Friday, December 21, 2018

Scholarship restrictions in China and Human Rights Watch Code of Conduct

Four examples of the increased intervention by Communist Party officials in higher education in China have recently been identified. The first came in the form of restrictions on academic journals. Taylor & Francis announced that 84 or their 1,466 journals will no longer be available through libraries in China. The move by China officials to restrict certain journals is the result of articles being published in some to which the government objects. The second example is the censorship of a proposed issue of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China; in this case, Wong and Edmund, both professors in New Zealand, found that their lead essay had been significantly edited and another article entirely deleted. The third example is of the dismissal of a law professor who had criticized the Chinese Communist Party leadership. The fourth example is much bigger - the Uighur Human Rights Project asserts that 386 academics, artists, and other intellectuals are now in concentration camps. Magnus Fiskeshi indicates that "China can no longer be regarded as an authoritarian country that is perhaps moving in the right direction. No, we are witnessing a monstrous mass assault on human dignity. It is an intentional, well-planned, multi-pronged genocide, targeting the dignity of whole peoples and cultures..."

Human Rights Watch has issued a 12 point Code of Conduct that it recommends to higher education institutions. The Code is designed to reduce the opportunities for Chinese government intervention that restricts academic freedom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Confucius Institutes continue to close

At least fifteen U.S. universities have chosen to close their Confucius Institutes as of May 1, 2019. In the cases of Rhode Island and Indiana University, closing their Confucius Institute was reported to be a move to protect Defense Department funding. The University of Missouri closed its Confucius Institute due to visa concerns raised by the U.S. State Department. Two U.S. governmental reports question who actually controls the Institutes, raising particular concern about the requirement of an Assistant Director who is Chinese. The continued closure of Confucius Institutes reflects increasing suspicion and isolation related to both restriction of academic freedom as well as a defense agains intellectual theft.

By contrast, after significant study of its Confucius Institute, Tufts University has committed to continuing its partnership for at least another 2 years.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Australian universities fear vulnerability re: international enrollment

Many Australian universities, including the most elite, have grown their international enrollment in recent years. The increased enrollment has even resulted in proposals to encourage students to study outside of urban areas such as Sydney. This has been great for budgets but some higher education officials are concerned that a) quality standards may have been compromised and b) institutions have become too dependent on international students to balance their budgets.

The questions being raised in Australia are echoed throughout the world, even if to a lesser degree. If growing international student numbers in the higher education context is primarily about business and money, shouldn't these institutions be treated as "for profit" at least in relation to international enrollment? And, shouldn't these institutions be evaluated and compared on business metrics such as international student satisfaction, retention/graduation, and return on investment (assurance of jobs when degrees are completed)? If the driver is money, then the judgment related to product quality should be transparent and readily available to customers (i.e. students/families).

Preparing students for jobs that don't exist

Many higher education institutions are ambivalent about expectations that they should prepare students for jobs. Faculty, in particular, bristle at the idea and expound about the broad life-preparation that they see as central to their teaching.

The fact is, the world is changing so rapidly that it's impossible to prepare current students for jobs that will emerge even in the next decade. Particularly when appealing to international students from countries where higher education opportunity is just emerging, institutions have little choice but to begin to address the job/career preparation expectations that students and family have. But the key is to portray preparation for career in a realistic way and one that encourages students to take full advantage of what universities have to offer.

Some ways that universities are addressing career preparation include; don't even try to match degrees with jobs, offer and portray higher education as more continuous and flexible, offer more experiential learning (i.e. internships and work opportunities), and integrate work-like projects into course offerings (i.e. inquiry learning).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Student Affairs work in the UK

A U.S. student raised several questions about pursuing a career in student affairs in the U.K. Each question is answered in a series of audio clips - Emelie Helsen's advice is interesting and thoughtful.

Emelie indicated (in clip responding to question #1) that one of the distinguishing factors in regard to residential experience is that residential life is better at institutions that are less prestigious, which is the case in many U.S. institutions as well. The idea is that those that are less prestigious are motivated to attract and hold students where those with greatest prestige don't need to compete in the same way.

The importance of student-driven participation is addressed in the response to question #2, an issue that many U.S. institutions could benefit from considering. The key point is that the U.K. tends to not centralize "student affairs" in administrative units, as is typical in the U.S. The lack of centralization may relate to the fact that student affairs is a newer and more novel idea in the U.K. but perhaps those in higher education in the U.K. may have determined that bureaucracy is not helpful to the support and enhancement of students' learning experience.

The bottom line of Emelie Helsen's reflections are that 1) there are opportunities for U.S. expatriates to work in student affairs roles but that 2) the campus experiences is quite different between the two countries, 3) the work-life balance is much more comfortable in the U.K., and 4) the focus on professional degrees and the tendency to focus on "fluff" or feel-good experiences is much lower.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Central European University leaving Hungary

Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, was conceived as "a graduate-only institution focused on the social sciences, humanities and law" that would be "an international university that would help facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union." It has garnered high regard by scholars due to the quality of its faculty and success in attracting grant funding; it is also considered as a United States entity, although there is no campus or program in the United States.

The lack of having a home in the U.S., although it is U.S. accredited, violates a term imposed by the Hungarian government for a branch campus. Advocates for CEU claim that the Hungarian stipulation was deliberately designed by an increasingly conservative government to force CEU out of Hungary.

After several years of attempts to remain in Hungary, CEU is moving to Vienna, Austria in 2019.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Brazil - Intellectual and ideological exchange

Many institutions of higher education have advocated that cultivation of the intellect establishes a critical foundation for citizenship. Brazil serves as an important reminder that intellectual and ideological exchange is central to any society and Marcelo Knobel reinforces this idea in his essay, "In defense of academic freedom and Autonomy in Brazil."

Knobel writes, "It is important to emphasize that respectful coexistence is an indispensable condition for universities to fulfill their mission of generating knowledge and training citizens in diverse areas. Infusing the academic environment with anti-democratic and hostile attitudes compromises not only the institution's primary mission, but its relationship with society, which is ultimately the main guarantor of its activities."

