International Campuses or International Students?

Today’s entry is by Professor Christine Ennew, Pro Vice Chancellor (Internationalisation/Science) and Professor of Marketing, University of Nottingham, UK. Professor Ennew has responsibility for Internationalisation and the Faculty of Science. She was formerly Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education and is also Professor of Marketing in the Business School.

I’ve run into Professor Ennew in various settings, and have always found her to be one of the most astute practitioner-analysts with respect to the globalization of higher education and research.  This entry stands by itself, but also ties into some of our previous entries in GlobalHigherEd regarding branch campuses and the ‘export‘ of higher education services (to use GATS parlance). Prof. Ennew raises some important points regarding the impact of political decisions regarding inflows of international students and how problematic it is to assume the increased export of education services (via a branch campus) can compensate for reduced imports of foreign students. More importantly, these two forms of ‘internationalization’ at the institutional scale are vastly different, and enable universities (and societies, more broadly) to pursue substantially different objectives. They are linked strategies, but ‘apples and oranges’ with respect to dynamic and outcome.

My thanks to Professor Ennew for permitting me to repost her entry here (it was originally posted on the University of Nottingham’s insightful Knowledge Without Borders blog). Kris Olds

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International Campuses or International Students?

Christine Ennew

For those of us who have long been active in developing educational and research provision outside the UK, it is heartening to learn that David Willets [Minister of State for Universities and Science] is keen to address the barriers to greater engagement by UK universities in overseas ventures. Developments such as international campuses (a major focus of recent discussions in the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) have the potential to bring genuine benefits to individual institutions and to the sector as a whole. They provide an opportunity to work with talented students and academics who might not otherwise have engaged with UK HE; they offer distinctive mobility opportunities for staff and students; they can provide novel research opportunities and they contribute to the global reputation of UK HE.

But we should be careful not to delude ourselves that this activity is an “export” in any substantive economic sense. One of the distinctive features of an “export” is the generation of a flow of income to the home country in return for the provision of a service to an overseas market. UK HE already has an outstanding record in exporting HE, through the stream of international students who arrive every year to study at UK Universities. These students generate significant export earnings through the fees that they pay (perhaps as much as £8bn annually) and provide an additional economic impact through their spending while studying in the UK. More significantly perhaps, they contribute to the diversity and quality of the student body and in the longer term they help to build positive and enduring relationships between the UK and a range of other countries across the world.

The international record of UK higher education is now seriously threatened by a damaging immigration policy which BIS has been unable to counter. And the consequence for the sector and the economy of a significant drop in internationally mobile students coming to study in the UK could be disastrous – both in terms of a loss of talent and a loss of income. More insidiously the idea that we can simply substitute new income from international campuses for lost income from internationally mobile students suggests that financial motives dominate our interest in internationalisation in higher education. That is not to suggest that export earnings do not matter. They do. But internationally mobile students studying on UK campuses bring so much more for the student experience on campus and to the longer term position of the UK in the world economy and we must not under-estimate these non-financial benefits from international student recruitment.

And, it would be misguided to think that the establishment of campuses overseas (however funded) could be a substitute for international students coming to study in the UK. The experience of the University of Nottingham with its campuses in Malaysia and China has been hugely positive and the benefits of campus development have been considerable. But net income isn’t one of them. International campuses receive their income within the country in which they operate and incur most of their costs in that same location. Financially they are substantially based in their host economy. Almost by definition then, there will be relatively low income flows back to the home country.

Done well and done properly, an international campus will be economically viable, certainly in the medium term and will deliver a range of other non-monetary benefits. But, expecting any resulting revenues to replace the lost income that will materialise if the Home Office ever gets close to its targets for reducing net migration to the UK is both unrealistic and dangerous. In the longer term interests of the UK economy and its world leading Universities, international campuses and internationally mobile students must be seen as complementary initiatives in internationalisation, not alternatives.

Deterritorializing academic freedom: reflections inspired by Yale-NUS College (and the London Eye)

To what degree is academic freedom being geographically unsettled – deterritorialized, more accurately – in the context of the globalization of higher education? This was one of the issues I was asked about a few days ago when I spoke to a class of New York-based Columbia University students about the globalization of higher education, with a brief case study about Singapore’s global higher education hub development agenda. Some of the students were intrigued by this debate erupting (again) about Yale’s involvement in Yale-NUS College:

Given that we only had a limited time to discuss these issues, I’ve outlined elements of the comments I would have added if I had a little more time during the Q&A session. And clearly, there is even much more to say about these issues than what is outlined below, but I’ve got grading to attend to, so this entry will have to suffice. And if any of you (the students) have more questions, please email me anytime. I’m obviously making this follow-up public on a weblog as well, as it fits into the broad themes covered in GlobalHigherEd.

The first point I wanted to reinforce is it is important to recognize that Singapore’s attempt to become the ‘Boston of the East’ is underlain by structural change in Singapore’s economy, and a related perception that a ‘new breed’ of Singaporean is needed.* Implementation of the global education hub development agenda is therefore dependent upon the exercise of statecraft and the utilization of state largesse. For example, nothing would be happening in Singapore regarding the presence of foreign universities were it not for shifts in how the state engages with foreign actors, including universities like Yale and Chicago. The opening up of territory to commercial presence (to use GATS parlance) as well as ‘deep partnerships,’ and the myriad ideological/regulatory/policy shifts needed to draw in foreign universities, have been evident since 1998. In an overall sense, this development agenda is designed to help reshape society and economy, while discursively branding (it is hoped) Singapore as one of the ‘hotspots’ in the city-region archipelago which fuels, and profits from, the global knowledge economy.

