Global Networks Amplify Local Controversies

This entry is also available at Inside Higher Ed.

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What are the implications for universities and their governing boards/trustees/councils of becoming increasingly embedded in global networks?

There are many implications, including the ability to be interconnected with flows of knowledgeable people (aka human capital), ideas, money, technologies, and so on. These global networks also ensure that international collaborative research and co-authorship occurs, a phenomenon explored on a number of levels in these fascinating reports:

Pause for a moment, too, and explore this fascinating visualization by Olivier H. Beauchesne of indexable co-authorship between 2005-2009:

beauchesnemap-scientific-collaboration-1200

What political boundaries, if any, do you notice in this empirically-based visualization of collaborative activity?

It’s no surprise if you read the reports flagged above that governments and funding councils across the worlds are enamored with facilitating more international collaborative research. Why? It is perceived to enhance the quality of the knowledge produced, the ability to address key global challenges, and that collaborative output (e.g., articles, reports, books) can generate relatively higher interest and impacts.

When I examine the above graphic, I think of all of my colleagues at the universities I’ve been educated and have worked at – the University of British Columbia, the University of Bristol, the National University of Singapore, Sciences Po (albeit just for one year), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At all of these universities I was (and am, in the case of UW-Madison) surrounded by colleagues who collaborate with colleagues in other universities, national and regional (e.g., European) research councils, firms, government agencies, international organizations, etc., all of which are scattered across the planet. Of course there is variation in researchers’ individual collaborative geographies, but there is evidence of a progressive deepening and extension of global networks, and this is backed up by bibliometric research on the basis of Thomson Reuters and Elsevier data.

From a broader perspective, it’s worth noting that these globalizing networks are structurally supported by the operation of segmented academic labour markets that are increasingly supra-national in nature, the digitalization of research infrastructures (think of research databases, publication platforms, the Global Research Council, ORCID, etc.), university internationalization strategies, global production networks (value chains), open access online higher education media, etc.

Now when things go well, universities benefit, as do the economies and societies (both territorialized) they are most closely associated with. Think, for example, of the myriad of ways the local, regional and indeed national economy benefited when one UW-Madison faculty member established the largest medical records company (Epic Systems) in the world, with offices in Verona WI, the Netherlands, and Singapore. When things go well, universities see increased attention from the higher ed media, and the business/economy-focused media (given the critically important role of universities in constructing vibrant knowledge-based economies). Said universities see higher positioning in world university rankings, increased flows of international fee-paying students, more diversity and competition in the make up of job applicant pools, more spin-off companies with genuinely global perspectives, greater competitiveness in extramural funding competitions, and so on.

As with many phenomenon, the existence of vibrant global networks that run through universities is a double-edged sword. They have the capacity to, if things go poorly, propel near instantaneous and surprisingly durable echoes and reverberations that span out across global space. Information flows, like water – it can’t be suppressed. Epistemic communities care little for the complex causes of major budget cuts, the detailed factors underlying poor leadership, nor the diverse causes of governance ineptitude. These global epistemic communities, supported by mediatized services (e.g., via Twitter, Facebook, email), pay negligible if nil attention to detailed rationale and nuances of controversial policy shifts (e.g., about tenure and layoff provisions). These increasingly global epistemic communities treasure, above all, freedom of thought to produce innovative forms of knowledge in the search for truth, clear and evident autonomy from the interventive impulses of the state, church, society, and governance systems that are proactively supportive vs repressive/micro-management in inclination.

Unfortunately, while higher education, as well as the associated knowledge economy, is going global, higher education politics with respect to budgets and university governance (at the board/council/trustee level) is at risk of regressing, of becoming more local, regional, hyper-politicized, and ideological. Think, for example, about the messy local/provincial politics shaping key aspects of the University of British Columbia‘s ongoing leadership/governance crisis, or an evident regional agenda to mess about (a ‘solution in search of a problem’?) with one of the foundational principles of academic freedom – tenure – that has built the University of Wisconsin (System), over a century plus, into what it is.

Going global brings with it amazing opportunities. Going global is a necessary developmental agenda for universities that seek to excel and build resilience in the 21st century. Going global is an integral part of supporting of regional knowledge-based economic development strategies, something I learned much about via colleagues on an OECD mission. But, hand in hand with going global is a global eye on the local.

Are those governing universities, and provincial/state higher education systems, as aware as they should be about the global networks that play a fundamental role in sustaining the vibrancy, effectiveness, and stature of their universities? If not, they should be, for local controversies and tensions are also simultaneously global in nature – they reverberate, at the speed of light, through global networks.

Kris Olds

Academic Freedom, Tenure & the U.S. Higher Education System

This entry is available via Inside Higher Ed as well.

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2015 is surely one of the most momentous years in a long time regarding debates about tenure, academic freedom, the Wisconsin Idea, budget cuts, etc. Yesterday’s balanced article (‘Tenure or Bust‘) by Colleen Flaherty, in Inside Higher Ed, is but the latest of a series of nuanced pieces Ms. Flaherty has produced this year about the unfolding of higher education debates in this Midwest U.S. state of 5.75 million people.

While I’m immersed in the tumult as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I can’t help standing back and trying to look at the big picture. Studying, living, working, and visiting a range of other countries, including universities in Canada, England, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and France, as well as being based in the U.S. since 2001, often engenders a drive to compare. And when comparing and reflecting upon what this wonderful university and the state/national higher education system (systems, in reality) has to offer, I increasingly think too much is taken for granted, or assumed. This is a relatively risk-oriented society, and I’m struck by how many people (including many of of the people leaving comments below ‘Tenure or Bust‘) assume the system is ‘broken,’ resiliency can be counted upon, and mechanisms to turn the system on a dime exist, if searched for long enough. They also ignore path dependency, and prior developmental trajectories and agendas, the ones that have led us to where we are now, a nation that has some of the strongest and most dynamic universities in the world. Problems and weaknesses exist, of course, but people in Wisconsin and the U.S. more broadly don’t seem to know just how many other countries are desperate to create just the types of universities that exist here.

