Affirming Academic Values in Internationalization of Higher Education: A Call for Action

I’m delighted to post the statement below, which is a contribution to a long needed debate about the underlying and often submerged values and ideologies associated with the ‘internationalization’ of higher education.  My thanks to Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General, International Association of Universities (IAU), for sending it to GlobalHigherEd. See this page for the IAU’s general page on internationalization and this page for more information on their ‘rethinking’ initiative.  Kris Olds

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There are few higher education institutions that would report a disinterest in becoming more internationally connected, more open to international students or being able to offer more international research opportunities to their faculty.  Research undertaken by the International Association of Universities (IAU) has shown that internationalization of higher education is definitely an important policy and strategy for most universities worldwide.

Few higher education institutions though would admit that some of the rationales for ‘going international’ are founded equally if not more so in the need to find new sources of funding, in the pressure to keep climbing the prestige ladder and in the race for global talent on which rests their nation’s competitiveness.  Pursuit of these goals too is today associated with the internationalization process.

The multiplicity of rationales, approaches and strategies has been growing over the past decades, making the concept of higher education internationalization take on many faces and many meanings.  It has also led to confusion, negative reactions and criticism of the process, particularly in developing nations whose higher education institutions feel less able to set the agenda.

This growing sense of unease stemming from, on the one side, a strong commitment to the ideals of internationalization for improving academic quality, for international understanding and to reap the benefits from a multitude of perspectives and cultural traditions and, on the other side, the increasingly vocal criticism of internationalization as a process bringing commodification, increasing the brain drain and potentially diminishing diversity in higher education, has led the IAU to launch and coordinate an initiative called Re-Thinking Internationalization.  Together with a fairly large international Ad Hoc Expert Group, IAU drafted a document entitled Affirming Academic Values in Internationalization of Higher Education (pasted in below as well) which shines a light on these and other challenges while also outlining how institutions can re-center the process of internationalization around the academic fundamentals.

Elaborating the Call took several months but putting it into action will, we hope begin immediately.  Comments, reactions, suggestion for how to turn the principles of the Call into actions and offers of endorsement for the Call can be sent to: iau@iau-aiu.net with subject line stating ‘the Call’.

Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General, International Association of Universities

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April 2012

Affirming Academic Values in Internationalization of Higher Education: A Call for Action

Purpose

This document acknowledges the substantial benefits of the internationalization of higher education but also draws attention to potentially adverse unintended consequences, with a view to alerting higher education institutions to the need to act to ensure that the outcomes of internationalization are positive and of reciprocal benefit to the higher education institutions and the countries concerned.

Internationalization – An evolving concept

1. The internationalization of higher education is a dynamic process, continuously shaped and reshaped by the international context in which it occurs. As this context changes, so do the purpose, goals, meanings, and strategies of internationalization. Over the past half century, the world has changed dramatically as a result of the demise of colonial hegemonies, the end of the Cold War, the rise of new economic powers, and new regional alliances.

2. Globalisation is now the most important contextual factor shaping the internationalization of higher education. Globalisation is characterized by interdependence among nations and manifested in the economic, political, social, cultural, and knowledge spheres. Central to globalization are the increased mobility of goods, services, and people and the accelerating use of information and communication technologies to bridge time and space in unprecedented ways and at continually decreasing costs.

3. Globalization gives an international dimension to all aspects of our lives, communities, and professions. In higher education, it has led to intensified mobility of ideas, students and academic staff and to expanded possibilities for collaboration and global dissemination of knowledge. It has also introduced new aims, activities and actors engaged in internationalization.

4. Institutions, countries and regions in different parts of the world and at different times pursue a variety of goals and participate in diverse ways in the higher education internationalization process. Examples, such as Africa under colonial rule, where access to higher education meant travelling abroad to attend one of the universities of the colonial power, or more recently the Bologna Process, which is radically changing the higher education landscape in Europe through internationally coordinated reforms, illustrate how internationalization fulfils different purposes and brings different rewards and challenges.

5. The goals of internationalization are continuously evolving, ranging from educating global citizens, building capacity for research, to generating income from international student tuition fees and the quest to enhance institutional prestige. New forms of internationalization such as branch campuses abroad, distance learning programs with a global reach, international educational hubs and networks now complement traditional initiatives such as student and staff mobility, curriculum change and international institutional linkages for teaching and research. New institutional players, in particular new private sector providers, have entered the scene.