Writing in a very real context where abridgment of intellectual inquiry may have been at risk, Knobel reminds educators world-wide of the importance of our work and the mutual dependence of government and university leaders. Brazil is only one example where intellectual and ideological exchange has become difficult; Knobel's transparency and advice may help those struggling in many places around the world.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Internationalist - you bet!

I'm an internationalist and proud of it. In an era of fear-mongering among cultures and nations, closing borders, and vilification of those who are different, it's important to own who I have become and to proclaim it now and every day that lies ahead.

Why the proclamation today? It's the end of the 2018 International Education Week observance on many campuses - a week filled with activities, lectures, and events to reinforce the value of internationalism on campus. It's great to have this week but having one week dedicated to internationalism is no longer sufficient - building bridges and striving for mutual international benefit must become a daily commitment.

As a youth growing up in the 1960s I had no passport. I fantasized about international travel, but never really saw any kind of global connection as possible or important. My passport was first issued in 2005 when I taught a course and did research in Europe for a semester. That short-term experience led to my accepting an appointment to work abroad in Qatar from 2007-14, an experience that would forever change who I am. I've changed in many ways. Every human encounter I now have begins with the question of "how might culture impact our ability to relate to one another?" My inclination to believe that my culture and national origin are superior to others has vanished - I now see value in my own as well as many others. I anticipate kindness, openness, and help from others rather than fearing encounters with people who look different or speak a different language than I do. I seek ways to foster mutual benefit - among individuals, groups, organizations, cultures, and countries.

I recently coedited a book with one of the most able internationalists I know - Dr. Darbi Roberts. This book, Cultivating Students' Capacity for International Leadership, is short and focused on the essentials that leadership educators must consider if they are to serve their students well. Serving well means positioning internationalization as a challenge but also as a promising reality that, when embraced, will create a better world.

I'm an internationalist today and every day. As this 2018 International Education Week comes to a close, I hope many more will adopt a view that invites international questions and concerns into the activities and considerations of every day - not just one week.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Academic restraint v. innovation

Reports of Communist Party influence in higher education in China have been increasing and some academics believe that they have reached an alarming level. Changes are evident in placement of Communist Part officials in important managerial roles and in targeting of U.S. and European academics whose research and writing is critical of China. Faculty in the Kean University in China branch campus have been moved from the university's payroll to direct employees of the government, a move that has raised concerns among the Kean Federation of Teachers.

The implications of these modifications were captured by Christopher Balding, a U.S. academic who lost his position at Peking University, when he opined "Academic freedom in China is clearly on the retreat... I have been told of other universities where the party has taken significantly more control and taken action against foreign or Chinese academics. The idea that the party is not pre-eminent in the management of a university is just false."

If the pattern of restraint is broad and persists, China's desire to compete at an international level is likely to falter. Specific to artificial intelligence (AI), Joshua Kim's review of AI Superpowers (Kai-Fu Lee, 2018) warns, "I was surprised that Lee seems untroubled by China's political system. Lee points out that China can mobilize large-scale investments in new technologies. What he fails to mention is the brittleness of a society that lacks basic individual freedoms of expression and dissent."

Intellectual freedom is essential to innovation. Although China is rising in influence due to the sheer proportion of its economy, U.S. ingenuity based on freedom and entrepreneurship may allow the U.S. to stay at the leading edge of AI and other critical future innovations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Student mobility updates

The latest figures from the Open Doors Report indicate that the number of international students enrolled in U.S. institutions has declined again. Chinese students still comprise the largest number with a slight increase but other countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea fell.

The implications of shifting international student enrollment has sparked a first - the University of Illinois has taken out an insurance policy against the risk of a decline in its Chinese student numbers. That says a lot about how much international students, and those specifically from China, impact the budgets of U.S. universities.

As international student numbers in the U.S. fall, the number of U.S. students going abroad is increasing. Studying abroad is now recognized by some students as a necessity rather than a educational luxury - this reinforces the need for institutions to make studying abroad achievable for all students, not just the privileged.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Less than desirable partners

Numerous U.S. and European universities have significant relationships with Saudi Arabia. Whether it's hosting fully funded Saudi students, partnerships/exchanges, or outright gifts, what's not to like?

The current crises over freedom of speech and the assassination of prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, has spurred institution leaders to contemplate whether or not to retain these lucrative arrangements. However, it's not all about money. Liz Reisberg reflects on the myriad factors that would weigh in favor of modifying or canceling agreements with Saudi Arabia. However, Reisberg's perspective should be weighed with the understanding that she, herself, has worked as a consultant to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education. Reisberg focused on reducing or cancelling arms sales and economic investment while leaving the door open for educational partnerships by saying, " is not possible for any country to withdraw entirely from our unavoidably globalized world. If we cancel academic engagement with a country, then we cede international interaction to economic, political and military interest. If there is any hope for mutual understanding, the protection of human rights, sustainable development and more evidence-based policy, I don't think it will happen without the participation of scholars and universities."

The balance advocated by Reisberg is complicated and challenging to maintain. In a subsequent statement, Reisberg noted that institutional internationalization policies should be in place so that spokespeople are not left adrift in a PR crisis such as occurred at Harvard and MIT when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited them. Ultimately, such a policy should include balancing the level of atrocity a university and its leaders can accept with the potential positive outcomes of maintaining a relationship that could make a difference in the longer term. The greatest complication with Saudi Arabia is that it has so many relationships with often prestigious universities and these relationships involve a great deal of money. Students at MIT, one of the institutions that has benefitted most, are increasingly urging the university to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, indicating that the reputation of the university could be irreparably tarnished if MIT continues to engage under the current cloud of concerns. The chief internationalization officer at MIT recommended that the relationship be maintained with Saudi Arabian educators and researchers, although protests from faculty and students continued. The rationale offered by Richard Lester was that, "We're not going to cut and run from these people even despite the atrocious actions that have been taken by the leadership of the country." As a result of the controversy, MIT's President Reif commissioned a study of how to move forward. The commission recommendations encouraged closer scrutiny which President Reif reiterated in commenting, "There are many progressive people that we want to engage with because it's helping the country, and how do we distinguish helping the people who want to help the country versus helping the regime?" Ultimately, MIT announced that it will more carefully scrutinize international "elevated risk" projects in which it is involved; China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are specifically identified.

