Debating NYU Abu Dhabi and Liaoning Normal University-Missouri State University College of IB

The globalization of higher education is associated with a wide variety of trends and impacts, though these obviously vary across space, system, and type of institution.

One of these trends is institutional and program mobility; an emerging phenomenon we have paid significant attention to in GlobalHigherEd, including via these recent entries:

Two fascinating articles have emerged this past week that dig into this broad topic with a focus on some of the organizational challenges of institutional and program mobility.

NYU Abu Dhabi

The first article (no subscription required to access) is in New York Magazine (21 April 2008), and it examines relatively intense debates about NYU Abu Dhabi, an initiative that we profiled in October (the entry was partly inspired by INSEAD‘s strategic thinking about globalization of higher education models for higher ed institutions). The New York Magazine article includes a variety of critiques of the NYU Abu Dhabi initiative, mainly from within NYU itself. The critiques focus on:

(1) The dilution NYU’s ‘brand name’, lucidly captured in this quote by influential NYU professor Craig Calhoun (who is also President of the NY-based Social Science Research Council):

Many professors fear that, as sociology professor Craig Calhoun puts it, NYU is “creating a second-tier version of itself,” spreading itself too thin and turning the university into an academic chain restaurant—“a conglomerate with a number of wholly owned subsidiaries.”

(2) The forging of a relationship with an authoritarian political regime; an issue intertwined with concern about academic freedom, and possible problems given the sexual and religious identities of NYU faculty, students, and eventual visitors (e.g., conference attendees from Israel).

(3) The treatment of foreign labour in Abu Dhabi; labour inevitably to be used to construct the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, as they were for the iconic Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

(4) President Sexton’s leadership style vis a vis the decision-making process, and the subsequent planning process, which is captured in this quote:

To many faculty, the Abu Dhabi project embodies the worst of John Sexton’s indulgences and the short-sightedness of his glory-seeking ambitions. Mary Nolan, a history professor who has been teaching at the university for almost 30 years, describes the Abu Dhabi project as “a quintessentially Sexton operation. He thinks he has some sort of a missionary calling, but he operates in a very autocratic manner. Deans are kept on a very short leash, and faculty governance has been absolutely gutted.”

In some ways these are criticisms that are to be expected given the ambitious nature of the initiative, and they remind us of the debates underway in the University of Warwick (UK) about a possible campus in Singapore (before Warwick pulled the plug in 2005). However, the article is noteworthy in that the critiques regarding NYU Abu Dhabi are emerging part way through the planning and implementation process such that some faculty clearly feel there is an opportunity to ‘stymie’ the initiative.

The New York Magazine article is also fascinating for it conveys, in a subtle way, the intermingling of the two geographies of NYU Abu Dhabi:

  • A vibrant and brash global city situated in the United States, which is where an equally vibrant and brash higher ed institution is embedded, and,
  • A fast changing Middle Eastern city, and emirate, that is using the capacity of a developmental state to create a post-oil development imaginary, economy and society.

Thus the NYU Abu Dhabi initiative is, regardless of its strengths and weaknesses, an outcome of the articulation of two forceful and strategic developmental agendas that will inevitably complement and contradict for these disparate geographies are starting to be brought together. This said, while NYU is led by a powerful president (Sexton), he has much less capacity to direct, to guide, to lead, to govern, than do Abu Dhabi’s political leaders. Moreover, unlike globally active service firms (e.g., law firms, accountancy firms), faculty for higher education providers, least of all tenured faculty, cannot be forced to work at an overseas campus. Relatively flat hierarchies in Western universities mean that organizational behaviour is vastly different than in globally active private sector service firms. So while Sexton’s critics are using the firm/franchise analogy to voice their concerns about the transformation of NYU’s institutional culture, and possible damage to the institution’s reputation (brand name), Sexton is in a seriously constrained position, vis a vis the implementation process. Bringing a foreign/overseas/branch campus to life is a challenge few university presidents have experience with, partly due to organizational and other resource limitations.

If NYU Abu Dhabi is clearly an experiment in formation, as we think it is, we certainly hope that both boosters and critics, at least in New York (where a greater density of insightful analysts are based), are documenting this experiment so that others can learn from the development experience.