Second, and as I noted on Thursday in my lecture, one of the three key post-1998 realignments is an enhanced acceptance of academic freedom in Singapore (in comparison to the 1980s and early 1990s). This is a point that was made in a 2005 chapter* I co-authored with Nigel Thrift and the same conditions exist today as far as I am concerned (though I do not speak for Nigel Thrift here).

In Singapore over the last decade plus, local universities have acquired considerably more autonomy regarding governance matters; faculty now have historically unprecedented freedom to shape curricula and research agendas; and students have greater freedom to express themselves, even taking on ruling politicians in campus fora from time to time. I personally believe that the practice of academic freedom is alive and well in Singapore for the most part, and that critics of (for example) the Yale-NUS venture would be fools to assume this is a Southeast Asian Soviet-era Czechoslovakia: Singapore is far more sophisticated, advanced, and complex than this. Universities like the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University are full of discussion, politically tinged banter, illuminating discussions in classes, and vigorous debates mixed with laughter over lunches at the many campus canteens. There is no difference between the debates I had about politics in Singapore when I worked there for four years (1997-2001), and when visiting since, to those I have had at the ‘Berkeley of the Midwest’ (UW-Madison) from 2001 on, or my alma maters in Canada (University of British Columbia) and England (University of Bristol). The relatively cosmopolitan and young (age-wise) nature of the faculty base in Singapore also indirectly engenders some forms of open-mindedness that are absent from more established (and sometimes smug) centers of scholarship.

This said, Singapore is a highly charged ‘soft authoritarian’ political milieu: if certain conditions come together regarding the focus and activities of a faculty member (or indeed anyone else in Singapore, be they expatriates, permanent residents, or long-term citizens), a strong state guided by political elites has much room to maneuver – legally, administratively, procedurally, symbolically – in comparison to most other developed countries. In this kind of context, a focused form of ‘calibrated coercion’ can be exercised, if so desired, and an analyst’s life can be made very difficult despite the general practice of academic freedom on an average day- to-day basis. There are discussions about ‘OB markers’ (out-of-bounds markers) regarding certain topics, some forms of self-censorship regarding work on select themes, and perhaps a lift of the eye when CVs come in with Amnesty International volunteer experience listed on them. And at a broader scale, the Public Order Act regulates ‘cause-related’ cause-related activities that “will be regulated by permit regardless of the number of persons involved or the format they are conducted in.” Even before the 2009 tightening of revisions to the Public Order Act, I recall stumbling upon a ruckus (desperately searching for a post-lunch coffee, circa 1999-2000) when I witnessed police removing the leader of the opposition from the grounds of the National University of Singapore after he attempted give an impromptu (I assume) speech to students below the main library.

In short, Singapore is a complicated place, and one needs to work hard to understand the complexities and nuances that exist. Blind naïveté (often facilitated by temptingly high salaries, and lack of regional knowledge) is as bad as cynical critique: like all places (Singapore and the US included), there are many shades of grey in our actually existing world. On this point it worth quoting the ever insightful Cherian George:

Singapore is not for everyone. Compared with countries at a similar income level, it is backward in the inclusiveness it offers to people with disabilities. It is a relatively safe country for families – but an innocent person who is wrongly suspected of a crime has more reason to fear in Singapore than in countries that treat more seriously the rights of the accused. And those who care enough for their society to stand up and criticise it have to be prepared to be treated as an opponent by an all-powerful government, enduring harassment and threats to their livelihoods. Being a writer immersed in Singapore has not blinded me to the system’s faults. But, one common form of critique in which I find myself unable to indulge is caricature, reducing Singapore to a society ruled by a monolithic elite, served by a uniformly pliant media, and populated by lobotomised automatons. Such essentialised accounts of government, media and people may satisfy the unengaged, but they generate too much cognitive dissonance for me. The Singapore I know – like any human society – is diverse and complex…

So, in my view, the practice of academic freedom in Singapore is alive and well on a number of levels, but there are always significant political sinkholes that might open up; you just never know…

Academic freedoms & the Singapore Eye

But what are the many foreign universities with a presence in this Southeast Asian city-state doing about academic freedom? In particular, if there is a lack of clarity about the nature of academic freedom given that guidelines are not codified, rules are unclear, and there appear to be no formalized procedures for dealing with serious contests, do foreign universities just accept the same conditions local faculty and students cope with?

The answer is a clear and resolute “no,” at least for highly respected universities like Chicago, Cornell, Duke, and Yale. Rather, what they do about academic freedom depends upon the outcome of negotiations between each of these foreign universities and the Singaporean state (sometimes in conjunction with local partner universities).

One of the more intriguing things about the development process is that most of the foreign universities that have engaged with the Singaporean state have developed what are effectively bilateral understandings of academic freedom. As I noted in 2005:**

Yet despite the influx of a significant number of American and European universities in response to the emergence of these new socio-economic development objectives, the concept of academic freedom, one of the underlying foundations of world class university governance systems, has received remarkably limited discussion and debate. The discussions and negotiations about the nature of academic freedom vis a vis Singapore’s global schoolhouse have been engaged with in a circumscribed and opaque manner. Deliberations have primarily taken the form of closed negotiation sessions between senior administrators representing foreign universities, and officials and politicians representing the Singaporean state. The agreements that have been made are verbal for the most part, though they have also been selectively inscribed in the confidential Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) and Agreements that have been signed between the Government of Singapore or local universities and the foreign universities in question. Strands of the concept have been brought over by the foreign universities, reworked during negotiations, and constituted in verbal and sometimes confidential textual form. The development of a series of case-by-case conceptualizations of academic freedom is hybridizing in effect. Through verbal agreements of unique forms, and through MOUs and Agreements of unique forms, foreign universities and the Singaporean state have splintered academic freedom in unique ways, unsettling previous notions of academic freedom in quite significant and hitherto unexamined ways.