And what are some of the deep (core) principles and conditions that have led to the creation of so many world-class universities and higher education systems (at the state-scale) in Wisconsin and the U.S. more broadly? This question brings me to the words of Hanna Holborn Gray, the esteemed president of the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993. In conference panel comments reprinted in the Summer 2009 issue of Social Research, Hanna Holborn Gray deemed universities to be a very important and special institution:

…the only institution in our world, that is, as it were, commissioned to always take a longer-term look. The only institution in our world that is commissioned, so to speak, to concentrate on the mission of discovery and learning, and the transmission of learning, on the elaboration and interpretation and debate over important ideas, over what is most important in the cultural world.

Emeritus President Holborn Gray then begged the question: “What is it that makes that profession or vocation possible? And what is it that makes the institution in which it is carried on a genuine institution?”

Her question was actually answered 115 years earlier to this day (18 December 1900), by the founding president of the University of Chicago, William Rainey Harper, in his ‘36th Quarterly Statement of the President of the University’:

When for any reason, in a university on private foundation or in a university supported by public money, the administration of the institution or the instruction in any one of its departments is changed from an influence from without; when an effort is made to dislodge an officer or a professor because the political sentiment or the religious sentiment of the majority has undergone a change, at that moment the institution has ceased to be a university, and it cannot again take its place in the rank of universities so long as their continues to exist any appreciable extent of coercion. Neither an individual, nor the state, nor the church has the right to interfere with the search for truth, or with its promulgation when found. Individuals, or the state, or the church may found schools for propagating certain kinds of special instruction, but such schools are not universities, and may not be so denominated.

Genuine ‘universities’ like the University of Chicago and those that make up the University of Wisconsin System are associated with conditions of autonomy, and are spaces that respect and uphold academic freedom. And from the faculty perspective, academic freedom is significantly realized via the mechanism of tenure, which enables faculty to focus upon things like “establishing revolutionary theories about economics” (one of Milton Friedman’s many contributions in Chicago), the sustained basic research that underlies the creation of the iPhone (that the University of Wisconsin-Madison contributed to), challenging research questions related to democratization, authoritarianism, sexuality or violence, complex global challenges such as climate change, and so on. And in so doing, these faculty members (in association with staff & students) play a major role in creating the conditions that have helped us facilitate the formation of one of the world’s first university-linked technology transfer units (WARF) in 1925, through to generating research activity and spin-off firms that has made the Madison city-region one of the US’s most advanced industrial bases (according to the Brookings Institution in 2015) — a now common process of geographical concentration that the World Bank and others (e.g., David Warsh) note is inevitable, but defacto functions as ‘engines’ for regional and national economies.

I have no doubt the vast majority of the University of Chicago’s current faculty would make the same argument I am above: after all, that great university’s leadership has been doing so since it was founded 125 years ago in 1890. Visionary leaders like William Rainey Harper and Hanna Holborn Gray were aware that the long and challenging road to build one of the most dynamic and powerful higher education systems in the world depended upon more than platitudes about ‘academic freedom’ – academic freedom actually had (and has) to be realized each and every day.

Kris Olds

Reflections on Tenure in Canada vs Wisconsin

This entry is available at Inside Higher Ed as well.

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In the context of some intense debates about tenure in the University of Wisconsin System, and at UW-Madison, I’ve been acquiring some interesting information and views about tenure and related governance matters in Canada vs Wisconsin. Reflections and data have been kindly provided by Canadian leaders representing faculty and university administrative bodies, both nationally and in select universities.

Why focus on this issue in comparative perspective? First, leading Canadian universities (UBC, Toronto, Waterloo, McGill) have been poaching faculty from UW and could increasingly do so if proposed changes to tenure do not match existing standards/AAUP guidelines. Second, looking at different systems in a comparative way helps you realize what is working well here in WI, but also what might need to be changed, especially if higher education governance becomes more politicized in Wisconsin (as it has been in states like North Carolina).

In the end, it is similar and different in Canadian peer universities vs what we experience in WI. I think the biggest difference is it is more unionized in Canada (for ~80% of the faculty base) and the details re. tenure and layoffs are embedded in collective agreements. This said, some faculty associations at peers – the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, McMaster University, and McGill University – though not officially certified as labour unions, nevertheless have negotiated collective agreements with standard grievance and arbitration procedures. Also, in Canada, the majority of part-time faculty are unionized and staff are unionized. It just goes to show you don’t necessarily need regulations re. tenure embedded in the state statutes (or equivalent) to guarantee strong tenure and shared governance, but, this said, there are other key differences (see below) so how it is all configured matters, a lot…

In the end, no tenured faculty in Canadian universities (including 100% of our peers, the ones poaching our faculty) lose tenure except for engaging in serious forms of unethical behavior (i.e. ‘due cause’). Exigency-related rules do apply but it has not happened, to date, for all sorts of reasons. And if exigency-related layoffs of tenured faculty were to be proposed, it happens at a broader university-scale and the guidelines typically state that a task-force is to be appointed with diverse membership and/or it can only happen in specified ways.

The other big (and important) difference is program-related changes are run through Canadian university senates and the senate is typically made up of senior administrators and elected faculty (the majority), staff, students, etc. See these senate membership lineups, for example:

The UW Board of Regents equivalent in Canadian universities does not need to sign off on program-related changes like the Board of Regents does here. So decisions on closure or redundancy are senate decisions (i.e. the locus of engagement and control is intra-institutional in nature). And in unionized environments, redundancy procedure, after senate has declared program closure, etc., are governed by collective agreement processes. In general the UW Board of Regents here in WI has not been too involved in the fine-grained details of program-related decisions or the funding of centers – they approve what has come up via shared governance pathways. But they could, in the future, become far more active and micro-management in orientation.

On a related note, boards of trustees or equivalent in Canada are university-specific and are more diverse and relatively autonomous from government involvement. You basically have government funded but privately (not-for-profit) autonomous universities. This keeps things less capital P political. The proposed New Badger Partnership (2011) Board of Trustees:

UW-Madison governed by 21-member Board of Trustees, including 11 members appointed by the Governor, with no Senate confirmation. Remaining 10 members represent UW-Madison constituencies (faculty, staff, classified staff, alumni, WARF). All remaining UW campuses governed by the current Board of Regents.

would have brought us half way to to this level of board autonomy vs the current system, though this proposed approach to governance should have also been applied to the UW System more generally and not just UW-Madison.

