Friday, December 20, 2019

Responding to ethnic violence in Ethiopia

Many universities experience tensions and discrimination related to ethnicity and cultural background. Ethiopia, with a history of ethnic tension and student activism, has had a greater challenge.

Recommendations by Abebaw Yirga Adamu for how the ethnic environment can be improved include: 1) first-year student orientation, 2) a variety of dialogue platforms, 3) social media training, 4) curricular and extracurricular activities, and 5) serious disciplinary response to students who violate university rules.

Caste added to nondiscrimination

Brandeis University recently added "caste" to its nondiscrimination policy. Report of the move indicated that caste has long been a hidden issue, unrecognized although pervasive in settings with students from southeast Asia where the history of caste has been so prevalent.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Fudan University (China) drops "freedom of thought"

Sudan University of China recently dropped a statement about "freedom of thought" in its university charter. The change is perceived to be a response to growing pressure for patriotism and adherence to Communist party dictates.

Study abroad and climate change

An implication of study abroad that has not received a lot of attention is the environmental impact of travel. Elizabeth Redden provides good background on the question by saying that, "programs run the risk of environmental and social harm not only when the distance traveled is far but also 'when the size of the student group is such that it is forced to set up a separate and self-sustaining foreign enclave within the host community'; when the backgrounds of participants allow for only limited intercultural contact, perspective taking, and foreign language learning': and 'when the primary motivation of participants has more to do with the promised thrill of travel and immediate goals gratification than the opportunity to learn from and with community residents,' among other factors."

International educators want to see travel increased but perhaps more consideration should be given to return on investment related to intensity and length of study abroad experiences as well as how far a destination is necessary in order for students to learn. Learning locally in a cross-cultural environment may help students learn more than a short-term study abroad experience that is simply a "bubble" of students traveling to a foreign location.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Gift of Global Talent

The book review of "The Gift of Global Talent" reiterates an issue on which I've previously posted - that the hostility of the Trump administration and competition from Canada, UK, and Australia are contributing to a decline in talented international students attracted to U.S.A. higher education. While I haven't read the book as yet, the review lays out the urgency of the U.S.A. reversing the decline. If it does not, the U.S.A. could suffer for many years to come in research productivity and workforce talent.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Japanese study finds students' study abroad impact may be exaggerated

Study abroad impact for Japanese students may not be as great as students believe. Particularly related to advantages students gain in future employability, the study found that students believe study abroad has greater value than employers do. The number of Japanese students who engaged in short term (less than a month) study abroad increased from 16,873 in 2009 to 66,876 in 2017 but employers report finding little value in these short experiences. The number of short-term U.S. study abroad students has accelerated in recent years as well, with perception of outcomes questioned by study abroad officials.

One of the core issues related to study abroad impact is what is happening during these experiences, whether short or long. "Bubble" programs often allow students to retreat to the security of their group and not really engage with indigenous people and settings. It is up to faculty and study abroad experts to deepen the dive into local culture and issues so that students' exposure truly is "study" rather than just glorified tourism.

Foreign gifts under microscope

U.S. federal authorities continue their review of foreign gifts to universities. In a preliminary report, six universities were found to have received $1.3 billion in "gifts" from China and Russia for activities that the investigators found "disturbing." While some of the branch campuses in Qatar were included in previous investigative work, the fact that the new review includes gifts from Chinese and Russian entities may mean that the queries regarding Qatar were recognized for what they are - a fee for services rendered, not a gift.

Harvard and Yale underwent investigations for foreign gifts with the U.S. Department of Education claiming that Yale may not have reported as much as $375 million in foreign funding. The Harvard question is one of whether or not foreign funds have appropriate institutional controls in place. Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, said, "Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all," in as institutions receiving foreign funding. House Republican lawmakers continued to examine documents to clarify gifts given to Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago, University of Delaware, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania.

While U.S. federal authorities are scrutinizing gifts, there is another side to the question. The Council for the Advancement of Support of Education admonishes that gifts are essential to fund a breadth of higher education institutions and must be maintained.

Florida lawmakers initiated an inquiry into foreign funding of higher education after it was discovered that scientists from the Moffitt Cancer Center participated in a government-sponsored recruitment program sponsored by the Chinese government. At issue from Florida legislators' perspective is foreign meddling in state research university affairs.

Harvard professor, Charles Lieber, was charged for misrepresenting payments he received from the Chinese government. He is one of three Boston-area academics who have been accused of having ties to Chinese entities that have attempted to steal research from U.S.A. universities. Additionally, a professor at Ohio State, and researchers at Stanford, the University of California, Davis, and Texas A&M were arrested for allegedly hiding their ties to China. A University of Florida professor has been indicted for exchanging information from a NIH grant with Chinese company. A Chinese researcher at UCLA has been charged with destroying evidence after throwing a damaged hard drive into a dumpster. A math professor at Southern Illinois University has been charged with wire fraud and making false statements regarding his ties with a Chinese university.