See, for example, pages 6-8 of a Yale-issued summary of the agreement it reached with the Singaporean state.

Leaving aside the content of this message from Yale’s president, it is important to stand back and reflect on what is going on. In my opinion what we’re seeing is the creation of a strategically delineated understanding of academic freedom; one specified by just two parties in this case, and one that applies is a narrowly circumscribed geographic context (the Yale-NUS campus).

But think about the patterns here. Who is at the center of this aspect of the development process? It is the Singaporean state, including senior politicians such as the minister of education, the deputy prime minister, the prime minister, and in the Yale case senior leadership at NUS.

Much like the London Eye, a myriad of universities work with the Singaporean state on this issue at a bilateral (case by case) level. Given this, no one knows more about how academic freedom can be negotiated and framed than the people at the center of the negotiation dynamic. A Singapore Eye of sorts (if this admittedly awkward analogy makes sense!) regarding academic freedom exists. A less obtuse analogy might be a hub (the state) and spoke (multiple foreign universities) one. And the outcome is a plethora of differentially shaped academic freedoms in Singapore, scattered across the city-state in association with the foreign universities, shorn as far as I can tell from much of the context local universities (and their academics) are embedded in.

In the global higher ed context, this pattern is not unique to Singapore. The same case could be made regarding Qatar, Abu-Dhabi, Dubai, and China (albeit to a lesser degree). What is noteworthy is that the current experts regarding the globalization of academic freedom are monarchs and political elites associated with ruling regimes, not the people associated with the higher education sector, for they are too focused on their own institutional agendas.

Another interesting aspect of this development process is the absence of any form of collective representation regarding academic freedom in these hubs. Universities (e.g., Yale, Cornell, MIT, NYU, Texas A&M) active in global higher education hubs informally share information, to be sure, but their capacity to share information, and model practices, depends on proactive and savvy administrators who know what to think about, what to ask about, and where the ‘non-negotiable’ line should be drawn.

Once they forge their agreement with the state in these hubs, they move on to the implementation phase. And then 1-3-5 years later in comes a new university, and this pattern starts afresh (and a new spoke is added). But the lines connecting the foreign universities are thin. For example, it is worth considering how many of the recent negotiations about academic freedom in Singapore have been informed by a critical analysis of the pros and cons of the University of Warwick’s deliberations about opening up a branch campus in Singapore circa 2005, including Dr. Thio Li-ann‘s substantial report about academic freedom in Singapore.

In conclusion: on absence vs presence

Well, I’ve gone on now longer than I expected. But I want to close off by asking you (Columbia U students) to think about absence as much as presence. I’ve often encouraged my own students to think about this aspect of development, for while we can recognize and focus on presence, absence matters just as much. Absence is itself a phenomenon associated with the development process: absence is often desired, or absence can exist as an outcome of the lack of capability, planning, and resources.

One thing that appears to be absent in Singapore as a whole are codified rules and guidelines about academic freedom: what it is defined as, what its limitations are, and what its value is to higher education institutions. Interestingly you find all sorts of statements about the presence of academic freedom in Singapore, much like the ones I made above, or the ones put forward yesterday by Simon Chesterman (see ‘Academic freedom in New Haven and S’pore,’ The Straits Times, 30 March 2012). [Professor Chesterman is Dean of the NUS Law School. Given that he is a law professor, and also son-in-law of the architect of Singapore’s global schoolhouse development strategy (Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, Singapore’s current President), his views are worth taking note of.] But statements and op-eds are just that; they are not the only things that create formally demarcated and secure spaces for researchers and students. What arguably helps realize and ground academic freedom are legible guidelines, codified procedures in case of contest, laws, and symbolic affirmations of value such as this plaque I walked past this morning.

Statements, even by important officials and member of the elite do not beget confidence about the importance of academic freedom, hence the desire of universities like Yale and Cornell to act – to codify – on a bilateral basis.

One of the more curious aspects of this ongoing debate about academic freedom is that Singapore has a reputation as a place that respects the rule of law, and it has a formidable reputation for the quality and clarity of regulation regarding key industries (e.g., finance). Yet the guidelines and regulations associated with the space to produce and circulate information and knowledge via universities situated in Singaporean territory remains limited, in my opinion. Why, especially when academic freedom keeps emerging as a concern of global actors like Yale (circa 2011-2012), Warwick (circa 2005), etc.? And why when a knowledge economy and society is just that — one dependent upon the sometimes unruly production of valuable forms of knowledge?

Is bilateralism regarding academic freedom really the most effective approach? I’m not so sure for what it appears to do is provide fuel for debates, such as the one unfolding in Yale right now. Absence on this core issue (academic freedom) in Singapore as a whole, is arguably providing fuel for fire. Thus while some Yalies (is that what they are called?) seem to be disseminating remarkable unsophisticated understandings of how academia and politics works in Singapore, I would argue that the Singaporean authorities have created an opaque regulatory and discursive context regarding academic freedom vis a vis the production and circulation of knowledge. And as anyone who works on economic development knows, uncertainty is a problematic factor that can inhibit or skew the development process, partly because of misinterpretations.

A second absence is a global scale mechanism to ensure that the core principles associated with academic freedom are protected and realized as best it can be for the global community of scholars of which we are all (in Singapore, in New Haven, in Qatar, in Madison) a part. The long history of academic freedom is intertwined with the emergence of enlightenment(s), modernity(ies), and the associated development of societies and economies. Academic freedom helps create the space for the search for truth, the unfettered production and circulation of knowledge, and socio-economic innovation. But academic freedom has to be practiced, protected, codified, and realized, including while it is being globalized. The bilateralism evident in places like Singapore is inadequate in that the ‘foreign’ universities engaged in it are only thinking of themselves and not the global ecumene and community of universities. It is surely time for them to exercise some global leadership on such a core/foundational principle; one that has helped these universities become what they are.