6. Although the risk of brain drain remains a serious concern in some parts of the world, some countries are using international student mobility to expand their higher education capacity and capabilities. Governments and institutions are creating formal links with academic talent with their own Diasporas to promote brain circulation. And although uneven global flows of talent will remain an issue of consequence, in the long run, some of its worst impacts can be attenuated as a wider array of nations develop capacity and opportunity at home. Higher education internationalization can play a major role in developing such capacities and opportunities broadly throughout the world.

7. In short, internationalization today is remarkably different from what it was in the first half of the 20th century, in the 1960s or 1980s. A widening of drivers of higher education internationalization has had the effect of making internationalization more of an institutional imperative. The balancing of multiple intended outcomes while preserving essential institutional core values and missions is both a challenge and an opportunity. Internationalization is taking place in a radically new, complex, differentiated, and globalized context. The resulting changes in goals, activities, and actors have led to a re-examination of terminology, conceptual frameworks and previous understandings and, more importantly, to an increased but healthy questioning of internationalization’s values, purposes, goals and means.

The changing nature of internationalization in the context of globalization

8. Irrespective of contextual differences within and between countries, nearly all higher education institutions worldwide are engaged in international activities and are seeking to expand them. Engaging with the world is now considered part of the very definition of quality in education and research.

9. The many enduring academic benefits of internationalization are widely recognized as fundamental. The most noteworthy include, among many others:

  • Improved quality of teaching and learning as well as research.
  • Deeper engagement with national, regional, and global issues and stakeholders.
  • Better preparation of students as national and global citizens and as productive members of the workforce.
  • Access for students to programs that are unavailable or scarce in their home countries.
  • Enhanced opportunities for faculty improvement and, through mobility, decreased risk of academic ‘inbreeding’.
  • Possibility to participate in international networks to conduct research on pressing issues at home and abroad and benefit from the expertise and perspectives of researchers from many parts of the world.
  • Opportunity to situate institutional performance within the context of international good practice.
  • Improved institutional policy-making, governance, student services, outreach, and quality assurance through sharing of experiences across national borders.

10. At the same time, the new world of higher education is characterized by competition for prestige, talent and resources on both national and global scales. National and international rankings are driving some universities to prioritize policies and practices that help them rise in the rankings. At many institutions, internationalization is now part of a strategy to enhance prestige, global competitiveness and revenue. As higher education has in some respects become a global ‘industry’, so has internationalization of higher education become, in some quarters, a competition in which commercial and other interests sometimes overshadow higher education’s fundamental academic mission and values. Competition is in danger of displacing collaboration as the foundation for internationalization.

Possible adverse consequences of internationalization

11. As internationalization of higher education evolves and grows in importance, a number of potentially adverse consequences of the process have begun to appear. These include particular risks for some institutions, uneven benefits, and asymmetrical power relations. Frequently noted are the following concerns:

  • The prevalence of English, though driven by the advantages of having a common medium of communication, has the potential to diminish the diversity of languages studied or used to deliver higher education. The widespread use of English may thus lead to cultural homogenization and finding solutions for these adverse impacts, even though recognized, is difficult.
  • Global competition may diminish the diversity of institutional models of what constitutes quality higher education. The pursuit of a single model of excellence embodied in the notion of a “world-class university,” usually narrowly defined as excellence in research, may result in the concentration of scarce national resources in a few or a single institution to the detriment of a diverse national system of higher education institutions, fit for diverse national purposes. This risk is potentially present everywhere, but is particularly acute for developing countries.
  • Brain drain may continue or even accelerate, undermining the capacity of developing countries and their institutions to retain the talent needed for their prosperity, cultural advancement, and social well-being.
  • Large-scale international student recruitment, at times using questionable and even unethical practices, may cause a variety of problems, such as brain drain. Also, the presence of large numbers of international students may result in misconceptions about decreased opportunities for domestic students or inadvertently feed prejudice about foreigners. This can overshadow the highly positive intellectual and intercultural benefits that international students bring to the classroom, campus, and communities in which they study and live.
  • The growth of transnational programs and creation of branch campuses raises a number of questions including how these enhance the educational capacity of host nations over the long-term, and how able they are to deliver on the promise of an education comparable to that delivered by the sponsoring institution in its home country. A foreign educational presence, with its perceived prestige, has the potential to disadvantage local higher education institutions striving to respond to national needs. Some host nations experience difficulty regulating the presence, activity and quality of foreign programs.
  • As the pursuit of institutional reputation, stimulated by rankings, gains in importance among the goals of internationalization, the selection of international partners may be driven more by the desire to gain prestige by association than by actual interest in cooperation. Such a trend carries the risk of exclusion for many important and high quality institutions from international partnerships.
  • The asymmetry of relations between institutions, based on access to resources for the development and implementation of internationalization strategies, can lead to the pursuit of goals that advantage the better –resourced institutions and can result in unevenly shared benefits.