Thus, what you see is a relatively more autonomous/less politicized university and higher ed governance system in Canada; one where the norms of tenure and academic freedom are sometimes constructed via agreements but often are just part of institutional-organizational culture. The faculty trust the system more, I would say, than they do here now in what could become, if we don’t watch out, a hyper-politicized context. And they do so partly because of the unionized context, the codified agreements, and the fact the premier (governor equivalent) and the ruling party (or parties) tend to be much more hands-off. Increasingly, in Canada, governments through sector-wide bargaining or recalibrating funding formula, or setting tuition fee parameters, are exercising more hands on approaches. Budgets are, of course, political, but they’re just budgets for the most part and they don’t embed policy matters re tenure into budgetary processes in Canada like it has been happening here. It’s a more deliberative context: not perfect, this said, just more deliberative in structure.

The short-term take-away: don’t have unclear terms and procedures in a context where the potential exists for an increasingly more politicized and micro-management-oriented Board of Regents. Maintain tenure standards at UW-Madison and other universities in the UW System that match, in spirit and meaning, what they were before policy changes were injected into the Spring 2015 Wisconsin state budget. Faculty should not lose tenure except for ‘due cause’, as per AAUP guidelines. If program closure occurs after careful consideration by university-specific governance bodies, tenured faculty should have the right to shift to the unit of their choice, or become a professor of the school or college they are affiliated with. It is a clear and straightforward definition of tenure, and academic freedom, that helped make the US university system so well known, globally, for the production of innovative forms of knowledge. Unclear terms and procedures re. tenure has serious potential to destabilize the foundation of the entire system. And Canadian universities, not to mention hundreds of other US universities, will be salivating if this occurs.

The medium-term take-away: think about the potential role of faculty senates in future debates/steps. And think about tenure and shared governance in the context of the overall governance of the UW System (incl. what has been happening, and what should be happening). In my mind we have a legacy-based governance system that does not reflect the new realities of fiscal (tuition as a majority funding stream), economic (a globalizing knowledge economy), academic, and societal contexts. An unraveling of tenure in the next year will be a proxy indicator the entire UW System governance structure needs to be rethought.

We are, arguably, at risk of seeing the convergence of a legacy-based governance system with a more forceful and explicit political agenda – and this is not beneficial for a world-class university, and a world-class multi-campus state university system, in the 21st century.  Anchor tenure, tightly.

Kris Olds

Innovative and Engaging Communications in and Beyond the Academy

Editor’s note: this guest entry has been kindly developed by Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Yasmeen raises a series of important issues in the build-up to a call for a “structured dialogue” on the nature and role of knowledge in society.

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Innovative and Engaging Communications in and Beyond the Academy

Gisèle Yasmeen, University of British Columbia

Research and scholarship is primarily about asking and answering questions as well as conserving and constantly reinterpreting fragile and easily forgotten knowledge. When I started graduate studies more than 25 years ago, there was no talk of the world wide web, no blogs, no Twitterverse, Facebook, Academia.edu and so on. I grew up in an era of card catalogues, photocopying, typewriters and hand-written letters with supervisors and collaborators. My first experience with computers was with a mainframe “Amdahl” where you had to learn complex codes to do simple word-processing! I am convinced that the dramatic communications revolution we are experiencing is and will continue to transform research, teaching and academe beyond anything we are familiar with now in the next twenty years. So, how might we succinctly envision these changes and start to prepare for the scholarly world of the possible future? Or as I was asked recently by a university Vice-President of Research, “what are the implications of digital media for post-secondary institutions?”

Many of us are still getting our heads around these questions – myself included – and follow with great interest the work of those like John Willinsky, Leslie Chan, and John Wilbanks. The purpose of this article is, therefore, to reflect on the actual and potential role of ICTs in research, teaching and scholarly communication, and to humbly offer in the conclusion my own suggestion that the time has come for a new “knowledge commission.” Hence, the intended audience is those who are new to the file and others who may be wondering, where could we take it from here?

Research: the importance of ICTs for asking and answering questions

New media tools in general – and high performance computing in particular – enable us to mine vast quantities of data (numeric, text, images, sound) at lightening speed compared to the past, which enables not only research questions to be answered but new research questions to be asked, which could not be asked before. This exciting approach to (re)discovery is at the forefront of a variety of (inter/multi/trans)disciplines ranging from bio-informatics and social statistics to the digital humanities. Examples of ICTs, “big data” and other emerging technologies leading to research breakthroughs in the natural and health sciences are well known. Most of us are familiar with the Higgs boson or “God-particle” confirmed through the CERN Hadron collider and revolutionary work on human genomics through the “barcode of life” dataset. What is perhaps less known is the growing use and study of emerging technologies in the social sciences and humanities. For example, advanced imaging technologies allowed literary scholars funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities to read and analyse an illegible and deteriorated copy of explorer David Livingstone’s diary, as reported by the New York Times. The study and use of emerging technologies, such as advanced ICTs is predicated on the development of appropriate tools for research and, as Clifford Lynch eloquently argued last year, the builders of those tools often do not get the respect they deserve as necessary “enablers” in the world of research compared to those who spend time using those tools.

In fact, the concept of what is a “discipline” is worth reflecting on in an era of joint faculty appointments between computer science and literature or philosophy and the growing number of innovative instructional programs that combine information technology, creative arts and business. What are the implications of this for institutional and program design? After all, as the English language Wikipedia entry on academic discipline, drawing from the Encyclpaedia Britannica reminds us, “The University of Paris in 1231 consisted of four faculties: Theology, Medicine, Canon Law and Arts”. We need to be vigilant about how we classify and institutionalise structures of knowledge, particularly in an era of rapidly evolving collaboration between knowledge communities. Karoline Postel-Vinay of Sciences Po, at a recent Asian studies conference in Paris, encouraged participants to challenge our currently established conceptualizations of disciplines and areas of research.

Digital media is also facilitating communication and collaboration between researchers in specialised fields in order to collectively advance and explore knowledge and is also enabling interaction with communities and experts beyond post-secondary institutions leading to the growth of “citizen science” and inter-sectoral modes of knowledge production (ie the co-creation of knowledge with “lay” collaborators). Hence, the issue of where legitimate knowledge lies and audience is an evolving one – or is it? Perhaps we need to begin by refuting the ivory tower myth. The walls of universities are and have always been porous for faculty and students. Virginia Woolf attended Oxford as one of the first women on campus and historical examples abound regarding restrictions on enrolment with respect to certain minorities either not accessing the hallowed halls of advanced education or being subject to quotas. Thankfully, this has changed for the better though barriers for many still remain, as many scholars argue. This is yet another reason to have a discussion on what is legitimate knowledge and how to structure our institutions around questions of its generation, conservation, transmission and value-addition – including reinterpretation.