Great to meet you all last Thursday. Be sure to think hard about this issue, gather diverse perspectives as any good student should, and feel 100% free to disagree with me.  And hope next week’s discussions go well!

Kris Olds

* Olds, K., and Thrift, N. (2005) ‘Cultures on the brink: reengineering the soul of capitalism – on a global scale’, in A. Ong and S. Collier (eds.) Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics and Ethics as Anthropological Problems, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 270-290.

** Olds, K. (2005) ‘Articulating agendas and traveling principles in the layering of new strands of academic freedom in contemporary Singapore’, in B. Czarniawska and G. Sevón (eds.) Where Translation is a Vehicle, Imitation its Motor, and Fashion Sits at the Wheel: How Ideas, Objects and Practices Travel in the Global Economy, Malmö : Liber AB , pp. 167-189.

Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research

GlobalHigherEd is still alive, I assure you! Unfortunately, our respective responsibilities, and some surprises, have been all consuming of late.

Over in Bristol, Susan has been busy with a recent keynote in the Gulf region on the intersections of the public and private; a talk that drew material from her contribution to a fascinating project on the conceptualization of public-private partnerships, including in higher education. This project, which will be published in book form, ties into our broader interests in the desectorialization and denationalization of higher education.

Across the Atlantic, in Madison WI, the last 1.5-2 months have been rather unique, to say the least! Apart from the ‘usuals’, I’ve had my head down creating a new on-line (virtual) course titled World Regions: Problems and Concepts, while also being engaged in debates about the proposed New Badger Partnership (NBP); an initiative which organizationally and symbolically pulls UW-Madison out of the UW System, providing it with greater autonomy over governance matters, albeit with uncertainty (to date) about process, structure, and outcomes. My colleague, William Cronon, was also hit with an open records claim by the Republican Party of Wisconsin; a development that spiraled into a national media issue. Who said life in the ‘flyover zone’ (as the US Midwest is sometimes deemed) is boring! All of these topics will serve as rich empirical cases for entries over the next several months as we try to come up for air, and shed light on some of the more ‘global’ dimensions of these issues in GlobalHigherEd.

Apart from the above, we’ve also been working to launch a GlobalHigherEd visualization initiative. This initiative, backed by some valuable seed funding via the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), is fueling the development of a series of visualizations about phenomena associated with the globalization of higher education and research. Curiously, these phenomena are remarkably under-visualized. To be sure there are some excellent graphics in reports like the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance series, or Olivier H. Beauchesne’s fantastic Map of Scientific Collaboration Between Researchers, but really, when you think about it, there are remarkably few informative visualizations (both static and dynamic) about phenomena like student mobility, regionalism and interregionalism, international collaboration, evolving modes of knowledge production, branch campuses, emerging forms of global governance, the uneven spread of private higher education, and so on.

The map below – a static (circa 2009) visualization of the branch campus phenomenon, is based upon the OBHE’s 2009 report International Branch Campuses: Markets and Strategies.


To be sure we all know that the branch campus phenomena is associated with a very uneven development pattern, but it is only via graphics like these that the uneven global geography is discernable. And as visualizers know, images like these do work and travel easily, including to contexts where language barriers to the consumption of text (typically in English) are high.

Over time we expect to develop many more visualizations. Future visualizations will be both static and dynamic, and include those that attend to change over time.

If you have any suggestions for topics or themes that lend themselves to being visualized, please email Kris <olds@geography.wisc.edu>, Susan <S.L.Robertson@bristol.ac.uk>, and cc our wonderful cartographer Tanya Buckingham <tbuckingham@wisc.edu>, assistant director of UW-Madison’s Cartography Laboratory.

Kris Olds

Associations of universities and the deep internationalization agenda: beyond the status quo?

Do our associations of universities have the adequate capabilities, including infrastructures, to support the well-spring of ‘internationalization’ that is emerging in member universities in virtually all countries? On some levels yes, but on other levels perhaps not.

One of the interesting aspects of the enhanced significance of internationalization in the higher education and research world is to reflect upon who takes up the agenda, and what do they really do with it.  In a variety of contexts I’ve been hearing more and more dissatisfaction with the status quo regarding internationalization, which in most universities simply means more study abroad, more foreign students, more Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs). To be sure some universities have gone very far along these paths, but these are well worn paths, and arguably not reflective of the development and implementation of internationalization strategies that create new paths, new models, deep connections, and visible yet also successful ‘signature’ projects. They are also reflective of a centralization (import) logic, and an unease about unsettling existing ways of doing things (despite the assertive rhetoric).

There are signs this situation is changing, though, with the development of branch campuses, the establishment of a range of international collaborative degrees (an issue I’ll be writing about soon), regularized co-advising and co-teaching via the systemic provision of distance learning technology, the knitting together of institutional architectures via the creation of research units within other universities, and the like. Examples of these types of initiatives are thin on the ground for the most part, though.

Scaling up, associations of universities in many countries have also been building up their internationalization agenda. Typical activities include lobbying relevant authorities about policy matters (everything from immigration and visa matters through to GATS),  the coordination of capacity building programs and projects in other countries, and member university capacity building (usually via best practices sharing, fellowships, or secondments). Some associations also provide user-pay support services for members – a trend emerging in association with the ‘cost-recovery’ agenda.

