Friday, August 27, 2021

Yale-NUS in Singapore parting ways

The President of Yale University, Peter Salovey, issued a statement this week announcing that the Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore) partnership will cease in 2025. The statement indicated that Yale was informed by the NUS President that the previous Yale-NUS program would be combined with NUS's University Scholars Program to form a larger liberal arts college that was not cobranded with Yale.

The full announcement by Yale's President expressed that "we would have liked nothing better than to continue" and, "that President Tan has said that he wishes to draw on the best features of Yale-NUS College in creating the new college. His rationale for this decision is that the formation of the new college will enable it to offer elements of the Yale-NUS curriculum and deliver interdisciplinary liberal arts education at a greater scale for the student population."

Yale-NUS College, begun 12 years ago, has been a high profile initiative of two very elite institutions. Therefore, parting ways will surely raise interesting questions moving forward. Two phrases from the official statement from Yale provide a window into understanding Singapore's motivation in dropping the Yale brand - "will enable it to offer elements" and "greater scale."

Coverage by the Yale Daily News recounted slightly different information from the Yale-NUS communications while adding reference to abridged academic freedom and censorship. Yale News provided more detail with an affirmative assessment of moving the Yale-NUS College to exclusive NUS oversight. The Octant, a Yale-NUS student run publication, offered personal expressions of disappointment and anger in some cases at the lack of transparency in the decision to dissolve the Yale-NUS College. A subsequent Yale News article included more about the unilateral decision by NUS and included numerous points to highlight the errors of the decision.

Another difficult issue that Yale-NUS faces as well as other educators in Singapore is a new law to investigate and obstruct negative information campaigns. Such a measure could begin to undermine presumed academic freedom.

American arrogance may have been the Achilles heal that led to the failure of the Yale-NUS model, including a belief that the influence of liberal thinking could overcome governmental and cultural control. Persistent accusations that Yale is in decline, which tarnishes the Yale University brand, may also have contributed to abandoning the Yale-NUS arrangement.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Mapping internationalization - ACE

The American Council on Education is launching its periodic study (every 5 years) of how internationalization is reflected across U.S.A. higher education. ACE is accepting inquiries about participating in the study now. Past examples of "Mapping Internationalization" are also available on their web site.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Virtual learning - pluses and minuses

During the height of the COVID19 pandemic, rapid movement to virtual learning was the only choice most institutions could make to continue instruction. Some educators have lauded the quick move to online learning and the effectiveness of this pedagogy, considering the limitations. Few would argue with this point of view. The primary outlier on the adoption of virtual learning are the elites (Ivy League), which have avoided virtual leaning as a strategy to protect their brands and because they can afford to stand apart from the trend.

Inside Higher Education's compilation related to online learning is a resource that educators will want to consult. The focus on quality is central to determining how the future of online and hybrid learning will unfold.

As higher education institutions moved back to in-person learning, some retained an online option or blended learning involving both. Even with the enthusiasm for in-person learning, data indicated that many more U.S.A. students take on-line courses than previously thought. As the Delta variant spread, some institutions again moved back to more online learning. One of the areas most impacted by the pandemic-induced online rush is internships, which some institutions sought to replace with other types of experiences. Another area heavily impacted by the pandemic was international exchange, which moved to virtual strategies for linked classrooms and non-curriculum student collaboration and dialogues. Evaluating what worked and didn't work was essential as institutions moved to their preferred model for the 2021-22 academic year. Others urge advanced planning for the "Exponential Age" of 2030 when technology is likely to outpace the innovation of higher education learning environments.

Faculty are striving to improve the virtual environment and straight-forward models can help move toward more effective learning. The model in Faculty Focus included; connection, consistency, content, community, and compassion. Faculty are navigating their own challenges as virtual teaching and presence appears to be taking deeper root on campus. "No return to 'normal'" declared that successful institutions will demonstrate "responsiveness to student needs, accessibility, connectedness to society and to the workplace." A fascinating application of the choices we make in returning to gyms predicted a future for residential education that will be seamless, social, and personalized with a focus on active and experiential learning.

The Brookings Institution looked at several research studies to determine the pluses and minuses of virtual approaches. The report asserts, "Virtually all of these studies found that online instruction resulted in lower student performance relative to in-person instruction." "Lower performance" includes different criteria such as grade achieved in the course, persistence in individual courses, and progress towards fulfilling degree requirements. The fact that Ivy League institutions have been slow to adopt online courses and degrees is telling. Their reluctance may reflect risk aversion or perhaps an assumption of the superiority of their pedagogy coupled with maintaining prestige.