Furthermore, students are the single-biggest “export of universities”. One of the fundamental purposes of higher education and research is to foster the development of the next generation as well as be challenged by the innovative ideas of youth. The Socratic dialogue continues to this day and is a necessary step in the growth and development of ideas on an individual and collective level. Young people graduate and go on to lead productive lives across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors as well as the academic world.

What we may be seeing accelerated via ICTs is an increasing blurring of boundaries with respect to knowledge intended for and/or accessed by academic audiences as well as those beyond. Data-intensive research is an area where we see sometimes very esoteric research questions being resourced and explored through digital means (e.g. medieval languages and literature) with user groups as well as commentators and “content providers” going well beyond academe. This might be compared to marketing a niche product to a global audience as well as sourcing suppliers through a global, often volunteer, network. The possibilities are endless.

However, with ICTs, as with all tools, there is always a “dark side”. There are concerns and critiques by longstanding observers of emerging and disruptive technologies, such as Heather Menzies, of the negative impacts of “real time” communications and the sometimes-associated lack of depth, reduced attention spans, and difficulty to maintain meaningful inter-subjectivity. It is said that 80-90% of human communication remains non-verbal, hence we need to be vigilant and attentive to the dynamics of learning, thought and social interaction through emerging multidisciplinary fields such as cognitive neuroscience. We need to see new media as one tool, for knowledge generation and sharing but, by no means, the only one.

A central challenge now confronting the scholarly community is how to assess the quality and impact of various types of content accessible to potentially millions of readers and commentators. This includes the conundrum of what to do with “user-generated” or self-published content. Furthermore, how do we conceptualize and classify who is a “peer” and their commentary on one’s work in various contexts given the accelerated blurring of boundaries between the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors? Who best plays the curatorial role of quality control in the information deluge? These are some of the fundamental and normative questions facing the world of research and scholarship, which the following section will attempt to unpack, at least in a preliminary way.

Knowledge sharing – maximising value from good quality knowledge

The previous section focused on “research”, commonly thought of as (re)discovery and analysis, but how does knowledge get documented, vetted, shared, commented-upon and preserved for present and future generations?   It goes without saying that teaching in its many, rapidly evolving forms – is primarily a form of knowledge transmission and, I would argue, two way exchange between generations. Others have written in great detail about the impact of ICTs on teaching, especially the growth of on-line learning, MOOCs, Khan Academy and the like so I will not go into detail about this topic here. Suffice it to say that ICTs are having a significant impact teaching in post-secondary institutions – some of which are having difficulty rising to the challenge. Rather, I’d like to focus on the impact of ICTs on scholarly publishing and debates on how to assess the quality published output, without expecting to resolve this complex conundrum.

Bibliometrics, impact factors and indices such as the H-Index are, on the one hand, gaining importance and, on the other, coming under greater scrutiny for sometimes excluding entire scholarly communities such as humanities scholars who typically write books and those with a policy orientation who often produce “grey literature” such as technical and policy-oriented reports. In addition, there have been scandals of peer review “rings” in journals trying to enhance their impact factor. There is a tautology built into the issue of impact factor, namely that a more accessible publication tends to have wider readership and citations. Public Library of Science, or PLOS, a not-for profit publisher of open access journals that accepts roughly 70% of its peer-reviewed manuscripts and has a relatively high impact factor since it’s journals are open access. Articles rejected by PLOS journals often get published elsewhere so a general discussion on the meaning of acceptance and rejection rates are probably needed. John Willinsky also noted in a recent interview that PLOS requirements to include open access data also forces researchers to think through the quality of the datasets used to support their publications. How, therefore, to meaningfully establish the quality and impact of a publication?

The growing “open” movement, which includes open access (OA) publishing, open source technologies and open data are revolutionizing the scholarly enterprise by being based on the premise that knowledge is a public good – particularly when it is publicly-funded – and that the outputs of research and related activities should be freely available, without charge, ideally on the internet. Part of rising to the “open” challenge is an infrastructural one but this is improving through the creation of OA platforms at the institutional level. The importance of open access to research results (journals and books) as well as raw datasets (numeric, text, images and sound) is hugely important to both the world of research and broader society and lead to greater readership and impact. One concrete example to note is when a number of Québec journals dramatically increased their readership within a few years when they went OA by joining the Ėrudit platform. Another example is the journal RNA Biology requiring several years ago that all its authors to submit their abstracts to Wikipedia. Another “open” phenomenon to mention is the growth of open peer review– strongest in the health world – where open access publishers are employing fully transparent processes in their review of articles. In other words, the identity of the reviewer is disclosed, as are his or her comments on the article being submitted, the author – and others for that matter – can respond and comment. We will likely be seeing more of this type of review and resulting publications.

Conclusion – Dialogue on the nature and role of knowledge in society

I recently published an article on scholarly and research infrastructure in the new 2nd edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences, which begins to expand established knowledge boundaries to include an unprecedented number of contributions by non-Americans, women, non-anglophones, and minorities to get a more complete picture of contemporary scholarship. The next step would be to give more serious thought to the idea of “knowledge commissions”. Examples – some considered more successful than others – include the Indian Knowledge Commission as well as Canada’s Massey Commission in the 1950s, which ultimately led to the creation of national research funding infrastructure. Given advances in technology and associated virtual and intersectoral communities of interest, practice and purpose, are we at the point where we need to establish such knowledge commissions to review the place of knowledge in society and the institutions that support its creation, conservation and transmission/exchange? New media tools have enabled us to interact in real time on a regular basis with like-minded others around the world via exchange of knowledge and information in multiple directions. This helps researchers gather and curate precious information and often engages “fellow travellers” in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. New collective voices are emerging, which were not heard before. Yes, it’s time for a structured dialogue.

