Friday, December 30, 2016

Racing to capture international student revenue

Hans DeWitt weighed in on the growing international student market, numbering 5 million at present and expected to reach 8 million within another decade. The numbers indicate an obvious motivation for many institutions -revenue. DeWitt's brief summary links to several other reports on international student trends and concludes with the admonition that "the priorities must be the best interests of the students, the quality of education, and a commitment to the public good. Any other approach is neither sustainable nor wise."

Inside Higher Education cited a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicating that public funding cuts in the U.S.A. are in direct proportion to increases in international student enrollment. The report said, "A very small number of universities have a capacity to draw in sizable numbers of domestic out-of-state students" which leads to the largest international student increases unfolding at institutions that primarily serve in-state students.

When public institutions admit privileged international students who have the ability to pay high fees, they may be creating another level of classism on campus. An expectation of special treatment may accompany the higher socio-economic status of some international students, a dynamic that may further divide students among themselves.

Increasing the number of international students should be considered not only for its economic impact in balancing budgets but also for the impact that these increasing numbers can have on campus culture and learning.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The future of work

One of the challenges higher education decision makers face is managing the balance of learning for the sake of learning and preparation for work. The tension is greatest in settings and countries where the very nature of work, and qualifications for it, are shifting. Art Bilger, a venture capitalist and founder of WorkingNation, predicts that 47% of the current jobs in the U.S.A. at all levels will disappear within 25 years. What will be required to deal with such a massive change?

Bryon Grisby, President of Moravian College, proposes that colleges and universities need to do a better job of helping students find their calling in life - their vocation. He does not dispute the value of learning for its own sake but says that "Liberal arts institutions can no longer stand pat with traditional models alone. They must start to embrace career exploration, technology and professional programs."

Both of these authors are based in the U.S.A. so their predictions should be understood in that context. However, as western higher education practices are adopted and as economies develop around the world, the nature of work and how citizens prepare themselves for it in the 21st century must be carefully analyzed.

Those who work in student affairs and services can offer great insight for decision makers by calling attention to the fact that student learning outside of class has significant merit when purposefully related to inside class learning. The out of class environment is where students often find their calling and where they are free to experiment in ways that will allow them to find the work worth doing. This experimentation may also open students' eyes to where work is moving, something that educators miss.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A new message - It's not the apocalypse

The Electoral College has now confirmed Donald Trump as President-Elect of the U.S.A. That leaves both those who supported his run and those who opposed him with the question of what to do now? The apocalyptic predictions of increased overt acts of hostility based on race, sex, sexual orientation, immigration status, and other identities in higher education were a concern for many faculty, staff, and students. And, there have been disturbing reports that hostility has increased which could make the U.S.A. in general and higher education in specific a place where internationalization of any type (i.e. study abroad, international students studying in the U.S.A., curriculum integration) is at risk.

In a period of history where social media is so pervasive and where "news" reports often make it difficult to figure out who to believe, one stance educators could take is to renormalize the way we think about and portray each other's actions. The #WeAreInternational movement begun by students in the post-Brexit aftermath is a great example of renormalization.

David Haney writes in "An Unhealthy Bubble" that apocalyptic predictions contributed to the negative environment and now educators need to move on. He says, "we need to provide a diverse and inclusive environment that challenges students both to get out of their filter bubbles and to recognize the violence implicit in living inside a bubble." He also suggests that the opportunity going forward is for citizens and educators to recognize that "...peace is achieved not through the voter's assertion of the priority of individual choice, but rather by acknowledging the infinity of the other person -- someone who has an existence we should respect beyond the categories we are tempted to impose."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

UK universities anticipate declines

As many higher education officials predicted, the number of faculty, staff, and students who see the UK as a good place to teach, research, and study is declining. The House of Commons Education Committee requested reports from higher education sector officials about the impact of the Brexit vote; they received 190 responses which were best captured by a paper submitted by three pro vice chancellors from Cambridge who said that universities are on a 'cliff edge' of "regulatory and visa changes" that are likely to "have a sudden and damaging impact."

Some institutions have already seen faculty and post-docs offers rejected. Others report lower EU student applications and acceptance rates. By contrast to what was predicted, data released by indicated that applications to universities in the U.K. remained steady. The impact of the falling value of the British Sterling currency could also help maintain enrollment of EU institutions, although the full impact of currency changes coupled with potential restrictions on study visas left an uncertain picture.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Internationalization in the curriculum

Dr. Ming Cheng asserts that internationalization of the curriculum is not working. She says, "It is high time that Western universities took concerted action to support students and academic staff to increase their intercultural awareness, for example, by increasing the quality of student learning through developing programs that are attractive to students from cultural backgrounds."

Cheng proposes that one of the key issues in failed internationalization is that Western models dominate what is taught in the classroom. This dominance goes unchallenged because many Western-trained academics do not realize how their views of the world are subjective, and privileged, in the process of learning. An issue that is not included in Cheng's analysis is that much of student learning is acquired outside of class, thus requiring concerted focus on learning that takes place throughout students' experiences.

In order to address student learning and development in substantive ways, students must be approached holistically and educational practice must be examined critically. Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education provides an introduction on how educators might begin this transformation process.

Saudi Arabia student numbers in U.S. fall by 19.9%

As predicted, the number of students studying in the U.S.A. from Saudia Arabia fell by 19.9% from November 2015 to 2016. Changes in policy in Saudi Arabia were credited with the drop. Perhaps there are other issues that should be considered as well - such as climate for Saudi Arabian students on college campuses, perceived return on investment, and the emerging overall political environment in the U.S.A.

Ideological focus reinforced by China's President Xi

The central importance of ideological education in Chinese higher education has been reiterated in recent years. President Xi Jimping recently asserted that "Ideological and political work is fundamentally work about individuals. The work must focus on students, caring for them, serving them, and helping them improve in ideological quality, political awareness, moral characteristics and humanistic quality to enable them to develop both ability and integrity."

Understanding what President Xi and Communist Part of China (CPC) leaders mean when they advocate for intensified ideological focus in higher education is important for institutions around the world who host Chinese international students as well as institutions/countries that now have, or are considering,  partnered programs in China. An important implication of the focus on ideology is that higher education is perceived to have a major responsibility in developing the leaders for the future in the socialist cause.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Duty to Protect higher education

As most educators would assert, higher education is a crucial resource to advance society and build capacity whether in the local community, a state, or region. Not only is higher education a resources to nurture but it is one to protect. The duty to protect higher education is outlined in a report calling for states to take the necessary steps to make sure that institutions are safe in times of political strife and potential persecution.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Do admission representatives cross the line?

In the highly lucrative international student market, the line between admission advice versus exploitation is pretty narrow. One of the specific questions raised in a Reuters article was the propriety of college admission staff accepting travel perks to go to China to advise Chinese students on the application processes for U.S. institutions. The article claims that the "advice" in some cases went as far as guidance on admission essay applications.

Dipont Education Management Group, whose focus is helping Chinese students gain access to higher education in the U.S., responded to criticism by joining a research initiative to assess the degree of fraud involved in Chinese student applications. Dipont later withdrew from participation in the fraud study and the future of the project was not clear.

There are a variety of ethical concerns that come to mind:

  1. When does providing privileged or inside information to a prospective student bias the selection process in favor of those who can afford to buy the assistance?
  2. If students gain admission to an institution where their true credentials don't really qualify them, is that really a help?
  3. Does a "pay to play" scheme in gaining admission to preferred institutions benefit the institution or students? Who is the commodity under these circumstances and should either the institution or student be placed in this position?
In order to maintain the integrity of higher education, these and many other questions should be considered carefully.