Wednesday, November 25, 2020

China postpones return of international students

China may well be one of the first national economies to begin recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to protect its advantage, the Chinese government is continuing its prohibition of international students' return for their studies. The approximately 500,000 students who previously studied in China have turned to petitioning for return but it appears that the governmental policy is not likely to change.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Education and work post-COVID-19

As higher education continues to navigate survival and what is in the future after COVID-19 is tamed, Strada Education Network's research found that current and/or prospective university students "have a lot of hope, but not a lot of confidence. People need to move beyond belief and hope to the personal confidence they need in order to take action and pursue the education or training they want and need."

Inside Higher Education's brief summary of an interview with Strada's Dave Clayton didn't cover the political push-back that has come about as the result of the Trump administration's vilification of the liberal bias in higher education, vilification that has now shown up in France. What the interview does capture is that higher education institutions need to look more closely at how citizens can prepare for work that will offer a more promising future after a period of personal and economic devastation. In order to be more responsive to students' needs and desires, Ryan Craig proposes that the dominant "boomer" orientation toward self discovery rather than pathways to prosperity will have to be undone.

Strada Education Network asserts that putting students first is essential and that the "future of education and training broadly is certain to include more hybrid settings, meaning we will have a mix of in-person and virtual learning experiences across our lives," all more carefully tailored to the diversity of students who hope to find opportunity going forward.

Learning innovation and a focus on outcomes for students will certainly be central in the minds of many education leaders. "Susan Resneck Pierce challenged university leaders to begin to think strategically and long term, rather than only managing the daunting tactical tasks of the moment." Maloney and Kim assert that it is "crucial for them to see the lessons of the past nine months (and near future) as long term investments in deliberate, purposeful change." Steven Mintz offered 20 things he believed higher education faculty and leaders have learned from the pandemic and recommended that "future proofing" graduates should be a major priority. These higher education leaders are part of the wave advocating that COVID-19 realizations have the potential to improve retention, satisfaction, and outcome for all students.

A common response to the financial stresses on higher education at present is to expand scope. Grow or die has been the reality for all too many institutions whose leaders have guided them to tap new enrollment markets, increase online presence, pursue joint ventures in their local communities, and expand branch campuses. "Institutions have adopted a much more entrepreneurial mindset..." that requires risk-taking, visioning and partnering that builds support both inside and outside campus boundaries.

Nathan Grawe proposes agility as one of the primary features of successful institutions in the coming years. Demographic shifts, exacerbated by a possible decline in birth rate resulting from the pandemic, will require institutions to be resilient and persevering. Staying focused on students, improving retention, and attracting underserved students will be important to almost any institutional strategy.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Creativity and innovation

"Creatives" are a treasure to almost every organization, especially in this time of chaotic change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic Tsunami that is raging throughout the world. The full impact of this pandemic will ripple through all sectors of the economy and will likely transform many workplaces. Particularly as artificial intelligence replaces some jobs, creativity will be a central attribute most sought in employees.

How organizations across a variety of sectors respond depends on their stability, resource base, and leadership. Particularly in higher education, many are predicting paradigmatic change that will result from shifting markets, changing finances, and diverse stakeholders. 

How does paradigmatic change occur and what kind of people are required in order for sustainable change to emerge? Responding on the behalf of those who champion unrecognized or unpopular solutions, Robert Sternberg, publishing in Inside Higher Education, raises the question that creatives often raise, "Was your idea too creative?"

I've played the "creative" role throughout my career, sometimes achieving a desirable outcome and other times succeeding temporarily or failing all together. As a younger educator I didn't even understand that my views were often entirely different from those around me. I thought that I was just the one who voiced the perspective that was likely obvious to at least some, if not a number, of those around me. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was asking others around me to take a leap, moving into an uncomfortable or even disloyal place, which automatically set up resistance that I then needed to manage.

Sternberg's opinion piece is eye-opening and is broadly applicable in higher education and other sectors. The key issues he helps us understand are: 1) what level of change are you advocating? 2) why are you often rejected? and 3) how do you minimize the potential of rejection?

These are very important questions for the individual "creative" but they are also questions that organizations might ask of themselves in slightly modified form: 1) what level of change is required for organizational survival and thriving? 2) why does our organization reject important opportunities? and 3) how can the organization minimize the negative impact on "creatives" and the consequences for the broader organization?

Monday, November 9, 2020

The Biden-Harris educational agenda

You could practically hear the collective sigh of relief when educators at all levels saw the announcement on November 7 that Donald Trump is on his way out. Perhaps more important to educators' immediate concerns, Betsy Devos hastily left as a result of her protest resignation after the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S.A. capitol. The damage done by Devos, which some same say isn't much, will require Biden and Harris to undo what has undermined higher education over the last four years.

