Thursday, September 29, 2016

China - Academic freedom and creativity

The U.S.A. Government Accountability Office reviewed the contracts and policies of 12 U.S. universities who have branch campuses in China. The review concluded that academic freedom is generally supported in the agreements but that internet restrictions and self-censorship presented problems. Those universities granted independent legal status by the Chinese Ministry of Education were found to "share characteristics - such as campuses located away from their Chinese university partner's campus and extensive student life programs - that may be correlated with greater academic freedom and other key freedoms."

Writing for Times Higher Education, David Mathews indicated that studies and stereotypes about Chinese students characterize them as lacking creativity. One of the possible reasons noted for the lack of creativity is the intense focus on performance on entry examinations for the top universities in China, a phenomenon that reinforces rote learning rather than critical thinking and risk taking behavior.

Perhaps there is a link between the two articles referenced here - restricted academic freedom, whether imposed through policy/law or self-censorship, might contribute to students and faculty not seeing innovation and creativity as supported by their institutions or the government. Couple intellectual reticence as a result of censorship with hyper-focus on rote learning could easily establish habits of conformist thinking that reduces creative output.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Concrete evidence of outcomes persuades international students

Although applicable to all students, international students may be more focused on looking for evidence of outcomes when they choose the universities they attend. Megan Brenn-White advocates moving beyond lofty aspirations related to "high-quality teaching" and general references to lucrative careers. Specific percentages of students who securing employment related to their majors with international students broken out in detail is one example of the kind of evidence that international students and their families will find useful.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Are international students' preferences for study in the U.S.A. declining?

The U.S. association, National Association of College Admissions Counselors, is meeting and one of the areas of concern the members are exploring is the prospect of maintaining what has been a growing number of international students studying in the U.S.A. Those assembled identified concerns raised by prospective international students such as the cost of U.S. institutions, decline of government subsidies, visa restrictions, violence on campus and adjoining towns, and competition from better options emerging in their home countries. While these decision criteria may not have easy solutions, one concern about studying in the U.S.A. is unique to the 2016 race for the U.S. Presidency. International students have seen the political discourse and don't like what they see - xenophobia, vilification, and marginalization by the Trump campaign.

In addition to exploring prospective international students' concerns, the admission counselors revisited the stance they took at their last meeting allowing private placement agents to assist candidates in their admission transactions. Two new clauses were added to NACAC's Statement of Principles of Best Practice. The first recommends that paid recruitment staff disclose to prospects any institution that is compensating them. The second recommendation is that institutions offer to verify the agents they employ to represent them. The combination of these measures will at least offer more transparency about who is involved and what their motivations might be.

Friday, September 23, 2016

UNESCO report reveals corruption recruiting international students

Mel Broitman of the Center for International Higher Education reports on corruption in recruiting practices around the world but focuses on the example of Canada. He asserts that "It is overwhelmingly evident that in the last two decades we have witnessed first-hand a remarkable and callous disregard for academic ethics and standards in a scramble by Canadian universities and colleges to sign up foreign students, who represent tens of millions of dollars to their bottom lines." The applicability of this very sad indictment to many institutions and countries isn't the worst part of this picture; the impact of dashed hopes and undeveloped capacity on individual students, their families, and the countries who often fund their attendance is the greater tragedy.

UK fights negativity with #WeAreInternational

The negative impact on higher education of the Brexit vote was predicted by many educators. Now a unified effort across the UK higher education sector, begun by University of Sheffield's Students Union and then embraced by the university, fights back with clear messages about the value of international diversity at its institutions. Visit #WeAreInternational to see what's being done to preserve a precious educational resource - student diversity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Students protest proposed fee increases in South Africa

Higher education opportunity is valued in most regional or country environments where talent development is a key priority. However, funding is an inevitable and difficult question when quality is sought for a broader base of students. South Africa is struggling with its efforts to increase funding through fees charged to students but students are protesting the move, complaining that increased fees inordinately impact black students with low family incomes.

