Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sri Lanka poised to enter higher education market

Sri Lanka has announced that it is soliciting universities to set up branch campuses to serve international students. With Sri Lanka so accessible to both India and China, they may be successful but the question is what quality of education will be offered. The strategy includes setting up a "free education investment zone" where international universities will offer programs to "overseas students and nonresident Sri Lankan students who are able to pay in foreign currency."

Although a 750 acre plot of land has been identified as the site for international universities to locate, other Sri Lankan governmental financial support is minimal. With such a low level of support and the assumption that students will pay market-based rates in tuition, the issue of quality is central. Elite universities simply will not be willing to set up a campus in a setting where tuition revenues are the major source of funding. Skeptics of the plan point to Arabian Gulf and Malaysian models where branches are already established, often with significant government financing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Coronavirus impacts study abroad

It was inevitable that the Coronavirus would go to the population centers where U.S.A. students most like to travel. The reality of study abroad coordinators looked at protective strategies, including cancelling trips, perhaps becoming the new normal for institutions that have urged students to study abroad in larger numbers. As Julie Anne Friend of Northwestern University indicated, "it's such an unnerving circumstance to think that an individual could be quarantined" and this is leading both students and institutions to exercise greater prudence in  their planning.

Chuck Staben, a former university president, offered general advice to colleges and universities regarding how to prepare for a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus which eventually came to pass in full measure. As the pandemic raged on, study abroad coordinators began to ponder when students might be likely begin to consider traveling again.

Monday, February 17, 2020

India expands on-line degrees and foreign programs

In an effort to reach the overwhelming number of young Indians who will be feeding the employment market, India is expanding on-line course opportunities. Education policy has previously limited the portion of on-line content to 20% of the courses in a degree program due to concerns about quality. The provision will now allow for full completion of degrees on-line but the only universities allowed to do so are in the top 100 national universities. U.S.A. on-line course providers are hoping to expand exposure as well.

In addition, foreign providers may increase the availability and quality of universities operating in India. The hope is to attract the top 100 universities in the world.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Brooks - NYT "How Scandinavia Got Great"

David Brooks writes articles that I often find of interest. His February 13, 2020, NYT article, "This is how Scandinavia got great," is one I would add to the list, particularly because it critiques U.S.A. education in ways that I believe are inaccurate. Brooks' thesis is that the prosperity of Scandinavian countries (which he identifies as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, although Finland does not necessarily see itself as "Scandinavian") is not the result of socialism but of the realization that "if their countries were to prosper they had to create truly successful 'folk schools' for the least educated among them."

I don't disagree with the belief that there is a unique commitment among these countries to broaden access to schools for all. What I quibble with is that he claims that the type of education offered in "Scandinavian" education is based on the "bildung" philosophy originating from Germany and not embraced in U.S.A. education. The "bildung" view offers education that results in the "complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person." Brooks says that this philosophy embraces the idea that individuals go through development phases which eventually result in internalized values that reflect this transformation.

The idea of holistic education is readily seen in many U.S.A. colleges and universities and these are the institutions I know best (Brooks does not say in the article whether he is speaking of K-12 or higher education). Many U.S.A. higher education institutions embrace holistic education and have very robust research and theory that informs how the process of development unfolds. Brooks, by ignorance or design, missed this major piece of what distinguishes U.S.A. higher learning.

Where Brooks is correct is that the commitment to holistic, transformative learning for students is uneven. Depending on a variety of variables (including private/public, large/small, teaching/research focused), students may attend institutions that have this focus or they may be in environments where education is very transactional and attentive only to skill development and workplace preparation. I don't know the degree to which Scandinavia has a pervasive focus on holistic and transformative learning but I do know that many U.S.A. institutions have an equal or stronger commitment to this idea, it's just that not everyone has access to it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Good news - International graduate student enrollment is up

A recent report provides good news to U.S.A. higher education - international graduate student enrollment is up by 4% for fall of 2019. With declines over the last several years, the increase is great news. Now the question becomes how to retain the momentum with the continued Trump administration country bans and public pronouncements that communicate to the world that the U.S.A. isn't such a great place to study.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Fighting for ESL - two examples

The utility and importance of "English as a Second Language" courses are being debated on many campuses. As international students find ways to acquire English at home at a cheaper cost and less time, ESL focused on them at U.S. institutions becomes less attractive. Two cases in very different settings get to some of the questions being explored, the first at Loyola University and the second is a community college group in New Jersey.

Cuts in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Loyola of Chicago attracted the attention of the campus chapter of AAUP. Faculty produced a report indicating that by cutting ESL faculty positions, Loyola lost momentum in international student enrollment and in prestige compared to other universities. The bottom line was that the decision to release faculty in ESL had cost the university money rather than creating savings.

In the New Jersey example, a recent meeting of the vice presidents of academic affairs for community colleges requested input from researchers affiliated with the state Community College Research Center. The researchers in this case provided evidence about access, completion, and next steps for students who take ESL courses. The findings stimulated discussion about the broader needs for ESL, including students who are recent immigrants with U.S.A. passports whose colloquial command of English is good but academic English is poor.

As competition for international student enrollment intensifies, most campuses are doing anything they can to maintain their numbers - with ESL being one option. The combination of the Loyola and New Jersey examples perhaps demonstrates that there is a larger market for ESL and that there is an opportunity to integrate international students through interaction with students who are U.S.A. citizens but still transitioning in language and sense of culture and belonging.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Northwestern in Qatar - backlash

After backlash emerged at Northwestern University's campus in Qatar, it cancelled the appearance of an openly gay popular singer from Lebanon. Those who protested cited Qatari and Islamic values as the basis of their complaint. Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is providing a "media revolutions in the Middle East" discussion as an alternative.

This is a graphic example of the tensions that can emerge when western higher education practices are implemented in a different cultural context. While U.S. campuses often schedule controversial events as a way of demonstrating a marketplace of ideas to which all students should be exposed, stepping across a cultural line where a value is so fundamental is likely to run into opposition.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Trump extends and expands travel bans

To the desperation of international educators, the Trump administration is extending the ban against immigration visas for six new countries from the African continent. Although the bans relate to immigration and not study visas, the Executive Director of the National (USA) Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) condemned the bans saying, "As international educators committee to fostering a peaceful, more welcoming United States, we are deeply disturbed by this latest travel ban expansion and the message it sends..." The additional bans are based on the Trump administration's view that security measures and information sharing about potential threats is inadequate in the targeted countries.

Renowned international scholars have also confronted prolonged processing timeframes or visa denials. Two high profile cases involved European scholars, one of whom recently traveled to Iran and the other was caught in an algorithm related to previous travel and contacts with people and organizations that flagged him as a potential threat.