For example, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in the United States works on this front via its Commission on International Programs which has “four Standing Committees: 1) International Exchange 2) International Development 3) Academic Affairs and 4) Federal, State Private Sector Relations.” Or take the case of the Midwestern  Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) which convenes regular meetings of “Senior International Officers” (usually deans, directors, vice-provosts), while also acting as a conduit for relationship building between its member universities and individual universities (e.g., my colleagues from the University of Birmingham will be visiting this coming week) or groups of universities (e.g., Australia’s Group of Eight) from other countries.

These associations, and their cousins in other countries and regions, have shown themselves to be adroit and supportive on an increasing number of levels despite constrained resources. This said, it seems to me that there is a growing disjuncture between well-intended associations of universities and the defacto (and often not expressed) needs of their membership bases, especially with respect to the deep internationalization agenda.  Members are grappling (or not, which should be a concern!) with complex challenges and topics like:

  • How is the global higher education landscape changing, and how might we be effected by it, or take advantage of aspects of it?
  • How do we map out our university’s international connections?
  • How do we really internationalize – the process, the plan, the implementation, and the iterative process of update and revision?
  • How to we effectively plan for risk?
  • How do we frame, define, and establish governance pathways, for international collaborative degrees and internships?
  • How do we create and support (financially, and administratively) overseas units that need some legal and physical presence?
  • How do we establish and control costs, and ensure security, with respect to communications infrastructure?
  • How do we negotiate with representatives of other systems that have very different understandings of the role of higher education and research in the development process, state of the art pedagogy, academic freedom, incentives and desirable outcomes, and quality assurance and accreditation? What should the key non-negotiables be?
  • Should we, and if so how do we, engage with major transnational corporations like Thomson Reuters and Google?
  • What should we demand, and expect, of our new partners?
  • Where do we get quick and effective legal advice (most university legal affairs offices lack internationally experienced staff)?
  • How might our strategies contribute to emerging tendencies of exclusion and/or inclusion with respect to the production, circulation and consumption of knowledge?
  • Etc.

Clearly some universities have this all worked out, but they tend to be the well-resourced and capable ones like Yale or NYU. The majority of universities in the Global North and the Global South are grappling with many of these issues, and many more, yet they tend to operate on (as makes sense in many ways) an institutional and bilateral level; reaching out, making connections, formalizing relations, and engaging. They are inventing anew and while this is logical it is highly inefficient and not always risk-free given the differential capabilities of universities that are partnering up, but also the differential capabilities between universities and new players (including foreign governments and the state more generally).

Associations of universities are obvious candidates to build up the capacity of their members but they too are seeing enhanced obligations and mission creep as the denationalization process unfolds. Such associations are also grappling with fiscal constraints for they tend to reply upon membership fees as a main if not majority source of revenue. Thus there is an emerging disjuncture – universities have more on their plate, while associations have more on their plate, but the membership fee revenue foundation has intractable constraints and structural contradictions associated with it.

Perhaps it is time for some innovative experiments in forging innovations to support deep internationalization? Four of many examples would be the creation and financing of:

  • ‘Living’ (ie virtual) manuals to guide all aspects of establishing international partnerships (one model is the Internationalisation of European Higher Education – A New handbook, jointly edited by the European University Association and the Academic Cooperation Association). Virtual manuals could include model as well as sample MoUs and legal agreements for these are rarely shared, as well as relevant geovisualizations that map out the terrain and nature of relations between universities around the world.
  • Retainers for on-demand services with select law firms to assist in shaping select aspects of the internationalization process, including in the late stages of negotiations and agreement drafting. Aspects of this assistance could be knitted into the virtual manuals idea noted above where reports (e.g., see International partnerships: a legal guide for universities) are available for review.
  • Risk assessment review manuals, with templates for both process and final reports.
  • Shared infrastructure development. [which I'll focus in on now]

As my colleague Ann Hill Duin (Associate VP/Associate CIO, Office of Information Technology, University of Minnesota) put it to me at last week’s APLU conference (where I was speaking), why should universities establish their own IT systems in global higher education hubs when they could collaborate much more closely and reduce costs? Or why should universities from one country work on an individual basis to establish foreign presence via leased space in select city-regions when they could collaborate, via an associational or inter-associational relations, and build a purpose built structure.

Imagine, for example, a structure modeled on the wonderful Alliance Française de Singapour building (pictured throughout this entry) in Mumbai or Beijing or Shanghai or New York or Boston or Paris or Abu Dhabi or Lagos. It could include a small hotel, cinema, lecture space, marketing space, meeting space, a range of video conferencing technologies, etc. It could be of much use to member universities, and could also be leased out to local institutions, or other non-member institutions. One could imply I am recommending a foreign compound but this is not at all what I am suggesting; rather, this would be a space of transaction, a space to enable faster, quicker, more efficient and more conducive network relations, and in an aesthetically pleasing setting that is less open to the vagaries of market fluctuations in leasing prices. It would also send a tangible and visible message of commitment to host nations/cities.

In any case, this is but one of many ways we have yet to many of our associations of universities move forward individually, in partnership with other same-country associations, or else in partnership with organizations like the International Association of Universities (IAU). But these types of initiative cannot be just layered on for it they are dependent upon new streams of direct and in-kind resources from government agencies, alumni, philanthropists, member universities, and so on. New models are needed or else we have to accept a status quo that defacto penalizes universities with fewer internal resources.

In closing, I’d like to flag one forthcoming opportunity to discuss the issue of how associations of universities can better navigate the emerging global higher education and research landscape. The International Association of Universities (IAU) is organizing the fourth IAU Global Meeting of Associations (GMA IV) in New Delhi, India, 11-12 April 2011. This particular meeting is being organized in partnership with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). The purpose of the Global Meeting of Associations is to bring together associations of universities (not individual universities) and grapple with challenging issues facing associations and their member universities. This year’s theme is the Internationalization of Higher Education: New Players, New Approaches. I’ll paste in the background information flyer below, and you can register here, download background information here, and download the preliminary programme here. Further details are available via i.devylder@iau-aiu.net or r.hudson@iau-aiu.net. I participated in the 2009 meeting in Mexico and was truly impressed by the richness of the discussions, and the opportunities that emerged for enhanced cooperation at a range of scales, and on a range of issues.

