W10: Universities Governance and Autonomy

The two readings for this week examined autonomy and governance in higher education. Over the past couple of years, countries are moving to have the public higher education institutions in their countries become less reliant on government involvement. In the reading authored by John Fielden, governance is defined as “all those structures, processes and activities that are involved in the planning and direction of the institutions and people working in tertiary education”.  His definition is encompasses the responsibilities of the administration in colleges and universities. The push for autonomy is twofold:  it will allow institutions to have the ability to compete on an international level and allow institutions to take on more financial responsibilities which will alleviate budgetary concerns for countries. Throughout this class the United States hasn’t been often used as an example with regards to international higher education but when dealing with autonomy and governance, we can look at the structure of the United States’ tertiary education for examples of how countries can move towards more autonomy for their colleges and universities.

The state control model and the state supervising model are two models that are being used by countries in regards to governing HEIs.  The first model involves the state government seeking control of the institutions and the second model, states monitor and regulate universities. Within the second model there are different levels of state involvement from semi-autonomous to completely independent. Whichever model is used depends on the country, it isn’t a “one size fits all” method. It is important to take into account private institutions and state involvement. Even though states don’t have direct authority with regards to private colleges or universities, the monetary aid or tax breaks that HEIs receive can enable states to become involved in private institutions. The question now, is that a good thing? If the state is able to ensure that private institutions main goal is the education of the student’s not financial benefits then I think states should have some involvement in private institutions.

The report by N.V. Varghese and Michaela Martin, compares the governance reforms in several Asian countries. It takes in account the governance issues that are discussed in the article by the World Bank. All of these countries have experienced swift growth/expansion in their higher education systems. Eventhough the countries varied in areas outside of higher education, with regards to the growth in HEIs they shared the same characteristics: privatization, revised programs, improved research facilities, etc. The rise of private HEIs in these countries because private institutions almost have no involvement from the state. An important factor with institutional autonomy that is highlighted in the article is the need to have strong institutional leaders. With a strong Board of Trustees and Presidents, institutions will be able to function well and govern themselves.

W10- Buffer Bodies

As I was reading the pieces for this week, I kept on saying ‘oh, I want to talk about this in my blog” to pretty much every chapter. I found this odd, since I generally find the concept of governance dry and tedious. These readings, however, clearly and not-so-boringly described how authority and autonomy are implemented in different countries around the world.

The topic that I finally decided to discuss is buffer bodies. Governments delegate certain responsibilities to an adjoining organization. While some of these organizations, or councils, are purely advisory, others may have wide-ranging authorities, such as the allocation of funds, training, and research. The reading states that one of the benefits of this structure is that buffer bodies act as protection from micromanagement on behalf of the MOE (ministry of education). Even though other advantages are listed, to me, this may be one of the most important.

This stuck out to me because of how ubiquitous improper management is in large bureaucracies. Certain people or groups should not be sticking their noses in places they have no business. For example, high-level administrators at an HEI trying to run an on-the-ground operation even though they will never step foot in the place it’s being held. How can the MOE make efficient decisions when it knows nothing of what’s going on? The reading goes on to say that “The buffer body can recruit staff who are specialists in higher education and not career civil servants.” Employees in government are moved around so much, there is always the possibility that those in charge have no prior experience in the field they now manage. Even if the buffer body does not have any real power and only acts as an advisory board to the MOE, such as in South Africa, it can still play a significant role in making sure policies is prudent and beneficial to all constituents.

The Global Trends in University Governance piece does say that there are some possible drawbacks to this structure. It proclaims that a division between the MOE and the buffer body can emerge due to insecurities or distrust. The MOE might think that the latter is stepping on its toes, or perhaps doesn’t have the proficiency to implement policy. It could be even more trivial than that- since the minister and the chair of the buffer body work together, it could come down to a battle of egos. According to the reading, these instances have actually occurred before.

I don’t think that that is a convincing enough reason to believe that buffer bodies are a poor structural choice. In any branch of government or institution, there is the possibility for two different parties to have contrasting perspectives. Perhaps there needs to be a fourth party to watch over the MOE and the buffer body! That might be going too far, but a country shouldn’t risk bad policies being implemented because those involved don’t know how to work together. Just as we are learning in finance class, institutions can never be too safe when it comes to how things are controlled.

W5, Faculty governance and internationalization

The reading Why Focus on Internalization validates many of our comments and discussions regarding the importance of internalization in higher education. I agree that internalization is far more complex then providing mobility. In reviewing all the readings thus far, it seems like the U.S takes pride that mobility is an option through study abroad and internalization at home, however, internalization works when unique forms of joint, dual programs and school partnerships exists. Overall, I think this reading was very informative as to why higher education institutions and systems need to focus on internalization. It is very rare for internalization to prevail in the United States. According to this reading internalization matters because it adds mobilization and internal intellectual resources. In addition, it enlarges the academic community and leverage institutional strength. The U.S is very far from internalization because there are a lot of issues legally that may affect the mission of internalization. When I think of internalization I think of global change that first need to happen at home, for example, providing more access to undocumented students in the U.S. The reading also states that government systems must implement “national universities systems” which is nearly impossible for the U.S due to its complex system and different sectors. In the U.S the analytical framework and governance structure is too complex to run as a “self-governing” community.

In Dobbins, reading three governance models were discussed. The three models where the sate-centered model, the academic self- rule, and the market-oriented model. If I understand correctly all three governing models needs to be in communication with universities strategies to correlate socio-economic and academic needs. In order for internalization to work in a state-centered model, then internalization needs to be in the forefront and within the budgeting plans of the state. In an academic- rule model, the faculty needs to also place a high importance to internationalization. Unfortunately, in the U.S the majority of faculty questions the quality of education through internationalization, so this model might not work in the U.S. I believe internationalization might work in a market-oriented model, however, the concerns of quality also exits. One example is GoAborad.com. Even though GoAbroad is not an affiliated to an institution it works as a market-oriented model, which provides study aboard programs that can be approved by intuitions (as course work), volunteer opportunities, internships and teaching programs. The concern with this model will always be quality since it not tied into faculty governance.

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