W13 – The Future of International Higher Education

This week’s readings discussed the various paths for international higher education to take in the future. Since the field itself is so new — and much of the rapid expansion and development has occurred in the last decade or so — it’s hard to say with any certainty that we can predict where international higher education will go and what the biggest challenges will be in the future. Yet the authors this week did highlight various areas that will continue to present challenges as international higher education becomes more interconnected across the globe.

I agree with Roberta Malee Bassett that equity and access is  “the single, most important challenge facing global higher education for the foreseeable future” (Bassett, 2015, pp. 5). While we in the U.S. have quite a bit of work left to do to increase access to higher education for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, the gap between the higher education “haves” and “have nots” is even wider in other areas of the world.

Globally, only 1% of people have access to higher education (Deardorff, de Wit, Heyl, 2012, pp. 463). Much of this gap is in the developing world, where inequality is much starker than in developed countries (although the developed world is seeing increasingly high rates of inequality that are approaching that of many developing countries). “In the francophone countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the children of the richest quantile account for 80 perfect of higher education enrollment, while those from the poorest 40 percent of the population group represent only 2 percent of the student population” (Bassett, 2015. pp. 6). Higher education in most areas of the world is still reserved for the wealthy elite, and until access truly expands to the rest of the world’s population, the global community will continue to miss out on millions of possible innovators and contributors to solutions to some of today’s most pressing global challenges.

Another trend to look out for is which path international higher education will take: soft power vs. knowledge diplomacy. We’ve spent a lot of time this semester discussing how governments look at internationalization of higher education not just as an economic opportunity, but also as a way to spread national influence to other ends of the world. While I support many of these initiatives, it’s hard to deny that the ultimate reason why these many internationalization initiatives are implemented is pure national self-interest.

This type of mindset pits nations and universities in competition with one another, rather than in collaboration. “Are the values of self-interest, competition, or dominance going to effectively address issues of world-wide epidemics, terrorism, failed states, the bottom billion in poverty, and climate change? The answer is no. This is based on the reality that solutions to worldwide challenges cannot be achieved by one country alone” (Knight, 2015, pp. 9). Instead, as Jane Knight argues, a model of knowledge diplomacy, which “…focuses on negotiation, mediation, collaboration, compromise, and facilitation” would be a better model for the future of higher education internationalization than the soft power approach, which is “…attached to power dominance, authority, command, and control” (Knight, 2015, pp. 5).

The last theme I want to touch on is the danger of overly commercializing higher education. Unfortunately, a perfect example of this can be traced back to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UW-Madison is perhaps most famous in U.S. higher education circles for the “Wisconsin Idea”, which states that “the mission of the UW System is to solve problems and improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. That mission encompasses teaching, research, outreach and public service.” This is why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker trying to change the language of the University of Wisconsin mission away from the “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” to a mission to “meet the state’s workforce needs” caused such an uproar among Wisconsin residents and alumni.

While Walker ultimately backed off on the proposed change, this mindset towards the university solely existing to serve economic needs has become more dominant both in the U.S. and abroad — and has especially extended to the realm of international higher education. As Christine Musselin argues, the social and knowledge benefits of higher education — rather than just the economic benefits — are “all the more important because obscurantism, ignorance, intolerance, and fanaticism are unfortunately expanding.” The frightening rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., along with the increasing nationalism and identity politics throughout the rest of the world, proves the need for there to be an an increased importance on the social and knowledge benefits of education. As Musselin wrote, “Knowledge is not only important for its economic value but for society” (Musselin, 2015, pp. 13).

These are just a few of the major trends to look out for as international higher education continues to expand. While there are many challenges facing higher education throughout the globe, I’m ultimately optimistic about where we seem to be heading. Thank you, everyone, for such an insightful and engaging semester — I wish you all the best!

W11: How “international” is internationalization?

One thing I’ve noticed this semester is that in order to be successful in the international higher education market, a country needs to have (relatively) open boarders, liberal immigration policies, and a market economy (or, at least be moving in that direction). Thus, successful internationalization requires countries to roughly follow a typically Western model of governance in the higher education realm and also in the broader organization of their political institutions. Other models of education or governance are seen as outdated, backward, or, at the very least, incompatible with being suitable for internationalization.