Understanding the ways student learning declined during the pandemic and resetting from here forward was examined by two learning experts, Jankowski and Williams. Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the decline of learning in virtual instruction is that first-year students struggled as well as learners of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Brookings Institution summary is important because it comes from a non-vested interest perspective - only committed to determining the most effective practice but not supporting any specific institution or approach to higher education. The summary also includes multiple countries which is key if educators are to look at the broadest possible view.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Thailand and Malaysia slash tuition

As the impact of the COVID pandemic lingers, perhaps becoming a permanent part of the way we live, students are stressed financially, psychologically, and in many other ways. This stress among students can be found around the world, with many campuses providing financial literacy and increased counseling services.

Thailand and Malaysia chose another path to relieve students' financial stress - slash the cost of tuition. Thailand's Prime Minister ordered a 50% reduction across all institutions while Malaysia's higher education sector reductions will vary from 10% to 35 %. A lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia opined that the tuition reductions were "a drop in the ocean... My reading of both the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Education is that they have been too slow to react to pleas from civil society and the public for over a year now."

Monday, August 9, 2021

COVID vaccination, masking, and choice

With the public evenly split on required COVID vaccinations for college students, more faculty and students urged their institutions to join the 600+ institutions that had done so, a group that changed daily as the Delta variant spreads and as institutions opened. The list accelerated as a result of the endorsement by Dr. Anthony Fauci for colleges and universities to mandate vaccinations, which was helped by the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine for 16 and older youth goes by the name Comirnaty and many more institutions moved to require it, or mandate testing for non-vaccinated students. The University of Vermont spread word that 100% of its students are vaccinated - presumably a big plus for those who started classes in person this semester. By contrast, Duke University's heavily vaccinated campus reported hundreds of new cases and other North Carolina institutions reported equally high rates of infection. As the fall 2021 semester concluded, many institutions saw spikes in the number of cases on campus.

Supported by CDC researchmore institutions initiated or reimposed mask mandates. The decision to tie federal funding to mandated vaccinations resulted in more universities adopting vaccination requirements. In addition, OSHA mandated that organizations with 100+ employees require vaccination or testing, which was immediately blocked by a federal appeals court ruling in Louisiana.  Regardless of the back and forth of mandates and legal challenges to them, progress is being made with stragglers at campuses with vaccination mandates. A survey of campuses concluded that where masking or vaccination was required students were generally more satisfied with their institution's response. These campus policy actions resulted in 74% of students receiving one vaccine dose and about 50% receiving two doses. The issue of COVID masking and vaccination mandates is a legal, public opinion, and community responsibility issue (and perhaps more). 

The California Public Employee Relations Board's decision to uphold the University of California system's mandate addressed the legal question of employee mandates by saying, "This potential catastrophe affected not just university employees, but also its students and the general public who may have needed to use university hospitals." Some state governments have discouraged or prohibited vaccination and mask mandates, with Mississippi an example regarding vaccinationsfaculty opposition has risen in key southern states. The University of South Carolina supreme court upheld the university's mask mandate, reinforcing that universities can make decisions that supersede politics. Clemson University followed the court's action by implementing a mask mandate that averted a faculty walkout. Although angering faculty, Southern Methodist University's discontinuation of mask requirements allows faculty to impose their own requirement in their class meetings. Educators in Arizona filed a lawsuit to block the legislated ban on requiring masks and vaccination. Reports of a professor at University of Georgia quitting when a student refused to properly wear a mask as well as faculty demand throughout the University of Georgia system for a mask mandate and teaching alternatives highlight faculty concerns. Even conservative Liberty University (nearing 1,000 cases) entered a quarantine and several other institution updates reflect the moves toward greater caution. At the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, students petitioned for the university to take a stricter stance on vaccination and other mitigation efforts while libertarian students at other campuses resist and other students assert religious exemption to vaccine mandates. Professors in Iowa and Georgia moved forward with their own mask mandates, citing labor law (Iowa) and hands-off government (Georgia) philosophy to justify their actions. It is clear that the purpose of anti-mask and anti-vaccination resistance and directives has been political rather than scientific, evidenced in regional variation on policies; the Federal Judge who blocked a vaccine mandate at a medical school in Louisiana (a state with one of the lowest vaccination and highest COVID infections rates) is sure proof. The politicking of COVID has created a contentious environment for campuses that educators hoped to avoid in returning to in-person instruction. The public opinion is split on vaccinations with 48% "for" versus 48% "against" but when segmented by politics, 86% of of Democrats are "for" versus 18% "for" among Republicans.

