W7- The Contradictions of Fiscal Responsibility in International Higher Education

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?

W6- Quality Assurance, Frames, and How to Develop a Sustainable Program

In ACE’s International Higher Education Partnerships, I gleaned one major theme: for a program to survive, there must be transparency. The piece delves into many other topics, but that is the one that, to me, is at the base of them all. There are so many steps to ensuring a successful program, from the inception to implementation to assessment, that nothing can be forgotten or overlooked.

When it comes to running an international education program, involved parties cannot take anything for granted. Whether it is creating appropriate curricula, hiring suitable faculty, or obtaining funding, every detail affects quality. Something as fundamental as language could derail an entire program due to misinterpretation. I say this because when you associate with people from other countries, you never know how others will understand your policies. At my college of employment, where many of our students are from other countries, miscommunications occur frequently. This is what is called a ‘pattern sheet,’ or a list of all the classes a student needs to take in order to graduate. In the bottom left corner, there is a paragraph explaining that certain courses are recommended, but not required. This creates a lot of confusion amongst students because some believe that they should be taking those courses no matter what, while others are more lax about their interpretation and will take other classes. What they choose may end up impacting what they need to take when they get to a senior college. This example demonstrates that semantics can effect the decisions made by students, which signifies that any and all international programs must be very careful with their wording.

Transparency is a concept that all areas of education should follow. An international education program must get funded, so it is absolutely necessary for the finance team to look over everything and make sure that all their dealings are kosher. Gross indicates that it is one of the most important roles of the finance director to keep clear records that everyone can comprehend. I bring this up simply to reiterate that from top to bottom, all aspects of a program must be air-tight.

This applies to the staff and faculty that is hired. As the readings suggest, they must be skilled in intercultural communication. They must be patient and articulate so students can understand things clearly. Additionally, faculty needs to be a good match for the program. There is a problem across the board of professors being hired at institutions that do not fit their pedagogical philosophies, or professors teaching subjects they shouldn’t be teaching. Since quality assurance is such a key factor in international education, the above-mentioned occurrences are big no-nos.

All of this reminds me of one of the most memorable things I have learned in graduate school- the four frames by Bolman and Deal. Probably everyone has taken the organizational management class in this program, so I won’t go into detail, but as a refresher, the four frames are strategic, human resources, political, and symbolic. As I was reading the documents for this week, my mind kept on wandering back to the four frames. Which one would best fit an international education program? I almost immediately nixed human resources, despite heavily leaning towards that frame myself. By process of elimination, I would then take away symbolic, simply because oftentimes the objectives of the program don’t directly relate to the mission of the institution. Still, the SIO can instill in his/her staff the notion that what they are doing is important. That leaves us with strategic and political. At this point, I realized that I couldn’t assume that just one frame would be the best fit- that would contradict the very concept of reframing. So, I decided that all frames could be used, but perhaps with a slight bias towards strategic. In the readings, especially the one about joint/dual degree programs, it is obvious how detail-oriented things must be. Using the degree programs as an example, the countries, institutions, programs, and students all must understand the difference between joint and dual before anything else! That being said, whoever ends up becoming the SIO must have a strong background in analysis and a history of paying close attention to detail. Who here thinks that they are, or will be one day, cut out for that role?

W5- Governance Models

As I read the Dobbins piece, I initially had a little difficulty relating governance and internationalization. I wasn’t sure why the professor would choose this as a reading since it seems like something that would be assigned in the history of higher education class. As I kept reading, though, I started to understand the importance of institutional governance and how it connects to internationalization. The three governance models that Dobbins discusses can have significant influences on how a college promotes both internationalization and ‘internationalization at home.’

The ‘state-centered model’ places the majority, if all, authority in the hands of state government. The members of the board, who are usually appointed and not elected, plus the president, ultimately make all the major decisions that affect an individual institution or a system of institutions. The priorities of the colleges are determined by the state, and so are operations and quality assessment. This model removes a lot of the autonomy institutions would normally have, which, as one can imagine, creates a lot of friction between college and government. An approach like this exists in Connecticut, where all public higher education institutions are under the jurisdiction of the state. Called Transform CSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) 2020, this model aims to standardize almost everything, much to the chagrin of the college presidents, the boards, and especially the faculty.

