Tuesday, June 26, 2018

1st Generation students

The topic of "First-Generation" students has been around for a while in U.S. higher education. However, it is relatively uncommon for international educators to even think of their students this way - perhaps because the proportion of first-generation students they serve is so high that recognizing and serving the group is "just what we do." I was a first generation student in the late 1960s and neither my undergraduate university (Colorado State University) nor I even recognized the dynamics I experienced.

First-generation implications are real and many of these students could benefit from understanding how they are different; institutions certainly need to think about how to serve them. Campus Labs, a higher education data collection and software company, released a report on its analysis of the difference between the 14% of first-generation students in its sample of 750,000 total students who responded to their survey. They subsequently conducted a follow up with the 29% of first-generation students in a smaller sample of 53,000.

The analysis of the 14% in the larger pool indicated that "The first-generation students outscored their peers in educational commitment, self-efficacy, academic and campus engagement. But they lagged behind multigenerational students in resiliency - or the ability for students to overcome challenging situations and stressful events - and social comfort." Of course - why? First-generation students don't have the parental coaching to know what to expect and how to handle it.

The deeper study in the smaller sample indicated that institutions should be careful that "The negative language leads to a narrative that students are unsupported" or that "assumes [first-generation] students are coming from poverty or have a lack of education." Being first-generation students shouldn't be characterized as a deficit and should, instead, be lauded for the asset of high motivation, striving, and commitment to life enhancement that they bring. This is likely even more important to U.S. institutions that have large proportions of international students or for higher education centers around the world serving growing numbers of students who may be first-generation as many baby-boomers were in the 1960s in the U.S.

At the heart of the question of "first-generation" student success is who/what needs to be fixed. A study of what institutions are doing recommended "that institutions must shift from focusing on whether a student is 'college ready' to whether or not the colleges is 'student ready.' In other words, college leadership should reflect on and change policies and procedures that might inhibit student success." This admonition is relevant to most students who represent some element of identity diversity among majority populations.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Building a major

While the stereotype (true in many cases) is that international students have very specific academic majors that they wish to pursue, some seek flexibility in defining their own majors. Several examples of institutions that offer international students greater flexibility were profiled in a U.S. News & World Report article. One of the advantages of studying with U.S. institutions is more independence and responsibility in pursuing a course of study, a benefit that U.S. institutions may want to increasingly advocate in their international recruitment.

Changes required for the future

Gazing into the crystal ball can be daunting or encouraging. While some may see storm clouds on the horizon, I believe there's plenty of reason for optimism. The changes circumstances of our world are stimulating reconsideration of old approaches and encouraging innovation that will advantage those universities willing and able to respond. Reporting from the 4th International Universia Rectors meeting in Spain, Marcelo Knobel indicated, "The 21st century requires universities to get closer to society and strengthen their relations with different social groups. There is no longer a place in today's world for ivory towers unaware of the demands that emanate from around them. In order for universities to effectively contribute to social and regional development, it is crucial that they seek new idea and good practices, and be open, at the same time, to reviewing and changing their models according to the needs of society."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fee-based Admission

Controversial for many educators but tough to avoid, the use of agents in completing university admission  processes continues as a common practice. Evidence also indicates that the fees charged for helping students gain their all-important seat in the desired university is rising.

With U.S. international student numbers faltering, the competition for applicants is increasing. The result is perhaps a reduction in criteria for admission at some universities. Shorelight, a contracted international student support provider, now seeks to broaden international student recruitment beyond those who are qualified and need little support with language and culture while attending university. Shorelight's spokesperson indicated, "Our target student is a highly motivated, talented student who does need support with language and culture - and then we meet them with a program."

Similar to the question of who agents serve, one has to ask if U.S. universities seek to host international students for the student's or the institution's benefit.

