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

Editors’ note: this guest entry has been kindly developed by Dr. Allan E. Goodman (pictured to the left), President & CEO, Institute of International Education (IIE).  Allan Goodman is the sixth President of IIE, a leading not-for-profit organization in the field of international educational exchange and development training. IIE administers the Fulbright program, sponsored by the United States Department of State, and 200 other corporate, government and privately-sponsored programs. Dr. Goodman helped create the first U.S. academic exchange program with the Moscow Diplomatic Academy for the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs and developed the diplomatic training program of the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam. Dr. Goodman has also served as a consultant to Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the United States Information Agency, and IBM.

This entry is the fifth response to Nigel Thrift’s ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational, ethical dilemma)‘. The first four were provided by Peter N. Stearns, Provost of George Mason University, Gregor McLennan, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Bristol, David J. Skorton, President, Cornell University, and Daniel I. Linzer, Provost of Northwestern University.

Our sincere thanks to Allan Goodman for this response on behalf of the IIE, not to mention the global network of universities and scholars that support and/or benefit from the IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

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Nigel Thrift refers to and has focused us on “the long emergency” related to climate change and its attendant effects.  The other long emergency on which the Institute of International Education (IIE) is focusing has necessitated us to rescue scholars for nearly a century.

Every year since our founding in 1919, we have responded to appeals from scholars fleeing oppression, caught in the cross-fire of local, regional, and even world-wide wars, or stranded in the midst of natural disasters and catastrophes.  In some years, we have helped a few; in others a few hundred or even a thousand.  The cumulative number now exceeds 20,000.

As this century began, the Trustees of the Institute recognized that scholar rescue was, in fact, a permanent part of what we do and raised a Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) endowment to support it.  SRF provides safe haven to those threatened or persecuted worldwide.  The Fellowship funds and supports visiting academic positions at universities anywhere in the world where the scholar will be safe and can continue their research and teaching.  It is open to scholars from any country and every discipline.  So far more than 2,000 have applied to the Institute for help from over 100 countries.  Over 400 from 43 countries have received grants and more than 200 higher education institutions in 38 countries have joined with us in hosting rescued scholars.  When I mention these statistics to an academic audience, most often the reaction is “we had no idea” the problem was so large or persistent.  Hence, my thought that this is also “a long emergency.”

Our experience with the first five years of the fund is documented in a study by Dr. Henry G. Jarecki and Daniela Zane Kaisth, Scholar Rescue in the Modern World and published last year.

In this Commencement season, campuses look especially inviting and recall the observation of England’s Poet Laureate John Masefield that “there are few earthly things more beautiful than a university.”  But Masefield was also speaking about something deeper and which has enabled so many universities around the world to assist us in rescuing scholars.  Beyond the surface beauty, he told the graduates of the University of Sheffield, it is a place that “will welcome thinkers in distress or in exile.”

From our experience at the Scholar Rescue Fund, universities are well organized to do just that – and help us every day.

Allan E. Goodman

Saudi Arabia unveils co-ed ‘House of Wisdom’/Postcards from Saudi Arabia: The KAUST inauguration

Editor’s note: this entry (which consists of two parts, one brief survey of themes, and one informal series of ‘postcards’) was prepared by Dr. Kimberly Coulter on the basis of her visit to Jeddah and Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Coulter attended the opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and had a fascinating time engaging with KAUST officials (including President Choon Fong Shih), KAUST’s new students, and representatives of the international media.

KAUST is an example of an ambitious attempt to construct a new site of knowledge production, albeit one that is significantly deterritorialized given the globalized nature of the forms and quality of the epistemic communities being targeted, and the cultural-politics of Saudi Arabia. KAUST is thus a unique experiment in how to organize an institution to facilitate innovation in scientific knowledge production, a secure and efficient compound (hence Saudi Aramco‘s involvement), a defacto sovereign wealth fund, a demonstration effect for new approaches to higher education in Saudi Arabia, and many other things (depending on standpoint).  Regardless of standpoint, though, KAUST is an experiment worth watching, discussing, debating about, and learning from.

Dr. Coulter’s previous entry in GlobalHigherEd was ‘The NSF’s ‘cool’ project: a charrette assesses interdisciplinary graduate education, with surprising results‘. Many thanks to Kimberly for her effort in putting these two contributions together amidst the move from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. We would also like to thank KAUST and Rachelle Lacroix of Fleishman-Hillard for the invitation and assistance in enabling us to cover aspects of this key event.

