A Cornell University response to ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational-ethical dilemma)’

Editors’ note: our thanks to David J. Skorton, President, Cornell University, for his informative and thought provoking response below to Nigel Thrift’s ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational, ethical dilemma)‘. David J. Skorton (pictured to the right) became Cornell University’s 12th president on July 1, 2006. He holds faculty appointments as professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and in Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. He is also chair of the Business–Higher Education Forum, an independent, non-profit organization of Fortune 500 CEOs, leaders of colleges and universities, and foundation executives; life member of the Council on Foreign Relations; co-chair of the advisory board for the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities; member of the National Advisory Council for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health; and Master of the American College of Cardiology.

As our regular readers know Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, contributed an entry where he posed: ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational, ethical dilemma)’. Professor Skorton’s response below is the third response to Nigel Thrift’s ‘question’. The first two were provided by Peter N. Stearns, Provost of George Mason University, and Gregor McLennan, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Bristol.

Several more responses are in the works, and others can be proposed (via <kolds@wisc.edu>) through to April 2011.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

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My British colleague Nigel Thrift asks if we should be bothered by our role as universities in the “long emergency” of global suffering and deterioration, whether it be through climate change, hunger, poverty or disease [‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational, ethical dilemma)‘, April 8, 2010]. He says, “Yes, we should,” and I fully agree with him.

By any measure, the facts go beyond the alarming: World Bank socioeconomic indicators show a high level of human misery, from extreme poverty to child malnutrition, particularly in those countries suffering from armed conflict. More than 1 billion people lack access to potable water, and 42 percent of the world’s population–that’s 2.6 billion people–don’t have access to proper sanitation. More than 10 million children under the age of 5 die every year from causes that would be preventable with better nutrition and access to health care.

Clearly, universities in the developed world have a major role to play in alleviating this human suffering. This is especially true in the United States, where universities traditionally have carried out a three-part mission of teaching, research, and outreach and service to the larger world.

Nigel talks about our intellectual and ethical responsibilities and the need for decisive action. Those reasons are splendidly altruistic and well-stated. As an American, I would add a further reason to act: higher education is one of the most effective and credible diplomatic assets available to the United States. Before my overseas colleagues cringe in dismay, let me add that I am in no way advocating that higher education be utilized for political gain or advantage. But I do contend that colleges and universities are among our country’s best tools to build human and societal capacity and foster positive international relations in a world in which the United States is being challenged economically as well as on religious, moral and ideological grounds. The global participation of our universities can help alleviate poverty and create a pathway for millions to improve their own lives and enter an increasingly globalized society. Moreover, we in higher education in the United States need to engage the world in order to educate American students to function in a global economy and to address common problems from global outbreaks of new infectious diseases to climate change.

Many universities in the United States and other developed countries, the United Kingdom included, are already reaching out to and establishing partnerships with institutions in the developing world. Cornell is high on the list of those participating in this effort, particularly in coming to the aid of the overburdened higher-education infrastructure in Africa. In 2007, for example, Cornell established a master’s of professional studies degree program in international agriculture, with emphasis on watershed management, in Ethiopia in partnership with Bahir Dar University. In addition, our Weill Cornell Medical College is working to strengthen medical education at the Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences and at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania, in order to improve and expand Tanzania’s core of health-care providers. We need many, many more initiatives like these to directly confront the issues of world poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and societal dysfunction.

Nigel notes that “perhaps it could be argued that we are now on a kind of war footing and need to act accordingly,” and I have described the international situation as “explosive.” But what is needed is not so much a warlike stance as a long-term commitment to address problems that have seemed intractable for at least half a century.

Nearly three years ago I proposed the creation of a new Marshall Plan for higher education that would enlist colleges and universities in fulfilling their potential as educators, developers and researchers for the world. What would such a plan achieve? First, colleges and universities need to coordinate our efforts at capacity-building in the developing world, and by that I mean developing a new kind of plan that would enable us to work together on education, research, and outreach. Second, we need to make sure our efforts complement the current work by nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and by government agencies in confronting the issues of literacy, nutrition, global health, sustainable technologies and conflict resolution, among others. And third, we need to follow the lead of our colleagues in the developing world who are most knowledgeable about local needs and the cultural, social, and political contexts within which projects and programs must operate.

A major thrust must also be to make higher education available to the growing number of students in the developing world with few options to pursue postsecondary education. As I have written before: We cannot handle tomorrow’s students and the demands for advanced skills with the resources that exist today.

Just as U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s 1947 proposal for a massive program of aid and redevelopment helped bring a war-ravaged Europe back to economic health, political stability and peace, an enlightened, coordinated, and broad-based plan could greatly benefit the developing world today.

Is such a plan feasible today, given the much wider global community? I sincerely hope so, and I am also hopeful that as more and more of our research universities reach out globally, they will see that the stakes are even higher now than they were six decades ago. The appalling conditions faced by vast numbers of the world’s people create a humanitarian crisis of the first order and, as such, a threat not only to stability and intercultural understanding, but also to peace.

But, Nigel asks, are universities “optimally organized” to address these fundamental global challenges? “Optimally organized” is elusive and must be defined on a local basis. However, based on past and present action, I can certainly answer for Cornell, which has a long history of international research and capacity building. The Cornell-Nanking Crop Improvement Program, a cooperative agricultural exchange program, was carried out in China between 1925 and 1931 to improve the major food crops of northern China and train Chinese investigators in crop-improvement techniques. That effort paved the way for many post-World War II technical assistance programs involving American universities and their counterparts overseas.

We, and many of our peer institutions, have long regarded ourselves as international universities, and ever more institutions in the United States understand that they need to engage the world by educating American students to function in a global economy by exposing them to the breadth of world cultures. These students quickly find that collaboration across national borders often is the most effective way to attack a variety of research problems and to build human and institutional capacity in the developing world.

One thing is apparent: No single college or university, acting alone, can achieve what is needed to solve global society’s growing ills. Working together, however, the research institutions of the United States and the rest of the developed world, in cooperation with those already in the field and in local leadership positions, can play a central role in helping countries that are struggling to meet the needs of their citizens. Acting together, we can improve local education, apply research and contribute our problem-solving skills.

The world increasingly is turning to higher education to develop and share the knowledge needed to solve its most critical problems, which know no disciplinary or national boundaries. In a 2007 essay I wrote that the development of human capacity is not only one of the most effective ways to ameliorate global inequality, it is a prerequisite for any enduring improvement of the standard of living at the local level, where it counts most. In 2010, with income inequality between the richest and poorest nations ever more pronounced, that is assuredly more certain than ever.

I firmly believe that the current global milieu – especially the frictions, fears and misunderstandings between cultures – requires responses that universities are uniquely qualified to supply: dialogue, learning, creativity and discovery. And that’s not only good for America and its friends – it’s good for the world.

David J. Skorton

Ranking – in a different (CHE) way?

uwe_brandenburg_2006-005nl GlobalHigherEd has been profiling a series of entries on university rankings as an emerging industry and technology of governance. This entry has been kindly prepared for us by Uwe Brandenburg. Since 2006 Uwe has been project manager at the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE) and CHE Consult, a think tank and consultancy focusing on higher education reform.  Uwe has an MA in Islamic Studies, Politics and Spanish from the University of Münster (Germany),  and an MscEcon in Politics from the University of Wales at Swansea.

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Talking about rankings usually means talking about league tables. Values are calculated based on weighed indicators which are then turned into a figure, added and formed into an overall value, often with the index of 100 for the best institution counting down. Moreover, in many cases entire universities are compared and the scope of indicators is somewhat limited. We at the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE) are highly sceptical about this approach. For more than 10 years we have been running our own ranking system which is so different to the point that  some experts  have argued that it might not be a ranking at all which is actually not true. Just because the Toyota Prius is using a very different technology to produce energy does not exclude it from the species of automobiles. What are then the differences?

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Firstly, we do not believe in the ranking of entire HEIs. This is mainly due to the fact that such a ranking necessarily blurs the differences within an institution. For us, the target group has to be the starting point of any ranking exercise. Thus, one can fairly argue that it does not help a student looking for a physics department to learn that university A is average when in fact the physics department is outstanding, the sociology appalling and the rest is mediocre. It is the old problem of the man with his head in the fire and the feet in the freezer. A doctor would diagnose that the man is in a serious condition while a statistician might claim that over all he is doing fine.

So instead we always rank on the subject level. And given the results of the first ExcellenceRanking which focused on natural sciences and mathematics in European universities with a clear target group of prospective Master and PhD students, we think that this proves the point;  only 4 institutions excelled in all four subjects; another four in three; while most excelled in only one subject. And this was in a quite closely related field.