LNU-MSU College of International Business

Meanwhile, over in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a joint venture between Liaoning Normal University in China, and Missouri State University in the United States, known as the LNU-MSU College of International Business, is the recipient of some forthcoming (2 May 2008 ) and very illuminating coverage from Paul Mooney (the Chronicle’s China correspondent) with input from Beth McMurtrie. The article (subscription required to access) outlines a series of problems, including unresponsive faculty, unqualified contract faculty (2/35 with a PhD), faculty turnover (nearing 50% last year), inadequate equipment for science courses, flagrant student cheating, English and Mandarin language skill inadequacies, inadequate distance communications systems, and on and on it goes…

Where is the quality assurance dynamic and effect, you may ask? Even this is inadequate, as this lengthy segment from the Chronicle article outlines:

All overseas degree programs run by American universities must be vetted by their accreditors, in this case the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Karen J. Solomon, associate director of the commission, calls the LNU-MSU venture “very interesting and promising.”

She expresses surprise at the complaints that students and faculty members made to The Chronicle. For example, she says, it was her impression that a large number of faculty members from Missouri had been to the Dalian campus to work with students.

“The university is making a pretty big commitment in time and people, which is better than other programs,” she says.

Ms. Solomon acknowledges that the commission has not yet sent anyone to visit the campus, and that she relies on reports of its progress from Missouri State administrators. But, she adds, AACSB International: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business has reviewed the program in Dalian, and “we take that into consideration.”

However, Jerry E. Trapnell, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer for AACSB International, the primary accreditor of American business schools, says his organization has never visited or even reviewed the program.

The accrediting group’s last visit to Missouri State was during the 2002-3 academic year, he says, at a time when AACSB International was reviewing programs on a 10-year cycle. The bachelor’s-degree program in China had just started and did not yet have any students, says Mr. Trapnell, and his association does not review associate-degree programs.

AACSB International plans to review the LNU-MSU program during Missouri’s next scheduled review. Mr. Trapnell says the association is switching to a five-year review cycle, so he’s not yet sure when Missouri State’s turn will come up.

“There’s a whole bunch of things I’d be looking at,” says Mr. Trapnell, including academic quality, admissions, program-review mechanisms, and student and faculty qualifications.

Although he cannot speak specifically about the China program, Mr. Trapnell says his association expects that half of a degree program’s faculty members should have “significant experience,” which he defines as holding a doctorate and having extensive work experience in the field.

“That would be a concern,” he says when told of the lower qualifications of the instructors in Dalian, “because one of the things we worry about is that the school is expected to deploy qualified faculty.”

MSU administrators are likely to be busy this week answering questions about their failure to deliver, if the indicators in the Chronicle article are even half true. It is also worth noting that LNU-MSU is attempting to hire right now, as this 31 March 2008 advertisement in the Chronicle conveys. In case you are wondering, 8000 RMB is US $1,144.57 per month. Given the comments above from Jerry E. Trapnell, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer for AACSB International, this advertisement is clearly pitched at the wrong audience (MA degree holders alone). Yet given the salary and working conditions, could they actually attract quality PhD holders?

While it is highly unlikely that NYU would ever go down the MSU path, both articles shed light on the globalization of higher education development process, highlighting how much of a challenge it is for universities to move beyond MoUs and Agreements to establish and then effectively govern new forms of global networks. One dimension of this challenge is that many universities are having a difficult time facilitating intra-institutional ‘buy-in’ (aka a sense of ownership and commitment) from the people who bring universities to life, for good and for bad – their core faculty. Yet if core faculty don’t buy-in, grand visions, or even modest visions (like those hatched by MSU administrators), are much more likely to have problems, and perhaps fail to deliver. This is, of course, one of the reasons institutions like the OECD and UNESCO are becoming involved in the governance of transnational higher education (e.g., see the guidelines on ‘Quality provision in cross border higher education’). Yet these are early days on this front, as the LMU-MSU case clearly demonstrates.

Kris Olds

NYU Abu Dhabi: realizing the global university?

Is New York University (NYU) going the furthest with respect to realizing the global university (a term we’ve borrowed from a Worldwide Universities Network conference this coming November)? It might be doing so, and the contrast between NYU’s approach, and what most American universities choose to do, is jarring. Regardless of whether you agree with NYU’s approach or not, it is worth taking note of. Why?