9 October update: this article (‘In Saudi Arabia, a Campus Built as a ‘Beacon of Tolerance’ High-Tech University Draws the Ire of Hard-Line Clerics for Freedoms It Provides to Women‘) in the Washington Post does a decent job of summarizing the ongoing debate stirred up by the comments of Saad bin Nasser al-Shithri, a member of the Supreme Committee of Islamic Scholars, regarding KAUST.

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KAUSTtilesPart I: Saudi Arabia unveils co-ed ‘House of Wisdom’

In an atmosphere of spectacular fanfare and intense security, Saudi Arabia inaugurated its new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on 23 September. The US$12.5 billion dollar university is a gated compound on the Red Sea coast in the province of Mecca, approximately 50 miles north of Jeddah.

As Saudi Arabia’s first and only co-educational university, KAUST relaxes the social taboo of gender mixing as it aims to catapult the Kingdom onto the international playing field of knowledge economies. For foreign universities, it represents an opportunity to be paid royally to share advice and curricula; for the adventurous early-career researcher, KAUST offers funding and opportunities unavailable anywhere else.

To execute his vision for a world-class research university, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud turned to Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil corporation. Aramco is experienced with research management, technology transfer, and attracting talented foreigners to extraterritorial compounds within the Kingdom. An all-star lineup of trustees, including former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and international higher education advisors, including members of the Washington Advisory Group, provided advice on how to leverage the Kingdom’s resources to engage prestigious institutions and scientific minds abroad.

King Abdullah compares KAUST to the House of Wisdom, the great Baghdad research and education center of the Islamic Golden Age, situating the new university in the context of Islamic scientific achievement and regional welfare. Arab News stressed the House of Wisdom’s intercultural foundation:

Founded by the caliphs Harun Al-Rashid and his son Al-Ma’mun, Bait Al-Hikma or the House of Wisdom served as a library, research center and translation bureau in Baghdad from the 9th to 13th centuries. Acclaimed as an intellectual hub that highlighted the “Golden Age” of Islam by fostering nontraditional dialogue and alliances between those of different backgrounds, it attracted the likes of Jabir ibn Hayyan, Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khawarizmi and Badi Al-Zaman Ismail ibn Al-Razzaz Al-Jazari.

King Abdullah’s message: “as a new ‘House of Wisdom,’ the University shall be a beacon for peace, hope, and reconciliation and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and benefit all the peoples of the world in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Quran, which explains that God created mankind in order for us to come to know each other.”

KAUSTpressWhile the House of Wisdom scholars concerned themselves with topics from physics to philosophy, KAUST is not a comprehensive university. Rather, it concentrates on nine science and engineering areas expected to economically diversify Saudi Arabia (and Saudi Aramco) beyond oil. Its research may have practical applications such as water desalination, pollution remediation; the genetic engineering of more draught-tolerant plants, and the development of stable and cost-effective solar cells. At the inauguration day press conference, Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees said, “Saudi Arabia aspires to export as much solar energy in the future as it exports oil now.”

Research breakthroughs and the transfer of these new technologies to regional companies are expected to lead to economic growth and high-paying jobs. President Choon Fong Shih likes to call KAUST “Stanford by the Sea.” “Intellectual property,” he told GlobalHigherEd, is “is not an issue”—all discoveries by KAUST researchers become the property of KAUST. For international partnerships, agreements have been made to share intellectual property rights.

International partnerships

Thanks to a phenomenal endowment (waqf) exceeding US$10 billion, KAUST has succeeded in enlisting prestigious partners. Regardless of whether or not these initial collaboration agreements grow into durable long-term partnerships, KAUST’s campaign to attract international partners is, as Robert A. Jones observes, “remarkable for its subtle understanding of how high-level science research proceeds.”

