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.