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.