Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Adapting Germany's apprenticeship model

Thomas Lichtenberger describes the value of Germany's apprenticeship model and suggests that it has merit as a possible model for the U.S.A. However, he recommends that those interested in the model adapt it to different educational and cultural contexts. This is such a great example of how transfer and adaptation of best practices across nations can benefit everyone and it demonstrates the premise of Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (Robert & Komives, 2016) that all use of educational practices across borders needs to be carefully analyzed and modified in order to be effective.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The problems with higher education aren't what you think

Steven Mintz, who founded and led the Institute for Transformational Learning, proposed that the problems higher education faces aren't what we think. The Institute was created to increase broader access and support larger numbers of students through to completion of their degrees.

Instead of wasting time on issues such as cost, faculty engagement, political correctness, or administrative infrastructure, Mintz suggests that the most pressing problems are; high dropout rates and length of time to degree completion, disparities in funding, lack of focus on employment-related learning, and unresponsiveness to non-traditional students. In formulating potential responses to the latter, he says, "Even supposedly traditional undergraduates work while going to school, while many others must balance their studies with family responsibilities. At the same time, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities - which many students find the most valuable part of their college experience and which absorb significant amounts of time and energy - are not well integrated into their academic journey." The answer - take a student-centric focus that addresses the reality of students' lives rather than trying to force-fit them into our institutional structures and processes. In this student-centric approach, a focus on workforce competencies is essential.

Mintz suggests that the availability of resources isn't always the answer to higher education's challenges. In fact, having more resources can create more problems such as unrealistic expectations and debilitating competition. Those who wish to innovate in higher education must address real challenges, be able to pivot when necessary, must recognize that innovation is inherently political, and realize that change is an iterative process.

In a separate, but related, article, Tim Jones cited the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index finding that "...the type of college a student attended 'hardly matters at all' in a graduate's workplace engagement and current well-being." The point - what are the most meaningful outcomes for students, their families, and our institutions? The likelihood is that the 'why' of higher education is much more important than struggling with costs, faculty engagement, political correctness, or administrative infrastructure.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Australia documents higher education's impact on student character

A new report of the impact of Australia's higher education sector published in Oxford Economic Papers indicates that university education makes students more agreeable, conscientious, and extroverted. Commentary on the study of 575 youth over an eight year period indicated that the non-cognitive changes observed in the sample match what employers and other stakeholders hope to see in youth. "University education may impact character skills development by providing students with exposure to new peer groups and extracurricular activities including sports, politics, and art. Because students from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to be more affected by a change in peer groups through day-to-day interaction with academically inclined peers and academic groups, there may be a greater effect of university education on students from disadvantaged backgrounds."

While some of the language in the summary perpetuates stereotypes about students who have not had the advantage to be included in high quality pre-college education, the results are still worth considering. It's interesting that Australia is move up in the ranks of nations hosting larger numbers of international students and they are doing it by advocating more holistic and engaged learning. Watch out U.S., U.K., and Canada - the Aussies are coming!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chinese student visas may be restricted by Trump

In yet another stunning example of misguided and arbitrary decision-making, U.S. President Donald Trump has asked administration officials to impose restrictions on study visas for students from China. The rationale is part of Trump's broader pursuit of tariffs and other restrictions that he believes are justified in the face of unfair competition from China.

As we now know, Trump is not idol in his thoughts and frequently pushes his ideas through, even when informed officials oppose his ideas. In the case of China, political points will be won with Trump's base but potentially devastating outcomes await when China gets fed up with being attacked by Trump and his supporters and begins to retaliate by imposing its own trade restrictions.

One of the problems with the Twitter President is that Trump doesn't care, and in fact celebrates, that his speculation and transparent vetting of policy has an impact on its own. International student enrollment is already declining to competitors like Canada and Australia and the uncertainty created by Trump is likely to discourage Chinese students from even attempting to study in the U.S. The economic impact could be over 12 billion U.S. dollars and 10% of the doctoral degrees granted by U.S. universities. Executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, Stuart Anderson, warns, "If it ends up that Chinese students long term decide the U.S. is not a reliable place to come study and work, then that'll shut off a major avenue of talent both at universities and in the U.S. tech sector."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

China's brain drain nearing end

China's support for higher education is beginning to pay off by retaining more of the students it funds to pursue academic degrees abroad. The President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China noted that as recently as ten years ago, every 7 Chinese students who studied outside the country only 1 returned to the country to work. Now the figure is 6 out of 7 students will return.

Although a risk when developing higher education and research capacity, sending students to study outside their home country can pay off. The reasons Chinese students may now be more interested in returning to China include more international scholars working in China's higher education sector, improving quality among Chinese universities, and a growing young adult population.