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Secondly, we do not create values by weighing indicators and then calculating an overall value. Why is that? The main reason is that any weight is necessarily arbitrary, or in other words political. The person weighing decides which weight to give. By doing so, you pre-decide the outcome of any ranking. You make it even worse when you then add the different values together and create one overall value because this blurs differences between individual indicators.

Say a discipline is publishing a lot but nobody reads it. If you give publications a weight of 2 and citations a weight of one, it will look like the department is very strong. If you do it the other way, it will look pretty weak. If you add the values you make it even worse because you blur the difference between both performances. And those two indicators are even rather closely related. If you summarize results from research indicators with reputation indicators, you make things entirely irrelevant.

Instead, we let the indicator results stand for their own and let the user decide what is important for his or her personal decision-making process. e.g., in the classical ranking we allow the users to create “my ranking” so they can choose the indicators they want to look at and in which order.

Thirdly, we strongly object to the idea of league tables. If the values which create the table are technically arbitrary (because of the weighing and the accumulation), the league table positions create the even worse illusion of distinctive and decisive differences between places. They then bring alive the impression of an existing difference in quality (no time or space here to argue the tricky issue of what quality might be) which is measurable to the percentage point. In other words, that there is a qualitative and objectively recognizable measurable difference between place number 12 and 15. Which is normally not the case.

Moreover, small mathematical differences can create huge differences in league table positions. Take the THES QS: even in the subject cluster SocSci you find a mere difference of 4.3 points on a 100 point scale between league rank 33 and 43. In the overall university rankings, it is a meager 6.7 points difference between rank 21 and 41 going down to a slim 15.3 points difference between rank 100 and 200. That is to say, the league table positions of HEIs might differ by much less than a single point or less than 1% (of an arbitrarily set figure). Thus, it tells us much less than the league position suggests.

Our approach, therefore, is to create groups (top, middle, bottom) which are referring to the performance of each HEI relative to the other HEIs.

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This means our rankings are not as easily read as the others. However,  we strongly believe in the cleverness of the users. Moreover, we try to communicate at every possible level that every ranking (and therefore also ours) is based on indicators which are chosen by the ranking institution. Consequently, the results of the respective ranking can tell you something about how an HEI performs in the framework of what the ranker thinks interesting, necessary, relevant, etc. Rankings therefore NEVER tell you who is the best but maybe (depending on the methodology) who is performing best (or in our cases better than average) in aspects considered relevant by the ranker.

A small, but highly relevant aspect might be added here. Rankings (in the HE system as well as in other areas of life) might suggest that a result in an indicator proves that an institution is performing well in the area measured by the indicator. Well it does not. All an indicator does is hint at the fact that given the data is robust and relevant, the results give some idea of how close the gap is between the performance of the institution and the best possible result (if such a benchmark exists). The important word is “hint” because “indicare” – from which the word “indicator” derives – means exactly this: a hint, not a proof. And in the case of many quantitative indicators, the “best” or “better” is again a political decision if the indicator stands alone (e.g. are more international students better? Are more exchange agreements better?).

This is why we argue that rankings have a useful function in terms of creating transparency if they are properly used, i.e. if the users are aware of the limitations, the purpose, the target groups and the agenda of the ranking organization and if the ranking is understood as one instrument among various others fit to make whatever decision related to an HEI (study, cooperation, funding, etc.).

Finally, modesty is maybe what a ranker should have in abundance. Running the excellence ranking in three different phases (initial in 2007, second phase with new subjects right now, repetition of natural sciences just starting) I am aware of certainly one thing. However strongly we aim at being sound and coherent, and however intensely we re-evaluate our efforts, there is always the chance of missing something; of not picking an excellent institution. For the world of ranking, Einstein’s conclusion holds a lot of truth:

Not everything that can be counted, counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

For further aspects see:
http://www.che-ranking.de/cms/?getObject=47&getLang=de
http://www.che-ranking.de/cms/?getObject=44&getLang=de
Federkeil, Gero, Rankings and Quality Assurance in Higher Education, in: Higher Education in Europe, 33, (2008), S. 209-218
Federkeil, Gero, Ranking Higher Education Institutions – A European Perspective., in: Evaluation in Higher Education, 2, (2008), S. 35 – 52
Other researchers specialising in this (and often referring to our method) are e.g. Alex Usher, Marijk van der Wende or Simon Marginson.

Uwe Brandenburg

The role of the university in city/regional development: a view from a Vice-Chancellor in Bristol

ericthomaspic1The entry has been kindly prepared for us by Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol.  Professor Thomas has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol since 2001.  Prior to that he was  Head of the School of Medicine, and later Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences, University of Southampton.  Professor Thomas is currently a member of the Board of the South-West Regional Development Agency. He is Chair of the Research Policy Committee of Universities UK and a member of its Board.

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The United Kingdom is the classic high added-value, knowledge economy. We don’t dig anything out of the ground anymore and we don’t make anything in any great quantity anymore. Our economic success depends upon us providing high intellectual and creative skills, and on technological and service innovation.

Universities are at the heart of that in both providing the intellectual workforce and in technological innovation. It is said that in medieval times villages and towns were built around the manor house, in the Victorian era they were built around the factories and that, if we were building new towns and villages now, they would be built around universities. Certainly when the UK Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) put out a call for locations without higher education to apply for a new facility,  the 35 who applied would support the thesis.

I often compare the City of Bristol in 1961 with the City today. In 1961 Bristol was dominated by heavy engineering and manufacturing industry. The aerospace industry employed tens of thousands of people as did both tobacco and Fry’s chocolate. At that time, the University of Bristol had about 3000 students and 300 academic staff. It was a small consideration in the economy of Bristol and could exist, almost as an ivory tower, up the hill in Clifton and unengaged with the ambitions of the city.

bristol2If you now fast forward to 2009, all that industry except aerospace has gone. And yet, the University of Bristol is the largest independent employer in the city, responsible for 5500 jobs and a further 4500 from indirect employment. A study some years ago in the South West Region reported the economic impact of a university as 1.74 times turnover. A more recent study of London South Bank University by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which took into account the economic impact of the added value from the graduates through their lifetime, concluded that the impact was approximately six times turnover. Viewed like this, it would make the University of Bristol’s impact on the local and national economy in excess of £2 billion per year and higher education in general in the UK in the order of £100 billion per year or over 8% of GDP.

Of course, such figures will provoke dispute. However the general message of the importance of higher education to the local and national economies is now, I would argue, beyond question. How, therefore, does a university like Bristol respond to such a role which is relatively new?

The first important action is to ensure that working with the city is right at the center of your current public strategy. This is so for the current University Strategy, and will be strengthened in our Plan for 2009–2016.

Secondly the head of the institution must articulate that ambition clearly and become personally engaged with the city and region. For example, I am a member of the Partnership Board for the Bristol City Council which advises the Leader and Chief Executive. For six years I was a member of the Board of the South-West Regional Development Agency. I have been a trustee of an important local charity. Perhaps most importantly I assiduously attend all city social events and network with the other key players in the city and always articulate our desire to assist the city-region. I have also opened up the university for the use of many partners and organizations in the city.

More practically, we have a large Research and Enterprise Directorate which works closely with local businesses. Their aim is to ensure the most rapid transfer of knowledge and technology generated in the university and the easiest access possible for businesses to our skills and technical expertise. This is not only for big businesses. We have set up the Bristol Enterprise Network to assist knowledge transfer among the high tech, high growth SMEs in the Bristol sub-region. This currently has 1500 members. This not only provides networking opportunities but also news and information and training in business skills.

We need to work with key partners in the city particularly the National Health Service. The university provides nearly 200 medical staff for health care in the city and must work very closely with local health trusts, not only to ensure the best health care but also the best teaching and research opportunities for our professionals.

The university also provides most of the local teacher training and thus a very important set of professionals for the future of Bristol. Over a period of ten years or so, the University will have invested over £500 million in infrastructure which has knock-on effects in the local planning, architectural, building and legal services, to name but a few.

bristol11However it is not only in business that the university works with the city. Many of our staff are school governors or trustees of charities. We are working very closely on the development of a new school which opened in 2008,  Merchants’  Academy Withywood, in South Bristol. We have enormous numbers of cultural events and lectures which are open to the public. It is often overlooked that our academics travel all over the world. The people most commonly putting up Powerpoint presentations with the word ‘Bristol‘ in the title are the staff of the University.

Furthermore, our staff are massively networked internationally not only with other academics but also business and government. I get at least four “Google Alerts” a day about the University of Bristol from press all over the world. Stories about the University carry the name Bristol to all parts of the globe and all that PR and advertising comes free.