In noting these adverse consequences, the inherent value of internationalization of higher education is not being called into question. On the contrary, the goal of raising awareness of these potential risks among the institutions of higher education is to ensure that action is taken to avoid them.

Affirming values underpinning internationalization: A call to higher education institutions

12. The benefits of internationalization are clear. In pursuing internationalization, however, it is incumbent on institutions of higher education everywhere to make every effort to avoid or at least mitigate its potential adverse consequences.

13. The prevailing context for higher education internationalization described in this document requires all institutions to revisit and affirm internationalization’s underlying values, principles and goals, including but not limited to: intercultural learning; inter-institutional cooperation; mutual benefit; solidarity; mutual respect; and fair partnership. Internationalization also requires an active, concerted effort to ensure that institutional practices and programs successfully balance academic, financial, prestige and other goals. It requires institutions everywhere to act as responsible global citizens, committed to help shape a global system of higher education that values academic integrity, quality, equitable access, and reciprocity.

14. In designing and implementing their internationalization strategies, higher education institutions are called upon to embrace and implement the following values and principles:

  • Commitment to promote academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility.
  • Pursuit of socially responsible practices locally and internationally, such as equity in access and success, and non-discrimination.
  • Adherence to accepted standards of scientific integrity and research ethics.
  • Placement of academic goals such as student learning, the advancement of research, engagement with the community, and addressing global problems at the centre of their internationalization efforts.
  • Pursuit of the internationalization of the curriculum as well as extra curricula activities so that non-mobile students, still the overwhelming majority, can also benefit from internationalization and gain the global competences they will need.
  • Engagement in the unprecedented opportunity to create international communities of research, learning, and practice to solve pressing global problems.
  • Affirmation of reciprocal benefit, respect, and fairness as the basis for partnership.
  • Treatment of international students and scholars ethically and respectfully in all aspects of their relationship with the institution.
  • Pursuit of innovative forms of collaboration that address resource differences and enhance human and institutional capacity across nations.
  • Safeguarding and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity and respecting local concerns and practices when working outside one’s own nation.
  • Continuous assessment of the impacts – intended and unintended, positive and negative – of internationalization activities on other institutions.
  • Responding to new internationalization challenges through international dialogue that combines consideration of fundamental values with the search for practical solutions to facilitate interaction between higher education institutions across borders and cultures while respecting and promoting diversity.

15. These values are neither slogans nor vague abstractions. They should be applied in very concrete ways to institutional policy and practice. As institutions develop their internationalization strategies, they should be clear and transparent about why they are undertaking a particular initiative, how it relates to their academic mission and values, and what mechanisms can be put in place to avoid possible negative consequences. Open discussion, within and across institutions and associations and with governments, should keep fundamental academic goals and principles in the foreground, in the context of rapid change, complex realities, and ever-mounting pressures of competition and limited resources.

Next steps

16. This Call to Higher Education Institutions is but a first step in IAU’s engagement to collaborate with its Member Organizations and other international education associations and partners to provide institutional guidance and examples of good practice in internationalization. IAU will now turn to helping institutions translate these principles and values into everyday practice.

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

Bologna Policy Forum Keynote Speech – Building the global knowledge society: systemic and institutional change

Editor’s note: the speech below was written by Juan Ramón de la Fuente, President and Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary General, International Association of Universities (IAU).  It was presented by Juan Ramón de la Fuente at the Second Bologna Policy Forum, Vienna, Austria, March 12, 2010.

