This week we focused on university governance, reforms and autonomy in Asia, Europe and Latin America. First, Global Trends in University Governance looks at how governments plan and direct their higher education sectors. Second, Governance reforms and university autonomy in Asia examines the move towards autonomy and how it has played out in China, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Japan and Indonesia. And again, comparative analysis was useful to see what works for one region or country may not work for another and that in the study of higher education internationalization, it is imperative to understand the diversity of geopolitical and socio-economic issues that intersect and interact. For me personally, having worked at both public and private higher ed institutions, the concepts of autonomy and governance are interesting ones to consider. I realized that the autonomy enjoyed by many American universities is not at all a universal concept but reading about recent governance trends toward autonomy was heartening but also tempered by better understanding what some of the challenges are through both readings.
The concepts of autonomy and academic freedom took center stage in this week’s readings and I think the connection between the two is important to understand in gaining an understanding of how higher education is different from other sectors and what makes it a unique sector to regulate. In general, autonomy reforms serve to propagate that the notion that higher ed institutions should be free to manage their affairs. The move from a state control model in many countries to a state supervising model bolsters the role of academic freedom for universities and colleges to be in charge of their own academic programs and developments as well as mission and vision.
Of course, there are growing pains we see with autonomy for countries that are trending from complete state controlled models. It is clear that for less developed and more previously totalitarian regimes, governance reforms cannot be implemented in a vacuum and must take into context the historical context from which they are coming, such as Malaysia or Cambodia. Japan, on the other hand, as a more developed country has been able to withstand the corporatization reforms of much less state control toward that of private, independent universities and colleges.
While full assessment of the impact of autonomy may be premature, it seems certain that the state supervisory model allows room for higher ed institutions to be more open to internationalization efforts such as cross-border partnerships and other market driven academic entrepreneurial intiatives.