W4- Internationalization of U.S. Higher Education and Government Involvement

As we continue getting familiar with the topic of internationalization, this week’s reading “Internationalizing U.S. Higher Education” focused on the current policies and possible future direction of internationalization of higher education in the United States. I will be focusing on government involvement in the internationalization of US higher education but before that I want to point out key ideas/facts that I took notice to in the report:

  • 1) Cross-border Education is a program/policy type that is growing abroad but is not seeing any significant growth in program or polices in the United States
  • 2) Institutional autonomy and the country’s decentralized government can be seen as a hindrance to higher education internationalization
  • 3) National security, public diplomacy and the economy are the key motivators of programs and polices related to internationalization; academic and capacity building are the rationales used abroad when implementing policies and programs
  • 4) The internationalization of U.S. higher education is not necessarily the goal or expected outcome of some of the programs and policies in place.

These points stood out to me because they illustrate that internationalizing in the U.S. is different from the programs and policies that are in place across the world.

The lack of a cohesive and comprehensive plan for the internationalization of U.S. higher education demonstrates the lack of cohesive direction of higher education in America. As the authors note, unlike other countries the United States does not have a government agency that is dedicated to higher education. Within the U.S. Department of Education, is the Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) that “works to strengthen the capacity of colleges and universities to promote reform, innovation and improvement in postsecondary education, promote and expand access to postsecondary education and increase college completion rates for America’s students, and broaden global competencies that drive the economic success and competitiveness of our Nation.” I was unable to locate information on the government appropriations for the OPE, but I believe it is safe to assume that the funding is minimally when compared to their global counterparts.

Government discussion on higher education is usually in the context of federal aid (grants and loans). Legislation that is passed that would promote internationalization of U.S. higher education focuses on programs and policies that are believed to support national security and the economy. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007 was sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Tom Lantos, the stated intentions of the bill don’t seem to align with the rational/motivations of legislative mandates of programs and policies that have gotten congressional support and approval. This maybe one of the reasons as to why the bill as not been enacted or is not a focus for Congress.

The report suggests that a comprehensive national policy on internationalizing U.S. higher education is not possible due to the systems and structures of the government and higher education institutions. Instead of a national policy “a broad, well-coordinated set of well-funded initiatives that support comprehensive internationalization” should be implemented. Any initiative that is put into place should come from a policy that lays out the expected goals, outcomes a rationales of internationalization U.S. higher education. Having an overreaching policy provides guidance. Instead of working with the federal government, state governments could be used as a vehicle to put into place policies to internationalize higher education that can be implemented by colleges and universities that meet certain criteria. Most states have some sort of standalone agency/department that focuses on the governing of higher education, these departments could be charged with implanting policies that are passed by the state legislatures.

It is important to point out that for any government state or federal to take an interest in the importance of internationalization of higher education, the officials have to understand how and why this topic is important to them and their constituents. Making higher education institutions global competitive is a good basis’s for providing an explanation, as we already know as Mr. Trump has said we need to make America great again.

W3-Ace Report (Part II)

This week’s reading in the ACE Report focused on a myriad of issues concerning Internationalizing Higher Education Worldwide and highlighted additional key elements to build upon our previous readings.  For example, in the context of cross-border education, the concept of mobility as a cornerstone of international higher education policies was discussed as well as the crucial role of “other influencers” and the central role of national governments.  Cross-border education has been defined as “the movement of people, programmes, providers, curricula, projects, research and services, across national or regional jurisdictional borders” (ACE Report, p. 38).  This week’s reading highlighted the “importance of jurisdictional boundaries when it comes to policy frameworks and regulations” (ACE Report, p. 38).

While in previous readings, I had focused on the role of regional governments, particularly in Asia, this week emphasized the key role national governments play in regulating cross-border educational activity.  I was particularly intrigued by the regulatory policy example of India.  As the reading details, while India is one of the largest exporters of students seeking higher educational opportunities outside of India, the country has a definitive international higher education policy regulating cross-border activity within its own boundaries. This fact was somewhat surprising to me and I wonder if it fosters notions of reciprocal benefits and common values in the internationalization arena or stymies those goals.

For example, the ACE Report explains that India’s policy toward international higher education is not static, but instead “debated intensely” such that it does not allow independent branch campuses on Indian soil.  India requires that international higher education programs be carried out through partnering with Indian higher education institutions.  And these partnerships are themselves highly regulated such that there are “specific parameters” to govern them.  Most interesting to me was the requirement that Indian law requires foreign educational institutions to be accredited and been offering educational services for at least twenty years.  In addition, there are specific ranking requirements that must be met to for an international higher education institution to operate in India. (See generally, ACE Report, p. 41-42).

These various requirements seem like smart ones and would appear to mitigate against sham operations and ensure quality of educational services in the cross-border context that may be otherwise difficult to monitor.  However, do such specific requirements thwart flexibility in internationalization efforts and a lack of agility to develop robust and innovative partnerships?  An interesting question that has been framed for me in the ACE Reports analysis of India’s regulation in the cross-border context is how does a country’s national government ensure quality and standards in educational services against flexibility and reciprocal benefits in the cross-border context.

The ACE Report suggests that India may be moving toward more lax rules to make way for independent branch campuses and allow for foreign curricula and teachers.  But current criticism remains regarding stringent rules and the politicization of higher education in India (see https://www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/philip-altbach-indias-passage-might-not-be-simple-but-it-can-climb-to-elite-tier).  And there are no definitive calls for change to policy among the Association of Indian Universities’ International webpage (see http://www.aiu.ac.in/International/International.asp).

With respect to the role of national governments in cross-border issues and internationalization, India appears to be an interesting case study as a nation that heavily regulates in this space but may be at the cusp of certain, more open policy reform to make entering the Indian higher education market easier and more dynamic.  If such changes take place, it will be interesting to see how the internationalization trajectory in India develops and whether it can balance quality against collaboration and flexible regulatory requirements.