The author would like to acknowledge Chad Gaffield and Kris Olds for constructive comments on an earlier version of this article

The Impacts of Leadership Shakeups at Large Public Research Universities: Lessons for UBC

This entry is also available at Inside Higher Ed.

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Further to my 9 August Inside Higher Ed post on unexpected leadership change at the University of British Columbia (UBC), I was recently asked by Lori Culbert of the Vancouver Sun to comment on the possible impacts of this type of change at a large public research university in North America. Her article — ‘UBC: A leadership shakeup can affect planning, funding and reputation’ — was just posted tonight. I’ll add it to the long list of articles, blog entries, etc., I’m compiling on a new Facebook page (UBC Futures) that is an archive of sorts of everything (regardless of perspective) written about what has become a full-blown crisis. UBC Futures is modeled on the BadgerFutures: Resources for Debates about UW-Madison’s Future Facebook page, which has been operating since 2011.

Inevitably my comments to the Vancouver Sun were edited down to fit the format of a newspaper story. Given this I’d like to flag, here, what I said to Ms. Culbert. I’m partly doing this as UBC’s leadership has been remarkably stable since the era I attended it back in the late 1970s and first half of the 1980s. I also worked at UBC from 1989-1992, and spent one year (1995-96) at UBC as a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow (in part of the Strangway era). All I recall is leadership stability, as do most of the subsequent Piper and then Toope era employees and students. In contrast, I’ve been through a senior leadership roller coaster ride at one UBC peer (the University of Wisconsin-Madison), and learned much about UBC’s other peers down here in the U.S. via engagement with colleagues (faculty and senior administrators), so I’m keen to outline my view of the possible impacts of unexpected leadership change in large public research universities. As I noted in my 9 August entry, “[M]ake no mistake, this type of unexpected leadership transition is hugely significant.” But in what ways?

As I told Ms. Culbert of the Vancouver Sun, the impact of unexpected and early senior leadership changes typically generate a mix of internal and external impacts, though these impacts will obviously vary from institution to institution.  But it’s very important to be open, honest, and realistic about the impacts.

IMG_0907First, internal resource impacts typically include: (a) the direct financial costs of an unexpected presidential search, typically equivalent to a full year of presidential salary; (b) the indirect financial costs of an unexpected presidential search (primarily the time allocated by a large number of faculty, staff, students and sometimes alum to the search process); (c) major yet diffuse institution-wide opportunity costs given widespread speculation, dialogue & debate about the causes of the leadership change as well as the implications of the change; (d) delays in fund raising and the implementation of major capital campaigns, typically led by the president (or equivalent); and (e) delays of high profile and often high impact strategic initiatives (e.g., funding of a new chemistry building or establishment of a new school).

Second, there are a variety of internal organizational and governance impacts, including: (a) delays of key senior leadership hiring (typically at the vice-provost/vice-president level) until the new president is in place; (b) the creation of 1-3 years of uncertainty about the role of the provost and the nature of the president-provost relationship, which in most in universities is strategically coordinated (including with respect when the provost hiring cycle takes place); (c) delays in the formation of key relationships with deans and other senior staff; (d) delays in strategic planning at the university-wide scale, typically on a 1-3 year scale; (e) subtle but important changes in the criteria used when assessing prospective replacement presidential candidates; and (f) discussion & debate about the quality of governance at the university, and in some cases concern and distrust regarding the power politics associated with decision making.

Finally, there are a variety of external impacts, including (a) a spike of curiosity and often concern about the nature and quality of governance, transparency and decision-making at the university, and (b) a delay in the formation of key relationships with important political leaders, leaders and key staff at major funding councils, and leaders of key foundations (mainly in the US). In the US unexpected leadership changes also raise concern within ratings agencies (e.g., Moody’s) for they have been paying increasing attention to the quality of governance and senior leadership teams when assessing universities.

These impacts will obviously vary from institution to institution so if you’re reading this at UBC please keep this key point in mind. And some disruptive impacts can shed light on long-running problems and weaknesses, or engender positive medium-term change. In UBC’s case, though, this unexpected presidential change is occurring on top of a number of other major leadership changes. More specifically, UBC now “has an acting President, an acting chair, an interim Provost, and an incoming, interim President.” There’s “also an interim VP External/Communication, and a VP Finance that has been on the job for less than 100 days.” And one related question remains to be answered: how thoroughly were the internal & external impacts of an unexpected university leadership change thought through, costed out & aligned at UBC?

Despite all of the above, large public research universities are remarkably resilient. When we went through several rough patches here at UW-Madison, faculty (including in the department I am now chair of) powered on, locomotive-like, doing what they have always done – excellent research, teaching/mentoring, and professional and public service. I know my colleagues down at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign are doing the same right now despite recently losing a president, a provost, being sanctioned by the AAUP, etc, etc. This is not to say unexpected leadership change is easy to cope with (see my points above!), but just that the sky cannot fall on a defacto city with 70-90,000 energetic students/staff/faculty. But unexpected leadership change has high direct costs, and the opportunity costs are many.

Good luck my dear alma mater.

Kris Olds

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Reflections on UBC’s Unexpected Leadership Transition

Note: this entry will also be available via Insider Higher Ed on 10 August 2015.

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On a warm and humid Friday afternoon last week my email in-box pinged with a very important message to all UBC alumni, myself (BA, 1985; MA 1988) included.UBC Leadership Alum The formal communication, also pasted in below, had this to say:

Media Release | August 7, 2015

UBC Announces Leadership Transition

The University of British Columbia’s Board of Governors regretfully announced today that President Arvind Gupta has resigned to return to the pursuit of his academic career. Dr. Gupta has made meaningful accomplishments in his tenure as president, but has decided he can best contribute to the university and lead Canada’s innovation agenda by resuming his academic career and leadership roles in the business and research community.

“I want to take this time to thank Dr. Gupta for his service to the university community over the past year and acknowledge his hard work, integrity, and dedication,” said UBC Board of Governors’ Chair John Montalbano.

“Dr. Gupta worked tirelessly during his tenure to advance UBC’s core academic mission. He also developed an emerging strategy to support diversity and under-represented groups in the university, enhanced the student experience through better services, such as improved access to mental health services, UBC successfully raised over $200 million in one of the largest fundraising exercises in its history, and he facilitated a $66-million research grant that is the single largest in the history of UBC,” Montalbano further said.