Charges against a University of Tennessee engineering professor ended up in mistrial amidst concerns raised about racial profiling associated with the targeting that took place during the Trump administration. The number of cases and the rhetoric around Chinese scholars' offenses may be causing legitimate scholars to be viewed negatively by their peers said Frank Wu, President of Queens College in New York.

After the U.S. Department of Education proposed a new form to collect information about foreign gifts to universities in excess of $250,000, it withdrew the plan. The American Council on Education and other associations challenged the collection of information as going beyond the scope of the law.

After President Biden's inauguration and the policy changes that followed, the Department of Justice announced that it was considering an amnesty offer to academics who have received foreign funding. The amnesty would offer the chance to disclose funding sources without fear of governmental reprisal. The Department of Justice also dismissed charges against five Chinese scientists who were accused of not disclosing ties to China.

Germany has now become embroiled in similar questions about international gifts and partnerships. The Fee University of Berlin signed a contract that bound it to abide by Chinese law, which included the potential to restrict subjects prohibited by the Chinese government. German officials assert that giving discretion in exchange for Chinese financial support is untenable. One parliamentarian tweeted, "The interference of China at FU Berlin clearly shows how China envisages 'cooperation' with our educational institutions. Independence of science is one of the most important freedoms and must be guaranteed."  The Australian government has also launched investigation of ties to China and abuses associated with gifts to its higher education sector.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Student Global Leadership Conference

There are a number of "global" leadership conferences available for students. One is the Student Global Leadership Conference in London in spring of 2020, sponsored by the Foundation for International Education. The conference description indicates European participants but it appears to be open to students of any national background. With a theme of "Leadership for change in an uncertain world," it taps into some of the questions that are likely relevant to many students. Unfortunately, the web site potentially spins the title into a heroic and singular model of leading rather than empowering all students to engage in leadership.

There is no doubt that conference organizers mean well but language and theoretical focus is often not carefully considered in conferences such as this one. The good thing is that most initiatives to convene university student leadership will have a positive impact because they bring people together, regardless of the fact that the conference could result in much deeper impact if theory, messaging, and inclusive leadership were more precisely communicated.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The challenges of building capacity in research

Most universities around the world seek to attract and retain scholars who are productive in research. Elite institutions are distinguished by the success of faculty who produce important and published research. Those areas of the world building capacity through higher education face an uphill fight in cultivating a stable faculty, a dynamic documented by a research study that found 91% of academics in Arab nations want to work someplace other than where they are, with Europe and the U.S. being the most desirable destinations. The assessment of researcher opinions indicated that advancing in their discipline and conducting more sophisticated research was the top reason for wanting to work outside the Arab world with better research facilities, academic freedom, better salary, and escaping bureaucracy also identified by significant percentages of those responding to the survey.

While the motivations of Arab nation researchers is understandable, leaving for European and U.S. universities undermines the fight to nurture more robust universities throughout the world. Might it not benefit Europe and the U.S. to find ways to keep Arab researchers in the MENA region? Branch campuses is one way to do this with Education City in Qatar being one of the most convincing examples.

Poland boosts funding for elite 10 universities

Poland, like other countries such as Germany and India, is launching preferential funding to their top research universities. Ten universities have been selected and will receive a boost in their budgets to allow them to be more competitive in the broader European higher education environment. While some view the move as necessary in order to positively differentiate different types of institutions, "some critics fear that concentrating resources on a select few, most of which are in big cities, will widen divisions within Polish society, echoing similar concerns about the impact of elite universities in countries include the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany."

Monday, December 2, 2019

Recovery in Hong Kong after protests

The prolonged protests in Hong Kong have attracted attention around the world. When the protests swelled to include millions, it appeared as if the entire city was coming apart. Media portrayed the worst and it appeared that the demonstrations impacted various sectors such as the economy and education, an impact that could linger for some time.

Gerard Postiglione indicates that higher education will bounce back. Because university students are often foster activism, one might expect that these institutions would suffer the most. Postiglione predicts that Hong Kong and its higher education institutions will recover quickly saying, "Hong Kong has always been a bounce-back city." There are three reasons why; 1) university leaders are committed to dialogue with students, 2) laws provide a base for autonomy and academic freedom, and 3) Hong Kong attracts many talented scholars from around the world. The combination of these factors and China's desire to continue to build the prestige of education will likely result in a quick return to normal operation.