All KAUST research is to be incubated in the context of international partnerships. KAUST’s Academic Excellence Alliance program provides roughly $25 million to foreign universities (Berkeley, Cambridge, Stanford, University of Texas at Austin, and Imperial College London) to advise KAUST on hiring and curricula. In addition to supporting researchers based on its campus, KAUST also provides generous grants to researchers abroad, with expectations of collaboration and participation in researcher and student exchanges with KAUST. Its Global Research Partnership grants of up to $25 million over five years will support to centers at Cornell, Oxford, Stanford, and Texas A&M, and three other “centers-in-development.” KAUST also funds individual investigators’ research projects with grants of $10 million each. These professors will be expected to visit KAUST each year for three weeks to three months.

In addition to linking its external grants to researcher exchange, KAUST also uses scholarships to develop human capital for the region. This semester, 374 men and women begin their graduate work; another 443 will join in 2010. Only 15% are Saudi, but many others have ties to the Middle East. While the Kingdom has long sent talented Saudi students abroad to study, it can now attract foreign students as well, a long-term investment expected to yield a global network of industry and government leaders with ties to Saudi Arabia. It is a strategy similar to the U.S. Fulbright Program and more extensively employed by organizations such as the German Academic Exchange Service.

KAUSTlibraryRecruiting talented students and faculty

KAUST counts on exciting research opportunities and first-rate infrastructure to lure researchers. President Shih told GlobalHigherEd that KAUST is “not looking for a typical academic, but for someone who wants to do something big.” He wants intellectually and culturally adventurous “faculty who want to make a contribution to this part of the world, who want to learn something about this culture.” KAUST has successfully recruited many Middle Easterners based outside the region. How long KAUST will be able to retain faculty within its compound is another question.

KAUST has much to offer the research-focused. It boasts state-of-the-art facilities; “Shaheen,” the world’s 14th fastest supercomputer; and CORNEA, a 3-D “cave” that allows footie- and 3D-goggle-clad visualization researchers to walk inside models of spatial and acoustical environments, such as those underground. Although most of its holdings have yet to arrive, KAUST’s library will soon provide access to 2,000 journals and 10 online databases, interlibrary loan services, and a wide selection of general interest books. KAUST offers faculty competitive salaries (estimated at 1.5 to 2 times US salaries, tax-free, plus many benefits), and—perhaps more importantly—generous multi-year research grants.

Students were recruited from their undergraduate institutions through the Institute of International Education (IIE), on the board of which KAUST advisor Karen Holbrook, also part of the Washington Advisory Group, serves. The KAUST Discovery Scholarship provides all students with paid housing, travel, and generous stipends. It was not only research and funding that attracted many to KAUST, but also the chance to study in an internationally rich context. Students reported activities including camel rides, regional excursions, and exercises to explore cultural differences in communication styles. Michelle Gatz, who graduated from UW-Madison’s mechanical engineering program in 2009, was recruited to do graduate work at KAUST. Gesturing with hands beautifully hennaed from a recent trip to Bahrain, Gatz exudes enthusiasm not only for the scientific opportunities she has at KAUST, but also the cultural ones. She is learning about Islam and Saudi Arabia, and meeting people from around the world. “Everyone here,” she said, “has been so nice.”

Together with KAUST staff, students and faculty form a small city with residents from 70 countries. A city, President Shih says, “with rich and diverse DNA.” Asked how KAUST’s diverse human resources will be engaged to promote understanding around issues of culture and gender, President Shih said he prefers to focus on KAUST’s exciting scientific challenges and how science brings people together: only “when there is nothing exciting, then we focus on differences.”

Culture and gender issues

Many observers are excited about the opening of Saudi Arabia’s first university that allows men and women to interact directly. All other Saudi universities are single-sex; when women are taught by male professors, contact is technologically mediated. A coeducational foundation was undeniably necessary for KAUST to engage prestigious foreign partners and compete for talent internationally, yet some Saudi-based critics object to KAUST’s relaxation of this social taboo. Other critics simply doubt that Saudi Arabia’s students and staff, trained in a secondary education system that emphasizes learning by rote, will be prepared for the demands of a modern, world-class research university. How will the Western academic model transfer into Saudi Arabia’s restrictive social context?

It was difficult to find KAUST officials and staff willing to address such questions. When asked if KAUST had provided training to address gender issues, a female professor replied, “there was a program—they called it a cultural program. It included this. Students had many questions about this.” KAUST divides the responsibility for student advising between a research advisor and an academic advisor who could address issues—including cultural ones—related to degree completion. If KAUST’s model of divided responsibility is not an effort to reduce research supervisor’ workload, but is rather an effort to broaden the network of senior advisors on whom early-career researchers rely, it could be a successful new model—perhaps one from which the West can learn.