Dr. Gupta, who has a PhD in computer science from the University of Toronto and was Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director of Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters Canada’s next generation of global innovators, will return to UBC’s Department of Computer Science after his academic leave. This leave will enable him to focus on his research and scholarly work that will be of mutual benefit to Dr. Gupta and UBC. The university is delighted Dr. Gupta will continue to build on his accomplishments as a scholar and continue to engage on national policy on research, innovation, science and technology.

The Board of Governors also announced that Martha Piper, who previously served as UBC’s 11th president from 1997 to 2006, will serve as interim president from Sept. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 while the university conducts a comprehensive, global search for a new leader. 

Dr. Piper received her PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from McGill University. She has an extensive background in university administration, having served in senior leadership positions at McGill and the University of Alberta. Her work stewarding UBC to become one of the leading research universities in the world was recognized with the Orders of Canada and British Columbia. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Since leaving UBC, Dr. Piper has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Shoppers Drug Mart, TransAlta Corp. and Grosvenor Americas Ltd. She was Chair of the Board of the National Institute of Nanotechnology and served as a member of the Trilateral Commission. Currently, she is a member of the boards of the Bank of Montreal, CARE Canada, the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, and the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

“I am very pleased to welcome back such a passionate supporter of UBC with a deep commitment to academic excellence,” said Chancellor Lindsay Gordon. “Dr. Piper’s considerable experience during her time as UBC president and the years beyond will be invaluable during this time of transition.”

“We look forward to her enthusiastic engagement with our students and employees,” Montalbano added. “Building on the legacy of her predecessors, and working together with her academic colleagues, the Board of Governors and UBC’s executive team, Dr. Piper will guide us well as we continue to deliver a globally renowned learning and research environment.”

UBC is consistently ranked among the world’s top 40 universities, and has an operating budget of $2.1 billion, more than 59,000 students on its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, and more than 15,000 faculty and staff.

While the communication included some other information, this was it regarding the explanation for President Gupta’s unexpected departure: he had only been in the position since 1 July 2014 (see this timeline via the Ubyssey, a student newspaper) and was just beginning to pursue the agenda items outlined in his installation address. The Gupta agenda is also outlined on this Office of the President webpage, and was presumably outlined when he was interviewed for the position in early 2014.

GuptaUBCPage1A quick spike of media coverage emerged in Vancouver later on Friday and Saturday, though the majority of it included a simple rephrasing of the official communication. The only sections of note in my mind were comments in the Vancouver Sun about Gupta’s absent voice:

Gupta declined to comment Friday, saying the news release should speak for itself. Gupta wasn’t quoted in the announcement, which UBC’s managing director of public affairs Susan Danard said was his choice.

and this in the national Globe & Mail newspaper regarding comments by John Montalbano, Vice Chairman of RBC Wealth Management and Chair, UBC Board of Governors:

As it made the unexpected announcement on Friday, the chair of the board of governors at British Columbia’s largest university said no disciplinary issues prompted the resignation of Arvind Gupta.

“None whatsoever. Let me be very clear. None whatsoever,” John Montalbano said in an interview.

He said Dr. Gupta recently decided he could better contribute to the university in a senior role in its computer-science department.

“Professor Gupta has had an opportunity to reflect on what is in the best interests of himself going forward and has chosen to resign,” he said, calling the decision “regrettable.”

“Arvind clearly loves the university. He has reflected on what would be best for him and we’re pleased that he is stepping into the department of computer science.”

….

Mr. Montalbano said he expects UBC to survive the turmoil. “I am very fond of saying that even the greatest institutions are never dependent on one person,” he said. “I don’t believe we will miss a beat.”

As someone who has studied, worked and/or been associated with universities in Canada, England, China, Singapore, France and the US, I find all official university communications intriguing and worth taking seriously as an object of study. In this case, I’m perplexed by the lack of detail in the official communications about why and how the resignation occurred (which was not helped by a Friday afternoon release in middle of summer – note to Communications chief: bad timing idea!). All alumni like myself are left with is perusal of some speculative blog/media entries (see here, here, here, and here), speculative tweets, and this satirical poster floating through the Twitterverse on the weekend.CL8GQZoUwAA2Cki

Make no mistake, this type of unexpected leadership transition is hugely significant. When Mr. Montalbano suggested in the Globe & Mail that a university president is defacto as disposable as a Swiffer Duster, it made me wonder if something else is going on and if risks are being taken with the future of my alma mater. Or maybe not? I just don’t know. Regardless, I would argue that UBC’s communication about this issue, to-date, is inadequate. It’s somewhat concerning that initial engagement with the media demonstrates a lack of understanding about the communicative politics of major institutional change, circa 2015, in an era where social media use can quickly impact an institution’s reputation — this is something we have been learning a lot about at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over the last four years.

Given that I don’t know what is going on at UBC, I’m going to move this blog entry forward via a series of reflections (formed into lessons) derived via a crisis at the UW-Madison in 2011-12 that was implicated in the resignation of our president equivalent after just three years in the position, and via the University of Virginia leadership crisis of 2012 that I wrote about in Inside Higher Ed here and here and that is summarized in this lengthy New York Times Magazine story. I’m also aware of multiple dimensions of the ongoing crisis (saga, really) at the nearby University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign that also led to the resignation of President Phyllis M. Wise last Thursday, and an ongoing brouhaha about modes and legality of communications about the crisis.

The first lesson is that an early lack of transparency and full communications can heighten the risk of a major crisis erupting. Amidst the debates and crises at UVA, UIUC, and UW-Madison, attempts to release highly selective forms of information to manage/control/shield formal and informal negotiation processes, maneuvering, agreements/disagreements, tentative deals, etc., all failed. A case in point is the communication announcing President Sullivan’s resignation at the University of Virginia, one that was eventually rescinded. What this did was to generate suspicion and enhance the drive for even more information, almost on an exponential basis. Open up, be direct, be clear – ideally as direct and clear as we are with our students about their papers/draft research proposals. It’s worth noting, too, that almost all of the initially shielded forms of information at UVA, UIUC, and UW-Madison eventually came to light and when they did the unveiling process generated mistrust, even more floods of freedom of information (FOI) requests, conflict, and some protests. This is not to say there is not a rationale for trying to manage the communications process, or that there are better times than others to open up about key decisions, but it is abundantly clear that managing a crisis (even on “a languorous Sunday in June, low season on the campus of the University of Virginia“) is not made easier by being vague, unclear, and by playing down the significance of a historically significant decision. An unexpected leadership transition costs substantial amounts of money, the delay of a multitude of key decisions/initiatives, and generates tens of thousands of hours of direct and indirect work for the university as a whole. An unexpected senior leadership change 13 months in, as per the UBC case, is sign of a crisis of one sort or another, it will cost, and given this it’s critically important to be open and clear about said costs.

