a portion being first-generation attendees, may be the first in their families to ever hold a passport. The lack of familiarity and fear that goes with it can exacerbate the challenges of dealing with unexpected circumstances when abroad.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The cost of a U.S.A. higher education brand

The Insider Higher Education article on Arabian Gulf (the author used the term 'Persian' which would not be welcomed by these countries) higher education utilizing U.S.A. elite brands utilized the recent Washington Post article as its basis and then attempted to pose the broader question of whether the brands acquired were worth the expenditures required (author's estimate = $200,000/student/year). From someone who was previously involved at Education City in Qatar, Mr. Usher's analysis is superficial and actually inaccurate in some details.

The Washington Post was able to obtain information that may appear to expose "what on earth possessed the Qataris to pay this kind of price" but it's unfortunate that Mr. Usher does exactly what many in higher education have repeatedly resisted over time - portray higher education as a commodity that can be acquired as a matter of trade. The dollars spent are exorbitant by anyone's standard but knowing why there was so much value placed on the capacity building being undertaken is much more important. Many of us involved in the Education City project struggled with the amount of the expenditures and what we perceived to be excesses, however:

  • The first of the universities to come to Qatar was VCU and it came to offer educational opportunity that was otherwise unavailable to bright and motivated Muslim females who would not typically travel outside their home countries to obtain degrees.
  • The other universities all started as co-educational institutions but the Qatar Foundation pressed them all to admit increasing proportions of Qatari nationals who, again, would likely not have studied at such high quality institutions under other circumstances.
  • Being from the Arab and/or Muslim world makes attending university in the U.S.A. or Europe complicated. Qatar Foundation's Education City began before 9-11 but certainly expanded after young Arabs/Muslims were increasingly scrutinized and sometimes denied study visas to come to the U.S.A. In addition, students and campus culture in the U.S.A. and European universities are more hedonistic and actually contradict values held by many Arab/Muslim students and families.
  • The major conclusion of the above three points is that, in order to expand high quality Western-style educational opportunity in a cultural environment that supported the students who eventually attended the universities at Education City, willingness to pay could have come at a pretty high level.
  • In the end, the U.S.A. and European institutions that came to Qatar had a price and Qatar was at least initially willing (and able) to pay what was demanded in order to begin the Education City project.
I am proud to say that while I was at Education City I repeatedly brought attention to the luxury of the place and I encouraged my Western colleagues to curtail the excesses to which they contributed. Sadly, encouragement in the direction of reduced expenses was heeded to only token degrees. The result now is that Qatar's commodities wealth is flowing into the treasury at much slower rates than before and this is raising the question of whether or not the brands were worth what Qatar paid. Having been there in the formidable years of building Education City, I can attest to the quality of educational outcomes for the many students with whom I was acquainted. In some cases, the outcomes were simply priceless and these young people will go on to contribute greatly to Qatar and other countries throughout the region.

When it comes to what your brand is worth, U.S.A., European and other countries that expect to be donor institutions in international partnerships should carefully consider how your bargaining is perceived and what a reasonable price might be. For host countries who want to benefit from U.S.A. or European universities' brands, you have great value to offer in partnership as well; you should make certain that any partner you wish to engage is equally committed to the capacity building and long-term sustainability of your joint efforts and that they respect and honor your culture and values.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Student mobility

While the number of international students studying in the U.S.A. has increased by 70% since 2005, the number of students from the U.S.A. studying abroad has also increased dramatically. Aside from the exposure they receive from studying abroad, U.S.A. students can save a lot of money, a factor that likely contributed to the 72% increase in students studying outside the U.S.A. from 2000-2001 to 2013-14. European universities are offering more programs in English which also makes it easier for U.S.A. students. The only hesitation is the degree to which European degrees will be recognized by employers in the U.S.A. as an equivalent credential.

Intellectual property rights impact faculty productivity

A new study found that Norway's adoption of faculty research policies from the U.S.A. (2/3 to the university and 1/3 to faculty) resulted in a 50% decline in new patents and other intellectual property coming from faculty research. Norway's previous policy allowed faculty to retain 100% benefit from their research.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Starving the Beast - commentary on declining public support for higher education in the U.S.A.

A new documentary tackles the question that most higher education institutions in the U.S.A. have faced for a number of years - the shrinking public support and resulting increased cost of higher education. The documentary, Starving the Beast, will hopefully begin to raise question about the conservative movement's targeting of higher education as being too costly, inefficient, and irrelevant. The U.S.A. prospered mightily from its investment in low-cost higher education in the 1960s and 1970s only to withdraw this support in the last part of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. Educators in the U.S.A. and around the world should look at the question of public funding for higher education very carefully. To not be careful would allow elite higher education to continue to benefit only the already privileged and could result in cutting off the human capacity building so critical to private and public welfare.

Idaho's Middle Eastern student dilemma

The number of international students studying at U.S.A. institutions has continued to increase; the campuses that have allowed them to contribute a significant proportion of total students (as well as bolster budgets) can face some problems. The increased number of students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who study in Idaho has resulted in accusations of cheating among these students while Middle Eastern students respond with complaints of stereotypes and poor treatment.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

International faculty at S. Korean universities

A report in the Times Higher Education indicated that international faculty do not feel empowered in their academic posts at Underwood International College (established by Yonsei University) and are leaving after only short periods of service. The combination of who the faculty were (primarily entry-level academics who were not able to secure posts in their own countries) as well as the atmosphere at UIC were reported to impact satisfaction and longevity. The belief among indigenous faculty that the internationals were not connected to the local culture and were only temporary skilled labor appeared to be a major hurdle to better retention. The report claimed that "Asian [higher education institutions] are not actually integrating them into their faculty body in a meaningful way  -- implying that Westernization is merely a strategically appropriated facade."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Comparison of student preparedness across countries

The latest report of findings from the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) indicates how different countries compare in terms of basic skills required for high employment prospects. The U.S. lags in numeracy and digital problem-solving skills, which in the age of technology advancement, could place these young people at risk in world-wide job competition.