Will KAUST be able to attract the most promising women scientists? At the press conference, Dr. Jasmeen Merzaban, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at KAUST said, “For me coming to Saudi Arabia has been an amazing experience.” She said she has encountered no barriers, in that research is “all based on science.” Her colleague Dr. Niveen M. Khashab, Assistant Professor of Chemical Science and Environmental Science and Engineering, cited the level of infrastructure and interest at the biggest attraction—KAUST has “everything that any assistant professor, regardless of gender, would look for.” She explained, “he—he or she—would look for interest in the research, funding, and just being in a successful environment.” Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees, implored the press to “focus on the great minds, rather than gender, please. Thank you.”

Clearly, KAUST’s architects have given careful attention to issues of culture and gender awareness within the university compound. Officials’ resistance to discussing these efforts publicly suggests the seriousness of the social pressure KAUST faces in Saudi Arabia, and attests to the extreme care being taken to safeguard this audacious scientific—and social—experiment.

Advancing Saudia Arabia, and the world

Already, KAUST is a remarkable achievement. It gives the striking impression that, in Saudi Arabia, anything is possible. One of the most important legacies of the House of Wisdom, as Jonathan Lyons explains in his new book, is “the notion that religion and science, faith and reason, could coexist.” KAUST aims to reflect this legacy for the advancement of Saudi Arabia and the world, making the region a hub for sustainable technologies and demonstrating the value of intercultural collaboration.

But it is also clear how strongly the KAUST vision is linked to King Abdullah. The King is 85 years old, and Saudi succession is uncertain. Ultimately KAUST’s success may depend on its ability to strike the right balance between protective control and open inquiry. Tangible technological and economic outcomes will be important in stirring the pride of the Saudi population as they turn to developing their rich human resources.

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Part II: Postcards from Saudi Arabia: The KAUST inauguration

Public photography was legalized in Saudi Arabia in 2006 by a royal decree, hailed as a step towards promoting tourism.

In spite of this, few tourists visit the Kingdom. Getting a visa is difficult, and most visitors are religious pilgrims, migrant workers, and foreigners who have family or business there. Yet some 2500 heads of state, business leaders, university officials, researchers, and prospective KAUST job candidates—and nearly 100 members of the media—poured into Jeddah last week for the KAUST inauguration.

Many of us looked for postcards to send to our friends and families, but there were none to be found! So for those interested in more informal impressions of the experience, I post a few here.

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Shopping malls are an important hub for public recreation in Saudi Arabia. Though in many “public” places, like at this Starbucks, there are semi-private areas for women and families. Some journalists and I visited this Jeddah mall to find gifts for our families. One colleague bought his daughter a Barbie-like doll. There were two categories to choose from: “indoor fashion” and “outdoor fashion” dolls.

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KAUST arranged a tour to the Altayebat International City for Sciences and Knowledge, where the knowledgeable staff explained their impressive collections of regional art and artifacts. This architectural engineer designed some amazing exhibitions of Saudi Arabia’s natural regions and heritage. While enjoying the air conditioning, I was completely surrounded the sand, water, wildlife, culture, and sky of the Red Sea! KAUST CORNEA 3-D visualization team–you guys should check this out!

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As the KAUST campus cannot yet support big groups of visitors, we stayed in Jeddah hotels and made the hour-long escorted bus trip each day. As we approached the campus, we passed giant billboards heralding KAUST, flags from around the world, multiple security checkpoints, and workers landscaping the roadside.

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The campus was stunning! The journalists would have liked to have toured more of it, but our access was restricted to a few buildings.

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The library has the most inspiring view of the Red Sea. Most of its holdings have not yet arrived, but it already had an impressive collection of general books. Works by Edward Said and Noam Chomsky were subtly displayed. The media spent many hours here drinking coffee while security was ensured for King Abdullah’s visit.

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Catching a ride back to Jeddah with a staff member, I managed to catch a glimpse of a finished condo, thoughtfully furnished with everything from Internet access to frying pans—the cupboards were even stocked with food. We stopped to fill the tank–gas at KAUST would have cost 0.60 Saudi Arabian riyal/liter, except that it, too, was free.  (I calculated $0.61/gallon and realized—the riyal is pegged to the dollar at the liter/gallon ratio!)