The second and related lesson is that key decisions need to be communicated about with reference to process descriptors, with these descriptors tied to established/mandated governance processes and governance structures. Most North American universities have ‘shared governance’ systems of one form or another, whereby faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders (including board of trustees or governors) engage to ensure universities operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. And there are ‘governance pathways’ for most key decision, including for those associated with hiring, dismissals and acceptance and/or encouragement of resignations. It is important to outline the detailed governance pathway associated with key decisions, including attention to who decided what, when. The surest way to generate a wave of even more FOI requests, all enormously time consuming to respond to, is by being unclear about process vis a vis governance structures and rules, formal and informal.

The third lesson is that the crises at UBC’s peers in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Illinois reflected, and captured the essence of, fundamental changes and points of conflict about the mission of research universities, changes in governance processes and structures, differing visions for the future of the university, and conflicting perceptions of optimal forms and styles of senior ‘leadership.’ An existential crisis of sorts is occurring in many (most?) major public research universities and systems: from mission creep, to the pressures associated with austerity, to the (in the U.S. at least) defacto end of the social contract supporting public higher education, to the emergence of more active and sometimes politicized governing boards with less interest in broad oversight and more in detail, significant change is underway. The unexpected leadership transitions at UVA, UW-Madison, and UIUC generated enormous attention to the cultural, economic, and political forces reshaping these universities, as well as associated lines of power that bring these forces to life. A crisis is a wonderful teaching and learning moment. Use it, and be prepared to see it used, for this is what a university is all about.

In closing, the unexpected leadership crises at UBC’s peers in VA, WI and IL generated a myriad of costs (many unexpected), and a torrent of debates that far surpassed original expectations. As a UBC alumnus, I’m proud that the Fall of 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of UBC’s first class of students. I hope that the value system associated with the construction of UBC’s ‘second century’ will be one that is associated with rich currents of openness and transparency, including with respect to alumni, so we know what’s going on, and in so doing we’ll all be able to effectively nurture and protect our treasured ‘place of mind.’

 

Kris Olds

The EHEA and ASEM: Creating Regions of Higher Education

Editor’s note: Que Anh Dang is a Marie Curie Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, UK. This guest entry is based on her direct observations at Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Education Process and European Higher Education Area (EHEA) ministerial meetings in April and May 2015. Her current research project ‘Shaping an ASEM Education Area: Regionalism and Higher Education Policy Travel between Europe and Asia’ is a part of the European joint project Universities in the Knowledge Economy – UNIKE. Contact: qa.dang@bristol.ac.uk

Note: this entry is also available at Inside Higher Ed in a format more amenable for sharing & printing.

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The EHEA and ASEM: Creating Regions of Higher Education

Que Anh Dang

The capital cities of Riga (Latvia) and Yerevan (Armenia) have marked milestones in the history of the Asia-Europe Meeting Education Process (ASEM Education Process) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) respectively by hosting two significant regional ministerial meetings in April and May this year. Each meeting gathered around 50 national delegations and many regional organisations to develop and renew a vision for the future development of higher education. The most important policy documents publicised at these two events are the ASEM Chair’s Conclusions and the Yerevan Communiqué. The EHEA’s vision by 2020 is ‘to enhance the quality and relevance of learning and teaching; to foster the employability of graduates, to make the systems more inclusive; and to implement agreed structured reforms in all member countries’, whereas the ASEM’s vision is to create a ‘single higher education area linking Europe and Asia’ where ‘mobility of students, teachers, researchers, ideas and knowledge would be the core common goal’. Despite the differences in geographical boundaries, purposes and stages of cooperation, the two groupings share a common feature: creating regions of higher education. Over the years, these regional spaces have not only influenced policy making at the national level, but also reshaped the landscape of global higher education. This educational regionalism has changed the ways people organise places, spaces and institutions when thinking about higher education.

Economic Integration Heralds Educational Regionalisation

Regionalism has the capacity to shape patterns of human activities, such as trading and movement of people, including students and scholars. The process of economic regionalisation has become a trend in different parts of the world after the Second World War, noticeably in Europe, South East Asia, North and South America, and the Asia-Pacific Rim. Observations show that economic regionalisation often heralds educational regionalisation and the two processes become inextricably intertwined. These arguments are supported by the fact that most higher education regions which have recently been created around the world (e.g. ASEAN Community, UNILA – MERCOSUR´s Educational Sector (SEM), the Gulf Cooperation Council, Caribbean Community, etc.) are driven by the knowledge economy agenda. The Bologna Process, which gave way to the EHEA in 2010, is an excellent example of a region where higher education is seen as vital intellectual resource for economic recovery and expanding knowledge economy in Europe. Not only did the EU’s Lisbon Strategy spell out the concern for European competitiveness, which increased the concern for the competitiveness of its higher education systems. The Bologna Declaration, signed by the EU members and the then EU candidate countries in 1999, inter alia, referred to economic competition while setting out a vision for a ‘Europe of Knowledge’ by stating that we must in particular look at the objective of increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education. Also at the national level, although joining the Bologna Process is voluntary, the motivation of countries is very diverse. In many cases it was highly political and rested on an assumption that joining one of the European ‘clubs’ was a step closer to gaining full membership in the European Union. In other cases, becoming a part of the EHEA is a branding exercise for publicity or for gaining access to a larger market for international students.