Kris Olds

Graphic feed: CREATE – an international multi-institution research campus in Singapore/Asia

Source: National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Republic of Singapore.

Note: Further information on the Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE) is available via the CREATE Project Brief.

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

U.S. branch campuses abroad: results of a targeted survey

Editor’s note: this entry was kindly contributed by Madeleine Green (pictured to the right), Vice President, International Initiatives, American Council on Education (ACE).  Madeleine Green leads internationalization efforts at ACE and its Center for International Initiatives (CII). CII offers programs and services that support and enhance internationalization on U.S. campuses. It also works with international partners on higher education issues that have a global impact, conducts research on internationalization, and advocates on international issues. Green was the recipient of the 2010 Charles Klasek Award of the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) for outstanding service to the field of international education.

Madeleine Green’s entry can be viewed in the context of ongoing debates about how attempts to develop relatively deep forms of ‘internationalization’ (from an institutional perspective) complement and contradict state-led territorial development agendas in ‘host’ nations (or, to be more exact, discursive-material city-regions). This is a remarkably under-researched topic despite the notable increase in media coverage of the phenomenon.  We are happy to post this entry to further thinking about the branch campus topic, and welcome further guest entries. Some additional ‘open access’ resources on this topic include this series of brief articles in International Higher Education (2010)

A longer version of Madeleine Green’s entry is available here.

Kris Olds

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Interest in and speculation about U.S. off-shore campuses and programs are growing by the day. The prospect of India opening its borders to foreign providers has unleashed speculation about India as the next frontier for U.S. campuses wanting to establish operations abroad. At the same time, the financial problems in Dubai have led to speculation that the ability of governments to provide generous subsidies to foreign operations is fragile and unpredictable. The terrain is shifting and operations abroad vary tremendously, depending on the nation.

There has been little research, however, on how U.S. institutions actually go about the business of establishing and operating branch campuses, how these operations differ by region, or the identities of the students and faculty. In an effort to fill this knowledge gap, ACE began collecting information on U.S. branch campuses abroad in 2006. Drawing on an initial assessment of the range of U.S. branches abroad, ACE assembled 11 leaders from U.S. institutions offering programs abroad and sponsoring branch campuses for a roundtable in January 2008. The meeting provided depth to ACE’s knowledge into the theoretical and practical challenges associated with establishing a branch overseas. As a beginning step toward a wider breadth of understanding the universe of U.S. branch campuses abroad, in 2009 ACE fielded a targeted survey to collect more detailed information on the structure of branch campuses.

In response to a survey sent to 88 institutions operating a total of 197 branches campuses, 20 institutions submitted information on 40 branch campuses. Sixteen (40 percent) of the branch campuses were in Asia, 15 (38 percent) in Europe, 7 (18 percent) in the Middle East and North Africa.  The results are supported by information drawn from Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses, a national survey of 2,746 institutions conducted in 2006, as well as ACE’s ongoing dialogue on this topic with campus leaders.

The survey used the following definition of branch campus:

  • The branch campus rents or owns educational facilities (this could include a library, laboratories, classrooms, and/or faculty and staff office space) in a different country from the U.S. parent institution.
  • The branch campus offers courses in more than one field of study leading to a degree.
  • The degree bears the parent institution name (either alone or with a partner institution).
  • The branch campus is where students take the majority of their courses and finish their degree.
  • The branch campus offers mainly face-to-face instruction.
  • The branch campus has permanent administrative staff.

Conclusions

There is no predominant model. ACE research on U.S. branch campuses abroad reveals a wide variety of approaches. Some campuses are fully funded by the host government, some receive partial support, and some receive none. According to the preliminary results of the 2009 ACE targeted survey of U.S. branch campuses abroad, some campuses offer only undergraduate programs, some only graduate, and some offer both, and the faculty were nearly equally likely to be employed by the branch campus as the parent institution. Institutions with branch campuses abroad reported that the development of a branch campus is shaped by many factors, including needs and regulations of the host country, availability of partners, and strengths of the U.S. parent institution. Additionally, those that have set up campuses in different countries indicated that each experience was different, and although there are lessons to be learned from prior experience, the initiatives differ from one another.

Regional differences exist. The data showed some regional patterns. Branch campuses in Europe were more likely to have been founded before 2000, while those in other parts of the world have been established more recently. Faculty at European branch campuses were likely to be drawn from that region, while faculty at Asian and Middle Eastern branch campuses were more likely to be from the United States or countries other than the host country.

Branch campuses in the Middle East were more likely to receive support from the host government than those with branch campuses elsewhere. States such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have made huge investments to attract foreign institutions to meet the demand for higher education in their country and in the region, to increase their national capacity for research, and to advance as knowledge societies. Thus, their willingness to provide financial support for U.S. and other institutions has helped them meet their national goals. Most European nations, on the other hand, are not experiencing rapid growth in demand and have well-established higher education systems with sufficient capacity to educate their domestic students. They were, therefore, more likely to use traditional institutional partnerships to enhance their teaching and research.

U.S. institutions show intense interest in Asia, where there is tremendous demand for higher education. Asian nations are unlikely to provide operating revenue to branch campuses, although they do provide other types of support. Nearly all the branch campuses in this region received support in the form of facilities. In addition, the U.S. parent institution keeps a close association with the Asian branch campus: The majority serve as the employers of the faculty and about half reported that that the majority of their branch campus faculty were from the United States. These findings suggest that these institutions are exercising quality control by selecting and employing U.S. faculty.