To some observers, the pressure on universities to increasingly be more global in ambition comes at a price.  However, I do not see any essential or intrinsic conflict,  between being an international, outward facing organization, and working to ensure that the local society gains as much as possible from its university. The two ambitions can be made to be completely compatible, though as I have argued above, both need to be championed and advanced together.

However, I would say that the role of the university in its local city and sub-region is one of the most enjoyable parts of leading a great university in 2009.

Eric Thomas

University institutional performance: HEFCE, UK universities and the media

deem11 This entry has been kindly prepared by Rosemary Deem, Professor of Sociology of Education, University of Bristol, UK. Rosemary’s expertise and research interests are in the area of higher education, managerialism, governance, globalization, and organizational cultures (student and staff).

Prior to her appointment at Bristol, Rosemary was Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Lancaster. Rosemary has served as a member of ESRC Grants Board 1999-2003, and Panel Member of the Education Research Assessment Exercise 1996, 2001, 2008.

GlobalHigherEd invited Rosemary to respond to one of the themes (understanding institutional performance) in the UK’s Higher Education Debate aired by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills  (DIUS) over 2008.

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Institutional performance of universities and their academic staff and students is a very topical issue in many countries, for potential students and their families and sponsors, governments and businesses. As well as numerous national rankings, two annual international league tables in particular, the Shanghai Jiao Tong,  developed for the Chinese government to benchmark its own universities and the commercial Times Higher top international universities listings, are the focus of much government and institutional  interest,  as  universities vie with each other to appear in the top rankings of so-called world-class universities, even though the quest for world-class status has negative as well as positive consequences for national higher education systems (see here).

International league tables often build on metrics that are themselves international (e.g publication citation indexes) or use proxies for quality such as the proportions of international students or staff/student ratios, whereas national league tables tend to develop their own criteria, as the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has done and as its planned replacement, the Research Excellence Framework is intended to do. deem2

In March 2008, John Denham, Secretary of State for (the Department of) Innovation, Universities and Skills (or DIUS) commissioned the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to give some advice on measuring institutional performance. Other themes  on which the Minister commissioned advice, and which will be reviewed on GlobalHigherEd over the next few months, were On-Line Higher Education Learning, Intellectual Property and research benefits; Demographic challenge facing higher education; Research Careers; Teaching and the Student Experience; Part-time studies and Higher Education; Academia and public policy making; and International issues in Higher Education.

Denham identified five policy areas for the report on ‘measuring institutional performance’ that is the concern of this entry, namely: research, enabling business to innovate and engagement in knowledge transfer activity, high quality teaching, improving work force skills and widening participation.

This list could be seen as a predictable one since it relates to current UK government policies on universities and strongly emphasizes the role of higher education in producing employable graduates and relating its research and teaching to business and the ‘knowledge economy’.

Additionally, HEFCE already has quality and success measures and also surveys, such as the National Student Survey of all final year undergraduates for everything except workforce development.  The five areas are a powerful indicator of what government thinks the purposes of universities are, which is part of a much wider debate (see here and here).

On the other hand, the list is interesting for what it leaves out – higher education institutions and their local communities (which is not just about servicing business), or universities’ provision for supporting the learning of their own staff (since they are major employers in their localities) or the relationship between teaching and research

The report makes clear that HEFCE wants to “add value whilst minimising the unintended consequences”, (p. 2), would like to introduce a code of practice for the use of performance measures and does not want to introduce more official league tables in the five policy areas.  There is also a discussion about why performance is measured: it may be for funding purposes, to evaluate new policies, inform universities so they can make decisions about their strategic direction, improve performance or to inform the operation of markets. The disadvantages of performance measures, the tendency for some measures to be proxies (which will be a significant issue if plans to use metrics and bibliometrics  as proxies for research quality in  the new Research Excellence Framework are adopted) and the tendency to measure activity and volume but not impact are also considered in the report.

However, what is not emphasized enough are that the consequences once a performance measure is made public are not within anyone’s control.  Both the internet and the media ensure that this is a significant challenge.  It is no good saying that “Newspaper league tables do not provide an accurate picture of the higher education sector” (p 7) but then taking action which invalidates this point.

Thus in the RAE 2008, detailed cross-institutional results were made available by HEFCE to the media before they are available to the universities themselves last week, just so that newspaper league tables can be constructed.

Now isn’t this an example of the tail wagging the dog, and being helped by HEFCE to do so? Furthermore, market and policy incentives may conflict with each other.  If an institution’s student market is led by middle-class students with excellent exam grades, then urging them to engage in widening participation can fall on deaf ears.   Also, whilst UK universities are still in receipt of significant public funding, many also generate substantial private funding too and some institutional heads are increasingly irritated by tight government controls over what they do and how they do it.

Two other significant issues are considered in the report. One is value-added measures, which HEFCE feels it is not yet ready to pronounce on.  Constructing these for schools has been controversial and the question of over what period should value added measures be collected is problematic, since HEFCE measures would look only at what is added to recent graduates, not what happens to them over the life course as a whole.

The other issue is about whether understanding and measuring different dimensions of institutional performance could help to support diversity in the sector.  It is not clear how this would work for the following three reasons:

  1. Institutions will tend to do what they think is valued and has money attached, so if the quality of research is more highly valued and better funded than quality of teaching, then every institution will want to do research.
  2. University missions and ‘brands’ are driven by a whole multitude of factors and importantly by articulating the values and visions of staff and students and possibly very little by ‘performance’ measures; they are often appealing to an international as well as a national audience and perfect markets with detailed reliable consumer knowledge do not exist in higher education.
  3. As the HEFCE report points out, there is a complex relationship between research, knowledge transfer, teaching, CPD and workforce development in terms of economic impact (and surely social and cultural impact too?). Given that this is the case, it is not evident that encouraging HEIs to focus on only one or two policy areas would be helpful.

There is a suggestion in the report that web-based spidergrams based on an seemingly agreed (set of performance indicators might be developed which would allow users to drill down into more detail if they wished). Whilst this might well be useful, it will not replace or address the media’s current dominance in compiling league tables based on a whole variety of official and unofficial performance measures and proxies. Nor will it really address the ways in which the “high value of the UK higher education ‘brand’ nationally and internationally” is sustained.

Internationally, the web and word of mouth are more critical than what now look like rather old-fashioned performance measures and indicators.  In addition, the economic downturn and the state of the UK’s economy and sterling are likely to be far more influential in this than anything HEFCE does about institutional performance.

The report, whilst making some important points, is essentially introspective, fails to sufficiently grasp how some of its own measures and activities are distorted by the media, does not really engage with the kinds of new technologies students and potential students are now using (mobile devices, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, etc) and focuses far more on national understandings of institutional performance than on how to improve the global impact and understanding of UK higher education.

Rosemary Deem

The UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI): reflections on ‘the complexities of global partnerships in higher education

gore221This entry has been kindly prepared by Tim Gore, Director of The Centre for Indian Business, University of Greenwich, London, UK. Tim has worked closely with educationalists, institutions, companies and governments to improve bilateral and multilateral educational links in Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and India over a 23 year period. His most recent role was Director, Education at the British Council in India, where he was responsible for growing the knowledge partnership between India and the UK. Tim also led the establishment of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) that is profiled in this blog entry.

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Building sustainable global partnerships

Partnership is a word that is often used but difficult to define. Many claim to have meaningful partnerships but in reality I suspect good partnerships are rare. Partnerships between academic institutions across national and cultural frontiers are especially challenging. In the first place, the institutions themselves are complex, multi-dimensional and resistant to being led in the traditional sense. On the other hand, there is language, the subtle nuances of unspoken cultural expectations and distance! UKIERI – the UK India Education and Research Initiative – was established with the aim of rebuilding the lapsed educational relationship between the UK and India. It was to focus on building academic partnerships that were meaningful and sustainable.

India and the UK

India emerged from its colonial period according to some commentators with the newfound national pride as the growth of their economy and their nuclear and space sciences established their national credibility (see Mohan, 2006). Since the economic reforms of 1991, India had opened its doors and witnessed a dizzying growth. But to fuel this growth, education became more important and with it an interest in partnership with amongst others the UK. The UK also recognised the need of knowledge to fuel its growth and set up several institutions such as the Science and Innovation Council to achieve this. India and China were obvious partners with their rapidly growing academic and research capabilities.

ukierilogoThe UK government put the initial funds into UKIERI to start it up closely followed by industry sponsors and later as trust was built, the Indian Government. A number of consultations in India and UK gathered views from the sector about how to achieve the goals. The result was a carefully balanced funding mechanism that encouraged competitive bids across a range of academic collaborations but with similar criteria of impact, relevance, high quality standards and sustainability. The funding was mainly mobility money to break down the difficulty of distance and encourage partners to spend time together. Bids needed to demonstrate that the activities of the partnership were of strategic importance to the institutions involved and that matching funding was available.

