Monday, April 29, 2019

Stoking fear of Chinese scholars and students

The rhetoric about Chinese scholars is dangerous, Frank Wu warns. By broadly assuming that Chinese scholars pose a threat to higher education and the broader society, the U.S.A. has become a baffling, if not a hostile, place. These conditions could drive scholars who would otherwise contribute  their research, teaching, and cultural knowledge away as well as foster a resentment toward the U.S.A. that will be extremely negative over the long haul.

Unfortunately, the FBI continues to urge U.S.A. higher education to watch what is happening in theft of intellectual property by China. In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations, FBI Director Christopher Wray remarked that, "China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities, and organizations," and "They're doing it through Chinese intelligence services, through state-owned enterprises, through ostensibly private companies, through graduate students and researchers, through a variety of acts, all working on behalf of China." Specific examples of theft of intellectual property include a faculty member who worked at Emory University and another is from Harvard University where cancer research findings were presumed stolen by a Chinese medical student.

In another protectionist move, Republicans in the U.S.A. Congress have proposed to deny visas to all students and scholars who have Chinese military ties.

U.S. academic groups are now pushing back against the FBI. Pen America, the American Association of University Professors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and 19 other higher education associations came together to publish a statement that included the warning, "Federal agencies need to clarify and specify their concerns, and ensure that their efforts do not trample on individual rights nor on the principle of free and open academic inquiry and exchange."

Liz Reisberg warned that other countries have been vilified in the past and that characterizing all scholars from a particular country seldom leads to fair or positive results. She wrote, "Creating 'monsters' does not serve us well. In the case of China, assuming all Chinese students and scholars who are at universities abroad are government agents does a great injustice to the thousands of talented individuals who have contribute economically and academically to the institutions where they have enrolled.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Singapore's proposal to deter false information

Singapore is considering legislation that academics around the world fear will restrict academic freedom. The proposal would allow "ministers to order internet service providers to block access to content in Singapore that the country deems false." Scholars fear censorship of contested topics that are published in journals and a decline among other countries' scholars to collaborate with those in Singapore. The Ministry of Education has countered in a statement indicating that the bill only addresses "verifiably false statements of fact" and "does not restrict opinion and will not affect academic research work."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

U.S. and China share quest to enhance learning through technology

The U.S. and China are often assumed to be at odds or in competition. They recently came together to explore how technology can enhance student learning. Reporting on the atmosphere at the conference, Ray Schroeder commented, "Clearly the attending faculty members from universities across Asia Europe and North America valued the qualities and potential of rich media to support teaching and learning. We talked pedagogy, engagement, adaptive delivery and related strategies that could best be floated on these vehicles of technology. Simulations and immersion activities were among the key applications most frequently discussed."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The advantage of U.S. degrees in China

That a degree from a Chinese university may advantage an applicant in consideration for employment  with Chinese businesses over a U.S. degree may come as a surprise. The two main reasons identified in research as giving an edge to Chinese university degree holders are that 1) U.S. degree holders are perceived to have more options and therefore harder to hire and 2) U.S. institutions' brands are not as recognizable as Chinese universities. The findings of the study indicate that graduates of elite U.S. universities had a slight edge in attracting prospective employer interest.

Mingyu Chen, the researcher cited above and a Ph.D. student at Princeton, suggested two important implications of his findings. First, Chinese students are likely to more critically consider the return on investment of their education in relation to the value of the experience and resulting job prospects. Secondly, "U.S. institutions may want to help students transition from an American education to a Chinese workplace." Help with transition back to China reinforces the importance of career services for Chinese students on U.S. campuses.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Don't fix but embrace us says international student

Santiago Castiello-Gutierrez' essay "Beyond the Melting Pot..." provides first-hand insight on his experience as an international student in the U.S.A. He says, "Today's HEIs focus too much on what we as international students lack instead of focusing on the richness of our 'uniqueness'." He goes on to characterize his and other international students' uniqueness as "a form of capital that can transform an institution."