This week’s reading — especially the ACE reading, reinforced this. An example can even be found in the way internationalization is implemented “at home” through the curriculum:

“While it is encouraging that many institutions report that they are engaged in initiatives to internationalize the undergraduate curriculum, the data raise some concerns about depth versus breadth. Certainly courses that address global issues are important, and their increasing prevalence in general education requirements is a positive development. However, foreign language instruction and other courses that primarily feature non-U.S. perspectives provide important background and cultural knowledge to contextualize the broader content covered in global issues courses” (ACE, 2012, pp. 12).

While American students are learning about global issues, they are primarily learning about them through a U.S. lens. This is important because it means students aren’t really learning about other cultures — rather, they learn about how those cultures fit into a wider world order dominated by American/western values and political systems. To me, an easy analogy is a political scientist trying to explain global affairs having only focused on international relations at the expense of comparative politics. You can’t understand the broader picture until you’ve done a more specific deep dive into other countries and cultures.

I would speculate that this is a big reason why American students have a hard time integrating into the local cultures when they study abroad. A big part of this is the language issue; very few Americans are proficient in a language other than English. According to an article in Forbes, “18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English, while 53% of Europeans (and increasing numbers in other parts of the world) can converse in a second language.” Thus, the challenge in internationalization for American universities is to make sure American students are up to speed about the culture and history of the place they’re going, as well as have a working understanding of how to communicate in a language other than English. Unfortunately, as the ACE reading showed, this preparation is still sorely lacking in U.S. undergraduate curriculums.

This U.S./western-dominated approach to internationalization is also a big concern for non-western countries, as discussed in the IAU reading. “For African respondents, the dominance of a ‘western’ epistemological approach is seen as the second most important societal risks [with internationalization], while in the Middle East, respondents view the loss of cultural identity as the second most important societal risk” (IAU, 2014, pp. 10). In order to integrate into other cultures, students who come from non-western countries must adopt so-called “international” values (which are very rooted in western thought). Likewise, in order to attract international students to their countries, their universities must also reflect this “international” mindset, which often may differ from their own cultural and national traditions.

While I am optimistic about internationalization in higher education in the long run, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed before internationalization efforts can become truly international. In a U.S. context, more attention needs to be paid to creating a truly international and diverse curriculum that looks at different cultures in their own terms, rather than through just a U.S. lens, as well as also places more emphasis on mastering another language.

W9: The Future of BRIC Universities

When I enrolled in our class, I thought the class would be more of a comparative look at higher education institutions by country, rather than a broader theme of internationalization. While I think internationalization is very interesting and is extremely important for higher education professionals to study, I’m glad that we had an option to read more about the history and the day-to-day operating of universities abroad in Carnoy’s “BRIC Universities as Institutions in the Process of Change”.

I’ve always been interested in the BRIC countries and why (and how!) they’ve been lumped together. The main reason is that they are growing economies that have become increasingly important in the overall global economy. Other than that, though, they have very little in common culturally, politically, or, as we saw in the reading, educationally.

The theme in the reading that I was most interested in was how each country is responding to increased demands from a growing number of students — or, in the case of Russia, a decrease in demand. In the case of India, China, and Brazil, their expanding economies have created a large middle class that is seeking greater higher educational opportunities. Thus, the challenge for these countries in the last few decades has been to meet the increased demand while maintaining quality. In the case of China, India, and Russia, it seems like the larger emphasis has been on accessibility rather than quality. This is not to say that these countries are not concerned about quality — their public research universities are still highly esteemed and only reserved for their very top students — but right now they seem to be more focused on pumping more and more students through the semester by any means necessary. This is not unlike the immediate postwar expansion of HEIs in the U.S. and the rise of community colleges in the 1950s-1970s.

Another theme from the reading is the organization and hierarchy of different types of universities. The main thing that stuck out to me was the large proportion of private, for-profit universities in Brazil. The target students for these for-profit institutions are generally lower-income students (similar to the U.S.). While I am skeptical about for-profit universities in the United States, it seems to make more sense in Brazil since they are better able to set tuition prices to market demands and are actually the more cost-effective option for cash-strapped students. The reading did not mention this specifically, but I am curious if Brazil has ever considered a U.S. public community-college model to serve these students.