One of the questions about funding relates to the variation in means of students attending the same institution. The perspective taken by Teferra is that if a society has low economic variation such as Scandinavian countries, striving for no tuition or the same tuition across institutions may make sense. On the other hand, where economic means varies widely, providing free education to those with high means may direct resources to support a privileged segment of students that would have been better used in providing critical aid to those with lower means.

Many South African universities have suspended or postponed classes until after scheduled breaks in order to avoid the continuing protests about rising fees. The vice chancellor and principal of University of the Witwatersrand made a last-ditch effort to save the academic year by urging students and faculty to attend class amid enhanced security forces.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Supporting international students in "speaking up"

Andy Molinsky of Brandeis University, whose research and theory is on cultural dexterity, offers helpful advice for faculty on how to help international students cope with the expectation of class participation. It will not take much effort to see that his four points could also be useful in out of class settings; in fact, perhaps preparing international students for active participation through student organizations and events may be even easier and more effective, thus helping faculty achieve their goals as well. The four suggestions include:

  • Take time to learn about the challenges international students face
  • Empathize with the challenges
  • Explain why participation is so important to you and them
  • If participation is expected, provide training and support

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rankings - does teaching matter?

The quality of teaching in international higher education is included in two of the most prominent ranking systems but the question is the relative priority accorded to teaching in contrast to other issues such as research productivity and reputation. Inside Higher Education's blog post from the Center for International Higher Education indicates that the two major rankings (SJT and THE) place 20% and 30% weight respectively on teaching effectiveness. This post recognizes that assessment of teaching is difficult which may lead to even less impact of the teaching effectiveness measures but it notes that the new UK Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) offers a way to enhance the importance placed on teaching throughout UK institutions. The only problem with the TEF is that some believe that the TEF measurement will actually show that institutions with lesser reputations do a better job in teaching, a finding which the blog post indicates should not be a surprise.

The challenge of assessing outcome and impact is difficult but it is essential if quality in higher education is to be broadly achieved. Understanding what is ultimately valued in students' learning and then finding effective ways measure it is addressed in general in Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education in the chapter on Assessment, Evaluation and Research.

International students sue Alabama State University

Report that 37 Nigerian students sued Alabama State University for not releasing funds paid to the university for the students' expenses reflects deeper concerns than the relationships with the Nigerian government and the students bringing the lawsuit. The Nigerian government paid the university for tuition, fees, and other expenses, including on-campus residence. The students allege that the fees were inflated in comparison to domestic students and that the services were inferior. The professor who was instrumental in bringing the students to Alabama State reports that he now regrets having encouraged them.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Access to education - essential and progressive

Most educators and governmental policy makers realize that increasing access to education not only results in individual personal development and prosperity but also contributes to the public good by improving the quantity and quality of talent required to grow economies. The latest OECD Education at a Glance 2016 report provides comparative information that helps participating countries measure their investment in education. The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are ambitious and are matched by the OECD strategy to measure progress - a clear indicator of the seriousness of this cross-border commitment.

A study from Cambridge University of 35 countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa provides another source  of data on progress in education. This study indicated that being poor and/or female results in lower access in many of these developing countries, a condition that some believe must first be addressed by improving primary and secondary education access.

Monday, September 12, 2016

School and university partnerships in the UK

Strings are being attached to the rising cost of higher education in the UK. In addition to the new outcomes assessment focus advocated by government leaders, universities are now encouraged to establish more direct school and university partnerships. The article mentions that approximately 50% already have these relationships but linking funding increases to school-university collaboration may result in both more and deeper work.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Branch campuses - how they go wrong

An article in the New Republic on Crazy College of Qatar is a great example of how branch campus efforts go wrong. Whether the article is fair or not isn't the point; the point is that the way the "Crazy College of Qatar" (the nickname given to the Community College of Qatar by those in Qatar) so graphically demonstrates how not to pursue internationalization:
  • Start with the sponsoring/donor institution (Houston Community College) primarily being motivated by economic gain and enhancing its own reputation.
  • Couple it with a weak and quickly endorsed agreement.
  • Add to that unrealistic expectations on the part of both the host and donor, and
  • Extravagant spending that added little value to the initiative, and
  • Top it all off with assigning academics with little awareness of their privilege and even lower motivation to learn and pursue a mutual journey.
These factors are a recipe for failure and Houston Community College called it quits earlier this year, walking away with only a consulting relationship with Community College of Qatar, little in revenue, and even less in relation to reputational benefit.

