Tuesday, October 31, 2017

France invests in higher education

France has committed to investing 1 billion Euro in higher education. The investment will include increasing seats in popular academic programs and as many as 60,000 new spots in student residences. The move is designed to increase student success and graduation rates.

I traveled in France, Luxembourg, and Germany in the fall of 2005 to compare practices in supporting students in these three countries. What's interesting is that the model for residence halls at that time was primarily one of comfortable accommodation with little understanding that providing residence halls could impact retention. When I inquired about retention rates, those I met indicated that they did not know and, further, their institutions did not track these numbers. Some of the institutions provided very interesting cross-cultural programming that looked much like what was being done in the U.S.; in many ways it was better because it was often connected with academic programs.

The lesson is that sometimes organic approaches to student development emerge (in international settings) without the explicit attention to research and theorizing. I wonder if France will begin to put implicit good practice together with more explicit attention, thus yielding improved retention and learning outcomes in the coming years.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Studying in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Few students from the U.S. and Europe study in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The reasons are many and include everything from language to fear of security. In reality, higher education opportunity in MENA is widespread, growing, and offers one of the most important cross-cultural experiences a student could find anywhere. An article about higher education in Morocco recounts ways that faculty, staff, and students can begin to explore educational opportunity in the MENA region and provides evidence why it would be useful.

I can recall to this day all the comments I heard from colleagues when I moved to Qatar. "Will you be safe?" "How will you deal with the prohibitions of Islamic law and culture?" These and other questions reflected little more than stereotypes held by westerners about the people and culture of the MENA region. The bottom line was that I was probably safer in Qatar than I am in the U.S. and I learned what I could and couldn't do and respected the culture of the host country. It took some effort to adapt and, certainly, I often found myself out of my comfort zone. Could there have been a better learning opportunity - doubtful I could have found anything better and I hope others will consider it in the coming years.

Dining in America

Written to acknowledge the importance of adapting menus at U.S. universities to accommodate international tastes, Anayat Durrani provides examples of how campuses are diversifying their menus. The added benefits are that she encourages international students to be active in expressing their needs, all students have the opportunity to expand their palates, and "comfort" foods from international students' home countries can go a long way toward creating a sense of belonging. This is a simple idea that some educators may see as coddling but adopting international perspectives in the dining hall can even be part of an institution's internationalization strategies.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Talent Pipeline Management - business and education partnership

Adding to the continuing conversation related to how education can more strategically align with businesses and communities, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched the Talent Pipeline Management Academy. The TPM applies concepts derived from supply chain management to the process of talent development through education. The ultimate end of the supply chain in TPM is workers prepared for their workplaces as defined by employers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Testing international students

Access, fraud, and fairness of comparison are all dynamics that compromise testing of international students. The National (U.S.) Association of College Admission Counseling is proposing that admissions officials should rely less on the tests and look at other criteria for admission. In the face of declining international enrollment, perhaps tests should be seen less as hurdles to clear than diagnostics to help place and support international (and all) students in their pursuit of learning.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

STEM Grad programs dominated by international students

The presence of international students isn't only useful but essential in many STEM graduate programs in the U.S.A. With 81% international enrollment in electrical and petroleum engineering and 79% in computer science, many programs could not exist if it were not for international students. The report, compiling data from 1995 to 2015, also concluded that international student enrollment has no impact on the number of domestic students in these programs. The issue is that domestic numbers have increased but at a much slower pace than for international students.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Higher education in Hungary under attack

Internationalization of higher education is inevitable if an institution or nation wishes to remain at the center of the advancement of knowledge. Yet, various versions of conservative and nationalistic backlash against internationalization have resulted in higher education being attacked by government officials. Hungary is one European country to follow carefully due to its earlier successes with student mobility and other forms of internationalization. Most of the advances are now being undermined. One can only hope that other countries do not go as far to punish and marginalize higher education for helping to bring citizens into the reality of a connected and cross-border world.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) inverts educational transfer

In its reported first of its kind initiative, Washington University (U.S.A.) AND Tsinghua University (China) have opened a joint university about 10 minutes from WU's Bellevue location.  The programs are starting small, with 43 students in the entry 15-month master of science in technology and innovation program. Generously supported by a 40 million dollar grant from Microsoft, the idea appears to have considerable appeal for learners (the term used instead of students), institutions, industry, and cross-national partners.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Linguistically inclusive student experiences

With the growing diversity of languages that Americans speak as well as the diversity of languages spoken at many campuses around the world, it's important to understand the privilege those who command English as their first language have over other students. Most U.S. colleges/universities conduct instruction in English and many international institutions offer a portion if not all of their instruction in English. The reason - English has emerged as the dominant language of academia.