A College Pulse assessment of 1,001 students demonstrated strong support for both vaccination and masking. Seventy-two percent supported required vaccination but diverged by politics - 96% of Democrats and only 24% of Republicans, a demonstration of how the COVID pandemic response in the U.S.A. has been muddled by politics. In the light of having a solution to the pandemic, i.e. a very effective vaccine, it seems irrational to individually or collectively choose not to vaccinate. Of course, part of the problem is the changing scientific evidence in the face of the pandemic, resulting in evolving strategies composed of virtual learning formats, testing, vaccination, and masking, and even directives of how faculty can talk to students about the options. The community responsibility of organizations to mandate vaccination includes protecting individuals, communities, the economy, and the viability of the health systems on which we rely.

The ethical decision that those of us who are vaccinated, and support broader mandates, face is when to let those who resist go their own way and suffer the consequence. The Delta variant is already ravaging conservative political jurisdictions, with inevitable economic impact sure to follow.

The 2020 academic year saw a decline in both the number of students pursuing a higher education and being retained in their studies, which continued in 2021 figures. The common application figures for 2022 look more hopeful. Students appear to be somewhat nervous but hopeful about returning to campus for in-person instruction in 2021, with 90% of first-year students expressing optimism in one survey. There is some evidence that students may choose where to pursue their higher education this fall based on the degree to which institutions and their surrounding communities have managed pandemic mitigation. Survey responses of students indicate their general support for mitigation through masks and vaccinations and add that they are hesitant to return to full college social life. The evidence is unclear at this point but why wouldn't parents and students look at the likelihood of COVID outbreak when making a decision about where to go? Institutions such as Tulane University, situated in one of the least vaccinated and hardest hit states, is trying to convince new student prospects to join them with laudatory messages of high vaccination rates among its current faculty and students while indicting others by saying, "while the spread of COVID is currently higher in certain states, the vast majority of states throughout the country are experiencing 'substantial' and 'high' spread of the coronavirus, according to the CDC." Please, Tulane, give us a break - dragging down others in order to hold the line on your own enrollment!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Leadership and followership in higher education

Leadership scholars' theorizing shifts over time as new knowledge unfolds. One of the major trends that has been underway is moving away from viewing leading as a function of a role or an individual. Once leadership was recognized as a quality demonstrated by individuals and groups as it flowed among the various participants, position became only one way to lead with greater opportunity for leadership being present across the continuum of followership and leadership.

Two former college presidents, W. Joseph King and Brian C. Mitchell offered their views in Leadership Matters: Confronting the Hard Choices Facing Higher Education. Facing the question of how hard presidencies have become, they propose that the current era is tough but that higher education has faced other significant dark days such as the Civil War and the Great Depression. They describe three styles of leadership: the Ceremonial Mayor, the Bull in a China Shop, and the Strategist. They clearly identify more with the Strategist but anyone who has worked in higher education can recall all three styles in presidents they have observed. Although King and Mitchell talk about shared governance as a unique attribute of U.S. higher education, they rely on a positional notion of leading rather than a followership to leadership continuum.
Steve Titus and Patrick Sanaghan tapped into the evolution of leadership scholarship in their essay on the importance of good followership in higher education. They addressed the problem that many scholars have confronted - that following is a word that doesn't have a great deal of panache or cache. Titus and Sanaghan answer this by advocating that following be recognized as a distinctive and essential quality necessary to navigating toward a better future for higher education. Further, they offer the following commitments that institutions can make to elevate the importance of followership on campus:
  • I believe in your honesty and integrity as a leader.
  • I have faith in your genuine commitment to the mission, values and shared vision of this institution.
  • I can speak candidly and respectfully about any important reservations or concerns I have about the decisions being made.
  • I believe that you sincerely value my contribution and role.
  • You keep me meaningfully informed about what's going on, where we are headed and why we are going there (especially when things aren't going well!).
These are useful ideas and are helpful as a way to honor followership. However, the focus on leading as an individual act will not get the job done. Followership and leadership has to be recognized as two ends of a continuum on which all participants move throughout group and organizational life. And, while leadership engagement is important, perhaps followership is the most critical variable when it comes to organizations doing the right thing and doing it well.

The pivotal point that makes followership so important is that leadership has to be enabled. Followership enables good leadership and it must thwart bad leadership by courageously stepping forward to challenge bad ideas or destructive motivations. Bad leading is allowed by complicity of followers who are not engaged or committed enough to question authority. Challenging authority is not easy and those individuals who step forth know the risks involved; that's why shared, pervasive, and active followership among many is that much more important.