The absence of branch campuses in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America in this survey was notable. The 2006 Mapping Internationalization national survey indicated that 7 percent of respondents had branch campuses in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) and 3 percent were operating programs in South Africa. Although little information is available, we can hypothesize that even though the demand for higher education is great in Africa and Latin America, the pool of students able to pay the fees required by foreign institutions is small, and the ability and/or willingness of African governments to provide assistance is equally lacking. Regardless of reason, Africa does not seem to be fertile ground for branch campuses.

ACE’s research suggests a need for further inquiry into the future of branch campuses. The effect of the worldwide economic downturn on both supply and demand is uncertain. It remains to be seen whether students will be more likely to seek a foreign education at home. If the demand (and the market) continue to be so great in Asia and other regions, branch campuses could not only flourish but also increase. Such a scenario would suggest the growth of branch campuses, perhaps at the expense of international mobility. In another scenario, economic recession may make a foreign education unaffordable for many students and their families, even in one’s home country or region.

There also are unknowns on the supply side. It may be that U.S. institutions battling financial issues will be less inclined to venture abroad. Even if support for such initiatives is available, institutions may be deterred by the requirements of time and effort, not to mention the inevitable hidden costs. Faced with uncertain financial circumstances, higher education leaders, boards, and legislatures may feel that now is not the moment to chart unknown courses. On the other hand, they could decide that these times present opportunities that should not be refused.

Madeleine F. Green

Collapsing branch campuses: time for some collective action?

The process of denationalization, which Saskia Sassen amongst others has been attempting to analyze, is clearly not a seamless process, even when implemented by well-resourced institutions and knowledgeable people. While Sassen’s main concern is with the denationalizing impulse within nation-states (e.g., ministries), denationalization is also associated with pushes beyond the national scale by institutions in other sectors, including higher education.

When universities reorient from the national to the global and decide to open up a branch campus, for example, they are faced with a whole host of options and questions related to values (the guiding principles), geographical imagination (scales to work at), capabilities (moving from vision to implementation and governance), level of engagement (the depth of linkage question), and mechanism for entry (ranging from franchising (yes, this term is used) through to fiercely independent campuses with replica faculty working conditions).

gmurakLast week’s higher education media journalists allocated significant attention to the collapse of George Mason University’s campus at Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates. Here are a few of the key articles:

Link here for the GMU announcement, and here for a pre-set Google weblog search on the topic. GMU’s Provost (Peter N. Stearns) also had this to say, in a refreshingly open and honest way:

Closing the RAK Campus

By this point many people in the Mason community will know that we have decided to close the Mason operation in Ras al-Khaimah as of the end of this semester. Negotiations with our funding partners in RAK broke down both over budget levels for the current year and over changes our partners sought in reporting structures. We concluded that the result would not allow us to sustain the academic quality to which we’re committed and indeed might affect our accreditation. The decision having been made, we are working hard to live up to the obvious responsibility we have to our students there (about 120 of them), giving them as many options as possible including facilitating their coming to our campus here to complete their work. It’s a messy and distressing process.

As negotiations began to break down, I had several days of self-castigation, wondering what I could have done better to help prevent this unfortunate result. Then this week our University Relations office, trying to get me ready for the questions that might arise at a press conference, included the stinger, “Who at Mason is most responsible for the failure of the RAK campus.” That would be me. I know of several errors in judgment I committed or was involved in, that may have had some impact on the slower-than-expected enrollment growth (which was the clearest area where what we were trying to do broke down somewhat). I certainly know of several things I would do differently in a similar undertaking in future, including making sure we were well enough funded at the outset to hire a manager at our end to oversee the project. I also believe that it is important to admit mistakes (and to be forgiven for them, as long as they don’t pile up unacceptably). I’ve never cared for a leadership situation that either pushes toward denial of error, or assumes that any error will be seized upon without mercy. But I further believe that it’s vital not just to admit, to learn from, but also to get over. So we’re working hard on cleaning up the RAK residuum but also looking to other projects, including some in the global arena, that are pushing out in really promising directions.

This is an issue we have written and spoken about before, and it is one that national associations (e.g., the American Council of Education (ACE)) are starting to pay attention to.  See these ACE reports, for example:

Yet, despite the production of these informative reports, and associated discussions in Washington DC, I can’t help but wonder why there is not more collective action to understanding the pros and cons of the branch campus development process, with guides and courses to assist. In the GMU-RAK case everyone — the host government, the university, and the students — loses. You would think, given the scale of the endeavors underway (especially in the Middle East, and Asia to a lesser degree) that at least one information-packed website would have been developed, or one short-term executive education-style course would have been set up. Yet there is nothing, nadda, zip. GlobalHigherEd probably has more information than any other open-access website (at least in English) yet it is woefully undeveloped, dependent as it is on our spare time (which is in short supply right now).

If I could create the dream resource for the administrative entrepreneurs in universities considering branch campuses, it would consist of a 2-3 year long program of periodic one week courses run by INSEAD (developer of the most successful new campus in a distant location (it is actually their second campus, versus a ‘branch campus’)) to deal with the strategy and negotiation elements, in association with regional (area studies) experts. It is worth adding that Gabriel Hawawini and Arnoud De Meyer (now at the Judge School of Business, University of Cambridge) guided the INSEAD campus into existence. I recognize that INSEAD is only a business school, but they have thought through all aspects of the development process, and have situated the issue within a broader context regarding both strategy and the political economy of development in host nations. INSEAD also has a track record in developing resilient campuses and programs abroad. INSEAD might also draw in expertise from the University of Warwick, which developed the most comprehensive planning process yet; one that led them to decide, in 2005, to not develop a Singapore-based branch campus for approximately 10,000 students.