As noted in a recent entry (‘The Global Bologna Policy Forum: a forum for the emerging global higher education and research space?‘), the Bologna Policy Forum is becoming an influential forum for “intensifying policy dialogue” (a phrase used in European Higher Education in a Global Setting. A Strategy for the External Dimension of the Bologna Process, which was approved by the Bologna Process ministers in 2007). Juan Ramón de la Fuente (former Rector, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and Eva Egron-Polak crafted this speech to focus discussion for representatives of the 73 countries attending the Forum.

The IAU (whose motto is IAU: For a Worldwide Higher Education Community) contributes to the development of the ‘global dimension’ of the Bologna Process by acting as a member and resource for the Bologna Process Follow-up Group (BFUG) tasked with implementing the European Higher Education Area in a Global Context work programme/action line.

Our sincere thanks to Juan Ramón de la Fuente and Eva Egron-Polak for permission to post their illuminating speech here.

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BUILDING THE GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY: SYSTEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

1. Introduction

It is a pleasure for me to take part in this Forum.  On behalf of IAU, I thank the three co-organizing countries – Spain, Hungary and Austria for opening a direct window on the construction site of the European Higher Education Area for the outside world.  Allow me also to congratulate the architects and craftspeople building the Bologna Process on its 10th anniversary and for launching and continuously advancing a truly historical transformation in higher education.  May the European Higher Education Area fulfill all of its promise and may its successes and difficulties serve as valuable lessons to others.

I am also grateful to be making these remarks on behalf of the IAU for a second reason.  Of course, many of us are always pleased when this unique international association is given an opportunity to share its views at gatherings of policy and decision makers in higher education.  To do so in this Forum, though, is especially important since it extends the reality of the multi-stakeholder approach taken throughout the Bologna Process to its dialogue with others.  Perhaps more than anything, the process adopted in this regional initiative, must be underlined and applauded for its unique qualities of inclusiveness and consultative nature.

2. The Forum Themes

The overarching theme of Building the Global Knowledge Society – systemic and institutional change and the three themes of multiple expectations, competition and cooperation, brain drain or brain circulation – that have been chosen for this second Forum pose a real challenge.  Each of them is of great importance but in addition, they are intrinsically interconnected and difficult to unpack.

I will focus on only a small portion of the vast and rapidly changing canvas that is frequently called the global higher education landscape, highlighting just three aspects that I believe pose major challenges everywhere.  I will also sketch out briefly how the regional, international and global dimensions are influencing trends and developments for higher education institutions in vastly different circumstances.

IAU, a global association, has about 40% of its Members in Europe, which means that  60% come from outside of Europe with approximately 23% in Asia and 11% in Africa as well as others in North America, the Middle East and in Latin America.  As our Members are from the richest as well as the poorest nations in the world, since they use a variety of languages and following various higher education traditions, IAU is particularly sensitive to the implications of the various trends and developments for these culturally, linguistically and economically diverse constituents.  In our view this diversity represents the world’s greatest resource and history’s most important legacy.

a) Importance of Higher Education and Research

It can be stated without much doubt that everywhere, countries face the same imperative: to raise higher-level employment skills, to sustain a globally competitive research base and to improve knowledge dissemination to the benefit of society.  (OECD, 2009).

Hence, perhaps the most important development in the last couple of decades and a key driver of change is the very importance assigned to higher education as a sector today and the expectation that it can provide solutions or respond to society’s challenges.  There is general consensus that no state, indeed no society, can afford to ignore how well its higher education and research sector is performing.  In an increasingly competitive, globalized economy, nations with the most knowledge-intensive economic base, the greatest capacity for innovation and the most educated population are the most likely to succeed.

It is this link to innovation and knowledge-intensive economic development that explains, at least to some extent, the current love affair with global rankings.  They offer simple answers about research performance of universities, though so far, they generally tend to neglect or fail to measure how well the non-research related mission of higher education is being carried out.

Since 2003, when the first Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranking was first published, the global context has become the reference and research performance the undisputed measure of quality, despite continuous criticism.  The failure, so far, for the most frequently used rankings to recognize that higher education fulfills other goals, is a real danger.  Such goals as the provision of equitable access to enhance social cohesion, or the institution’s commitment in other efforts such as poverty alleviation, conflict prevention, cultural awareness and many other challenges often expressed within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, cannot be ignored in any dynamic and context-sensitive measures of quality.  Yet, that is indeed the case today.

