Hello! I’m Ben Levine, and this is my fourth and penultimate semester in the HEA graduate program at Baruch. Previously, I attended Binghamton University, but transferred and earned my degree in History and English from the University of Connecticut. While higher education wasn’t necessarily the field I intended to work in, I’m very happy that my first job after undergrad was at a college. Since then, I have worked at several colleges, and plan on working at one the rest of my career. Currently, I am an Academic Advisor at a CUNY community college. As far as career goals go, I am a bit torn; part of me wants to move up the administrative ladder and possess high-level responsibilities, but conversely, I would like to find a niche demographic to help. Only time will tell!
The readings for this week opened my eyes to international education, but not in the ways I thought they would. Throughout my years working in higher education, I have maintained a sense of idealism, partially because I do not have enough experience yet for that to change, and also because I think it is necessary to stay engaged and passionate about what I do for a living. While my idealism is slowly transforming into pragmatism, I would like to preserve a modicum of naïveté; however, the readings, especially the trends listed by Oxford, have removed any hope that people believe that education can exist for education’s sake.
Yes, I am being melodramatic. The readings did not suck my soul away or persuade me to switch careers. Still, the theme that I have gleaned from them is a little disheartening- international education always serves a larger, non-academic purpose. I suppose this is to be expected, for altruism and pure motives are rare. As an advisor, the majority of my students interested in pursuing nursing are doing it because they want to earn a good salary as quick as possible, and not because they want to help others. This mentality has always baffled me, but it is understandable. The same goes for international education- what tangible good does it do for anyone? Perhaps a few thousand people learn a new language or gain an appreciation of a different culture, but is that enough to fund these ventures?
Altbach provides an historical background of international education that goes back approximately one hundred years. At first, exchange and other international programs are depicted as beacons of globalization and peace. By sending students to other countries, there is a semblance of unity; on the contrary, intended or not, these exchanges had political motives. As Altbach notes, the Cold War drove the United States and the Soviet Union to vie for power around the world. International education was a perfect vehicle to push their ways of life on developing nations. Yes, many people probably received educational opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise, but was it just a side effect of propaganda?
Green’s discussion of international education focuses on something less nefarious- the new obsession with being as internationally-driven as possible. Based on surveys conducted by the IAU, the United States directs considerably less attention to internationalization that many other nations. I personally say ‘so what?’ This country doesn’t have to be the leader in everything. There are many great study abroad and exchange programs here, and plus, so many international students want to come here that there will always be a market. People are obsessed with rankings. Sure, it promotes competition and the improvement of quality, but it can also be a distracting factor and force institutions to do things they might not do otherwise.
To me, the most depressing of the three readings was the list of trends by Oxford. There are many fantastic and exciting opportunities and programs that it mentions, but it also trivializes the educational aspect of… education. While it is written like an academic piece, the words are more business-oriented than anything. Even its content is business. It states, “The driver for international campuses in western countries (as with Imperial West, in London) has thus far been part of an institutional push towards globalisation and support for international collaborations, rather than a need to fill a significant gap in education, research and knowledge production in the host country” (p. 13). There is nothing wrong with collaboration, but not at the expense of education. There are so many places around the world that truly need more educational opportunities for their people, but these locations are being overlooked. Instead, institutions of higher education are looking for the most lucrative ventures.
Perhaps some of my statements are oversimplified, but over the course of the semester, I hope to develop a better understanding of how international education works and what drives it.