Monday, July 31, 2017

China imposes cultural expectations in higher education

As China's higher education institutions continue to rise in international rankings and the number of international students attending university in China now ranks #4 in the world, the government reiterates that party cultural/political expectations are still required. The view that Chinese higher education must adhere to cultural/political expectations has been reiterated in previous actions but the recent statement that "higher education must make foreign students aware of 'Chinese law and regulations, school regulations, national spirit and school spirit, traditional Chinese culture and customs and other elements in its education content'" makes it clear - anyone who studies in China must conform to the cultural expectations of the country. In addition, traditions other than those celebrated as part of Chinese culture are prohibited.

The interesting question is in what ways would dissent from Congress of Party Leaders edicts be a threat to China? The answer is - in many ways. Restrictions on cultural and political activity are a way of controlling the liberalizing effect of higher education that has been evident in many countries throughout the world. Indeed, the fear of this liberalizing effect among political conservatives in the U.S. reflects the same skepticism. The threat, perceived and probably real, is that independence of thought, critical thinking, and willingness to act on one's convictions is often an outcome of attending university. These traits are highly sought for their impact in advancing science, innovation, and creativity but they are inconvenient for governments that seek to maintain control of their citizens.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Advising international students on higher education choice

A new study of international students who attended high school in the U.S.A. revealed that counselors need help. The needs range from speaking with international students with poor English skills to how to deal with 3rd party agents, a practice used by 75% international students (90% in private schools) when they apply to U.S. colleges/universities.

At the core of the question of advising international students on where to study is fit. A recent U.S. News Report article indicates that the primary fit areas are; the academic programs available, the extra/cocurricular environment, affordability, and the degree to which students can count on reaching their career objectives.

As an editorial comment, what are high schools doing whose international students speak such poor English that counselors can't work with them? Not a good statement...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Academic talent for hire?

In the face of the U.K.'s "Brexit" vote and the perceptions that the Trump Presidency will negatively impact higher education and research support, some countries are throwing out the welcome mat and offering significant packages. The U.K. is defending its research position and Canada, France, and Germany have established new funding sources to lure U.S. researchers to their countries. Canada's initiative was reportedly stimulated by inquiries from U.S. researchers who have expressed interest in relocating.

It remains to be seen how successful the funding strategy will be to encourage academic relocations. Some faculty in the countries offering the research packages have raised questions about targeting only international faculty as well as the fact that the grants are to individuals, which neglects to support the critical importance of collaborative research.

Regardless of the impact, the message is clear - academics are nervous about the Trump Presidency and other countries intend to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Economic mobility and college attendance

The rationale for governmental and personal investment in higher education attendance are many and are widespread especially in the growing international higher education institutions across the world. Fostering talent and improving employment prospects are often noted by governments as reasons they support higher education attendance. Tied to talent development and employment is ultimately economic benefit for the country as well as individual students.

A report of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Research found that college attendance varies widely across socio-economic status (SES), which is commonly assumed to be true. The report also confirmed that higher SES families' children are 77 times more likely to attend Ivy League colleges, recognized by many as one of the primary ways that SES privilege is perpetuated across generations. However, there are also benefits to low and middle SES families and students. For example, those from lower SES families who attend elite universities receive similar economic earnings increases to those of higher SES families.

One of the most significant findings of the report was that potential future earnings vary widely across types of institutions. Specifically, the bottom to top SES movement of students is most likely to increase at certain mid-tier public universities, noting particularly the California state college system and the City University of New York.

The findings of this study may not be replicable across countries but the economic benefit to students and families should certainly be considered when governments invest in higher education opportunity for young people. If the greatest benefit for all is the goal, the U.S. experience would suggest that investment in quality mid-tier public universities is the way to go.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On-line education opportunity for refugees

In a unique initiative designed to help one of the communities most at risk, Southern New Hampshire University has been offering on-line learning to refugee communities. Recent gifts to the university will serve as demonstration initiatives to assess the potential of offering programs in other countries; Kenya, Lebanon, and two other countries yet to be chosen are included in the next phase. SNHU has been a leader in on-line and competency-based education, both of which could be perfectly aligned to serve refugee groups.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trump proposals will make U.S.A. less attractive for international students and entrepreneurs

Continuing to act on statements he made during his campaign, President Trump is moving to make it harder to get into as well as stay in the U.S.A. for study and work. The first proposal would require international students to apply every year for a study visa rather than applying once for the full period of study. Increasing the bureaucratic hassle as well as increasing uncertainty from year to year is likely to discourage some international applicants, a "serious concern" raised by twelve higher education associations who have registered opposition to the new requirement.

In a second action, Trump administration officials have determined to rescind a provision that would "allow international entrepreneurs who have 'demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation that would provide a significant public benefit to the United States' to stay in the U.S. for a renewable 30-month term."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Yield from offer of admission to attendance varies for international students in U.S.

July is the time of year when all those involved in recruitment/admission in U.S. institutions are watching yield - the percentage of those admitted who are accepting the opportunity to attend. The latest survey results of Institute of International Education and graduate deans indicate that there is only a small decline in the anticipated number of international students who will attend U.S. institutions this fall. However, the degree of decline is very different in some areas of the country - most notably the southern U.S. While not conclusive, the suspected causes of the decline in southern universities include; fears regarding safety from violence, challenges of obtaining study visas, and hostile climate for internationals.

The article summarizing the projected yields and enrollments for Fall of 2017 indicated that international students are increasingly cautious about their choices and that they study all available information before making their decision. The impact of public statements seen as reflecting anti-internationalist views are considered and it appears international students choose to avoid places where these dynamics are perceived most prevalent.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Value of intercultural relationships

It's common for educators to laud the benefits of intercultural relationships in workplaces but Columbia University and other researchers have identified an added benefit - they contribute to creativity and innovation.

"People who had deep connections with someone from another culture experience growth in creativity - but this creative boost does not occur when people only have shallow connections with people from other cultures," said Adam Galinsky, Chair of the Management Division at Columbia Business School. In addition, he commented, "For example, we have consistently found that people who have lived abroad have an increase in creativity, but that travel abroad has very little effect. The deeper your connection, the deeper your understanding of this other culture, and the more creative you're going to become."

The full findings will be published in Journal of Applied Psychology at a future date.

Attracting international researchers

In the face of uncertainty regarding international student numbers, some institutions and countries are turning to attract international researchers to move across borders. The U.K., Canada, and France are at the head of the line, offering handsome grants to attract researchers to relocate within their universities. The French government's initiative, Make Our Planet Great Again, takes an obvious jab at U.S. President Trump's mantra, a mantra that has sent a chilling message around the world regarding mobility across borders.