Saudi Arabia isn't the only Middle Eastern country where links between U.S. and European universities may be suspect. Reports of academics in the UAE being charged for crimes related to their research or publications have also emerged. Although Mathew Hedges was ultimately pardoned, his case was troubling for the lack of apparent due process as well as very harsh sentence. The UAE has been less visible than Saudi Arabia but the conditions there may be deteriorating; this may pose risks for fieldwork and other research that is potentially political in its orientation.

When is a "branch" campus not a branch?

RMIT of Melbourne, Australia, has "branch" campuses in Viet Nam that faculty say aren't even close to what is provided in Australia. This is compelling evidence that a bate and switch has taken place, producing revenue to the main campus but without sufficient commitment to comparability of the experience for students, faculty and staff. If the financial model doesn't allow for students at all campuses to have a similar experience, then the satellites are not branches.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Talent and Innovation Hub for Chicago?

As another example of the growing presence of talent and innovation hubs around the world, a proposal is now being considered for Chicago. The Discovery Partners Institute would be placed on Chicago's south side and would include multiple higher education institutions in Illinois.

While the November election may determine if the DPI moves forward or not, it is significant that Chicago is viewed as a promising location for an entity that is increasingly becoming more common among the world's greatest cities.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Contrasts between elites and mainstream education

Anyone familiar with the difference between private colleges/universities and public institutions knows how different facilities may be. Furthermore, the elite institutions often seem packaged as separate enclaves with high fences and locked gates for those who were not able, or did not wish to pay, for the elitism.

When "bubble" institutions exist off-shore in branch programs/campuses, the difference between institutions can seem even more stark. Such is evidently the case at Yale-NUS and NUS (National University of Singapore) which have campuses side-by-side. This opinion piece is from a student who points out the struggle he faces in bridging the gap between these two institutions. To him, the Yale-NUS students are no different than NUS. Indeed, both are extraordinary institutions and why would there need to be any setting apart between the two? Are U.S. or European elite brands simply spreading and enhancing their reputations or do these partnerships serve the interest of the countries that host them and the students who attend them?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Financing higher education in India

Striving to expand opportunities to pursue higher education, India has created new institutions and enrollments are exploding. However, public funds to support the expansion are falling short of what is needed. The result is rising costs for students/families and other methods designed to generate revenues or reduce costs.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Innovation in on-line and seamless education

Reinforcing its reputation as one of the disruptors of higher education convention in the U.S., Southern New Hampshire University recently acquired LRNG, a Chicago-based non-profit focused on helping young people obtain jobs by involving them in game-based learning platforms.

Paul LeBlanc, SNHU's President, indicates that students will be able to earn digital badges through LRNG that can be applied toward a competency-based degree from SNHU's College of America program. College of America offers associate and bachelor's degrees based on direct assessment rather than accumulation of credit hours with a cost of only $5,000/year in tuition. The SNHU/LRNG rollout will occur in two locales (Chicago and Birmingham, Alabama) and considerations are underway to provide physical spaces to engage in face-to-face learning, perhaps through local libraries.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Proposal to set maximum period of stay for international students

Trump administration officials continue to spend their time dreaming up new ways to control international student enrollment in U.S. institutions. One proposal establishes specific visa period limits. This article closes with the caveat that the proposed new rules may never be implemented but the point is what message are prospective international students taking away from repeated scrutiny and persistence in clamping down on international students?

On the other hand, Trump officials will propose new rules for the lottery for the 85,000 H-1B visas that will give priority to international students who have received advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. Officials indicate that this could increase the likelihood of these internationals receiving the H-1B visa by as much as 15%. A White House meeting convened on March 8, 2019, "focused on international students and their ability to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation - their interest in doing so, the barriers they face and how they could be encouraged to stay." The fact that such a meeting was initiated shows promise and participants reported a positive and constructive atmosphere.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Political leanings of student affairs educators

A professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Samuel J. Abrams, first criticized what he believed to be a liberal political bias in programs offered outside of class and subsequently broadened his critique to other university administrators. As a way to explore why, he conducted a survey of  900 "student-facing" administrators across the country. His finding - 71% of them had either a liberal or very liberal political perspective. Abrams' research didn't explicitly connect his sample's political views with programs that they offer; he presumed that liberal bias would lead to more liberal inclinations in programs. Countering Abrams' assertion, Kevin Kruger, President of the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators, indicated that student affairs staff have a "strong desire to create 'an equal and open dialogue across ideologies'" and that these beliefs don't mean that the programs they offer are explicitly connected to a particular ideology.

Student affairs educators' philosophical perspectives originate from Dewey's "democratic education" approach and thus represent progressive and engaged learning. Considerable research on student learning over the last 100 years has documented that an experience-based and progressive approach that reinforces students' responsibility for their learning is most effective in preparing graduates for workplaces and service to their communities. This is not an ideological but a pedagogical concern.

I'm left wondering if Professor Abrams and others quoted in the article have attempted to look at the role of student affairs from an educational perspective rather than one that is political. Matthew C. Woesner, an associate professor at Penn State, wrote that "Even though faculty sometimes inject their politics into the classroom, administrators without an academic background don't always see the same need to balance viewpoints or inspire debate. Sometimes administrators aren't even aware of how insular their beliefs are." Woesner's comment reflects ignorance that student affairs educators are deeply informed of and utilize well established pedagogical practices in their work.

Dafina Lazarus-Stewart reinforced the points above in her response to the report of Abrams' research.

Russia strives for international rankings

Russia appears in media on a regular basis but not usually in recognition for its prominence in higher education. The fact is, in a connected and knowledge-based world, having excellent universities is a must. So, Russia has declared the Project 5/100 Project that strives for top 100 international ranking for five of its universities by 2020. Ararat Osipian raises question in an essay on the current state of Russia's best universities.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Chinese acquisition of U.S. institutions

Chinese entities are pursuing a number of strategies in order to expand educational opportunity. One approach has been to purchase existing U.S. institutions. The purchase of Westminster Choir College is one of the more recent, now being challenged through legal action of alumni, donors, and faculty.