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Guests filled a gigantic air-conditioned tent specially erected for the KAUST inauguration. Just as striking as the research exhibitions was the mix of guests: Saudi men in tailored white thobes, Western men in smart dark suits, Saudi women in abayas and hijab, Western women in colorful skirt suits or long evening gowns peeking out from underneath their abayas. The PR firm had suggested I wear a suit, but I felt more comfortable in my elegant borrowed abaya.

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Eight curvy plasma screens spanned the massive auditorium. The lights dimmed, and short film segments introduced KAUST’s mission, philosophy, and people. Each film chapter was introduced with a proverb. “Hearts filled with faith,” one read, “are the foundation of each vision and the source for all truth.” KAUST students, clustered in the back of the auditorium, whooped and applauded when their friends appeared on screen.

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Following speeches by KAUST officials and the Saudi Arabian national anthem, King Abdullah took the podium. In his speech, the King compared KAUST to the “House of Wisdom” and extolled the value of international collaboration in education and research.

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After King Abdullah’s address, the plasma screens parted and receded to reveal the Red Sea. Massive fireworks erupted over KAUST’s signature “Breakwater Beacon,” and were joined by dancing fountains (easily surpassing the Bellagio in Las Vegas). Beaming Saudis and world-weary foreign correspondents smiled at each other, pleased to be sharing this experience.

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Following the banquet, we waited for hours for our assigned buses back to Jeddah. University leaders and journalists lingered over Arabic sweets and cans of 7-up with Saudi Aramco and KAUST employees. I finally made it back to the hotel at 4 a.m., nearly 22 hours after the media security check began. The scrappier correspondents, on breaks from demanding Middle Eastern posts, had elbowed and cajoled their way onto earlier buses.

Kimberly Coulter

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Editor’s note: see below for a YouTube clip of the noted fireworks segment:


From sifting and winnowing, to the University in Exile, to Universities in Dangerous Times

As one of us (Kris) walked towards a College of Letters and Science Curriculum Committee meeting yesterday afternoon I passed by Bascom Hall, the central administrative building of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A memorial plaque at the main entrance to Bascom Hall states the following:

Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.

The plaque makes reference to a celebrated 1894 case regarding Richard T. Ely (pictured above in 1910), director of UW-Madison’s then School of Economics, Politics and History. Ely’s work was equated with “utopian, impractical, or pernicious doctrines”, and he was being vigorously attacked at the time. In the end his job, genuinely on the line, was saved.

The Ely case, and the principles expressed in the Board Of Regents 1894 ruling (part of which are quoted above), become one of the foundations of academic freedom in the United States; a principle and practice that, while not perfect, plays a fundamental role in the capacity of US universities to be prolific producers of knowledge, and of innovations.

The production and circulation of knowledge is not always a straightforward matter. The capacity to speak ‘truth to power’, or simply to search for the ‘truth’, on issues as basic as bridge collapses or the causes of cancer, let alone labour rights, social inequality or torture, is not guaranteed: it has to be maintained, discussed, preserved, protected, symbolized, institutionalized, memorialized, and fought for.

In this historic context, the intertwined forces of globalization and neoliberalism, and the associated restructuring of higher education and research, are generating a series of challenges for advocates of academic freedom. For example, the establishment of branch campuses and overseas programs is generating a series of fascinating deterritorializing tendencies, an issue one of us has written about in the Singaporean context*, and which remains surprisingly unexamined in the rush of changes in the Middle East (especially Qatar and UAE) right now.

It is thus noteworthy that a conference – Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times – will be held at The New School in New York City on October 29, 30, and 31, 2008. As the organizers of the conference state:

Over three days, the conference speakers will explore: how the trends and challenges that face universities in the US and abroad today may affect the core values of academic freedom and free inquiry. These current trends include rapid globalization, changes in the geo-political arena, modes of financing, the extension of higher education franchises, the rise of collateral institutes and research centers, the relationship between specialization and integration, regime change, and other conditions of duress.