Building the Global Knowledge Society must be synonymous with building a diverse higher education and research system within and between nations.  It is imperative that we ask ourselves whether our policies, actions and goals serve to push for ever stronger convergence in the higher education and research sector around the world or whether we are preserving diversity and nurturing alternatives.  Can we, given the state of higher education around the world, afford a single reference framework or rather should we not promote the co-development and maintenance of many points of reference in order to do justice to the multiple and varied expectations of HE?

The cost of the race for the world-class university at the top of the shaky ladder may be too high even in the wealthiest of nations, if we forget Martin Trow’s statement that the survival of an elite higher education depends on a comprehensive system of non-elite institutions.  (Trow, 1979)

b) Higher Education Expansion and Growth

This recognition of the importance of higher education is also reflected in the continuous expansion of the sector – at the national level, regionally and worldwide.   HE is not only seen as a key to national or regional competitiveness; it is a key to individual success as well.  Making access to higher education available in an equitable and fair manner to all groups in society is an important goal of public policy in many countries, though the capacity to fulfill that goal and even the political will to do so, vary greatly.

In less than a decade – between 1999 and 2006 – the number of students enrolled in higher education increased roughly by 50% – from about 93 million to 144 million (UNESCO, 2009) and the growth trend appears to be stable for a few years to come.

The IAU maintains a world wide database on higher education which, in 1983 included approximately 9,000 universities and other higher education institutions in 153 countries.  Today, the database has more than 18, 000 institutions in 183 countries.  In one decade, China has doubled the number of HEIs and multiplied by 5 the number of students who are enrolled.  In Ethiopia, in 2000 there were 34,000 students enrolled in higher education, in 2007 this number increased to 120,000. (WERN, 2010)

This growth, however, is uneven and the gaps between nations are huge with participation levels in higher education in some parts of the industrialized world reaching +70% while elsewhere, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and even in South and West Asia they remain around 6 % and 11 %, respectively.   (UNESCO, 2009)

The demand for access is unevenly matched by available places in higher education.  Demand is by far the greatest in developing nations – for example in Nigeria, the estimated system-wide capacity is for 170,000 students; the National University Commission reports that last year, 1 million candidates applied (WERN, 2010).  At the same time in Japan, just last month, two private universities announced they will close their doors due to lack of student applications.

New delivery modes using Information Technologies, international mobility and cross border education, private provision and institutional mergers, networks and partnerships as well as other mechanisms provide some of the answers to these diverse and complex challenges.  However, they bring their own specific difficulties, unless they are developed in real partnerships, respecting the immediate and longer term needs and interests of each partner.

c) Funding of Higher Education

Without a doubt, funding and investment is a universal key and constraint in the search for solutions.

The quantitative expansion, albeit uneven, that we have witnessed everywhere, is not easy to achieve if quality is to be retained and if the sector is to continue to perform well in both education and research.  Thus, funding is, not surprisingly, the third factor that exerts pressure and sets the direction for change in most systems and for each institution of higher education.  Of course, adequate funding is the main, but not the only requirement for successfully expanding the system while maintaining high quality.

In general terms, funding has not kept pace with expansion in OECD countries and even less so in developing nations.  The public support as a proportion of all HE funding has dropped.  All over the world new schemes and funding approaches, as well as new sources of financial support for higher education and research, are being introduced or called for.   The average proportion of public funding of total tertiary education funding fell by 6% between 1995 and 2004, in OECD countries decreasing in 22 out of 28 members for which data was available. (Salmi, in OECD, 2009)  Other reductions are most likely in the future, given the current levels of public spending deficits.  The recent UK announcement that public funding per student for teaching will drop a further 4.6% when two waves of efficiency savings were already announced, does not bode well. (UUK, 2010).

In many developing nations, the share of their overall wealth spent on higher education is similar to that of industrialized nations because the costs per student, in comparison to other levels of education are so much higher.  When this is already the case with low participation rates, the likelihood that public spending can finance the needed expansion, is small.  Yet, just to remind ourselves of the distinct realities in the global context, even if nations in sub-Saharan Africa spend between 4-11 times more per student than they do on secondary students, expenditure per student in U.S. dollars converted using purchasing power parities (PPPs) is situated somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 per student in these same countries, while it can be as high as $15,500 in Austria and Denmark or up to $18,000 in Kuwait.  (UNESCO, 2009)

The growth of the private higher education sector is one of the responses, especially in the developing world, bringing with it new challenges of quality, equity of access, range of disciplines, etc.  Today 30% of global higher education enrollment is in the private sector and it is the fastest growing part of the sector worldwide.  (Altbach in UNESCO, 2009).  But keeping track of these developments is rather challenging since it is becoming next to impossible to draw clear lines between public and private institutions as public universities privatize.  Just one example of this: when student contribution covers 47% of the overall cost, can we still speak of public education? This is now the case of many public universities in the USA (Rhodes, 2010).  IAU has just launched a Research Essay competition on this theme, calling on scholars to investigate the privatizing trend in the public sector.

These funding figures relate to the educational mission of higher education, as does the growth of the private sector, but research is an even more prized and a more expensive aspect of the sector.  The mechanisms being adopted to fund research also bring about systemic and institutional transformation and appear of the greatest strategic importance.  The economic development value placed on research and innovation is huge, as are the investments required to stay on top of the competition.

In most parts of the world where investment in research is being made – and this is by no means everywhere – Competitive Funds of one type or another are the most popular mechanism used.

However, given the simultaneous and opposing trends of expansion/massification on the one hand and the decrease in available funding on the other, research funding schemes also serve to concentrate research capacity and steer systems towards institutional differentiation.  Examples are too numerous to cite but they include the Excellence Initiative in Germany, the Apex University initiative in Malaysia, the highly competitive Research Centers of Excellence Program in Singapore, or the Campus Excellence program in Spain among many others.

These are, for the most part, national instruments.  They, perhaps more than any others, are creating a new landscape, reinforcing hierarchies within systems and helping to structure networks both regionally and globally.  How such research capacity concentration (already high in a global context) will impact on other HEIs within the national systems and between countries needs to be considered, especially given the knowledge based economies that most nations are striving to build.  If the teaching and research nexus is what creates high quality universities, can we, in a mass higher education system concentrate research in only a few institutions, a few nations, or only in some regions? How will the various parts that make up the global landscape, benefit or not, from this movement?

3. Regionalization, Internationalization and Globalization

This brings me to the last part of my comments and, against the background of IAU’s slogan ‘Building a worldwide higher education community’, I would like pose a few questions to see whether current trends of regionalization, internationalization and globalization are bringing us closer or further away from this ideal or from the Global Knowledge Society.

The mere fact that this second global forum is taking place demonstrates that even regional efforts such as the Bologna Process are developing in a context of a global or a worldwide referential system of knowledge creation and dissemination.  HEIs are central actors in regionalization, internationalization and globalization.  They are subjects of regional or international developments but they are also shaping them through their own regional or global strategies.

How institutions, countries and even regions, insert themselves into the global system depends on many factors including the choices made with regard to the cooperation-competition continuum, one of the themes to be addressed in this Forum.

Competition can be a path towards strength and excellence.  It can, however, be a path towards exclusion.  The cost of exclusion from the global system is very high indeed and for that reason we must ensure that the conditions required for competition to be a positive force not only exist but prevail.

The few indicators I mentioned earlier clearly demonstrate that in terms of capacities – human, financial, scientific, linguistic etc. the playing field is definitely uneven and the starting blocks for the competition are clearly not aligned.

IAU’s international policy statements always call attention to this reality, and exhort cooperation and partnerships that respect the different conditions and urgencies that drive policy development and institutional strategies around the world. We argue that ethical considerations of fairness and justice are also essential, but often absent in the process of higher education and research internationalization.

Internationalization is an important policy for higher education leaders: the most recent global survey undertaken by IAU on internationalization of higher education in 2009 shows that 65% of HEIs assign a high level of importance to the process and furthermore that it has increased in importance over the past 3 years.  The vast majority also view student mobility as a central aspect of internationalization, as does the Bologna Process.  At the same time, Brain Drain is identified as the most important risk of internationalization by HEIs in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.  (IAU, forthcoming)

Certainly, part of the rationale for mobility is linked to internationalization – exposing students to different cultures, new ways of knowing, etc.  Equal parts though can also be assigned to the ‘demand and supply’ mismatch, and to the increasing ‘privatization’ of higher education including in the public sphere to which international students, in a growing number of nations, bring much needed revenue.  In Canada, for example, international students are reported as bringing 6.5 Billion CAD$ to the economy and create 83,000 jobs (Kunin, 2009). In the UK, it is reported by UUK that personal, off-campus expenditure of international students and visitors amounted to 2.3 billion pounds in 2007/08. (UUK, 2009)

In addition, international students, especially at the graduate level represent a huge part of the knowledge creation workforce in many universities of industrialized nations. For all these reasons, while mobility trends and patterns are changing, the importance of the phenomenon and the competition that surrounds it continue to grow.