The concept of ‘strategic alliances’ has quickly evolved over the last few decades from a position where they were little mentioned in strategy textbooks. Michael Porter, for example, in his work on market forces in the seventies and eighties was more concerned with firms as coherent entities in themselves made up of strategic business units but conceptually sealed from competing firms in the market. Since then, alliances have become crucially important to the extent that a product such as the iPod is the product of a very complex set of strategic relationships where its brand owner, Apple, does not directly produce any part of the iPod or its content.

A variety of writers have looked at alliances from different perspectives. Economic and managerial perspectives see alliances as ways of reducing risk or exerting power and influence in a market. However, social capital and network analyses are far more subtle and see alliances as ways of accessing complex tacit knowledge that is not easy to build or acquire in other ways. Here, the concept of trust plays a big role and we come back to human interaction.

Academic institutions could be concerned with market share and can definitely be concerned about costs. So an analysis such as’ resource based theory’ or ‘transaction cost analysis’ may describe their motivations for partnership well. However, such institutions are complex and exhibit complex goals.

Studies in Norway (see Frølich, 2006) have shown that academic ambition and status is the main driver for researchers seeking overseas links rather than financial or institutional inducements which are merely facilitative. In this analysis, knowledge is power. Knowledge is difficult to acquire and especially those parts of knowledge that are not easily coded and where even the questions are difficult to frame let alone the answers that are sought. Trading in knowledge of this type is done only under conditions of trust.

However, this is only part of the picture. Institutions do have a role. In studies of the success of innovation in the Cambridge innovation cluster, the success was attributed to two sorts of social capital – structural and relational. The individual researchers can easily create the relational capital at conferences and other academic encounters but the structural capital comes by virtue of institutional links such as shared governors on a board. If we can create conditions of both structural and relational capital we can expect a more robust and productive alliance. It is this that UKIERI was trying to achieve.

Buying a stake in the process

bangalore-015UKIERI insisted that institutions buy a stake in the process at the same time as encouraging academics to create their partnerships. Funding was deliberately limited so that the institution had to contribute or find extra funding from a third party. This ensured that the strategic interests of the institution were taken into account. Many universities asked all their staff with an interest in India to attend a working group and prioritise their own bids into UKIERI. At the same time, UKIERI looked for evidence of synergy within the teams and evidence that the partnership would yield more than the sum of the parts. UKIERI arranged a two stage process of peer review to look at the academic strengths followed by a panel review to look holistically at the partnership.

Trust was built at many levels in the Initiative. The Indian Government demonstrated their trust by co-funding the second year after having satisfied themselves that there was genuine mutuality. Many partnerships had to deal with trust issues especially over funding which was channelled through the UK partner in the first year according to UK audit requirements. In a few cases trust broke down and partnerships did not work out but in the overwhelming majority the partnerships are doing well and producing strong research and academic outputs. The Initiative has been favourably reviewed by a number of institutions including the UK’s National Audit Office and a Parliamentary Select Committee.

‘Good’ communication sustains partnerships

In my experience, many partnerships run into difficulties because there is not enough contact between the partners, communications are sparse and often responses are slow or do not happen at all. Universities can give the appearance of being rather fragmented in their approach to partnerships as authority for the various components lies in different parts of the university.

Additionally, very often aspects of the partnership are agreed but then need to be ratified by academic councils or other internal quality processes and this again can cause delays. Very often, the partner is not told about the reason for delays and from the outside it is hard to understand why responses are so slow. This is accentuated when we are dealing across cultures and delays can be interpreted as lack of interest or even a lack of respect. In some cultures, it is not normal to say ‘no’ and a lack of response is the way of communicating lack of interest! All these communication issues erode the trust in the relationship and can be damaging.

I would recommend that each partnership always has a clear lead person who leads on communications and keeps in touch with all the processes on both sides of the partnership. It is important to be transparent about internal mechanisms and how long processes are really likely to take as well as what the processes are. The lead person can also coordinate visits to and fro and ensure that these are fairly regular. If there is a gap, there may be a relevant academic in the area who could take an extra day visiting the partner and keeping the relationship ‘warm’.

We often forget in our efforts to be both effective managers and academics that human relationships are at the core of all our enterprise and that these relationships need nurturing. Without this basic trust effective management of a project and high quality standards will not be enough.

Additional Reading

Frølich, N. (2006) Still academic and national – internationalisation in Norwegian research and higher education, Higher Education, 52 (3), pp. 405-420.

Gore, T. (2008) Global Research Collaboration: Lessons from Practice for Sustainable International Partnerships, October, London: Observatory of Borderless Higher Education.

Heffernan, T. and Poole, D. (2005) In search of the ‘vibe’: creating effective international education partnerships, Higher Education, 50 (2), pp. 223-45.

Mohan, C.R. (2006) India and the balance of power, Foreign Affairs, 85 (4), pp. 17-32.

Muthusamy, S. K. and White, M. A. (2007). An empirical examination of the role of social exchances in alliance performance, Journal of Management Issues, 19 (1), pp. 53-75.

Myint, Y, Vyakarnam, S. et al (2005) The Effect of Social Capital in New Venture Creation: the Cambridge High Technology Cluster.

Tim Gore

Education cities, knowledge villages, schoolhouses, education hubs, and hotspots: emerging metaphors for global higher ed

Introduction

One of the rationales for the establishment of the GlobalHigherEd blog last September was to highlight and then archive information (e.g., see ‘Foreign university campuses and linkage schemes‘) about the construction of new globalizing knowledge spaces, especially when multiple institutions (and often firms) from different countries are brought together within one space. These may take the form of a branch/overseas/foreign campus, a joint research centre, or perhaps relatively deep transnational linkage schemes (e.g., joint and dual/double degrees, or international consortia of universities).

Examples of such knowledge spaces include:

  • Dubai Knowledge Village (which is hosting Boston University, Harvard University, London School of Business & Finance, Michigan State University, Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • Bahrain Higher Education City (announced December 2006)
  • Kuala Lumpur Education City (which is working with, in the first instance, Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Singapore’s ‘Global Schoolhouse’ (which is hosting or collaborating with Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD, University of Chicago, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Technische Universität München, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Duke University, Karolinska Institutet, University of New South Wales (RIP, 2007), ESSEC, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, IIM Bangalore, SP Jain Centre of Management, New York University, DigiPen Institute of Technology, Queen Margaret University)
  • Incheon Free Economic Zone (which is working with, in the first instance, State University of New York at Stony Brook and North Carolina State University)
  • Education City Qatar (which is hosting Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College). See this flyover of Education City Qatar to give you one sense of the nature of such a space.

There are other such centres of actual or planned knowledge production (including Abu Dhabi, which is hosting INSEAD, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, New York University, and the Sorbonne), but these will have to suffice as a basis for today’s entry.

It is important to note that in addition to these knowledge spaces, individual university campuses of significant scale (e.g., King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)), and associated developments that are more geographically dispersed (e.g., foreign university campuses in China and Vietnam), are increasingly receiving attention from stakeholder organizations, such as the American Council of Education (ACE), the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), and media outlets including the Chronicle of Higher Education, Insider Higher Education, and the New York Times. In all cases these observers have, more often than not, taken to using terms like “hotspots” (e.g., in the ACE report pictured to the right) when describing the emergence of new spaces of knowledge production, regardless of whether they are functioning or not.

Over the last several years both of us have noted the intense interest in these new knowledge spaces, especially from traditional knowledge producers (and associated stakeholders) who have dominated the global higher education landscape. People and the institutions they represent are curious and concerned, and in the process they react to, and they produce, novel concepts including metaphors like “hotspots” as they make sense of the fast changing context.

Even developing a basic mapping of this changing context is a challenging task, a point Kavita Pandit made in Boston this week at a conference one of us (Kris) is attending. Tangible developments aside, it is also easy to miss “seeing” these initiatives for they tend to sit outside of our geo-politico/economic and methodological nationalist (and statist) frameworks for understanding higher education, a point Arjun Appadurai has insightfully made in speeches and writings. This said, a small number of scholars are doing their best to break down the national holdings, if we can use this term, that guide our analytical and research imaginations, with respect to higher education (broadly defined).