Various tensions are evident in this and other examples of Chinese purchase of educational institutions. One tension driving the concerns of those employed by these institutions is survival; a possible outcome of not being purchased is that Westminster could cease to exist. But this prospect is one faculty/staff may be willing to face because of fear that academic freedom will be curtailed if the institution is owned by a Chinese entity.

Larry Livingston, interim President of the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, counters arguments that Westminster's character and academic freedom could be compromised saying, "I am excited about the opportunities this new relationship will create. There is no back story here. Kaiwen Education (the purchasing entity) deeply respects Westminster Choir College and is willing to help the school become even better, and more financially secure. It is in Kaiwen Education's interest for Westminster to remain the high-quality institution that it has been throughout its vaunted history, and for it to succeed."

Suspicion about China's involvement in U.S. institutions has been rising due to reports of theft of intellectual property. However, sweeping all partnerships into one category is likely a mistake. What many faculty/staff in U.S. institutions don't realize is that there are already many partnerships where foreign entities (including governmental) own parts of U.S. institutions. U.S. branch university programs are a prime example where governments are often the ultimate financial provider and owner of the facilities and operations taking place on foreign soil; in these cases the contractual agreement drives the critical aspects of academic freedom, independence in hiring decisions, granting of degrees, etc.

The Kaiwen Education purchase of Westminster Choir College may be one of the more interesting cases to follow. Westminster is a noted training institution of musicians for evangelical Christian churches. An agreement to maintain Westminster's current focus as an institution would then require ownership of an institution that actively evangelizes through its preparation of musicians, an interesting dynamic for a Chinese entity to maintain.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Asian student discrimination

The fact that Asian students may face discrimination is not a surprise to most higher education faculty and staff. That it is so common may lead to overlooking its impact but Emma Whitford offers a more personal insight that reveals the ugly dynamics that are often experienced by Asian students.

Two things contribute to ignoring discrimination against Asian students: 1) many Americans don't recognize the languages and distinctive characteristics among the diverse array of Asian cultures, and 2) the large number of Chinese students who study in the U.S. When all Asian students, whether international or Asian-American, are lumped together, patterns of avoidance and marginalization push Asian students even further to the margin where the criticism of separatism (they all 'hang together') is very hard to overcome.

"They're taking over..." is the phrase that is often used to justify the discriminatory beliefs of those who perpetrate discrimination. This phrase has been used throughout history to stoke fear and isolation between cultural groups. There is no evidence to support such a belief and educators should quickly counter claims of this nature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Politics of Study Abroad

Hosting international students by U.S. institutions has been politicized through the actions of the Trump administration, first with the ban on students from Islamic countries and now the considerations advocated by Stephen Miller to ban all Chinese students. Studying abroad is also influenced by politics in the example of faculty declining to support U.S. students' desire to study in Israel. At issue is the allegation that immigration officials discriminate in granting visas for students to study in Israel, specifically "... students of Palestinian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim background, who attempt to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories." 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Falling confidence in higher education

Higher education in the U.S.A. is experiencing multiple stressors - enrollment pressure, budget crises, and falling confidence among the public. The Gallup Organization is the most recent entity to publish evidence that the public has significant concerns about the nation's colleges and universities. Down to 48% overall having confidence, higher education experienced the largest drop compared to other entities such as military, small business, and police, each of which enjoys more positive responses.

Republican respondents were most critical of higher education, although confidence among independents and democrats fell as well. Soul searching is in order as Harvard University's President Bacow warns, "more people than we would like to admit believe that universities are not nearly as open to ideas from across the political spectrum as we should be; that we are becoming unaffordable and inaccessible, out of touch with the rest of America; and that we care more about making our institutions great than about making the world better."

Having spent my entire adult career in higher education, seeing the drop in confidence is devastating. I've always assumed that higher education is both a private benefit and a public good and my life experience has demonstrated that belief; I am better and I've sought to make a difference in the world as a direct consequence of access to higher education. It isn't only about earning power, a claim made by many U.S. universities to bolster the numbers willing to pay the price of attendance. Many of the issues education leaders face are self-inflicted; examples include exploitive marketing, elitism, detachment, and allowing faculty a pass on accountability for student learning and success.

Time to heed the warnings so that U.S. higher education can reposition for a future where attendance is widely available and the impact is indisputable.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Philosophy of education

How we approach our work in higher education is deeply shaped by our philosophical assumptions. Whether constructed upon implicit or explicit beliefs, our philosophy of education is central to our practice. Because many in higher education do not understand student affairs and development, it is therefore even more important that a well-considered and explicit philosophy guide our practice.

Matt Reed's essay advocates that all educators should have a written philosophy. I've had one for my entire 40+ year career. It has served as a north star for me in making decisions about what jobs I would seek/take, the priorities I would pursue in my work, and what things I would not do. I highly recommend taking the time to outline your educational philosophy. Mine has always been no longer than one page and includes both narrative and bullet statements. Draft one if you don't have one at this time; share it with others and you'll have some great conversations.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

International graduate student enrollment declining

An update of graduate student enrollment indicates that numbers in the U.S.A. are declining. The decline varies by type of institution with large, research-extensive, institutions actually seeing increases. However, the overall enrollment is declining. While causes cannot be definitively determined, two likely factors are greater competition from other countries and the perception/reality of a hostile climate resulting from Trump administration statements and actions.

Stephen Miller, advisor to President Trump and a leader in devising strategies to reduce immigration, went as far as proposing that all Chinese students be denied visas for enrollment in U.S.A. institutions. The uncertainty caused by even discussion of this type of policy change is likely to cause Chinese students, the largest proportion of U.S.A. international students, to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Students taking responsibility for their learning

Erik Gilbert recently raised the question of "who is responsible for student learning?" in an essay after he attended a conference of the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education. He indicated that most of the discussion at the conference was about what faculty should do, neglecting the question of student responsibility.

