Thursday, January 31, 2019

Fake university to lure undocumented immigrants

I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that the Obama administration began, and the Trump administration escalated, the creation of a fake university as a strategy to lure undocumented immigrants seeking study visas to stay in the U.S. The article linked here indicates that many of the 21 indictments involved recruiters and consultants "serving" international students, an objective I enthusiastically endorse, it seems that the fake university strategy could very well have negatively impacted serious international students and soured them on the possibility of admission to U.S. universities.

India's Ministry of External Affairs issued a protest about the way prospective Indian students are being treated as a result of the sting. The concern is that students who were duped into enrolling should be treated differently than those who duped them.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Multilingual learning - the Duke incident

An assistant professor and director of graduate studies for the master's program in biostatistics at Duke University was removed from her administrative position after Chinese students were singled out for speaking Chinese in informal interaction. While she will retain her faculty position, the Dean of the Duke Medical School announced the removal and wrote to students, "To be clear: there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom. And your privacy will always be protected."

The linked article provides text from the director of graduate studies' communication to students, which included patronizing comments about understanding how challenging studying in another language can be. Duke's Medical School made the right call in reassuring international students that they should feel free to use whatever language they wish and that their privacy and prerogative would be respected. Other cases of language insensitivity have resulted in faculty removal from teaching responsibilities. Academics condemnations of such conduct have come from multiple places.

Li Jin and Jason Schneider, who surveyed faculty at DePaul University, indicate that the intolerance demonstrated in the Duke example is not unusual. They indicate that faculty believe "that the challenge of international student adjustment to the U.S. academic reality falls wholly on the students. Or differently, ... any teaching challenges that we may have as faculty can be attributed to those supposed shortcomings and deficiencies, not to our own inability to rethink our pedagogies in response to changing demographics."

To add a disparaging element to the neglectful attitudes that faculty and staff sometimes exhibit, students complained about a professor at the University of Maryland who was accused Chinese students of cheating on an exam. Criticisms of Chinese students were also posted to Maryland's learning management system. The students filed a complaint and the professor resigned before university action could be taken.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gates Foundation - increasing student success

The Gates Foundation has announced the search for partners to transform campuses - particularly focusing on increasing the success of "low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults." Such a move could help address the disparity between privileged and less-privileged students on campuses and thereby help to fulfill the promise that U.S. higher education has sought for so many years - empowerment through education that drives personal and economic advancement.

Why is this important in the context of a blog on internationalization? Because leveling the playing field through advanced education has been proven to build a middle class and because a highly educated population will result in nations gaining, or maintaining, prominence in the knowledge-based economy of the future. Specific to U.S. higher education, the socio-economic and experiental breadth of students more fully reflects that diversity of its citizens and this kind of reach and its impact should be a model for other countries.

Thank you, Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and others for pushing forward on an issue that institutions might not be willing to tackle on their own.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Preparing students for work

Many faculty and staff in higher education bristle at the assertion that one of the primary reasons to attend university is preparation for work. Although there's more to learning and development in the college years than just getting ready for a job, it is very important to students and to employers. Cengage conducted a survey to see if current assumptions about graduates' readiness for work are true or not. The biggest gap is that students believe they are much more ready than employers. The report closes with recommendations to enhance students' experiences so they are ready upon graduation; they include pursuing internships, getting involved on campus, improve their writing, and compile an e-portfolio that reflects the "whole student" experience.

A complementary survey of 5,000 students provides advice to universities on how they can do a better job responding to students' needs in preparing for work.

A caveat - The Inside Higher Education summary of the above Cengage studies called the missing preparation "soft skills." This is a demeaning reference that should be avoided - what employers want and students seek to develop are anything but "soft."

Friday, January 11, 2019

Meddling in S. Korean higher education

A number of places around the world have reported examples of meddling in university affairs. The latest country to add to the list is South Korea where complaints have emerged regarding decisions on institutional leadership. The specific concern arose regarding the S. Korean Ministry of Science demand that the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) president be removed after allegations of financial fraud. Beyond the immediate case of KAIST, critics indicate that turnover among high level academic leaders has been a habit when government transition occurs, a practice that academics see as disruptive of scientific progress.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

International student recruitment challenges

Inside Higher Education sponsored a meeting on current trends in international student recruitment that illuminated what most U.S. institutions already knew - recruiting international students is getting harder. About half of U.S. institutions have seen modest declines while the other half report either stable or slight increases in international enrollment. Those that have experienced increases are research intensive and with high namebrand visibility around the world. The big winner in comparison to U.S. losses appears to be Canada where international student enrollment is increasing across the board.