In this relatively long entry we want to highlight one fascinating dimension of the development process that we have been taken for granted – the metaphors that are associated with many of these new knowledge spaces.

Metaphors and their uses

Metaphors such as education city, or global knowledge hub, are tropes that enable us to “reduce the unfamiliar to the familiar” (Smith and Katz, 1993: 69). Familiar examples of economic metaphors that guide our economic imaginaries include trickle down, rising tides, trade wars, rollercoaster, flat earth, invisible hand, and creative destruction.

Metaphors are key elements in the production of discourses, including discourses about the changing nature of higher education, urban and regional development processes, and so on. Yet we take metaphors for granted.

While some scholars have spent their lives analyzing the nature of metaphors, there are three basic points we would like to emphasize when thinking about the metaphors associated with the types of globalizing knowledge spaces we briefly highlighted above.

First, everyone uses metaphors because metaphors are effective and necessary in projecting views, in constructing arguments, in enabling the transformation of the thinking of others, and in generating anxiety. As Cornelissen et al (2008: 9) suggest, in relationship to thinking about organizational behavior:

Metaphors connect realms of human experience and imagination. They guide our perceptions and interpretations of reality and help us to formulate our visions and goals. In doing these things, metaphors facilitate and further our understanding of the world.

Thus, the development of metaphors like education city, knowledge hub, knowledge village, and global schoolhouse, imply an initiative that is associated with (a) the production of knowledge (which is more than information), (b) education providers (broadly defined), and (c) geographical proximity (up to the scale of “the city”). These metaphors reflect the relativization of scale (see one previous entry on this in GlobalHigherEd), where higher education systems are increasingly being denationalized; reshaped, as it were, by forces and actors that are thinking at, and operating at, scales other than the national. Thus these new development initiatives are imbued with territorial development objectives; objectives associated with the building of knowledge economies and societies

In conveying a message, such metaphors simultaneously serve as vehicles to destabilize our taken-for granted assumptions, to create the shock of the new, to generate anxiety. As Don Miller (2006: 64) notes, for example:

The face of the metaphoric new is one of strangeness, even of disconcerting incongruity. It upsets the established order. New metaphors may well enthuse those ready to pursue difference; but they frighten others wanting to maintain some existing order of things.

The target of such a message includes the media, and especially universities that have not yet stretched their institutional fabrics out across space, either in the form of joint/dual/double degrees, or branch campuses. Senior international officers for Western universities, for example, are increasingly being asked to reflect upon the pros and cons of linking into these new knowledge spaces. The presence of such metaphors creates a legible and identifiable target for concern, for deliberation.

Second, metaphors need to do work, they need to struggle, and they can be left open to critique and ridicule, incomprehension, or internal contradiction, if not effectively developed. This ties into a more general point about the production of hegemony, of truth. As Nietzsche (1909: 173-188; cited in Miller, 2006) puts it:

What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthromorphisms – which, after long usage, seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding: truths are illusions of which one has forgotten they are illusions.

Leaving aside debates about the construction of ‘truth’, it is clear that some of the metaphors developed and circulated, to date, have done more work than others in creating a legible and coherent understanding of what is going on, or what might be on offer. Thus we see some highly effective metaphors (e.g., Qatar Education City), which have come to be accepted, and legible in higher education circles in the targeted West, while others are ineffective, and perhaps far too broadly constructed. Incheon Free Economic Zone, for example, is a state planned development zone which is supposed to include a:

global center for cultural and intellectual exchange,” explains Hee Yhon Song, founder and former head of the College of Northeast Asian Studies, in Incheon City, and a key broker in the new agreements.

Mr. Song predicts that Incheon could eventually play host to more than 40 research institutes and at least seven foreign campuses, luring students from across the region. Eventually, he and others believe, South Korea could be the center of a regional government, along the lines of Brussels in the European Union.

Incheon, though, lacks a knowledge-based economy metaphor. “Free economic zone” smacks of export processing activities (factories), yet another ‘iconic’ world trade centre building, and somewhat sterile industrial landscapes. This said, these are early days in the Incheon’s development process, both materially and discursively. And on another level, might Free Economic Zone be a more accurate metaphor for what is going on in this era of academic capitalism, at least in some of the development initiative that are bubbling up around the globe?

Other metaphors that are perhaps too vague, and not legible at a transnational scale, include “global schoolhouse”. “Schoolhouse” is an troublesome metaphor in many countries for it implies primary level education only. Another common metaphor, “education hub” (as in Hong Kong Education Hub) is left open to critique for it can just as easily imply flow through, and tunnel/vacant/vacuous just as much as its other meaning (centrality of “activity, region, or network”).

Yet one place – Singapore – that has employed both of these problematic metaphors, succeeded in achieving its discursive objectives when it created an exemplary metaphor: “Boston of the East”. As Rear RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, put it in 2000:

Our vision, in shorthand notation, is to become the Boston of the East. Boston is not just MIT or Harvard. The greater Boston area boasts of over 200 universities, colleges, research institutes and thousands of companies. It is a focal point of creative energy; a hive of intellectual, research, commercial and social activity. We want to create an oasis of talent in Singapore: a knowledge hub, an “ideas-exchange”, a confluence of people and idea streams, an incubator for inspiration

In short, metaphors are necessary, but not all metaphors work equally well in attempting to bring to life such development initiatives.

Third, metaphors are political, in the broadest sense of political. They are strategically deployed to structure and interpret events, development processes, development projects, and so on (Kelly, 2001). This leads the human geographer, Trevor Barnes (1996: 159), to argue that:

The more general point is that we must continually think critically about the metaphors we use—where they come from, why they were proposed, whose interests they represent, and the nature of their implications. Not to do so can lead us to be the slaves of some defunct master of metaphors.

So, while metaphors provide “color and entertainment” (Czarniawska-Joerges and Joerges, 1988), while they are designed to convince, and while they work (and fail), they also conceal as much, if not more, than they profile.

Take Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC), for example. KLEC builds upon the successes of Education City Qatar in generating a legible space for the siting of foreign universities in Malaysia, in and around the national capital and the Multimedia Super Corridor that Timothy Bunnell has so ably assessed. KLEC, though, is primarily a property development vehicle. KLEC’s key strategic partner TH Properties Sdn Bhd., a national property development firm is a subsidiary of Lembaga Tabung Haji, an established financial institution. As KLEC notes:

TH Properties’ most significant development to date is Bandar Enstek. Bandar Enstek is strategically located just 8 minutes from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) and 10 minutes away from the Main Terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It is only 38 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur City Centre via the ERL and a mere 5 minutes from the Sepang F1 Circuit. It is a RM9.2 billion integrated township set over 5,116 acres of prime land. Expected to be fully completed in 2025, Bandar Enstek will be home to 150,000 residents who will enjoy high quality communications infrastructure, fixed and wireless connections included, to support unlimited broadband applications provided by TH Properties’ technology partner, Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

Education and property development, or education for property development? How many other education cities are in reality for-profit residential or industrial property development vehicles, first and foremost?

Other exclusions from, or obfuscations generated by the education/knowledge production metaphors include the fact that some of the so-called hotspots, especially in Saudi Arabia, have substantial security infrastructure to prevent attacks on faculty by Al Qaeda. Or exclusions related to the gendered or disciplinary structure of such knowledge spaces, for they are, and will inevitably be relatively masculine, and selective with respect to disciplinary offerings. But a more (perhaps!) accurate metaphor like Science and Engineering Dudes from the US Ivy League Hub just does not do it.

Or take the case of Qatar and Singapore, two ambitious global education hubs that proudly include highly ranked universities like MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, while (by accident or design) letting universities like Calgary and Queen Margaret fend for themselves in the producing their own global identities via their concurrent attachments to these two fast developing knowledge spaces. What forms of strategic selectivity are at work? Or in other terms, who is flying pre-paid business class to the Boston of the East, and the Boston of the Middle East?

Concluding comments

The globalization of higher education is continuing apace, and metaphors are being produced, projected, and consumed; they reflect, guide and construct our economic and higher ed imaginaries. And there is no sign we can do without them.

But if the “world needs a multitude of new metaphors leading us to a better future” though “metaphor, like life, is full of risks” (Miller, 2006: 65), are we happy with the existing metaphors that exist in relationship to these globalizing knowledge spaces? If metaphors have to work, perhaps we should also be doing more work on the metaphors too, for they are important dimensions of this fascinating development process.

References

Barnes, T. (1996) Logics of Dislocation: Models, Metaphors, and Meanings of Economic Space, New York: Guilford.