With reference the historic foundations of academic freedom, at least in the US, the conference is also a “major part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the University in Exile, a remarkable haven of academic freedom and free inquiry”. As The New School puts it, the University in Exile was conceived by its first president (an economist), Alvin Johnson, and it:

rescued and employed European intellectuals and artists who had been dismissed from teaching and government positions by the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. More than 180 scholars and their families found refuge here, including Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer and economists Karl Brandt and Gerhard Colm. Nobel prize winner Franco Modigliani was one of its first students. In 1934, the University In Exile—renamed The Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science—received authorization from the Board of Regents of the State of New York to offer master’s and doctoral degrees, and began publication of its international journal of the social sciences, Social Research, still one of the most influential academic journals in the United States.

Speakers at the October conference, 75 years later, include Ira Katznelson (Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University), Bob Kerrey, President, The New School), Craig Calhoun (President, Social Science Research Council; University Professor of the Social Sciences, New York University), Arjun Appadurai (John Dewey Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences, Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives, The New School), Deepak Nayyar (Distinguished University Professor of Economics, The New School for Social Research; Former Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), Robert M. Berdahl (President, Association of American Universities; Former Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley), Hanna Holborn Gray (Former President, University of Chicago), Anthony W. Marx (President, Amherst College), Charles M. Vest (Former President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Joseph W. Westphal, (Provost, The New School; Former Chancellor, University of Maine).

These are challenging times, and it will be interesting to see how effectively this stellar line-up of speakers and panelists grapple with the topic Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times. How will they, for example, relate thinking about academic and free inquiry to the many non-university spaces, or hybrid (their term is “collateral”) spaces, associated with contemporary knowledge production? And what of the deterritorialization of academic freedom in places like Qatar Education City, Singapore’s Global Schoolhouse (where Hanna Holborn Gray’s university has a formal legal presence via the Chicago Graduate School of Business) or NYU Abu Dhabi? Will discussions engage in the grounded practices associated with important initiatives being undertaken by NYU-based Scholars at Risk (SAR) and the Institute of International Education (IIE). Finally, how will they engage with the less tangible governance forces shaping free inquiry that we have been tagging, in GlobalHigherEd, under the ‘audit culture’ umbrella.

Path dependencies are being generated right now across the globe regarding how free inquiry is being re-conceptualized, and protected or inhibited. The timing for such an event could not be better given the fast pace of changes underway, and the importance of not forgetting initiatives like the University in Exile.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

* 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.

Special survey on transatlantic joint and dual/double degree programs (1 May deadline)

The long history of transatlantic higher education relations has resulted in a myriad of impacts, including the formation of now iconic American institutions (e.g., Johns Hopkins University), core concepts underlying academic life (e.g., academic freedom), the protection of scholars at risk (e.g., the University in Exile), the rapid growth of universities in the 1960s and 1970s as European professors filled the posts needed to support a burgeoning student population, and the research capacity today of both Canada and the US (something the EU is seeking to track via their ERA-Link program).

The transatlantic relationship has evolved, of course, and now includes a growing number of joint and dual/double degree programs. This said virtually no one has a broad understanding of the nature nor impact of these programs.

Given this lacunae of knowledge, and given the significant interest demonstrated in our series regarding international double and joint degrees:

we are happy to support the Freie Universität Berlin (via their Transatlantic Degree Programs Project (TDP), and the Institute of International Education (IIE), as they coordinate a special survey on transatlantic joint and dual/double degree programs.

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The survey is available here, and the responses are due by May 1. Please consider filling the survey out if you have established or manage such degrees.

As the survey organizers put it:

The overall goal of the survey is to assess the current landscape of transatlantic degree programs, identify inherent challenges and opportunities of expanding existing or developing new programs, and to solicit best practices. So far, there is only limited information available on the number and types of transatlantic programs, the higher education institutions involved in developing these programs, and the disciplines in which such programs have been established. This survey aims to fill that gap and create an inventory of existing models and examples of transatlantic curriculum cooperation.

By collecting this information, we hope to provide valuable information for higher education professionals and policymakers on the current transatlantic degree programs landscape, including an analysis of the challenges and barriers to developing them and recommendations and guidelines for universities on both sides of the Atlantic to implement successful programs.

The survey results will be used to create an International Degree Programs Manual. Codification and guidance (via manuals) brings with it pros and cons, but we can all benefit from enhancing our understanding on this emerging phenomenon, especially given the incredible amount of energy required to bring these degrees to life.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson