This week I have decided to take on a position of devil’s advocacy to see if we can get a real discussion going. In the Executive Summary: The State of Higher Education 2014, the authors declare that the financial health of HEIs (higher education institutions) has a significant impact on international education. How an institution places value on its various missions will affect how funding is allocated. Many HEIs must reassess their financial status and possibly modify and reform their models in order to sustain operations. These reforms might be the transition to private funding instead of the reliance of public funding, as well as a shift towards REIs (research excellence initiatives), in order to boost research. As the finance class learned from a personal anecdote of the professor, the latter can leave potential scars on the financial conditions of an institution. Oftentimes, if there is a significant amount of research being conducted, the exact expenditures and revenue of these projects are hard to measure, and can lead to budgetary problems.
What I really want to talk about is the usefulness of international education. In the executive summary, there is a push towards fiscal responsibility in the hopes that international education thrive under new and better policies. However, I am arguing (remember, as a devil’s advocate) that international education programs themselves may not be fiscally responsible to the HEI. Basically, this particular stance relies on the quantitative and qualitative evidence that international education actually benefits its participants, the institutions, and even the nations involved. To gather this type of data would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, because of the types of things measured, such as career trajectories and affect on institutional reputations and enrollment.
Again, the authors discuss ‘value propositions,’ which I believe hurt the case for international education, rather than help it. Institutions need to evaluate what makes them money, and it is hard to believe that international education programs are anywhere near the top of that list (of course, I could be wrong). That being said, it is almost suicidal for international education organizations to cry for value propositions, especially in a country where trends show that international education is not as popular or common as in other countries.
I wasn’t sure if I would be the only one who took this position, but there are others out there (whether they truly believe it or not, I don’t know). Mark Salisbury, in his piece “We’re Muddying the Message on Study Abroad,” discusses how international education might want to step off of its high horse, because it may not be as great as it purports to be. There is the impression that he believes that international education is fairly elitist, and only serves certain types of students. He provides a funny analogy, comparing international education programs (namely study abroad) to late night info-mercials- they act as if they are the best thing in the world, but only a certain type of person is going to be interested in the product.
Salisbury, nor myself, is calling for the abolishment of international education- far from it, in fact. What we are arguing is that the current state of it, especially in this country, doesn’t really know its place- in other words, it has an identity crisis. It certainly serves a purpose, but it doesn’t seem to know how that purpose fits into the greater mission, or value, of the HEI and nation. Again, I am just trying to stoke the fires a little. What are your thoughts?