For those institutions seeking to increase international enrollment, even when there are headwinds such as cost, climate, and visa restrictions, education leaders often use the idea of preparation for global work as a rationale. "The notion of cultural agility, the notion of global ease and global proficiency are important," said Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University. Another strategy used to stabilize or increase international enrollment is partnership, a concept advocated by Ahmad Hasnah, President of Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar. Hasnah advocated that partnerships should include outreach to local communities and should reinforce that "your research is really able to impact them. I think they need to feel that impact."

Monday, January 7, 2019

Investing in higher education

How to fund higher education around the globe is one of the most important questions education leaders, citizens, and governments face. Especially when resources are limited, the tendency is to dedicate the majority of resources to elite education experiences for a limited number of students. If there is really no option, then this may be an unavoidable policy conclusion. However, the fact is that elite higher education actually has the least impact on students' economic mobility and future. And, there is a larger ecosystem of higher education that should be nurtured by greater collaboration, not more intensive competition exaggerated by the inequality of resources.

The issue of donors investing in higher education is addressed by author Malcolm Gladwell in his "Revisionist History" podcast "My Little Hundred Million." Using the example of Hank Rowan, a $100 million donor to Glassboro State University, Gladwell compared what happens when donors invest in elite institutions rather spreading their gifts across a number of less elite institutions.

Gladwell's assertion is reinforced by other analyses. The Equality of Opportunity Project documents that less elite institutions move a greater proportion and number of students from lower income families to higher levels than elite institutions. In addition, less elite institutions have increased access to lower income students at much higher rates that elites such as UC-Berkeley and Harvard.

Washington Monthly's College Guide and Rankings provides a completely different way of ranking colleges and universities other than reputation and resources (the primary criteria of the U.S. News & World Report rankings). The criteria of Washington Monthly include; social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

International higher education needs to look carefully at the U.S. patterns analyzed in the above. The unfortunate outcome in the U.S. is a very expensive system with access controlled by socio-economic class. Especially in emerging economies where capacity building is a priority, choosing another path may be fruitful.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Higher education in Latin America

I've previously posted about higher education in Chile, lauding the movement toward more holistic and engaged learning made possible through adapting student affairs practices. Liz Reisberg's review conveys a very different picture of higher education throughout Latin America. Daniel Levy followed Reisberg's article with a slightly different perspective and Fernando Leon Garcia offered yet another.

The essential problems that Reisberg identifies are isolation and rigidity, conditions that have resulted in the use of unexamined traditional approaches to learning. Quoting the article, "There is a growing body of evidence that we need to prepare students with less field-related content in favor of a broader base of skills - with some essential content knowledge - and the ability to adapt to change." Reisberg concludes the article with a comment that "In a few instances progressive and visionary leaders have attempted reform through the creation of new institutions or programs."

I don't know if Reisberg has traveled to or consulted deeply with educators in Chile but my experience is that Chilean's are acutely aware of the need for change and are taking aggressive steps to modernize their approach. It's perplexing that the positive efforts in Chile were not acknowledged.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

International students and broader options

It is no surprise that the number of international student prospects is softening and declining for many U.S. college/university enrollment managers. The causes for the decline include the complexity of obtaining visas, perception of climate for internationals, post-graduate work prospects, and cost. U.S. institutions, which have dominated the world market, are being challenged by many countries around the world, particularly in relation to cost. With a potential slow-down in world economies and growing competition, the international student bubble may be in the process of bursting, if it hasn't already.

When any one institution or brand dominates a market, it is easy to be complacent. As competition is recognized, the question then becomes how to assert superiority against the rising competitors. U.S. higher education knows that cutting costs has only limited potential against countries where tuition and other expenses are very low. If cost cannot be significantly reduced, the value of a U.S. higher education has to be the focus and value includes quality of learning, climate, and ease of application and enrollment.

For student affairs educators in the U.S. and around the world, it would be a mistake to accept a perception that all student affairs can offer in the competition for international students is service - receptiveness, ease, and convenience. Student affairs educators contribute a great deal to improving holistic learning and addressing the climate that makes a campus a good place to be. It is all three, service, learning, and climate that should be addressed.