Just as domestic multicultural students in the U.S.A. were first only accommodated and more recently have begun to transform the HEIs they attend, international students have so much to offer and the sooner institutions move to an asset rather than deficit view the more quickly everyone will benefit.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Don't adopt this U.S. insanity

My posts on this blog are often applicable to both educators in the U.S.A. as well as international educators in various places around the world. This specific post is directed at international educators and it is a warning to not chase elite brands in higher education as the U.S.A. has increasingly done in recent years.

The U.S.A. has been rocked by the scandal that rich/privileged parents have been buying their children's way into elite institutions. At the head of the list is the University of Southern California (USC) but many other schools have also been implicated. I dare say that there are many more institutions and families that should be exposed for being part of privileging the privileged in college admissions. Whether it's donors who make "no strings attached" gifts on the eve of their childrens' applications or it's outright cheating on qualifying exams or falsifying credentials, it doesn't really matter. It's all fraud and many institutions and their staff are complicit in fulfilling the dreams of rich parents who believe that their children can't achieve much without an elite brand degree.

How did we get here? Bill McGarvey provided a number of insights in "We're sacrificing our kid's mental health to the college admission industrial complex." While this title reveals one type of ill (young people's increased anxiety over going to college), McGarvey's article goes to the deeper question of why parents who can afford to buy their offspring's admission are doing it. When one looks at how the U.S.A. became a higher education center for the world, it is easy to see that it was to provide opportunity that would create an exploding middle class in the mid-20th century. This exploding middle class was built by opening access to higher education through a large number of great public universities. Now that commitment to building of a middle class has lost favor (at least as earnings statistics indicate), public funding for universities has been in steady decline. While publics have increased their tuition to astronomical levels, elite private universities have gone even higher and it is these elite places where today's rich parents want to send their kids. There is little evidence that elite institutions have any discernibly superior outcomes to public universities but that isn't what elite families wanted anyway. They wanted elite degrees because of the networks these degrees secured.

There are big questions in the international higher education space - rankings, costs, access, quality, and workforce preparation are just a few. Unfortunately, many emerging universities outside of North America and Europe are attempting to adopt current educational practices that are now tipped toward elitism and exclusion in the U.S.A. If international higher education wants to build capacity and increase opportunity, the lessons of the 1950 - 1980 era in the U.S.A. would be the place they should go. That's when elite education was available and served the same narrow population it serves today. The really great thing about the 1950 - 1980 era was that it also served many young people not of elite background and status who went to college to improve their career opportunities and standard of living. And the outcome was spectacular - for individual students as well as families, businesses, communities and the broader nation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Golden age of internationalization?

The number of international students studying in the U.S.A. has increased dramatically over the last two decades, although there are now fears of decline. Campuses are encouraging domestic students to study abroad. And some campuses are engaged in drafting internationalization strategies that go beyond student mobility to integration of international perspectives in courses and cocurricular experiences as well as the research and scholarship of faculty.

Some educators are beginning to wonder if the golden age is coming to a close. This includes noted authors such as Kevin Kinser of Pennsylvania State University and Philip Altbach and Hans de Wit of Boston College. The warnings range from the implications of the Trump era, with its resurgence of national isolation and growing restrictions/costs, to questions about the depth of real internationalization available on campus. The latter point is that some campuses have let student mobility be their international focus when there is so much more that should be included if true internationalization is the goal. The result is a skin deep approach that marginalizes international issues to "an add-on, an extra, a thing to be handled by the office with 'international' on the door. Commitment, on campus and off, could be shallow. It was a nice thing to do, yes, but rarely fundamental."

Robin Helms responded to Fischer's article in ways very similar to what I advocate. Fischer's article, echoed by others and with likely more to come, is a call to attention. There are shallow approaches that discredit the work done in much greater depth at other campuses. The bottom line is that institutions should not over-promise by lauding their deep commitment if, in fact, there is little substance. For campuses just beginning to pay attention or that have suffered from neglect, honesty is the best approach and then a commitment to go deeper.