Cornelissen, J.P., Oswick, C., Christensen, L.T., Phillips, N. (2008 ) ‘Metaphors in organizational research: context, modalities, and implications for research – introduction’, Organization Studies, 29(7): 7-22.

Czarniawska-Joerges, B., and Joerges, B. (1988 ) ‘How to control things with words. On organizational talk and organizational control’, Management Communication Quarterly, 2(2): 170-193.

Kelly, P.F. (2001) ‘Metaphors of meltdown: political representations of economic space in the Asian financial crisis’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 19(6): 719-742.

Miller, D. (2006) ‘The politics of metaphor’, Theory, Culture and Society, 23(2-3): 63-65.

Smith, N and C.Katz (1993) ‘Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics’, in M. Keith and S. Pile (eds.) Place and the Politics of Identity, London: Routledge.

Kris Olds and Susan Robertson

Foreign university campuses and linkage schemes: opportunities and challenges in early 2008

The establishment of overseas/branch/foreign campuses, and substantial international university linkage schemes, continues to generate news announcements and debate.

Over the last two months, for example, Queen Margaret University in Scotland announced that it would be Singapore’s first foreign campus set up by a UK university (a fact that received little media coverage in Singapore).

The University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) announced that their Singapore-based campus would be doubling in size by 2009 (a fact that received much media coverage in Singapore), while the University of Chicago’s Financial Mathematics Department announced it would establish a graduate program in Singapore, likely in association with Chicago’s Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics. Further details are available here.

Finally, on the Singapore front, MIT and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) jointly announced the establishment of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre (SMART), a “complex of research centres set up by world-class research universities and corporations working collaboratively with Singapore’s research community”. As MIT describes it:

SMART is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) largest international research endeavor and the first research center of its kind located outside Cambridge, Mass. It will offer laboratories and computational facilities for research in several areas, including biomedical science, water resources and the environment, and possible additional research thrusts that encompass such topics as interactive digital media, energy, and scientific and engineering computation.

Besides serving as an intellectual hub for robust interactions between MIT and global researchers in Singapore, the SMART Centre will also provide MIT and Singapore new and unique opportunities to perform interdisciplinary experimental, computational and translational research that takes advantage of MIT’s long-standing collaborations in Singapore.

The joint press release can be downloaded here. Needless to say this was also a high profile media item in Singapore.

Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the Chicago and MIT initiatives in Singapore involve regular (versus contract) base campus faculty and researchers, reflecting core principles guiding their respective internationalization agendas. This is clearly enabled by direct and indirect Government of Singapore support, and relatively high tuition fees.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East and East Asia, the University of Calgary-Qatar (a joint venture between the University of Calgary and the Hamad Medical Corporation), and the University of Nottingham Ningbo, have both been busy searching out faculty (contract/contingent/secondment/visiting only, it seems) for their respective campuses.

nottningboroom.jpgEmployment sites always provide insights into how these types of ventures are represented, and how the transnational staffing dimension is handled, so check out what is on offer at Calgary-Qatar and Nottingham-Ningbo. I must admit, however, that the sterile curtained room on offer to three year-long contract faculty in Ningbo (photo to the left) does not exactly look appealing, exciting though China (and Ningbo) are. Perhaps they just hired a bad photographer:)

Over in Saudi Arabia the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which we have written about before, is filling media outlets like the Economist with full page advertisements for senior and mid-level administrative staff. The largesse available to KAUST, and the Singaporean influence on its development model, was also evident when it announced, incrementally in globally circulated press releases, that it was moving forward on substantial collaborative ventures, at an institutional scale, with the American University in Cairo, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Imperial College London, Institut Français du Pétrole, National University of Singapore, Stanford University, Technische Universität München, University of California, Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. These are substantial and lucrative linkages, according to Changing Higher Education, with Berkeley’s Mechanical Engineering Department (the lead linkage unit at Berkeley), for example, receiving US $28 million to participate in this scheme between 2008 and 2013.

KAUST is also attempting to leapfrog in the development process by buying in individual scientific support via their Global Research Partnership (GRP) Investigator competition. This scheme, which will initially support 12 “high caliber researchers” from the “world’s leading research universities”, allows KAUST greater flexibility to target individual researchers in fields or universities that might not be enabled via institutional linkage schemes like the ones mentioned above.

kaustcampus.jpgInterestingly KAUST’s graphic design consultants have worked very hard to create a sunny high tech image for the campus, which is still being developed, though they actually have less to work with (on the ground) than does Nottingham in Ningbo, not to mention significant security concerns to plan for when foreigners (especially US citizens) are involved. It just goes to show you how much work good or bad graphics (still & video, including the fascinating five minute long campus profile below) can do in creating distinctive representations of campuses such that they might appeal to mobile faculty and researchers living outside of the host country.

And on the analytical news front, Inside Higher Ed, and the New York-based Social Science Research Council’s new Knowledge Rules blog, both posted critical articles on the overseas campus institutional development model by Andrew Ross, a professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University (NYU), a university we profiled with respect to institutional strategic issues last autumn. Finally, Inside Higher Ed provided coverage of one initiative that had California Polytechnic State University, working with Jubail University College in Saudi Arabia, to develop approximately $6 million worth of programs for Jubail’s male only student population. But, as Inside Higher Ed notes, moving forward on this initiative might rub against (in a dejure or defacto way) core elements of Cal Poly’s internal code of conduct, and the national legal system it is embedded within (in this case U.S. equal employment laws that bar discrimination). The issue was put this way:

Faculty skeptical of the project — and by some accounts there’s plenty of skepticism on campus — wonder: Will opportunities truly be equally available to all Cal Poly faculty? Would women feel they can apply for an on-site director position in a country where they, unlike their male colleagues, would be barred from driving? What about homosexual faculty? Would they see good professional options in a country where sodomy is punishable by death? What about Jewish faculty in an Islamic country without religious freedoms?

The administration says that the bulk of the work to develop the programs would likely happen on the California campus. But site visits and long-term director positions abroad would be available. And there aren’t just opportunities, but also money, at stake here: The proposed base annual salary for a senior faculty member working on the project is $180,000.

Transnational complications, indeed.

Entangling institutional infrastructures from different countries cannot help but generate some inter-cultural and institutional conflict: indeed this is sometimes the rationale for supporting the concept of overseas campuses. But the Ross articles, the Cal Poly-Saudi debate, and Amy Newhall’s entry in GlobalHigherEd last autumn (‘Liberal education venturing abroad?: American universities in the Middle East‘), are but a few reminders that much more thinking is required about the underlying forces facilitating the development of such ventures, the nature of the deliberative processes on campuses that are considering such ventures (which has been, to date, driven in a top down fashion, for good and for bad, by what I would deem administrative entrepreneurs), and the nature of the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) and legal agreements that lock in such linkage schemes (usually for a five year period, in the first instance).

The evidence, to date, suggests that there is incredible diversity in drafting overseas campus and linkage arrangements, ranging from the unsophisticated and opaque to the sophisticated and transparent. It is perhaps time for some systematic rules and guidelines to be developed by international organizations like UNESCO and the OECD (extending the UNESCO/OECD guidelines on “Quality provision in cross-border higher education”). It is also worth pondering why publicly supported institutions are not active, and indeed sometimes hostile to, the public release of relevant MoUs and legal agreements. Public release clauses could, after all, even be built into the MoUs and agreements in the first place; a “non-negotiable” item in the terms of participants at a recent American Council of Education Leadership Network on International Education meeting. One of many unfinished debates about this emerging global higher ed phenomenon…

Kris Olds

The ‘European Quality Assurance Register’ for higher education: from networks to hierarchy?

Quality assurance has been an important global dialogue, with quality assurance agencies embedded in the fabric of the global higher education landscape. These agencies are mostly made up of a network of nationally-located institutions, for example the Nordic Quality Assurance Network in Higher Education, or the US-based Council for Higher Education Accrediation.

Since the early 1990s, we have seen the development of regional and global networks of agencies, for instance the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education which in 2007 boasted full membership from 136 organizations from 74 countries. Such networks both drive and produce processes of globalization and regionalization.

eqr-3.jpg

The emergence of ‘registers’–of the kind announced today with the launch of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) by the E4 Group(ESU, The European University Association – EUA, The European Association of Institutions in Higher Education – EURASHE, The European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies – ENQA) – signals a rather different kind of ‘globalising’ development in the sector. In short we might see it as a move from a network of agencies to a register that acts to regulate the sector. It also signals a further development in the creation of a European higher education industry.

So, what will the EQAR to do? According to EQAR, its role is to

…provide clear and reliable information on the quality assurance agencies (QAAs) operating in Europe: this is a list of agencies that substantially comply with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG) as adopted by the European ministers of higher education in Bergen 2005.