Mr. Gilbert raises a question that has been addressed by research over many years. Alexander Astin was very significant in shifting the narrative from faculty and institution responsibility to students when he discovered through ongoing analysis at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA that the most important influence in students' learning was their relationship with each other. Gilbert concludes, "students and their ability and willingness to do the hard work of learning are an important and often overlooked variable in the discussion of student learning."

Students' lives are complicated by technology, social media, campus culture and many other things. These environmental conditions can either distract from or contribute to engagement in learning; international educators should strive to reduce the distraction and increase the focus of learning environments through whatever means they can influence.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Innovation and entrepreneurship

It's rare to find higher education institutions that don't espouse a commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. However, how this is done is not altogether clear. Inside Higher Education interviewed Jodi Goldstein, Executive Director of Harvard University's Innovation Lab, for insights about how to foster innovation across disciplines and with a strong experiential base.

The interview began with an assertion that real innovation in the 21st century comes from cross- or inter-disciplinary work. The point is that new insights often come from students outside the presumed discipline most directly related to any new product or service. Within-discipline knowledge often limits new perspectives; therefore, the interaction across disciplines becomes critical. Goldstein also advocated for the importance of cocurricular innovation (non-graded), which offers a setting that frees students for greater risk-taking.

International higher education institutions have the potential to lead in inter-disciplinary work that supports innovation. The reason is that mature institutions are frequently encumbered by faculty who are eager to control knowledge creation within their own areas of study. Emerging international higher education could benefit from devising ways to avoid the discipline-centric institutions that are common to Western, mature settings.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Following internationalization

Gaining perspective from others' experience is always a good idea, especially for those of us involved in internationalization of various sorts. Two organizations that can help educators stay abreast of internationalization efforts are:

  • International Association of Universities - Established by UNESCO in 1950, IAU is committed to serving the global higher education community through: expertise & trends analysis, publications & portals, advisory services, peer-to-peer learning, events, and global advocacy. The global survey on internationalization provide the opportunity to gain a macro view of what is happening worldwide.
  • International Higher Education Quarterly - A publication of the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, this quarterly includes articles authored by BC's network of associates.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Why international students study in China

The number of international students studying in China has risen by tenfold since 1995 (from 36,855 to 442,772) with 57% of the current number coming from other Asian countries. A study of international students in China found that reputation and cost are the most important issues when they choose to study in China. International students from Europe, the USA, and sub-Saharan African viewed reputation as less important to their decision. In an age where many young people express interest in learning to work with and across cultural difference, the authors of the study "found that the desire to better understand China and its culture was a relatively less important factor."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Multicultural shift isn't on the way - it's here

Noted inter-faith advocate, Eboo Patel, poses the possibility that the multiculturalism (and potentially internationalism) that has been proposed as the future of the United States is already here. The evidence he cites is corporate advertising that increasingly includes people of more diverse backgrounds than we've seen in the past. The question he raises is how living in a multicultural society, rather than anticipating it, might change higher education's approach.

Two things come to mind: 1) helping students embrace multiculturalism as opportunity and 2) addressing the backlash of White supremacy that perpetuates competition for the cultural future of the U.S.A. and other countries experiencing the resurgence of conservativism.

Monday, September 17, 2018

U.S. "You are welcome" campaign matched with scholarships

In the wake of declining international student matriculation, and the fears of further erosion, 57 U.S. colleges and universities have agreed to each offer at least two 50% tuition scholarships for qualifying international students to be admitted for 2019. Two students at 57 institutions isn't even a drop in the bucket but it does send a message that international students aren't only welcome but are valued. One has to ponder if the number of scholarship will not expand based on the action of these institutions.

Unfortunately, the "Your are welcome" campaign may be undermined by prospective international students' perception of violence and danger in the U.S.A. Whether it is annoyance from experiencing "contempt of the other" or being extorted, threatened, injured, or killed, the growing perception of the U.S.A. is not good. If international enrollments are to hold and even grow, something has to change!

Gallup and Pew studies on public confidence in universities

While the public have questions and concerns about higher education in the U.S., the majority are satisfied with what universities provide and believe they are a necessary public investment.

The Gallup organization and Pew Charitable Trust studies are referenced in Scott Jaschik's summary points from the two studies. A couple of trends that are important include; those surveyed were more positive about colleges that are geographically near them, public institutions are perceived more favorably, and are perceived to have a positive impact on the community and society at large. The analysis of results revealed that Republicans have a far less favorable impression of higher education on many issues.

When asked about how student populations should look, 64% said that diversity was important. In addition, respondents indicated that some special conditions should be considered, including consideration of athletic talent (60%), musical talent (72%), leadership (73%), and compensation to overcome poverty or health hardships (83%).

Respondents registered support for standing behind diverse choices in speakers appearing on campuses but indicated that they thought most colleges/universities lean toward liberal views. Concerns were raised about colleges/universities protecting their students from sexual assault and supporting their mental health needs.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Too much research and publication

Phillip G. Altbach and Hans de Wit offered the perspective that there is too much research and too many publications in higher education in their recent University World News opinion. While the profusion of publications, lengthy approval processes, and predatory journals may be real concerns, the Altbach and de Wit argument misses an essential point - competition and hegemony in the international higher education environment.

Altbach and de Wit attribute the cause of too many publications to growing massification and competition for global rankings, dynamics that they assert result in isomorphism, defined as the desire of most academic institutions "to resemble the universities at the top of the academic pecking order - and thus seek to become research-intensive." Their broad use of the term isomorphism is confusing in itself because increasing conformity comes from pressure originating from multiple sources - learning, imitation, competition, normative, and coercion (credit to Dr. Darbi L. Roberts' dissertation at Columbia University for this distinction and analysis of how policies and practices are borrowed/imitated across organizations).

What Altbach and de Wit are describing is actually competitive or normative isomorphism and this fact is at the core of my opposition to their proposition. If the number of publications are limited through some means then one has to ask who has the privilege to research and publish and what does that mean to the advancement of knowledge?

It is well documented and recognized that Western higher education dominates academic discourse. This is partially the result of history. This history isn't only about the privileged place Western countries occupy as a result of the emergence of robust higher education in Europe and then in the United States. Western dominance has been profoundly influenced by colonialism that discounted other cultural voices and imposed a specific way of thinking about everything from the human condition to political and economic systems.

If Altbach and de Wit's opinion were embraced, it's fairly easy to determine which journals, publishers, and intellectuals would prevail. The competitive isomorphism they decry would take hold of academic discourse to an even greater degree than it now does. While they cite Ernest Boyer's 1990 idea that differentiated institutional missions and faculty roles should value teaching and service along with research, the reality is that elite institutions that are at the top of the hierarchy of research and publications are more recognized and rewarded - both organizationally and the individual scholars who serve on their faculty.

Altbach and de Wit raise an important question about the profusion of academic publications. However, their recommendations should be tempered with recognition that there are many voices throughout the world that would continue to be silenced, and likely to a greater degree, if consideration of hegemony and privileged positions within the academic community are not addressed as well.

Other academics have critiqued the position taken by Altbach and de Wit. Jenny J. Lee and Alma Maldonado Maldonado published their views in University World News. Their argument was similar to the position I took above.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Documenting China's influence and interference in U.S. higher education

Numerous articles have been published and much conversation undertaken regarding the influence exerted by the People's Republic of China (RPC) on academic programs, freedom of speech, and unrestricted access to scholarly material. The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholar's Report reveals various RPC interventions that impact learning and the climate of U.S. higher education, among them; hosting of speakers and events, pressures on faculty, Chinese students' reluctance to speak, perceived monitoring, potential abuse of Chinese students, and self-censorship. Caution is advised in generalizing the findings of the Wilson Center study, hoping to avoid suspicion and stereotyping, but the examples are real and institutions need to be aware that the political views of the RPC do impact learning in the U.S. and abroad.

In a later and unrelated article, the People's Republic Liberation (PRL) Army has been heavily represented among the Chinese students studying in the U.S.A. From 2007 to the present 2,500 military scientists and engineers have studied abroad with the majority coming to the U.S.A. A large and western educated number of PRL army officials could make a big difference in China's capability for good or ill.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Increasing diversity in U.S. students studying abroad

Study abroad for U.S. students has been characterized by classicism for decades. As a first-generation student in the late 1960s I fantasized about studying abroad but never took even the first step toward trying to make it happen. Today's figures about who studies abroad and where they go reflect a continuation of this classicism with numbers dominated by white students going to European countries.

An exception to past patterns is an increase among students who attend Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). The numbers are growing at HBCUs and the places students want to go are very different than the historic patterns of white students. Quoting from the link above, "One of the patterns amongst students at HBCUs or minority institutions is that we see that students are much more interested in what one might consider heritage-related programming, which is why we see a lot of students from HBCUs going to Latin America and the Caribbean as well as to sub-Saharan Africa."

The fact that students studying abroad from HBCUs is increasing is helpful for many reasons. First and foremost, study abroad should not be limited to only a certain sub-population of U.S. students. An equally valuable outcome is that HBCU students are leading all U.S. students to places that are part of the new world order - outside traditional Westernized countries of Europe and North America.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Boston College Center for International Higher Education collection

I often cite Boston College Center for International Higher Education on this blog. BC publishes collections of these articles on an annual basis. The CIHE Perspectives No. 9 is a good collection of articles on a variety of topics from the last year.

College affordability

Institutions of higher education in the U.S.A. are often criticized for high tuition rates and the practice of discounting from the published price has driven institutions to models that are only marginally (if at all) effective from a fiscal point of view. Alex Usher compared U.S. and Canadian higher education policy and recommended that careful consideration of the Canadian model could help.

What is Canada doing? It has sought to stabilize tuition increases while at the same time offering more in grants through the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and encouraging family savings through the Education Savings Grants program (over 50% of Canadians under the age of 18 now have these accounts). Usher concludes "What Canada shows is that other political outcomes are possible (i.e. a federal approach), and that a high-tuition/high-aid equilibria can be maintained, under the right conditions."

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Academic restrictions in China

As reported recently at a meeting of the American Political Science Association, a study has revealed that restrictions of various sorts are real for China scholars but the frequency of such incidents is lower than some might have anticipated - 9% of the sample of 500 individuals in the sample study. The term used for the 9% is that they were "taken to tea" by authorities but only 5% reported having been denied visas in relation to their work. This level of reported intervention by Chinese authorities is low compared to the fact that 53% of the China scholars consider their research somewhat politically sensitive and 14% consider it highly sensitive.

The authors of the paper on academic restriction of China Scholars, Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Rory Truex, indicate that "Our own conclusion is that the risks of research conduct in China are uncertain, highly individualized, and often not easily discernible from public information.

In addition to evidence that China scholars or scholars in China may be subject to being "taken to tea" or otherwise restricted in their work, the issue of self-censorship perhaps presents the greater difficulty. Whether or not a scholar is being watched or pressured, the perception of being watched can have a deep impact on what is researched and published.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The face of rejection

Knowing that competition for international students is getting tougher and that those who do apply are sometimes rejected in the study visa process certainly worries higher education officials. When the declines materialize, budget cuts are sure to follow.

The face of those international students who want to study in the U.S.A. is perhaps even more compelling. The story of Penda Jallow, a female Gambian, reflects the heart rather than just the numbers of the visa rejection process. "I'm just sitting at home, helping my family," she said. "My aim is to study in the U.S. because having an American degree will give me more opportunity to have a good job and a good salary because right now my father is earning $35 a month. My mother and I have not been able to find employment, so we must carefully use his income to support the three of us."

Granted full financial support from the Gambian government for her college expenses, she would bring tuition dollars to her U.S. institution and she is committed to returning to Gambia immediately after graduation so that she can support her family and help build Gambia's economy. Am I missing something here in terms of the desirability of granting a study visa to someone like Penda?

Pew predicts decline in International Enrollment

As the fall semester begins, reports of declining enrollments in the U.S.A are starting to roll in. A Pew Report indicates that international and domestic student numbers will be down for many campuses. The pattern varies across the U.S. with the Midwest and Texas likely to drop the most. The reasons for predicted declines are the typical items - scaling back of scholarship programs in some countries (Saudi Arabia and Brazil in particular), competition from other countries (Canada, Australia, and Germany), visa restrictions being toughened, and perceptions of a hostile climate for internationals. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What employers want in university graduates

For both domestic and international students who wish to work in the U.S.A. after completing their degrees, knowing what employers want in their new hires is essential. A recent study sponsored by the Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) indicated that business executives and managers support an emphasis on general attributes of character and competence in their hiring decisions, a view that supports the liberal education focus and student engagement strategies offered by many U.S. institutions.

Eight specific areas are most important to executives and managers:
  • able to effectively communicate orally
  • critical thinking/analytical reasoning
  • ethical judgment and decision making
  • able to work effectively in teams
  • able to work independently
  • self motivated, initiative, proactive
  • able to communicate effectively in writing
  • can apply knowledge/skills to real-world settings
The good news is that there is consensus around what's important for graduates to be able to do and the hype that tomorrow's jobs haven't even been created yet (requiring completely different knowledge and training) are suspect. The bad news is that executives and hiring managers believe graduates could be better prepared in all these areas. Internships in the workplace offer one opportunity to hone these capabilities but all students should be aware that their seriousness and focus in their own development is also key.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Risk management and higher education

Risk management, a concept that has been front and center for many institutions around the world, is just emerging as a concept in some countries. A study of educators in Ethiopia, with only 130 mostly private post-secondary higher education institutions (PHEIs), found that the most important risks fall in the five categories of "teaching and learning; financing; infrastructure and resources; research and outreach, and policy and regulation." With a significant purpose of capacity building, it's critical that all countries look at the unique attributes of their higher education sector in order to make sure that this precious resource is protected and sustainable under difficult circumstances.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Comprehensive mapping of international student flows

Elizabeth Redden's summary of international student flows throughout the world paints a picture of gradual shifts from the two previous preferred destinations, the U.K. and the U.S.A., to other countries such as Canada and Australia. The trends also include declining full degree program study to short term, or study abroad, experiences.

The reasons for shifts are complicated and often relate to the conditions/climate in a specific country. One change to the higher education landscape is the presence of new regional providers that require less travel, expense, and may be a more comfortable fit from a cultural perspective. The U.K. and U.S.A. will need to be creative in addressing the reasons for enrollment shifts if they want to remain competitive and retain their preferred status.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Higher education as a talent magnet

With 94% of international students reporting that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their higher education experience in Canada, the next question would have to be, "to what end?" The end for international students is their increasing desire to stay in Canada after graduation. The proportion of international students who report wanting to stay has moved from 51% in 2015 to 60% in 2018.

Although hosting international students is not typically seen as a way to lure talented new citizens, Canada's experience demonstrates that a good experience as a student can result in the desire to immigrate. The benefit to Canada is that it retains striving international graduates as great contributors to its workforce.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

China's World-Class Universities

China has invested a great deal of resources in higher education by providing more domestic opportunity as well as sending Chinese students abroad for study. China intends to create World-Class Universities (WCU) that will compete with other universities around the world, however, efforts are focused more on science and technology than on humanities.

One of the significant positive influences as China seeks to establish world-class universities is the Belt and Road Initiative (RBI), which will connect Chinese citizens across cities and territories and enhance economic opportunity. While RBI connects, enhancing educational opportunity will build human capacity to meet the demands of this growing and connected economy.

One challenge for the WCU initiative is the ideological conformity to governmental dogma in Chinese universities. The second challenge is quality related to domestic versus international study. The author of the referenced essay noted that, "Chinese universities can only enter the 'first world' if there is significant development of domestic graduate education and corresponding stature for it as a result of policy actions. Currently, the fact that elite universities are exporting their best trained undergraduates to American and UK graduate schools and pushing those with domestic PhDs to less prestigious national universities is relaying the message that 'Chinese universities are not your first, or best choice.'"

Friday, August 17, 2018

Flow of international students across the world

Recruitment and admission staff ring their hands. Budget managers project the numbers and balance institution budgets. Faculty wonder what to do in their courses. Domestic students either don't care or resent the presence of international students in their classrooms and on their campuses. The stakeholders related to attracting and serving international students are diverse and their stakes are sometimes in conflict with each other.

Higher education leaders in many places let the issue of hosting international students get ahead of them, thus placing institutions in a defensive and catch-up posture. It's time that institutions around the world think more carefully about why they want international students and then dedicate the energy and resources to serve them. Two recent pieces, one espousing the benefit of international students and the practices required to attract them, and the other advocating that institutions do more for international students, are important to the conversation. The second piece notes encountering prospective students in Africa who are eager to study in the U.S. Seeing their need and eagerness and understanding how her institution benefits from their presence drew this college president to call other education leaders to join her in articulating the purposes and improving the responsiveness to international students.

Three universities in Latin America share on-line courses

Three universities in three countries in Latin America announced cooperation in sharing on-line course content - a move that expands beyond what each could have done by itself. Could this be a precedent for expanded course sharing throughout Latin America?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Human rights concerns in higher education

Even when many colleges and universities have not lived up to their lofty aspirations, U.S. higher education as a system has often championed human rights of various sorts. In an era of growing nationalism and withdrawal from the protections of international organizations, the importance of a recommitment to human rights is required, so indicate Barbara Frey and Laura Bloomberg.

Monday, August 13, 2018

DeWit and Altbach declare unstable times for international higher education

Hans DeWit and Philip Altback are frequently cited for their opinions about international higher education. Their recent opinion piece indicates that internationalization is in for dramatic instability. The case of Saudi Arabia threatening withdrawal of its students from Canada is a case where diplomacy and political issues can either undermine or support higher education institutions in a given country.

"Unlawful presence" in US for international students

New policies were recently published regarding international students in U.S. universities and the condition of "unlawful presence." With many international students wanting to stay in the U.S. after graduation for further training and work experience, these new policies are critical.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Domestic students' ambivalence about their international peers

One of the most difficult issues to address related to hosting international students in any country is the ambivalence of the domestic students toward their international peers. A recent study in the UK found that domestic Brits believed that international students required more attention, slowed down learning, and lowered the quality of learning available for all students. In order to welcome international students, institutions need to do a better job of preparing their domestics to know what to expect and how to be good learning partners themselves. If domestic students were more responsive, there'e little doubt that international students would have a better experience and that domestic students would begin to value their presence.

Saudi Arabia threatens to withdraw its students from Canada

In a diplomatic conflict associated with activists for women's rights, Saudi Arabia retaliated with multiple sanctions, one of which was to withdraw 7,000 Saudi students who are attending Canadian universities. It's sad to see students pursuing education opportunity caught in the cross-hairs of political action. There have been calls in Europe for support of Canada against Saudi Arabia but any country who has hosted Saudi students will be looking carefully at the potential of other punitive responses if Saudi is criticized.

Some U.S. institutions are reaching out to Saudi students who were studying in Canada with invitations to apply and waiver of application fees.

Balancing access and quality in Taiwan

I became acquainted with a doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University from Taiwan while he was conducting his research. Our conversations were fascinating and revolved around Taiwan's need to rebalance its higher education offerings. The main issue as I understood it was that the governmentally-supported universities were quite strong but had limited seats while private-sector universities filled the gap with programs of lesser quality.

The perspective offered by a faculty member at National Cheng Kung University reinforced the problem as a originally heard it and provides an update on the challenges faced by countries attempting to broaden access while at the same time retaining institutions of high quality - not an easy problem to manage and one that could potential take years to rebalance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

U.S. preferred post-doc placement for internationals

Concern over attracting international students and retaining them after graduation has been top of mind for many U.S. academics and research/tech businesses. Good news was found in a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study found that talented international STEM graduates are more interested in academic positions and that they prefer to stay in the U.S. for post-docs and employment.

The National Bureau study is contradicted by a decline in the number of international students seeking post-graduate work in the U.S. The number of applications increased by 34% in 2016 but slowed to an 8% increase in 2017.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Students and democratic learning

Campus Compact has been advocating for deeper engagement of students in preparation for democratic participation for a number of years. Thomas Ehrlich, a former Campus Compact board member and one of the co-authors of Educating for Democracy, and Andrew Seligsohn offer their update of engaging students in democratic learning and they urge higher education to renew its focus on civic learning through experiential education.

Governments across the world differ in their operating principles, forms of representation, and policies. However, informing students of all countries about the ways they can be involved is crucial.

Ambivalence of academics

One of the interesting questions educators face in choosing to work in another country is if their expectations for academic freedom will be the same as their passport country. Even if the presumption is that the typical freedoms of western countries is respected, transparency about whether or not the host country fully embraces everything an academic wishes to say or publish can lead to self-censorship.

The recent elimination of his position caused Christopher Balding to leave China. Balding was an active blogger and openly offered critiques about Chinese governmental affairs. Some other professors who have worked in China have similar concerns to those expressed by Balding but others have felt no threat to their academic freedom.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Research impact - China may be closing in on U.S. by mid-2020s

One of the metrics used to claim dominance in the world's academic market is research productivity and impact. Educators/researchers indicate that China is rising and could overcome the 1st-place position that the U.S. has held by the mid-2020s. This articles indicates "countries such as the U.S. and Britain that were turning inward politically should also be aware that many Asian nations - and the European Union - were increasing collaboration with China, stimulated by its Belt and Road initiative to improve connectivity across Asia and Europe."

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Access to higher education in Ethiopia

Access to higher education throughout the world is expanding, yet some fear that it will not have the equalizing impact that many had hoped. An essay on Ethiopia's attempts to increase access mirrors what is found in many countries around the world - students who have greater economic privilege have greater access and are more successful in completing their degrees.

Wondwosen Tamrat indicated that Ethiopia has expanded public and private institutions and tried to offer opportunity to pursue education readily available to all. While primary education levels of participation across economic strata are close to the same, secondary participation drops, and 87% of technical schools and 82% of university enrollment comes from the wealthiest families. Tamrat suggested that Eastern Europe and Central Asia provide models of how to counteract the impact of economic privilege. It's also not just about access, it's also completion. Students from all socio-economic strata should expect to complete their studies in comparable numbers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another obstacle for international students in the U.S.

Creating more barriers for international student enrollment in U.S. higher education institutions, the U.S. government has proposed to increase fees for individual student visa processing. Universities/colleges will also see the fee for initial certification doubled and new fees for recertification levied if the proposed changes are approved.

The rationale for the increases is that the fees have not been changed since 2008 and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be underfunded by 68.9 million dollars in 2019 if the fees are not increased.

Higher education as a public good

There have been reports as of late that U.S. citizens have lost faith in higher education and don't support the public funding going into universities/colleges. Contrary to a perceived deterioration of support, Noah D. Drezner of Columbia University found the opposite. "Given how much the recent public discourse centers on the individual return from higher education, Drezner said he was heartened to find that respondents overwhelmingly 'understand that there are larger benefits to the public' from higher education."

Although the study was of U.S. citizens, the question of private benefit versus public good is key to how higher education is understood and hopefully embraced around the world. The question is not either-or. Of course individuals benefit from pursuing a higher education AND the public good is served as graduates are prepared for a 21st century workforce and participation in their communities. The push among those who would like higher education to be seen as a private privilege and benefit simply want to retain the advantage that economic disparity has created.

Unfortunately, a study by the Pew Charitable Trust came to conclusions that oppose Drezner's findings. Report of this study indicated "A solid majority of adults (61%) believe that higher education is headed in the wrong direction." Republicans were more likely to view higher education in a negative light although concerns are represented in multiple sectors - Democrats express concern about the cost of higher education, Republicans view faculty as biased toward liberal causes, and university staff continue to be concerned about the hate speech and hostile climate issues.