If I could create the dream resource for the officials and politicians considering hosting branch campuses, it would consist of a 2-3 year long program of periodic one week courses jointly run by INSEAD, the OECD’s Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE), the International Association of Universities (IAU), and 1-2 key national associations of universities (e.g., ACE) from likely source countries. This rather heterogeneous grouping would have the capacity to deal with the range of issues host governments need to consider when devising and implementing this form of capacity building development strategy, while being distant enough from the process to critique host government’s fixation with importing ‘brand names’ above all else. My research on the development process in Singapore also generated a feeling that host governments have a challenging time understanding how universities in other parts of the world function (both formally and informally). Even senior ministerial officials with overseas degrees lack sufficient knowledge and perspective: they were, after all, only students during their time abroad.

Finally, the courses would be heavily subsidized by the governments of both source and host countries, the World Bank, and the OECD, thereby drawing in both curious and committed stakeholders. It would also result in the production of a comprehensive open access web-based portal on all aspects of the development process; a permanent resource, if you will, for governments and universities reflecting about this issue. While it is to be expected that consultancies like the Washington Advisory Group will attempt to profit from this development process, insights on the development process need to be circulated much more widely in the public sphere.

George Mason University’s campus in Ras al Khaymah has collapsed. Similar collapses have happened in Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, and several other countries. How many more messy failures like this do we need? Why can’t we deal with this issue in a collective way, one sensitive to the viewpoints of all parties associated with this complicated development process, yet one that recognizes that capabilities to ‘reach out’ in new ways need to be systematically enhanced.

Kris Olds

A Malaysian critique of Australian branch campus operations

Further to the debates about institutional mobility we have been profiling in GlobalHigherEd, malaysiankini recently posted this story:

Foreign universities giving it to us real good

The general public is not aware that a certain Australian university which has a campus here has little interest in developing the nation’s intellectual capital. Over the last year, it’s hidden agenda is to steal Malaysia’s wealth and brain power, contributing very little to the nation while delegating distinguished locals to insignificant supporting roles while harvesting their intellectual work for the benefit of Australia.

Keep reading here, though do be warned it was written by a “disgruntled former staff” member (with all that that brings with it, for good and for bad).

Thanks to Education Malaysia for spotting this one.

Kris Olds

Just saying “no” to overseas branch campuses and programs: Ivy League vs UK logics

Over the last two days we’ve received information regarding leaders of two universities – in this case the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University – making clear statements that they have no interest in opening degree-granting campuses or programs abroad. Both decisions were highlighted in The Daily Pennsylvanian (22 April 2008), while the Yale decision (regarding a possible presence in Abu Dhabi) was profiled by the UK Higher Education International Unit, a relatively new (circa 2007) institution with a website, and newsletter, worth keeping an eye on.

The Yale and Penn stances contrast, sharply, with the stance on overseas degree-granting ventures adopted by numerous UK universities that were profiled in today’s other GlobalHigherEd entry. The crux of the matter is related to (a) control over brand name reputation, and (b) quality assurance (QA) concerns, as determined by the respective Ivy League universities versus QA agencies. These quotes from The Daily Pennsylvanian say it all:

While the University has “considered” exporting education overseas, Penn President Amy Gutmann said the University is not ready to open a degree-offering program on a satellite campus.

Should Penn ever seriously consider a degree-granting outpost campus, it would only be because the school found such a program in line with its mission and consistent with its educational standards, Gutmann said.

She said the University’s ability to recruit faculty overseas was not up to par, but added that partnerships with universities on other continents have been successful.

And in the UK Higher Education International newsletter:

Quality assurance struck at the heart of Yale’s decision to withdraw: ultimately the University did not believe it could devote adequate numbers of faculty to the Abu Dhabi institute to guarantee academic standards. Yale President Richard Levin said ‘We don’t want to offer degrees unless we can essentially staff the courses with a faculty that is of the same quality and distinction as the one here in New Haven… and at this stage in the development of international programmes, that’s not easy to accomplish.’….

In an interview with the Yale Daily News in October 2007, Mrs Ellis warned, ‘You cannot have the ‘luxury Yale experience’ — the couture line — in New Haven and then the Canal Street fake version somewhere in the Middle East. You must never compromise on your brand or your honour in such ventures [or] chip away one iota of quality or core values that have made Yale, Yale or the Louvre, the Louvre.’

No doubt straining not to say, ‘I told you so’, Mrs Ellis was re-interviewed by the paper last week. ‘The rewards would have to outweigh the potential political and reputational risks to Yale,’ she said, before raising a fundamental question: ‘What’s in it for Yale? Abu Dhabi needs Yale, but it is not clear to me that Yale needs Abu Dhabi.… It seems to me such deals make most sense for institutions looking to raise cash and their international profile. Last time I checked, Yale needed neither.’

To be sure Yale, and Penn, both seek to create ‘global footprints’, but institutional and program mobility is clearly not a desirable option for them right now, if ever. It is also noteworthy that Yale and Penn have relatively deliberative institutional cultures, at least compared to many universities with overseas campuses, and thorough debate occurs before key decision-making points; a feature of institutional governance that frequently leads to the rejection of these types of proposals, as the University of Warwick found out in 2005 when deliberating about the implications of opening a large campus in Singapore. This said, it is noteworthy that a peer university – NYU – has gone very far down the institutional mobility path, highlighting the diversity of approaches adopted to institutional globalization.

In closing, GlobalHigherEd understands more news items will be emerging on the broad issue of QA and overseas degrees (in China) in the coming weeks, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted…

Kris Olds

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