Virtually all American universities proclaim that they are pushing forward on an ‘internationalization’ agenda, though in reality it most often means they welcome foreign students and visiting scholars, are supportive of study abroad schemes, and have a program in place to internationalize curricula. Many American universities sign memorandum of understandings (MOUs) with foreign universities, with large American universities having hundreds of these MOUs ‘on the books’: in reality, though, what do they mean? Many (not all) have limited resources provided to institutionalize MOU-related linkage schemes (e.g., a program officer), fund exchanges (for faculty and students) across national borders, or formalize ties (even in a virtual sense). Some American universities have started joining international consortia (see Lily Kong’s recent entry on consortia) though it is clear that some consortia member universities are still grappling for ways to “make it work”. The reality is most American universities are somewhat complacent, masking their uncertainty or reticence with loud proclamations about internationalization while not really pushing forward, especially in new and innovative ways.

In sharp contrast to the complacency that is often evident in the US, NYU is pushing the boundaries. Last Friday New York University announced that their planned campus in Abu Dhabi would go ahead. The official press release includes these two extracts:

This will be the first comprehensive liberal arts campus established abroad by a major U.S. research university. It is projected that a first class of students will enroll in 2010….

The development of NYU Abu Dhabi is a major step in the evolution of NYU as a “global network university” – a university with a teaching and research presence around the world through sites connected to the main campus in New York and to one another, drawing in scholars and students of talent from around the globe.

This is not an unexpected announcement, as we noted on 2 September. Further context on this development is also available here in a GlobalHigherEd entry by Amy W. Newhall (Executive Director, US Middle Eastern Studies Association), and these entries in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. We’ve also pre-programmed Google searches for media and blog coverage on the NYU Abu Dhabi topic – whenever you revisit this entry, just click on media, blog, and web (which includes Arabic language sites) and you’ll get near real time search updates (subject to Google’s search engine limitations).

NYU is amongst the most assertive universities in the world with respect to establishing institutional bases in other countries. These bases include:

And now NYU is going further with the Abu Dhabi campus, one that will have comprehensive program and course offerings.

The interesting thing about the NYU approach to realizing the global university is that it is exploring how to stretch its institutional fabric out across global space. One way to conceptualize of this development process is by positioning NYU within the following model to the globalization of higher education:

demeyermodel.jpg

This model was developed by Arnoud De Meyer, Patrick Harker, and Gabriel Hawawini when they framed the development of the Wharton/INSEAD approach to the globalization of business education, including the development of INSEAD’s Singapore campus (De Meyer guided the campus into existence). There are alternative models, including some discussed in the American Council of Education’s 2007 report Venturing Abroad: Delivering US Degrees Through Overseas Branch Campuses and Programs, but we will stick with this one now. [INSEAD recently announced that it too was establishing a base in Abu Dhabi, with a new centre for executive education and research]

While this blog is not the place to go into the detailed aspects of the De Meyer/Harker/Hawawini model, it is worth noting that the Import model is the classic approach to internationalization in Western universities; the one US universities overwhelmingly rely upon. Most research-intensive universities in the US also exhibit elements of the Export model, with faculty traveling overseas to teach in special courses, or via distance learning technology. The Partnership model is becoming a common mechanism to further the internationalization objective of many foreign universities in Asia and the Middle East, including NYU (prior to the new campus announcement). This model is typically pursued via the exchange of students and faculty, via the joint operation of teaching and research programs, and via the provision of intellectual leadership or consultancy in the establishment or restructuring of research and teaching programs, departments, schools and indeed entire universities.

NYU Abu Dhabi is reflective of the adoption of the Network model. The Network model is the least utilized of all of the globalization of higher education models given the scale of effort and resources required to pursue it, and concerns about failures (e.g., RMIT in Penang (1996-1999) or UNSW Asia in Singapore (2007-2007)) which damage reputation and ‘brand name’. In this model, global networks are created via the merger of geographically separate institutions, or else the establishment of new campuses in other countries. One of the key principles underlying the establishment of a genuine network of campuses is their functional integration with a relatively intense sharing of material and non-material resources, and a relatively flat hierarchy with respect to the quality of the multiple campuses and their respective roles in knowledge production. The Network model requires an undeniably significant commitment of up-front resources (hence NYU’s need for support from the state in Abu Dhabi), and it is the most risky of these four models. Once commitment is made to implement the Network model, though, and the campus begins to operate, and it is effectively managed in a supportive structural context, flows of what might have been viewed as “proprietary knowledge” occur across space between the campuses (according to De Meyer, Harker and Hawawini), and between the NYU and various segments of society in Abu Dhabi, and the broader Middle East. The new campus will also enable NYU to forge ties with students, faculty and other people (including business people) who are reticent about traveling to the US, especially given frequent problems with acquiring US visas, and hassles at US airport immigration desks.