I have a feeling that internationalization would be overlooked in a model like this. Budgeting and academic services are probably way higher on the list of priorities than study abroad programs and concepts that do not directly impact the stability of the institutions, such as internationalization at home. If budgeting is in the hands of the state, it is even possible that internationalization could be negatively impacted. I could easily imagine the state moving money around and dismantling or severely reducing the funding of  the existing programs.

The second model is ‘academic self-rule.’ This provides much more freedom to the faculty, but it also decentralizes authority and can potentially result in mismanagement and inaction. Allowing faculty to make their own decisions seems beneficial enough, especially since they are at the ‘center of the college,’ but they are not professional administrators. Faculty are known for being slow-moving, and that can be quite detrimental to the running of an institution. Still, there is a better chance that internationalization will be advocated for, since there are undeniable benefits to becoming global citizens and learning about other cultures. The only problem would be to determine whether or not a program would be efficiently managed; however, the research we looked at in class indicates that most SIOs previously held or currently hold faculty positions. If that’s the case, then internationalization would thrive much more with this model.

According to Dobbins, the last model is ‘market-oriented.’ This is the approach that we always debate about- should institutions of higher education be run like businesses. This means that students are the clients or customers, which is a potentially dangerous way of thinking because it could compromise the quality of education the students would receive. Usually competition encourages progress and higher quality because the colleges need to attract new students. Better housing, sports facilities, dining services, and other amenities are always thrown in the faces of prospective students as they walk around campuses (you rarely hear about the hiring of great professors). Internationalization may thrive in this environment, too, because study abroad programs are one more way to make a college more appealing. Great. But it almost seems dirty. Does the institution actually care about internationalization or does it just want to collect more tuition money? That may be a skeptical way of looking at things, but internationalization should exist for genuine reasons, not just as a recruitment ploy.

As one can see, depending on the model a college adopts, internationalization can fare differently. Unfortunately, there are so many factors to consider when running a school that  both internationalization and internationalization at home fall to the wayside. As we have learned, sometimes it is up to a charismatic individual to change an institution’s view of the worth of internationalization. Let’s find those people!



Transform CSCU 2020


W4- International Students and Scholar Mobility

For this week’s reading, there are two subjects I would like to discuss. While the professor suggests that we use outside sources, such as articles or journals, to supplement our perspectives, I don’t think we should overlook word of mouth as a source. Sure, it may not be as formal, but not everyone involved with the topic writes his or her ideas or experiences so they can be read by the public.

The first subject is international students. Students from other countries come here to study, and while they are in school they must remain full-time students, have limited work opportunities, and almost always pay way more than the average student. Some of the information I am about to convey comes directly from an interview I conducted with the DSO (designated school official) for international students at my college of employment. While it is easy to criticize the model for international study because of the strict limitations the students experience, the conversation I had with the DSO gradually veered to something more abstract. The international student office at my college is essentially just this one man (who primarily works in the Registrar’s Office); the total number of international students enrolled doesn’t even exceed one hundred, so the college hasn’t spent much time, energy, or resources into providing a permanent office. That being said, the DSO doesn’t have a strenuous responsibilities for these students, but he has been doing it for a long time and has worked extensively with the demographic. The thing that struck me most during our interview was his perspective on the attitude of international students, which I will discuss briefly in the next paragraph.

From the DSO’s point of view, international students have a lot of adversity to face, not including the restrictions listed above. There seems to be, according to the DSO, an inequality between native and international students that the former don’t realize, but of which the latter are quite aware. Over time, international students may experience a form of alienation; native students complain about financial aid and their jobs, while those from abroad pay an exorbitant amount of money for school and cannot work many hours. While this alienation may not cause them to fail academically, it could potentially create a feeling of disdain towards education, the institution, as well as the American people and country as a whole. This may be an extreme example, but it goes to show that internationalization isn’t always rainbows and lollipops.