So while these three countries are struggling to keep up with the rising demands for HEIs, Russia is having the opposite problem. “In Russia, mass universities will not be expanding, so their main role is to ‘survive’, adjusting to a host of new realities” (Carnoy, 2013, pp. 177). While the other three countries seem to be adopting a more market-oriented approach to higher education, Russia seems to be going back to a more Soviet-approach (or, at the very least, very much resisting a more market-approach to its higher education system).

This makes sense, given their very recent history. As the reading explains, many of the leaders and faculty in Russian universities were also there during the Soviet Union, when universities were heavily regulated by the state and the main curricular emphasis was on STEM disciplines to try to get an advantage in technology and science over the U.S. in the Cold War. While China has made many innovations to its higher education system, it, too, is still a product of its recent history, with the Chinese government still playing a strong role in shaping certain curricular matters (for instance, even graduate students in engineering still study political philosophy with an emphasis on communism), as well as the overtly political appointments of university administrators.

The last area I wanted to discuss was India’s emphasis on affirmative action for its disadvantaged castes. I was pleased to read of the Indian government’s financial investment in groups of people who continue to face extensive discrimination. Unfortunately, I am skeptical how much this will do to really improve conditions for these individuals if they will still face discrimination in other areas of their lives, but at the very least it is encouraging that the government is acknowledging the inequalities and is (at least somewhat) committed to improving things.

As BRIC countries have become increasingly important in global affairs, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their higher education systems. While the BRIC countries have one thing in common — they all have rapidly expanding economies — they have vastly different cultural, political, and economic environments, which also impacts their system of higher education. As the countries continue to expand their global influence, it will be interesting to monitor changes and innovations in their higher education systems.


W8: Internationalizing faculty in the age of adjunctification

While reading Nan Jiang and Victoria Carpenter’s “A case study of issues of strategy implementation in internationalization of higher education”, I was particularly interested in learning about how three distinct university groups — Corporate, Marketing, and Faculty — all work together (or, in some cases, butt heads) regarding internationalization efforts.

Given that all three groups of stakeholders oftentimes have different agendas, it is important that leaders from all groups try to come together to find common ground. According to the article, there is plenty of overlap between each group, and finding ways for each group to see internationalization benefiting its own specific cohort needs to be one of the top priorities of administrative leaders. As the article states, “HE internationalization is primarily an internal matter of integration, rather than a process driven only by external environment” (Jiang & Carpenter, 2011, pp. 4), so the most successful internationalization efforts are those that fully engage each group.

The group I was most interested in learning about were the faculty. While this article specifically looked at universities in the UK, I imagine there is a lot of overlap with the United States regarding the challenges universities face in integrating faculty into their internationalization efforts. The article lists many reasons why faculty may be apprehensive about internationalization efforts, which include a perceived increased work load, uncertainty about working and research integrity in different cultures, and the concern that taking time off to go abroad might derail their academic career at home, to name a few.

While this article didn’t explicitly mention this, I assume the group “faculty” refers to faculty members who are tenured or tenured-track, not faculty who are hired as adjunct instructors. Unfortunately, I don’t know very much about faculty hiring practices in countries outside the U.S., so the remainder of this blog post will particularly examine how this relates to U.S. HEIs. Given the increasing number of adjunct instructors teaching at U.S. colleges and universities — currently, nearly 75 percent of faculty are hired as adjuncts — I am curious how much (or little) they can be integrated into internationalization efforts. My gut instinct, unfortunately, tells me that adjunct instructors currently have little to no role in internationalization efforts.

Unlike their tenure or tenure-track peers, adjunct instructors are eligible for very limited (if any) professional development funding, which could help them pursue research opportunities abroad (although shout out to CUNY for providing PSC/CUNY Adjunct Professional Development Grants, which is “one of the first such programs in the country”). Additionally, teaching contracts are generally given on a semester-to-semester basis, which would immediately disqualify many adjunct instructors from pursuing internationalization initiatives, since they generally take more foresight and planning. Lastly, the low pay and lack of benefits would likely discourage adjuncts from pursuing potentially risky internationalization efforts since they would have nothing to fall back on if the internationalization initiative fell through.