The Register is expected to:

  • promote student mobility by providing a basis for the increase of trust among higher education institutions;
  • reduce opportunities for “accreditation mills” to gain credibility;
  • provide a basis for governments to authorize higher educations institutions to choose any agency from the Register, if that is compatible with national arrangements;
  • provide a means for higher education institutions to choose between different agencies, if that is compatible with national arrangements; and
  • serve as an instrument to improve the quality of education.

eqr-2.jpg

All Quality Assurance Agencies that comply with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance will feature on the register, with compliance secured through an external review process.

There will also be a Register Committee – an independent body comprising of 11 quality assurance experts, nominated by European stakeholder organisations. This committee will decide on the inclusion of the quality assurance agencies. The EQAR association, that operates the Register, will be managed by an Executive Board, composed of E4 representatives, and a Secretariat.

The ‘register’ not only formalises and institutionalises a new layer of quality assurance, but it generates a regulatory hierarchy over and above other public and private regulatory agencies. It also is intended to ensure the development of a European higher education industry with the stamp of regulatory approval to provide important information in the global marketplace.

Susan Robertson

The globally engaged institution: insights via the American Council on Education

Editor’s note: GlobalHigherEd has been inviting select universities (e.g., the University of Warwick), associations, and agencies to profile how they are attempting to understand, navigate through, and therefore help construct, the emerging global higher education landscape. We have also focused our own eyes on institutional strategy from time to time (e.g., see Lily Kong’s very popular entry on international consortia). Today’s guest entry has been kindly developed by Jill Wisniewski, Program Associate, Center for International Initiatives, American Council on Education (ACE). The entry profiles ACE’s Leadership Network on International Education, an annual forum for chief academic officers and presidents to discuss issues and trends in international higher education. The Leadership Network is hosted by the Center for International Initiatives at ACE and is open to all ACE members.
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aceii.jpgHow do institutional leaders navigate the increasingly complex world of global partnerships, joint degrees, and branch campuses? During the 2007 annual meeting of the Leadership Network on International Education, more than 130 institution presidents and provosts discussed the intricacies of partnering with institutions and organizations around the globe. The expanding international opportunities open to institutions require leaders to make sound decisions about how to have a global presence, whether or not to partner, and with whom; how to develop a strategy to pursue global connectivity; and how to ensure quality and assess potential benefits and risks. The meeting focused on the strategic decisions institutional leaders must make in developing a strategy for global engagement.

In a session on U.S. campuses and degree programs delivered abroad, panelists described their experiences and lessons learned in providing a U.S. education for students in their home countries. The remarks of John A. Elliott, dean of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, The City University of New York; Jim Baker, vice president for research and economic development, Missouri State University; and Mark Kamlet, provost, Carnegie Mellon University (PA), illustrated that while some issues are country-specific, there are common strategic concerns. Among them are questions of alignment with mission, financial and reputation risk, and the cultural and legal intricacies of working in another country.

There was consensus among panelists that presidents and provosts must seriously consider the institution’s strategic mission before making a commitment to engage in the development of a branch campus or degree program abroad. The question, “why are we engaging in this partnership?” should be among the first asked by institutional leaders. Institutional leaders may answer the “why” question differently, but motivations that were repeated include the education of globally competent students, benefits to the sending institution and the host country, and enhancing mobility of students, faculty, and staff. Panelists stressed that branch campus agreements should not be entered into for perceived financial or reputational benefit, but rather that an institution should have a strategic mission grounded in the value added to students and society.

The speakers also described the challenges of providing degree programs abroad. The legal issues alone can create major hurdles. Balancing foreign government regulations with the demands of US laws can be challenging in unforeseen ways. Difficult questions include: What are the tax implications of working in a foreign country? Is there a financial framework in place to process tuition and other payments on the home campus? What are the capacities of US institutions to implement US regulations (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements) in a foreign country? These legal complexities arise within the context of foreign cultural practices, and seemingly simple decisions and transactions can produce unanticipated consequences. The panelists suggested that institutional leaders need to decide which policies and practices are non-negotiable, and be able to think creatively to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions.

Other issues that were discussed include quality assurance concerns, faculty participation, and board and administration support. All of the panelists agreed that in order to maintain quality control over programs, the institution must retain control over the curriculum. Indeed, many partnership arrangements have the actual curriculum spelled out and included in the agreements or Memorandum of Understandings (MOU’s) with partner organizations. Panelists also shared best practices in increasing faculty involvement. Some suggestions included:

  • Have faculty spend time on the home campus to maintain ties between the home and branch campus
  • Have research facilities abroad and incentives to conduct research there
  • Make the location and amenities appealing for faculty: provide “high end” living and cultural experiences
  • Build international experience into promotion and tenure guidelines.

One panelist described the extensive discussions with the board surrounding the decision to authorize the establishment of a branch campus. The board was quite skeptical and asked for detailed information and plans. Among the suggestions for garnering and maintaining board support were:

  • Help the board feel invested in the campus by describing in detail the potential benefits for students, faculty and staff
  • If possible, invite Board members to do a site visit to the branch campus location.

This day-long meeting only scratched the surface in describing the benefits, problems, pitfalls, and lessons learned in international engagement. The continuation of annual forums such as the Leadership Network can help advance the field in supplying information and best practices to institutional leaders looking to expand global partnerships.

Jill Wisniewski, Program Associate, Center for International Initiatives, American Council on Education. For more information on the Leadership Network, please contact <jill_wisniewski@ace.nche.edu>.

The Global Colloquium of University Presidents: events for global challenges?

University presidents (or their equivalents – vice-chancellors, rectors), especially those associated with universities that seek to be at the forefront of the internationalization/globalization agenda, are searching for suitable mechanisms to make their voices heard, create momentum for change, and generate discursive effects at a wide variety of scales. In other words university presidents seek material change (e.g., enhanced understanding of issue X; new initiatives to address problem Y) but they also seek to use such mechanisms to create positive publicity for their university (under their stewardship) as leaders at a global scale. Leadership at the local, state/provincial, and national scales is no longer enough for ambitious university presidents. Thus a rescaling process is taking place with an enhanced emphasis on the global, with universities as seeking to act as global actors and university presidents seeking to act as global leaders. In some ways this is nothing new, as the experience of colonial university vice-chancellors and rectors demonstrated. Such people acted as the interlocutors between the colonizer and the colonized; the soft administrative infrastructure and centres of calculation that enabled colonial networks to be extended over space. This said times have changed, and it is interesting to see what forms of action are emerging in the contemporary era, where these forms of action are initiated, where they take place, and what the underlying objectives are.

International university consortia and associations are one key mechanism, be they inclusive or exclusive. One example of the inclusive is the very active Paris-based International Association of Universities/Association Internationale des Universités, which has 570 members. The IAU/AIU runs or sponsors numerous events that bring together senior university officials, including presidents, to discuss and debate issues of global relevance. As Lily Kong also noted on 7 October, international consortia such as the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), or the International Association of Research Universities (IARU) also create events (many of which are of an annual nature) that bring together senior officials, usually university presidents, to discuss issues. They sometimes focus on substantive issues, such as at the recent Realising the Global University conference, though many of such events tend to be focused on consortia governance matters.

Regular and ad-hoc groupings of university presidents are also brought together by national councils and associations but their ambit is national in scope is therefore limited by statute, in general.

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In this context, the third annual Global Colloquium of University Presidents took place at New York University (NYU) a few weeks ago. The first two of these events were held at Columbia University (2005), and Princeton University (2006). A core group of university presidents (Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania; John Sexton, NYU; Lee Bollinger, Columbia University; Richard Levin, Yale University; Neil Rudenstine, president emeritus of Harvard University; and Shirley Tilghman, Princeton University) are the formal sponsors of the Global Colloquium of University Presidents.

Each colloquium explores two issues: “universities and their role in society, and a specific public policy challenge”, though the themes of discussion vary from year to year, with the assumption that the university president in attendance will draw upon expert resources (and one representative) out of his/her institution. The themes associated with the first three Global Colloquium of University Presidents have been:

  • 2005: “International migration, a key element of globalization” and “academic freedom, a crucial foundation of university research and teaching”
  • 2006: “The social benefits of the research university in the 21st century” and “innovative sources of funding for public goods”
  • 2007: “The role of universities in relation to climate change” and “setting the post-Kyoto agenda for climate policy”

A significant part of the rationale is to provide an annual forum where the Secretary General of the United Nations, and some of his staff, can benefit from the dialogue and discussion that takes place. As Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the UN, put it in 2005:

One of the first speeches I gave on taking office as Secretary-General was to a distinguished group of university presidents from around the world. From the outset, I was convinced that universities would be tremendously important partners of the United Nations. And so it has been. As educators, as repositories and creators of knowledge, as people deeply involved in helping the world address the issues of our times, your role has been vital. This colloquium is yet another example of the productive ties we have developed over the years, and I hope it will become a tradition.