Innovation Partnerships in the new Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (Roberts/Komives, 2016) offers recommendations on how to build positive and mutually beneficial partnerships for internationalization.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Assessing higher education outcomes in the UK

Increasing the focus on outcomes assessment in UK higher education has been controversial. Nevertheless, a variety of new strategies are rolling out through a number of institutions now and in the coming year. Elizabeth Redden summarizes these initiatives, one of which will be (2017) the first full implementation of the Teaching Excellence Framework. TEF "will be benchmarked to take into account different institutions' student characteristics and subject mixtures: 1) data on satisfaction in teaching drawn from the National Student Survey, 2) retention rates and 3) rates of employment or continuing study six months after graduation drawn from the national Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey." The increased focus on documenting outcomes has emerged as UK institutions have shifted from government support to private pay; the implication of achieving high performance outcomes is that the government may tie an institution's ability to raise tuition to its performance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Tents of love" provided for China's "One-child" generation students

It's hard to comprehend the angst of parents who would sleep in a tent in order to make sure their only child successfully makes the transition to university study. However, sending your only child off has much deeper ramifications than most educators in the west would understand. The phenomenon of the "one child" generation is addressed by Johnston Wong of Bejing Normal University Hong Kong Baptist University United International College in Zhuhai, China, in chapter 4 of Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education titled "Adversity training for Chinese university students."

World higher education rankings - US tops, Asia growing, and UK declines

The world higher education rankings are out and interpretation has begun. For the UK, the news is not good. Thirty-eight of the forty-eight higher education institutions in the UK which have been in the top 400 declined in ranking. The US holds the top 3 positions as well as being complemented with a 47%  increase in the rankings among its 78 institutions in the top 400. Asian countries, with growing focus on capacity building, are gaining in their rank with 68% of their 74 institutions improving their relative position. Post-Brexit uncertainty and questions about long-term funding are blamed for the decline in UK rankings.

Singapore's push to learn from others

Singapore has advanced on the world scene by looking beyond its borders for best practices, a habit that will keep them on the innovation edge of higher education. Phil Altbach reflects on his interaction with Singapore's Ministry of Education which seeks to balance workforce preparation with other intellectual habits that have been found to be important in broader educational efforts. He said, "While the ambitious SkillsFuture push in Singapore includes a focus on equipping workers with the right skills for jobs, it also contains a philosophical dimension of getting Singaporeans to think of learning as a personal endeavor."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Enhancing student learning and development - new resource

Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education, Vol. 175 of the New Directions for Higher Education series is now available in print and digital versions. The book provides essential background to inform international higher education faculty, administrators, policy makers, and funders about the research and theorizing around enhancing student learning and development as well as the contribution student affairs educators make on campuses throughout the world.

Susan Komives and I served as the editors for this book and the contributing authors are experienced educators from around the world. Each chapter advocates carefully adapting practices so that they make sense for many different cultures and environments. The link above provides a preview and print/digital copies can be ordered from the site.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development... will be helpful for a variety of readers. It can be of help as institutions reflect on their comprehensive internationalization strategy. It will help those in emerging higher education centers construct ways to make sure students fully benefit from their experience. It should also be useful to graduate program faculty seeking to introduce new professionals and graduate students to critical issues in internationalization.

Susan, our contributing authors, and my most sincere desire is that this book will help those who know how powerful the student experience can be but lack the understanding of what can be done to make it better. With the tools provided in the text, student learning and development around the globe can be enhanced in ways that will transform education and the societies that see education as the gateway to peace and prosperity.