Engaging in or out of class in a language that is not your first, or most proficient, language is challenging. Yet, many students are willing to take it on because they value the degree, with most subjects including reading, lectures, and discussion all in English. This is a type of privilege that is not readily recognized by those who are first-language English speakers.

A doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts, Florianne Jimenez, offers wise advice on how to modify classrooms so that they are inclusive of students who speak many languages. She makes the point that, although faculty may perceive that discussions in class are open and inviting, they are intimidating to multilingual students. Starting discussion with something students wrote, slowing the pace by writing something on the board, or asking students to reflect for a moment, are all ways to provide space for all students to participate. When it comes to grading written assignments, faculty should focus on what they understand from a student's writing rather than the grammar, punctuation, and other problems.

Linguistic inclusion is also important outside of class and student affairs staff could adapt Jimenez' advice by slowing down discussions in student organizations, encouraging students to actually express in their first language, or simply slowing down enough to listen carefully so the perspective of others is really understood.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

U.K. conservative pushes for increased higher education access

In a move to influence conservative U.K. politicians, Nick Hillman, a conservative himself, published A New Blue Book that advocates 70% attendance of young people in British universities. The reasoning includes the decline of incoming highly educated talent resulting from Brexit, increases in life expectancy of Brits, and a shift in workforce needs requiring more highly educated workers. Recognizing the push-back by conservatives when Tony Blair advocated 50% attendance, Hillman indicated, "at its worst, right-wing politics can sink into a 'them and us' attitude." Constructing the argument as a win-lose proposition is not unlike the political struggles in other countries, a sad reality that undermines the shared need of most countries for a more highly educated talent pool in a rapidly changing 21st century environment.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Higher education - preparing for work or life?

One of the common debates in U.S. higher education is whether attending university should be primarily about preparing for work or life. I've always believed this was a false dichotomy that needed to be challenged. Gloria Cordes Larson, President of Bentley University, apparently addresses this in her book, PreparedU: How Innovative Colleges Drive Student Success. Inside Higher Education's report of conversation with Larson included her saying, "A business graduate, for example, needs to know the technical skills of their discipline, but that is no longer enough on its own. Critical thinking, complex problem solving, empathy, creativity and communication skills are all necessary in today's work environment."

Liberal or general education courses that cultivate the hard (they are not "soft" as some would suggest) skills of complex critical thinking, problem solving, etc. are necessary for graduates in most degree programs and the liberal arts contribute essential perspectives. Student affairs, with its focus on students' experience, also has much to offer. Acquiring these essential skills/perspectives will improve both the quality of life and workplace performance.

Monday, October 2, 2017

What top Chinese and U.S. universities share

Recent analyses of the financial resources and trends in funding China's top universities indicates that China and the U.S. share many commonalities. Both the sources of funding and size of institutional budgets are generally in line with each other. The question is if China's aspiration to overtake U.S. and other western countries in higher education outcomes are realistic if the comparative circumstances of its institutions are roughly parallel. Perhaps the claim that Chinese superiority is eminent is overestimated.

Study abroad linked to job skills

The Institute for International Education's latest survey of students who studied abroad confirmed the link between their experience and important job skills and offers of employment. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed reported that study abroad was discussed in job interviews and 53% said that they believed an offer of employment was related to the experience and skills/insights they gained.

Determining the benefits of international exposure is important to building support for these experiences. The documentation that the "majority of students (more than 70 percent) reported that studying abroad helped them, to a significant degree, to develop intercultural skills, flexibility/adaptability, self-awareness, curiosity and confidence" justifies a claim to victory and also points the way to the need for more research.