The third Global Colloquium of University Presidents appears to have drawn in a larger and more diverse set of university presidents, as the attendee list demonstrates (Bangkok University, Columbia University, El Colegio de México, Fudan University, Harvard Universit, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Indian Institute of Technology, Karagpur, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris-Sciences Po, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kyoto University, Makerere University, New York University, Pontifical Catholic, University of Rio de Janiero, Princeton University, Seoul National University, Tsinghua University, University of Amsterdam, University of Botswana, University of British Columbia,, University of Dhaka, University of Oxford, University of Pennsylvania, University of São Paulo, University of Tokyo, Yale University). It also drew in the new Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon), with Bill Clinton as a guest speaker this particular year (hard to imagine GWB as a guest speaker in future years…). NYU is, as we have noted, pushing the boundaries with respect to the globalization process so this event would clearly have been viewed as a complement to action on other levels for this institution.

gcupreception.jpgAre these events more than networking opportunities? It is difficult to say at this stage. Is, for example, the cumulative knowledge base of all of these universities regarding climate change evident in the position papers available here and here (with late stragglers consigned to the late download site here)? Or are the position papers mere leaders to bridge scholars in a president’s university to relevant UN units?

I can’t answer these questions, nor will I pose more that could be asked. But what I can say is that we at GlobalHigherEd have noticed a restlessness as universities (and select university leaders) seek to identify what networks and scales to focus their activities and contributions on, and how to frame their identities (and their brand names). All universities are embedded, placed, grounded; they have territorially specific responsibilities to the societies that they depend upon and (hopefully) nurture. But how to blend these responsibilities with supra-national responsibilities and objectives is becoming a conceptual and strategic challenge. Are temporary or regular fora such as the Global Public University, the Globally Engaged Institution, and the Global Colloquium of University Presidents the answer? Or are member-only international consortia of universities the answer given their capacity to offer sustained dialogue? Or is active and sustained leadership via a body like the International Association of Universities/Association Internationale des Universités the answer? There are numerous other options, many of which have not been discussed or indeed even invented yet. The point is that we are only at the early stages of thinking through what role universities, and university presidents, should be doing with their limited time and resources so as to address pressing process-oriented challenges that cut across the divisions that so artificially constrain truly global analyses and the formulation of associated solutions. If universities are to become genuine global actors, then more sustained thinking, and acting, on an intra-organizational level, is required. But we also need a broader global view, with an eye to creating a more effective and inclusive global landscape of options that is appropriate for universities and their leaders.

Kris Olds

Update: The next Global Colloquium of University Presidents is being held at Yale University in January 2010. Link here for the press release.

University viewpoint: the University of Warwick on ‘The challenge of global education and research’

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of ‘viewpoints’ from university leaders on issues related to the globalization of higher education, and university strategy vis a vis the changing global higher education landscape. Today’s entry is by Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, UK. The University recently launched its Vision 2015 strategy, and Professor Thrift was also interviewed about related issues in the Guardian and the Independent. Finally, please note that this guest entry should be seen in the context of GlobalHigherEd‘s role in co-organizing the October 2007 Global Public University Forum (with Stephen Toope, President, University of British Columbia), and our recent entries on Duke University and international consortia of universities.

The challenge of global education and research

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As the readers of this blog are well aware, universities across the world are facing up to the challenge of globalising trends in student demand and research funding by internationalising their operations – both at home and abroad. The challenges are easier to meet ‘at home’ where well-established modes of mobility and diversity can quickly be accelerated. This important work – opening our institutional cultures to worlds beyond the local and national cultures in which universities as institutional presences are suspended – is both a challenging and long-term endeavour. But domestic policies on internationalisation, safely judged within local confines, is the relatively easy bit: ‘internationalisation light’, in other words, or diversity very much on our own terms.

Abroad, the challenges are altogether of a different magnitude and are much more compelling. Research-intensive universities have a crucial role to play in the knowledge economies of the global era – driving innovation, creating sustainable change, educating global citizens, and tackling in collaborative endeavours the problems that bedevil our planet. Yet today very few universities can claim either a global presence or possess the sets of relationships internationally that allow them – their staff and students – to be as effective as we will need universities to be in coming decades. Collaborative higher education provision is delivered in many ways: branch campuses set up by universities in other countries – often in other continents; distance and e-learning; franchising and validation. Some enterprising universities are developing branch campuses overseas or contributing resource to the emergence of conglomerated research centres. Yet others are clubbing together in consortia or networks, gingerly engaging in benchmarking exercises and, it should be admitted, the promise of some genuinely joint provision.

These developments surely herald a new era of international activity – but none of us should underestimate the obstacles that impede trans-national collaboration. The simple truth is that, to date, universities have not become great by collaborating with each other. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yet in order to establish and maintain the greatest contribution to society in future years, universities now need to take a lead from what a small cadre of leading academics have been doing for a few decades now: establishing networks of deep and lasting collaborations across national boundaries, sharing resources and knowledge, to tackle the issues and problems of the new global age.

If institutions are to position themselves to enable more trans-national research we need a model that doesn’t just reproduce a ‘home’ institution on foreign soil.

Before I arrived at Warwick in the summer of 2006, the University had definitively rejected in 2005 the development of an overseas campus (in Singapore) and today we are thinking about ways in which we can collaborate internationally – but on more level terms. There must be equal partnerships, sharing the creation of knowledge rather than imposing a hierarchical framework. We must envisage a model of inter-university co-operation very different from those which by now might be described as ‘traditional’, consisting of the informal networks that leading academics must of necessity maintain to remain relevant and cutting-edge.

We are addressing this at Warwick as part of our recently announced strategy outlining a vision for Warwick between now and 2015. As part of that vision we intend to set up an international quarter on the Warwick campus, consisting of several overseas research universities. Rather than seeking a single international partner for this endeavour our international quarter will offer a number of universities from all the continents of the world a genuine physical base at the University. It will allow Warwick to interact on a day-to-day basis with not just one but several other research and teaching cultures from around the globe. This will enable us to build up genuine joint research, while offering extended opportunities to both staff and students. This is a radical move for a UK university, opening up new possibilities for international collaboration.

And yet, this too, does not go quite far enough – we need a new global knowledge infrastructure to encourage research, development and education. Global education isn’t just about where students go to learn and the methods by which we teach them: it’s about what they learn and how equipped they are at the end of their degrees to enter the marketplace. Academic knowledge is no longer enough. We need to think seriously about developing our students’ employability, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed – and which their countries need to flourish – for the world of work.

For too long, I think, universities have operated only as national servants to national ambitions. Today, however, it is only by ‘going global’ and opening their doors to genuinely deep and lasting collaborations that universities can meet the challenges of globalisation and tackle the big issues such as energy, global security and the global environment. This requires collaboration and partnerships, especially in research. This is simply practical commonsense – this kind of vital research infrastructure cannot be set up in one university or even in one country. Indeed a failure to go global will in itself fail to deliver on national ambitions. A cluster of globally focused universities will be vital to any nation wishing to compete globally.

Research in universities is, and should be, very different in nature from that pursued elsewhere – in corporate organisations, for example. Universities work at the limits of predictability; the unforeseeable discovery, genuine invention rather than mere innovation, the structured risk-taking that is essential to good science and good business. Universities work at the highest level, for the global public good. And this sort of work is essentially co-operative. Often, researchers work more with colleagues in other universities than with those in their own university, often in complex networks stretching across the globe. To protect and invigorate the co-operative intellectual atmosphere we must work towards enhanced and innovative forms of co-operation between universities.

We at Warwick have already launched one initiative to build such co-operative international research networks. This year we created a “Warwick Commission”, led by the Hon. Pierre Pettigrew the former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs PC,. The Commission brings together a team of researchers from around the world, led by the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, to examine the global trading system and make recommendations about its future shape and direction. The Commission is taking evidence from a wide range of experts from around the globe including: politicians, pressure groups, practitioners, academics, lawyers and others. The Commission’s final report will be presented in Geneva in December 2007. This will be the first in a series of commissions hosted by Warwick.

The challenge facing us all is to step outside of our national boundaries, and the established intellectual framework of regions and statehood, to see that the common good can best be served when we collaborate as equal partners in global education and research.

Nigel Thrift