Another subject I would like to quickly cover is that of scholar mobility. Again, my source for my developing opinion on this matter is word of mouth. My cousin’s friend is teaching in China for an indefinite amount of time, and so my cousin has decided to go visit her (come on Ben, take a deep breath, be happy for him, wash away the jealousy). After finding this all out, I asked him a bunch of questions about his friend and her experiences, since you know, we’re in an international higher education class. Apparently this is all my cousin could glean from his friend: the college at which she taught asked her to teach abroad, and who could say no to China? Yup, that was it. Based on this brief exchange, I found it all a little sketchy. Why did her college ask her to go? Do colleges ask their best or worst professors to teach abroad? How long do they expect her to be there? Who pays for her expenses? What kind of research opportunities does she have in a different country?

I can totally relate to her friend wanting to go to China. Many people would love to have an opportunity like that. The only traveling I do for my job is walking to the campus cafeteria during my lunch break. In any case, hearing a story like hers just makes me very curious, and this skepticism quickly takes over the envy I feel (not quickly enough though, I’m still pretty jealous).

W3- Hub Initiatives

While the second half of Internationalizing Higher Education Worldwide continues to discuss various models of internationalization, one model in particular grabbed my attention. Hubs, which have been sprouting up mostly in Eastern Asia and the Middle East, are relatively new forms of partnerships designed to promote international education. Jane Knight puts it succinctly, describing one as “a planned effort to build a critical mass of local and international actors – higher education institutions and providers, students, research and development centres and knowledge industries – who work collaboratively on education, training, and knowledge production and innovation.” The reading for this week cites three primary examples of hubs, which are located in Ecuador, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates (UAE), but there are also locations in Botswana, Qatar, and Malaysia.

The reason I have decided to comment on hubs is very simple- I had actually heard of them before this class, and quite possibly before I even became interested in higher education. I have little experience myself in international education, never having studied abroad or been exposed to it besides my sister living in Spain for a semester. Despite this distance from internationalization, I somehow got wind of hubs and thought they were fascinating. The extent of my exposure was looking up a few photographs of the hubs and maybe checking out a couple Wikipedia pages, but the concept was interesting and memorable. Of all the myriad models of internationalization, hubs seem to me the most complete and quintessential. Host countries and cities attract various educational institutions from around the world to build branches within a designated zone. This is the epitome of collaboration- countries, institutions, and students all create partnerships with one another, and with the region the hub is stationed.

While investment is not particularly my area of interest, it is an important topic to discuss because it ends up being a key factor of one of the very few criticisms of hubs that both myself and other scholars have (which I will mention in the next paragraph). Jane Knight, an international education researcher, sums up investment strategies quite nicely in her article “Investing in Education Hubs- Local Investment is Key.” As indicated in the title, public funding is essential in order for hubs to survive. For most, if not all hubs, public funding accounts for no less than 50% of funding, and in some cases, covers 100% of funding. In Qatar, the federal government covers all costs, while in other countries and cities, the regional or city government covers costs. In a few hubs, both foreign investment (from the branch institutions themselves) or private investment can sometimes offset costs, but this is never more than 10-20%. It is easy to see that the public is responsible for the maintenance of hubs, which I actually initially found (and still find, to some extent) somewhat surprising. I assumed that the foreign institutions would pay a heftier sum in order to ‘rent’ space in these educational zones because the marketing and exposure seem to be worth investing in. Apparently it is the other way around, and the local governments have to find ways to attract these institutions. Covering most to all costs seems to be a successful way of doing that!

Now to the criticism. I claim that hubs are the embodiment of internationalization, but in one respect, they totally miss the point. Despite excessive local investment, very few students from the region will attend school at the hubs. In Dubai, only approximately 8% of the student population in Knowledge Village and Dubai International Academic City are UAE citizens. This opposes another concept that Internationalizing Higher Education Worldwide espouses- internationalization at home. Students who are ‘immobile’ should still have the opportunity to learn how to be global citizens. That being said, it seems unfair that so few locals are able to study at these educational centers. Peter Waring echoes this notion, stating “There appears to be a prevailing sense of frustration with the government’s perceived efforts to attract international students while not providing sufficient places for local students.” That is just a shame. Obsess over international students and forget your own (see the correlation with NYU? Apparently there is a trend in international higher education)! It would certainly be uplifting to see these hubs place more of an emphasis on educating the people of their own regions, but that is probably a tall order.



Jane Knight Article


Peter Waring Article

Couldn’t find it for free, but it is cited directly in the reading on page 58.