This is an experiment worth watching, whether you agree with the value of the Network model or not, or with the particular way NYU is globalizing itself. In subsequent entries in GlobalHigherEd we’ll also attempt to explore some of the underlying forces that are bringing the network model into being, and some of the implications of this model for capacity building in host territories, as well as the refashioning of core principles (e.g., academic freedom) that have traditionally been conceptualized in a national/territorial sense. We’ll also include some profiles of universities (e.g., Sciences Po and the University of Warwick) that are attempting to blur these models, or even turn them inside out.

Kris Olds

Further Reading:

American Council on Education (2007) Venturing Abroad: Delivering US Degrees Through Overseas Branch Campuses and Programs, Washington DC: American Council on Education.

De Meyer, A., Harker, P., and Hawawini, G. (2004) ‘The globalization of business education, in H. Gatignon and J. Kimberly (eds.) The INSEAD-Wharton Alliance on Globalizing: Strategies for Building Successful Global Businesses, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Olds, K. (2007) ‘Global assemblage: Singapore, Western universities, and the construction of a global education hub’, World Development, 35(6): 959-975.

Liberal education venturing abroad?: American universities in the Middle East

Note: GlobalHigherEd will post brief entries by guest contributors from time to time. This one is by Amy W. Newhall (newhall@u.arizona.edu) of the University of Arizona.

In late September yet another American university announced an agreement to set up educational and research programs in the Gulf. The ambitious agreement between Michigan State University and the Dubai governmental entity TECOM Investments will “mesh MSU’s academic strengths with regional needs. MSU in Dubai is planning initially to offer not-for profit bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.” The new programs will be located in Dubai International Academic City, a free trade zone which is in keeping with TECOM’s stated goal to “Establish, own and promote various ventures in affiliated free trade zones, including educational institutions and research centers; investment; telecommunication and telecommunication equipment and accessories; film festival; media and broadcasting.”

Just which programs will mesh with what regional needs have not yet been revealed but agreements in other Gulf states such as the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait suggest they all will be in technical fields: medicine, foreign service, business administration, computer science, and engineering.

While American technical education is widely admired, its tradition of liberal education is less highly regarded according to a recent (June 2007) report titled Studying the American Way: An Assessment of American-Style Higher Education in Arab Countries by Shafeeq Ghabra and Margreet Arnold. Link here or here for a PDF copy of the study. Elements of liberal education curricula are often deemed to be at odds with local religious, political and cultural traditions. In some countries, teaching materials have been censored or bowdlerized and teaching methods seriously circumscribed. The summary firing of an instructor who discussed the Danish cartoon controversy and showed some of the cartoons in class at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University in March 2006 illustrates the gulf between local and American understandings of protected speech, legitimate classroom activities and academic freedom. No procedural safeguards or processes were in place to protect the teacher’s rights nor were any processes by which she could contest the allegations and actions taken against her, according to statements on the matter. Zayed is not a branch US campus; so far it is only a candidate for accreditation in the US. It is not clear whether accrediting agencies take into account the existence or the absence of standard professional policies, regulations and grievance procedures in their accreditation assessments.

MSU’s deal mirrors that of more narrowly focused single program branch campuses run in Qatar by five different American universities, Carnegie-Mellon, Georgetown, Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Medical College of Cornell and Texas A&M. [See today’s GlobalHigherEd entry on Qatar] They are operated by their home campuses with the same admissions standards and curriculum. Each home campus has “full academic authority and quality control over courses and programs.” Virginia Commonwealth University runs the School of the Arts in Qatar, one of the oldest of the branch institutions and their students receive a VCU degree . VCU maintains complete control over hiring and retention. However, all instructors require a visa to work in Qatar and that granting power remains in the hands of the state. Visas can be revoked at any time.

New York University (NYU) has been exploring the possibility of developing a mini-university in Abu Dhabi complete with programs in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Administrators envision a full undergraduate program and eventually some graduate ones. The new Abu Dhabi school would serve students from all over the region in addition to NYU study abroad students. Faculty from New York would supplement permanent faculty based in country. The proposal has generated considerable and sometimes contentious discussion on the NYU campus. Serious questions have been raised concerning “academic freedom, equal access and opportunities for women and Jews and human rights issues.” NYU prides itself on having one of the largest (if not the largest) study abroad program in the world. Just how this latest proposal fits in with its own educational program and overall objectives is not clear, nor is it clear how the proposed fields of study will appeal to the different sets of students.

Amy Newhall