President-elect Biden spoke at numerous points about the importance of education. In addition, that his wife has a doctoral degree in education and continues an active education career, shows great promise. Dr. Jill Biden completed a bachelor, 2 masters, and doctorate degrees, justifying the appropriate title of "Dr.," although Joseph Epstein, a former bachelors-only degree holder and instructor up until 2003 in English at Northwestern University, criticized her for using the academic title. Northwestern's English department and broader university issued statements disagreeing with Epstein's views. Some predict that community colleges will be a primary place where a Biden-bump is expected but others see the same possibility for HBCUs and addressing student debt (with some advocating entirely cancelling previous debt and broader numbers joining the move) as part of his economic recovery plan.

Evidence projects a more positive approach to education during the Biden-Harris administration and this was reinforced by considerable resources being directed to higher education in Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan. In addition, Biden's proposed budget included significant increases to NIH and NSF, and a smaller increase for NEH. His proposed regular budget included increases for higher education that were lauded by many but, according to some higher education groups, some gaps remained.

A return to freer expression of various student concerns was also evident in the early days of Biden's administration. Speculation quickly emerged on who would serve as the their Secretary of Education which is key to delivering on campaign statements. The possibility of selecting former NEA President, Lily Eskelson Garcia, drew opposition before any announcement was made. Ultimately, Miguel Cordona, who previously has served as head of Connecticut schools, was confirmed, and other appointments filled in leadership in the Secretary's office. Higher education advocates were included in a number of other appointments, including some with track records related to equity and access.

Racial and wealth inequality will be one of the most important issues to address during the new administration. Responding to the "inequality that is built into the United States' most viable system of opportunity - the education sector - is an elephant in the room that the leader of the U.S. Department of Education... can't ignore." Biden's "Anti-Systemic Racism" Executive Order was an important signal that all government agencies should examine their practices and the impact will surely be seen in higher education. Cybersecurity is another major issue that impacts higher education and many other areas of citizens' lives in the USA. Tracy Mitrano, a Cornell University faculty member who moved to elective office over the last three years offers suggestions about what the Biden administration should do.

Responding to the devastation of COVID-19 on higher education, for which the Trump administration provided little guidance, Biden immediately called for better guidance to universities about safely opening and operating universities. Another very problematic area was the Trump administration's persistent policy intervention and statements about international students. The Trump administration caused U.S. enrollments in high school as well as at colleges and universities to decline presipitously. Educators are well aware that the Biden-Harris administration will have to reset both policy and perception of U.S. hospitality toward international students.

Everyone knows that a lot of hard work is ahead and the hope is that the consequence of electing Biden-Harris will be greater positive attention on all levels of education. We're with you, Joe!

Friday, November 6, 2020

How first-generation and low-income students access and survive higher education

First-generation and low-income students are often viewed through a deficit lens. This perpetuates dysfunctional discrimination as well as sometimes internalized oppression among students from these backgrounds. Mariette Jackson and Ngoc Tran remind us to switch to seeing what it is about first-generation and low-income students' identity that actually helps them be successful.

The "hidden curriculum" is one of the major challenges for first-generation students because of its complex and opaque customs and expectations. One of the most challenging dynamics of navigating the hidden curriculum is that its power is not recognized, resulting in it being even more difficult to learn how to be successful in it.

Even the way campuses communicate belonging can be problematic. It's common for faculty and staff to admonish students to "find their place" both inside and outside of class. Unfortunately, this message puts the onus of responsibility on the student which can result in a sense of failure or rejection. Particularly for students who are in a minority cultural status, "find your place" does not recognize that there are systems in place that ignore or push away students who are different.

The hidden curriculum and encouragement to students that they "find their place" also neglect to address insidious issues that keep students of different cultural backgrounds from interacting with each other. Even the residential environments that are offered at some colleges/universities as the panacea for cross-cultural engagement can result in systemic separations. Whether it's the way students apply for spaces, the cost associated with different accommodations, or individual preferences, student development educators should pay attention to how students are sorted/assigned to residential spaces.

Controversy over New Zealand scholar's critique of relations with Chinese military

The highly controversial publication by Ann-Marie Brady and her colleagues about links between New Zealand's higher education sector and the Chinese military raises academic freedom and international partnership questions.

The academic freedom question emerges from Canterbury University's directive to Brady that she not communicate publicly about her scholarship. Brady's lawyer asserted, "The university's failure to direct the complainants to normal academic remedies - publish their criticisms if they had confidence in them - is generating significant disquiet and internal protest from staff at her university."

The partnership question is one that should likely be raised across many nations and institutions. The bottom line is what is the purpose of the partnerships, is it mutual in benefit, and what educational or capacity building goals are being advanced?