As adjunct faculty continue to make up a larger proportion of faculty overall, U.S. higher education institutions must place a greater importance of integrating this group into internationalization efforts. Since many adjuncts are recent graduates from PhD programs and are relatively young compared to tenured professors (according to the European University Institute’s study on U.S. HEIs, “very few people become Full Professors before the age of 40; the average age of Full Professors is 55 and the average age when tenure is granted is at 39”), they might be especially willing to take a temporary position abroad to spearhead a new academic initiative (not to mention this experience would probably make them a more competitive candidate for tenure-track positions back in the United States). Additionally, the tough academic job market means that many new PhDs have been forced to pursue a broader range of non-academic experiences, which means they might have specific skills that traditional faculty lack regarding implementation of internationalization efforts. 

So while it’s important that all faculty be engaged in internationalization efforts, U.S. higher education institutions should also increase their engagement of adjunct instructors in internationalization.



W7: Baruch College is uniquely positioned to be a leader in U.S. higher education internationalization

While I’m only in my second semester at Baruch, I have very much settled into the rhythm of campus. Perhaps this familiarity is why reading Baruch’s strategic plan regarding internationalization was so interesting. I am aware of Baruch’s unique characteristics compared to other universities, but reading the strategic plan made me have an even deeper appreciation for Baruch — both personally and in a more general way about how it benefits society.

Baruch’s unique characteristics — diversity, location, and affordability — make it uniquely positioned to be a leader in higher education internationalization. As the 10th most diverse campus in the U.S., where “students hail from over 160 countries and speak over 130 languages”(Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019. pp. 1), and located in one of the world’s most diverse global cities, in many ways Baruch has had internationalization come to it, rather than needed to explicitly seek it out, like most other institutions.

This is true for both international students and the diverse groups of immigrant populations living in New York City. In order to achieve internationalization goals, I imagine that most institutions focus almost exclusively on recruiting international students. While Baruch also focuses on this, it also dedicates time and resources to recruiting international students who are already living in NYC “through existing cultural community centers and organizations” (Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019. pp. 4). Because Baruch College is relatively affordable compared to many other private higher education institutions in NYC, it has an incredible advantage when recruiting international student populations.

So while Baruch College has many things working in its favor to achieve its internationalization goals, it also has significant challenges. Regarding incoming international students or faculty, the lack of a traditional campus likely makes things much more difficult. For one, there is the logistical question as to where these incoming students will live. Because of the limited available space in NYC (and also, I imagine, the high cost of living), Baruch College has limited student dorms, which might put off potential international students. On a related note, this lack of a more traditional physical campus could be perceived as alienating to international students who already face additional challenges integrating into campus life. The strategic plan was very upfront about that challenge, and it proposed an increased attention towards building campus life through student organizations. While this is an important initiative, it will not change the fact that Baruch is largely a commuter campus that will make integrating international students all the more challenging.

However, the biggest challenge facing Baruch College’s internationalization efforts is funding (or a lack thereof). While funding constraints impact virtually all higher education institutions, they are especially challenging in Baruch and other CUNY schools, since 46 percent of Baruch College students are Pell grant recipients. Fortunately, the strategic plan calls for an increase in fundraising initiatives to raise grants to help students with the costs of study abroad programs. While there is likely always going to be more work to be done in terms of controlling costs, it seems like Baruch’s efforts have yielded results, considering the number of students who study abroad has increased over 500% in the last five years.

Thus, despite significant logistical and financial challenges, Baruch College has many factors working in its favor regarding internationalization, including the global environment of NYC, the diversity of the student body, and the relative affordability of education, especially compared to private universities in NYC. The strategic plan addressed many of these assets and also challenges, and provided concrete steps and goals in order to increase internationalization, but it also left enough room for flexibility and adaptation, which I really appreciated. “Since any strategic plan, especially one addressing the global, will constantly need to respond to change, we are aware that we must also be prepared to revisit or reshape one or the other priorities as needed” (Baruch College Global Strategic Plan, 2014-2019, pp. 11). Between the strategic plan itself, as well as the College’s willingness to continue to be flexible with new trends in higher education, I imagine that Baruch College will likely continue to thrive in its internationalization efforts and can serve as a model U.S. institution in this area.