Monday, January 29, 2018

Netherlands and internationalization

The Netherlands has experienced international student enrollment increases and some institutions were considering the possibility of opening branch campuses. These and other steps toward greater internationalization first raised debate among media, educators, and politicians about perceived commodification of higher education. In one example so much concern was raised that the university declined to proceed with a plan to open a branch in China; the rationale and the dynamics of the controversy were further explained in a follow-up article. The bottom line is that institutions need to think carefully about the purposes of internationalization and then move forward in conversations with the quality of learning for all as a central focus and building consensus along the way among various stakeholders.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Chile - Access & quality in higher education

I was recently invited to Santiago, Chile, to address the Latin American Summit on Education. I was the fourth in a series of first-day keynote speakers/panels and I focused on the “Challenges and Opportunities of Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Chile.” The content was substantially based on the most recent book co-edited by Susan Komives and me (2016) with related title.

Having spent seven years working outside the U.S.A. in higher education, I was all too familiar with the pitfalls of westerners swooping in to offer advice to higher education leadership in a different cultural or national context. This drew me to ask for the opportunity to visit some of the existing higher education institutions and talk with their student affairs staff so that my comments to the Summit would be at least modestly grounded in the local context. My hosts, William Young and Daniela Calderon, were extraordinary in their hospitality and devised an itinerary that introduced me not only to higher education in Chile but to the culture itself. William and Daniela served as primary informants who were complemented by a current law student at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Andres Heresi (pictured); Andres served as my culture and tour guide. The combination of experiences over a week in Santiago offered an incredible introduction to the opportunities ahead for Chile.

I surmised from reading before traveling to Chile that the greatest challenges to higher education are; 1) expanding access to increase opportunity for more and a broader diversity of students and 2) enhancing the quality of the experience for all. Every individual and group I met reinforced the importance of these two central priorities. Visiting five campuses demonstrated the diversity of ways universities are addressing these challenges. The degree to which student affairs research/theory is being adopted or adapted to Chile’s needs varied a great deal. What was clear, each institution strives to address the unique needs of their students within the context of the mission/purpose of their institution. The examples provided amazing evidence of grounded quality enhancement for specific local and cultural needs.

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, the host for my visit and first university I visited, was founded in 1842 as a public national university. Public in this case means publicly supported rather than publicly defined and managed. There are a limited number of “traditional” universities that have this distinction in Chile and they are generally of higher quality than those that are private sector providers. Catholic University (the popularized name for the university) has multiple campuses that range from old and established to sleek and contemporary. The campus of San Joaquin is where William and Daniela are carving out a student affairs focus, which includes student engagement, sports, counseling, service learning, and more. A couple of the most impressive initiatives involved assessment (using adaptations of NSSE and the Multi-Institution Study of Leadership), professional development for staff and faculty, and an incredible innovation center (see picture). Assessment is new and will establish the baseline for the future as well as test whether instruments from the U.S.A. are directly applicable or need to be modified for use in Chile. The innovation center is an entrepreneurial hub where students come together with faculty to devise plans for products and services and then bring them to market.

Universidad Adolfo Ibanez was my next stop. Nestled at the foot of the Andes mountains east of Santiago, the campus commands a stunning view of the city. The Adolfo Ibanez course schedule is designed so that there is a no-class break once per week to allow for all students to engage in social and cultural activities. Personal and academic counseling are fused in their model, blurring the lines between intellectual and social questions and offering a focus on holistic development. One of the most interesting innovations they have begun is the implementation of a liberal arts curriculum. The design of the curriculum and the texts used in courses is based on Columbia College of Columbia University’s approach. While the interplay of liberals arts with the experience-based learning available outside of class has yet to be fulfilled, there are promising opportunities to bridge academic and student affairs offices through this initiative.

Universidad de los Andes was the third institution I visited. Student affairs as an area emerged from within this young institution, beginning with cultural activities and sports. The idea was to start small and then grow in directions that students advocated. De los Andes now offers considerable resources and attention on internationalization and on leadership development. While I was there I observed groups of international students visiting for short periods of study to allow them to see Chile and to take short courses to complement their home institutions’ curriculum. This campus was the most modern of the campuses I visited and is an institution growing in reputation, especially for its academic program in business.

Universidad de Chile is the largest higher education institution in Chile, was founded in 1842, and has great prominence as a historic provider of educational opportunity for elite and privileged students. This history of prestige is now being buttressed by expanding opportunity. “Equity in access, progression, and graduation” is a broad value commitment that seeks to be truly inclusive and Universidad de Chile proclaims that inclusion is an inalienable attribute of excellence and quality. The proof of their effort is that enrollment of vulnerable groups has increased from 16% to 30% of the total student population over the last 6 years. A variety of initiatives have been launched to make sure that the growing diversity of students will also be successful in completing their degrees. A database available to all faculty members allows faculty to see the demographics of their classrooms and to understand more deeply the challenges and opportunities their students bring to the classroom.

The final visit was to Universidad de Valparaiso. This university was previously part of Universidad de Chile but spun off as an independent institution. Valparaiso is the coastal town that was founded when explorers realized that Chile had potentially lucrative coastal access. The faculty member with whom I met in Valparaiso is conducting research using NSSE and plans to use the data to inform policy for the Chilean higher education sector. It was a delight to share my experience in using NSSE at Miami University as well as in Qatar. The proposed solutions for Universidad de Valparaiso include; more diversity of approaches, measurement of outcomes, and not counting on systemic solutions to bring change. These are interesting and big-picture ideas that will be informed by data as the institution moves forward.

An added bonus of visiting Valparaiso was that I was able to visit the home of famed Chilean author and political activist, Pablo Neruda. Neruda was particularly influential during the Allende socialist era and was likely assassinated when Pinochet’s military government took power from Allende. Reflections on Chile’s political and cultural context are at PursuingLeadership by Denny.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Learning to work

While some institutions are ambivalent about too directly relating students' learning to workforce preparation, others see them as fused and characterize the argument between general education and career preparation as a false choice. Many institutions, associations, and employers advocate that workforce preparation is one of higher education's major responsibilities.

The negative stereotype of useful and useless learning that sometimes seeps into conversation about liberal education was challenged by George Nugent as he provided examples of liberal arts schools that have increased their focus on career preparation. His reference to the "Career Connections" section of the recent report from the Council of Independent Colleges, Innovation and the Independent College: Examples from the Sector, demonstrates that many liberal arts institutions are shifting their approach to accommodate today's students' career interests.

When considering student needs, experience in work varies a great deal across cultures and the potential impact of part-time employment while attending university is often an unrecognized benefit.  International students are likely to benefit as much or more than domestic students from taking a campus job. Student employment leads to finding a niche for belonging, introduces students to university resources, builds a positive resume, and ultimately helps those who participate to develop important workplace attitudes and skills for the future. International students interested in working on campus need to be careful about their visa status (F-1 and J-1 allow no more than 20 hours/week) but, when possible, work can add value to the overall collegiate experience.

While the opportunities for part-time work are many, institutions that want student employment to have the maximum positive impact can do a lot to shape the experience. Jobs as research lab assistants, student librarians, resident assistants, office assistants, and event staff can all have benefit if supervisors are required to identify learning outcomes and encouraged to guide international students' reflection on what they are learning from their work. Recognizing that a campus job may be the first time an international student has ever worked is critical; many student jobs assume previous experience; acknowledging that international students may not have had that opportunity is key.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Training higher education leadership

A recent study at the Boston College Center for International Higher Education indicated that "despite the massive need for capacity building, and the growing interest among providers to respond to this need, most programs train very small number of higher education managers and leaders. At the same time, the wide array of actors providing training programs largely fails to coordinate efforts. This presents a landscape of disperse, uncoordinated, territorial, and ultimately insufficient training opportunities and trainer expertise."

As numerous countries around the world strive to open or expand higher education opportunity to larger numbers of students, having the administrative/leadership expertise to do it effectively is key. Student affairs is certainly one of the areas of expertise that is lacking, primarily because it is often an unrecognized and ubiquitous aspect of student learning and development.

I recently spoke to the Latin American Summit on Education in Santiago, Chile. It was highly informative to visit five Chilean campuses as I completed final preparation for my lecture. My remarks, "Opportunities and Challenges of Enhancing Student Learning and Development," were perfectly positioned to complement the three speakers/panels that preceded me. The other speakers spoke of enhancing the student experience as if it only occurred in the classroom. The door was wide open to provide the evidence from U.S.A. higher education that out of class experiences are equally important and necessary if institutions want to have a deep impact on student learning.

Chile has demonstrated an interest and is building capacity in higher education leadership and it is paying attention to student affairs. The questions that lie ahead include; how will research/theory be adapted from the U.S.A. experience and what will be the most effective strategies for building professional capacity for leadership in student affairs? As can be seen in these pictures, facilities to accommodate more students with higher quality opportunity are increasingly available. What happens through the in and out of class educational initiatives will be the proof in the end; it was gratifying to be part of the conversation exploring this question.

Monday, January 22, 2018

International student numbers in U.S.A. decline

The predictions have been floating around higher education for the last year but the figures are finally in - the number of international students in the U.S.A. declined by 2.2 percent for undergraduates and 5.5 for graduate students. International students are voting with their feet and the causes will be the source of speculation and research.

Other studies confirmed the overall decline in international students in the U.S.A. and indicated that applications for 2018 were off another 3%. Visas were off 17% in the 2017 with the decline in applications from India even higher (28%). Concern over the decline ranges from the loss of international students as a resource for learning and research to the missed opportunity of hosting students who will be diplomatic resources when they return to their home countries. Brookings Institution analyses indicate that higher tuition charges to international students creates more general revenue but also funds approximately one third of the financial aid that is redistributed to U.S.A. domestic students.

The impact of declining international student enrollment varies widely across universities in the U.S.A. Institutions that already have a large proportion of international students and have greater brand and prestige recognition will suffer less, if any, decline.

With domestic student numbers dropping as well, perhaps it's time for higher education leaders in the U.S.A. to determine some grand strategies on enrollment.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lower tuition for international Ph.D. students in Toronto

Lots of issues are considered when international students choose the institutions where they will pursue their doctoral studies. With finance being one of the major considerations, Toronto has announced that it will lower tuition charged to international Ph.D. students. The competition for highly skilled doctoral students has implications beyond just enrollment; these doctoral students are the backbone for many faculty research projects, thus driving the search for new knowledge and innovation.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Malaysia's 2020+ view of higher education internationalization

An Inside Higher Education essay by Kris Olds explores what it means for Malaysia to embrace a global world with an international perspective. The essay indicates that globalization and internationalization are not consistently distinguished from each other, a perspective with which I agree. However, very significant work has been done, including Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (Roberts & Komives, eds., 2016), to clarify that internationalization is really what most institutions are likely to want to pursue. In his concluding paragraph, Olds asserts that, "the real aims and objectives of international education, which is to realize international understanding among nations." Beyond this, I would recommend that individual and community capacity building, providing pathways toward prosperity, and equalization among individuals and nations that creates a more humane world might also be primary goals.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Reshaping campus life

Higher education leaders most often pursue innovation and enhancement of learning through improvement of instruction, expanding research, and engaging students more deeply in their education. In addition, it's important to recognize that the physical structures, how different functions are brought together, and how positive interaction can be cultivated through design. The National University of Singapore just completed its University Town Complex which provides a variety of dining options as well as "four residential colleges, learning spaces and open-air communal areas."

NUS's President for nine years, Tan Chorh Chuan, takes great pride in having redesigned "the entire campus around a new academic vision, which included (introducing) experiential learning and bringing together diverse groups of people." Greater detail about the vision of NUS is provided in Enhancing Student Learning & Development in Cross-Border Higher Education in Susan Komives &  Teck Koon Tan's chapter, "Student and Community Characteristics." This chapter outlines the purposeful adaptation of ideas that are often advocated by student affairs educators in the U.S. such as enhancing global exposure and immersion, redesigning campus living and learning, and promoting student development.

I had the opportunity to brief a visiting delegation from Singapore in my early days in Qatar - probably 2008 or 2009. At that time, Qatar Foundation was just beginning its big push in physical facilities. I primarily addressed the importance of the student experience and encouraging students to interact across culture. I wasn't sure what the delegation took away from my comments but it is now clear, whether explicitly tied to their visit to Qatar or not, NUS took the model that Qatar was building at the time and made it their own. The tragedy is that Qatar's model allowed its branch campuses to design buildings that were mini-campuses unto themselves, thus undermining the opportunity to bring Education City together as a whole. Qatar Foundation built a student center but strife over who would manage it, and who used it and for what purpose, continued to be contentious. Education/talent centers can be very powerful but they can fall short of their potential if partnerships grant too much autonomy and if the convening organization does not really understand the importance of shared and mutually beneficial work.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

China's ideological coercion in academia

It's often difficult to determine the veracity of concerns expressed by U.S. academics related to the academic freedom they believe they have, or should have. Particularly in relation to China, when U.S. and other countries establish partnerships in higher education, the potential for compromise is very significant. On U.S. soil, the Confucius Institutes on many campuses have been questioned with examples as small as censoring a speaker's resume on up to denying publication of a researcher's findings. Infringement can be as small as censoring a speaker's resume to pressure exerted to withdraw or limit access to certain academic journals in China. Others warn that the Confucius Institutes are overt propaganda arms of China and make U.S. institutions vulnerable for theft of intellectual rights and cutting edge scientific discoveries. Whatever reason, numerous U.S. institutions have moved to close their Confucius Institutes.

In an incidental exchange with Senator Marc Rubio at the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Director of the FBI drew attention to Chinese students studying in the U.S. and the Confucius Institutes as being a potential security risk. Responding to its concerns about what students do while studying in the U.S., apparently Chinese Consulates seek information about what students do in the groups that are intended to support them - the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations.

The threat to Chinese professors is obvious. Professor Weguang Sun at Shandong University was involved in an interview with Voice of American when Chinese authorities broke into his home; he protested that he was only exercising his freedom of speech. Whether in China or outside, the potential surveillance of U.S. academic discourse can cause U.S. faculty to avoid commentary to which Chinese students may object. More perniciously, Chinese students studying in the U.S. may report back to Chinese government officials about concerns they have. Perhaps the most negative potential is for the 350,000 Chinese citizens studying in the U.S. who, if they comment/write in their classes in ways their Chinese peers find objectionable, can face repercussions for themselves or their family back in China.

Concerns about academic freedom aren't limited to U.S. institutions and partnerships. A book is soon to be published about Chinese government influence in Australia. The influence of the communist party is feared to have an impact not only on mainland China's academic policies but Hong Kong is being threatened. Perhaps more concerning, institutions in the U.S.A. now believe that Communist Party cells are being established. If academic freedom is curtailed in China or outside, it could negatively impact quality as well as rankings in a system where prestige and prominence is so very important.

Ultimately, China's aspiration to achieve world class status may be undermined by the political intervention and control exerted by the government. Shengbing Li comments, "It will be a huge challenge for Chinese university professors to adapt to a Western knowledge system and take a position of global leadership. The dominance of Western knowledge systems, as well as the corresponding academic norms and research methods, make it very difficult for Chinese university faculty to have a place in the system. Sending a large number of outstanding teachers to the world's top Western universities is just a way to follow or imitate the Western. What is the most important is to develop a free academic culture and open China's academic market to the world."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Joint venture vs. "ghost MOU" approaches to internationalization

Some of the most widely used strategies to internationalize are agreements (or MOUs) that establish an expectation of faculty/student exchange or research partnerships. However, many of these are simply "ghost MOUs" that could be utilized but seldom are.

Branch campuses are a deeper approach to internationalizations but another model is joint ventures. The joint ventures described in "Deep Internationalizatiaon and Infrastructure" are designed to build intellectual and research capacity for all the partners involved, rather than what can sometimes be a one-way donor/export model. As various approaches are considered, most of the evidence indicates that respectful and full engagement is harder to achieve but almost always results in much greater benefit to all.