Higher Education and Region-Making Projects

The EHEA did not exist as a region by itself, it has been constructed by people’s ideas and it has been talked about for more than a decade. Since it has been talked about, it starts existing. The EHEA has been transformed from an abstract concept into an entity which has the capacity and power to act as a competent player in higher education. This is reflected in the common utterances, such as ‘the EHEA mobilises a change in teaching methods’, ‘the EHEA promotes improvement in the quality’, ‘the EHEA enabled many education professionals to adopt new teaching methodologies’. Furthermore, in the Yerevan Communiqué, we can see similar expressions, ‘the EHEA has a key role’, ‘the EHEA faces serious challenges’, ‘the EHEA has opened a dialogue with other regions’. Of course a region is a concept and it cannot actually say or do anything. Only people can speak and act, therefore a region does not exist without people. And certain people can act on behalf of the nation state and collectively they influence policy development for the entire region. For instance, an official document from Yerevan ‘The Bologna Process revisited: the future of the European higher education area’ describes the mission of the EHEA, such as the EHEA is expected to facilitate a student-centred learning approach, ensure higher education be a public good, respond to demographic changes, contribute to scientific research, make the best use of technological developments, even react to conflicts between countries and to political extremisms, and to turn the current economic crisis into new opportunities. The list of active verbs goes on further, but as it stands it already makes the job of the European education ministers more challenging than ever before. The Budapest-Vienna Communique 2010 assigned an extended responsibility to the ministers from being ‘responsible for higher education in the countries participating in the Bologna Process’ (§1) to become ‘the Ministers responsible for the European Higher Education Area’ (§12).

Thus, creating a region in the EHEA case is not only an aspiration, but a conscious act with concrete goals. However, whether or not such goals materialise is a complex process depending not only on the ability to achieve goals, but also on the existence of other regions that are willing to recognise a region as a region. Both the initiators of a region and those who acknowledge the region as such can be regarded as ‘region builders’. Therefore at the Berlin Ministerial Conference in 2003, the European Commissioner, Viviane Reding, supported the idea to “develop an active dialogue with other continents” because “the fact that the whole world is watching us increases our joint responsibility to make the Bologna reforms a success”. Later, this idea was developed into the Bologna Policy Forums and other projects that help construct other regions. At the recent meeting in Yerevan, a member of the Board of the Bologna Follow-up Group, Sjur Bergan, re-emphasised “the EHEA has so far rarely been ignored, and one of our tasks is to make sure it does not suffer this indignity in the future” and “if we want other regions to be inspired by the EHEA, we need to show that we take our own commitments seriously”. Keeping the commitments to implementing the agreed structural reforms puts financial pressure on many member countries, thus also creates business opportunities for the World Bank, whose representatives were invited to the Yerevan forum to offer policy solutions to their ‘customers’ and ‘partners’ on how to make regional cooperation permanent and ongoing.

ASEM – an Extension of the EHEA or a New Education Area?

Inspired by the success of the Bologna Process in creating convergence across (now 48) higher education systems, European and Asian ministers of education attempted to strengthen the connections between the two continents by forging high-level strategic partnerships and launching the ASEM education process in 2008. Although the ASEM education process is nine years younger than the Bologna Process, it has created a larger group involving 51 European and Asian countries, two international entities (the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat). It also exemplifies an extensive region-making project in the higher education sector with its borders stretching eastward from the Atlantic coast of Europe to Oceania. ASEM represents half of the world’s GDP, more than 60% of the world’s population and around 60% of global trade, according to Eurostat figures in 2014.

Region in the ASEM case goes beyond the conventional concept of region that is based on geographical proximity. Rather it is an imagined community constructed in a political process in which different higher education discourses compete to construct social meanings and to make what is not natural appear natural. In other words, higher education is seen as a noble means to strengthen the ties that bind Asia and Europe together. The agenda of the ASEM education process, consisting of four priorities: quality assurance, balanced mobility, engaging business and industry in education, and lifelong learning including TVET, seems to resemble some of the action lines of the Bologna Process. This resemblance manifests the European soft power which Joseph Nye defines as “the ability to get others to want the outcomes that you want” and “the ability to shape the preferences of others through attraction and co-operation rather than coercion”. When other countries and regions look to the Bologna Process for good practices, values and ideas, soft power is taking root. Academic exchanges and student mobility are central to the soft power theory. The stories about the sons and daughters of Asian leaders as examples of foreign elites studying in Europe are not new, but creating a whole new education area for increasing two-way mobility among the ASEM countries is indeed a novel idea.

Nonetheless, this idea together with the overlapping membership of 33 EHEA members seems to make the ASEM education area an extension or replication of the Bologna Process. At the recent ASEM ministerial meeting in Riga, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, explicitly suggested “despite a wide variety of languages, cultures and specific structures in the different countries, Europe’s higher education systems are comparable and compatible. Why shouldn’t we be able to replicate a similar system across Europe and Asia, in particular with the support of Erasmus+ and our expertise?”. Ironically, in the first half of his keynote he emphasised the current situation in Europe, where “more than six million young people are unemployed in the EU with peaks of more than 50% in some member states. Even more alarmingly, 7.5 million young Europeans between 15 and 24 are neither in employment, nor in education or training”. This fact made the audience at the meeting, especially those from Asia, wonder why other regions are to replicate the Bologna model of higher education.

Three weeks later, at the Yerevan meeting, Sjur Bergan, said “the EHEA has largely been in the ideal situation [to be loved], at least if we believe that emulation is the most sincere form of flattery. Perhaps Mr Bergan did not mean the kind of ‘funded emulation’ in the name of capacity building projects which are heavily sponsored by the European Commission, such as EU SHARE for the ASEAN region and ‘Intra-ACP Academic Mobility Scheme’ for Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions. These projects, in essence, are a deliberate act to build and/or strengthen other higher education regions, and synchronize them with the EHEA.

In Lieu of a Conclusion

The Bologna Process has been perceived by many in both academic and policy communities as an internationalisation process of higher education. This article, however, sees the Bologna Process as a region-making project with the EHEA as a work-in-progress and an outcome. This pan-European project has impacted on other regional initiatives around the world, especially in Asia, through a very powerful discourse on the construction of a higher education space. Such abstract ‘space’ increasingly affects the ways in which other regions come to conceive, understand, plan and organise their higher education systems. Despite a strong influence from the European partners, the ASEM education area – though still in the making – manifests a hybrid form of regionalism combining Asian and European expertise and agendas. Many higher education regions are being constructed around the world. Let’s hope they are about advancing scholarship, connecting cultures and individuals, and about building a different future instead of reshuffling old ideas, pandering to economic concerns, or playing to the hegemon’s tune.