UK more inviting to Chinese Students

As the Trump administration proceeds to implement policies that perceptually and actually make it harder to obtain entry to the U.S., other countries are taking measures to open up. Even the U.K., which has its own problems in relation to conveying welcome, is making it easier to obtain study visas. The immigration ministry has added China and 10 other countries to a list of 28 where "streamlined" processing is available.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Slow and steady increase of international students

Franklin & Marshall University of Pennsylvania's 2018 proportion of international students will be about 23% by the time classes open. This percentage is larger than previous years or even what was planned. Officials say that the increase is the result of slow and steady work in cultivating students/families. International students are targeted based on interest and likelihood of success and, instead of using agents, F&M sends faculty to yield events. The faculty are selected due to their effectiveness in telling the story of the university and convincing students that their approach to liberal arts is for them.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Heritage study in study abroad

One of the persistent problems in study abroad patterns for U.S. domestic students is that students from diverse cultural backgrounds are underrepresented. As student abroad administrators and other educators advocate for internationalization, student abroad is one of the strategies that is most widely used but it's a problem if it only reaches one segment of the student population.

Heritage study is a possible way to encourage more diverse participation in study abroad. With over 50% of U.S. students going to Europe for study abroad and with 72% being White while multicultural students are only 6%, educators clearly need to expand opportunity through sites and participation. Heritage study includes countries and experiences that relate to students' cultural heritage and has the potential to boost pride and confidence in their backgrounds. William Pruitt, himself a former participant and now an administrators for study abroad, indicates, "I've always asked fellow international affairs administrators, 'Does your program's study-abroad portfolio mirror the diversity of your student body.'" Heritage study may be a way to become more representative in both the type of experiences students have and who participates.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Survey of U.S.A faculty on international students

A presentation by researchers at the NAFSA - Association of International Educators conference provided important insight on faculty views toward international students. Not a surprise, faculty expressed concerns about language proficiency. Jason Schneider, assistant professor at DePaul University in Chicago and one of the presenters indicated, "On the one hand, faculty have good things to say about international students and they appreciate their presence, but at the same time they don't know what their role is or they don't know how to make changes in the classroom to adjust to these students."

Another presentation by a team from UCLA reported results of a survey of international students on their experience in the U.S.A. One international student subject commented, "Maybe it's not other people's fault, but I just feel like I'm being different all the time. I feel like... I don't know why I'm really self-conscious about my accent, like how I express myself. So even if I'm in a club or in my group of people, I just feel like 'what if I say something wrong? I don't know the expressions.'"

The combination of faculty perceptions and international students' reactions to their U.S. experience will hopefully push higher education practice forward but it's important to consider both views.

Bold moves forward in international higher education

Qatar Foundation's initiative through Education City is no longer an experiment but a success worthy of replication. Speaking at a forum on international education, Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, CEO of Qatar Foundation, commented that 20 years of experience at Education City has proven that that not only is approximate replication possible but, indeed, new innovations can be the result. "We continuously want to innovate and try something different. It is trying something -- it's not just implanting something that exists, but actually creating something that makes sense" in the example of Qatar.

In a separate article, Qatar Foundation is noted for innovation as a talent hub. While not the only one, it is unique for having launched the idea 20 years ago of hosting branch campuses in a shared location, providing research funding and access, and positioning programs to building the human capacity of those who teach, research, and study at Education City.

Opening new branch campuses

Indonesia is rapidly moving into the branch campus world with as many as 10 campuses opening this year. The move is designed to address gaps in the availability of higher education opportunity for young people but reports of the public policy related to the branch campuses appears to lack many specifics. The risks of diving into branch campus operations without carefully planning include lack of alignment with workforce needs,  attracting quality institutions, and cultural appropriateness. One measure that is included in the branch campus agreements requires the guest operations to dedicate at least 15% of their curriculum to Indonesia-specific content.

While Indonesia moves quickly to open more branch campuses, Malaysia is reassessing its strategy of the last 30 years. A moratorium on new branches was put in place in 2012 which signaled a slowdown in hosting international campuses. The current question is how Malaysia will meet domestic demand while maintaining attractive options for international students from China and India.