Given the growing importance of highly educated people and of research and innovation for economic development, it is clear that no nation can afford a brain drain, or a sustained exodus of its teachers, researchers, lecturers, medical doctors, nurses, etc.

Can we hope to create a worldwide community of higher education if we compete at all costs for the best and the brightest, without developing compensatory mechanisms and or those that ensure that true circulation of the intellectual resources takes place among nations?  A recent US study indicates that about 40% of the science and engineering work force with doctorates in that country is foreign born.  The report goes on to state that the US ability to continue to attract and keep foreign scientists and engineers is critical to the country’s plans for increased investment in R & D.  (Finn, 2010)

There are numerous causes for the brain drain and they include a variety of both academic and non academic/scientific issues ranging from research infrastructure, academic freedom, salary levels to political stability, safety, discrimination as well as quality of education for children, etc.  Of course, taking up opportunities and enjoying the freedom of choice is a right of each individual, but the consequences for the sending nations and the impact on their capacity to join the Global Knowledge Society of tomorrow must be considered however, when mobility programs are designed and offers made.  So far, the search for effective ways to use the scientific and professional diaspora has not been without problems.  Thus the primary strategy to combat the brain drain remains the creation, through support, development, cooperation and capacity building partnerships, the conditions that will allow students and scholars to remain or return to their home institutions where they are indispensible to the future of their nations.

The growing competition for the best and the brightest brought the brain drain phenomenon to focus in Europe in the relatively recent past.  For some nations, the exodus has been going on for much longer and the impact has been devastating – indeed in proportion to the magnitude of the exodus –  Yes, China and India exemplify cases of brain circulation, but China and India are not typical examples; their sheer size as well as recent economic growth rates place them outside the norm.

4. Final considerations in guise of Conclusions

What can we learn from the European efforts to build a Higher Education Area? What can we, as non-Bologna Process participants, bring to the debate?

First of all, looking at Europe from the outside, there are numerous aspects that inspire admiration and from which lessons could be learned elsewhere.  I will only cite three that are linked to the process rather than to the more structural achievement of Bologna reforms.

  • Voluntary, incremental process to which ministers are politically committed
  • Multi-stakeholder and inclusive approach that includes a strong role for students and is flexible and subject to continuous monitoring
  • National and regional funding sources are available to provide incentives and supports for progress making.

As we meet here within the framework of a regional process of transformation, we cannot ignore that it is the global dimension or to some extent the broader process of globalization that acts as the real catalyst for  this meeting.  Furthermore, this globalization catalyst is exerting pressure in Europe to reach out to non European partners just as we seek to learn from your experiences in Europe.

But globalization is fundamentally a different process.  Instead of removing borders and barriers by decision, often by consensus, and with equalizing measures, as is the case in regionalization or regional integration movements, globalization is fueled by the power of capital flows, the market, information and communication technologies and competition that create strong interdependencies.  It lacks the checks and balances that act as a safety net and minimize the negative consequences.

So among the fundamental questions we need to ask is whether removing borders for trade, for the mobility of capital and people on a more global scale is contributing to the removal of borders or barriers between the rich and the poor, between those who know and those who have no access to knowledge; whether by removing borders the quality of life  improves for the many or if, on the other hand, this process leads to an even more rapid spread of negative consequences such as environmental degradation, health pandemics and economic meltdowns, while increasing the gaps between people and making the barriers for entry, even to the Global Knowledge Society, that much higher.

In a forum on higher education, these questions are essential for various reasons: because it is our responsibility as teachers and researchers to examine critically, the various trends and question them with detachment and objectivity while educating our students to do so as well.  But also because we need to avoid the negative aspects of the process, and put in place those much needed safety nets, when,  as is increasingly the case,  higher education institutions are adopting globalizing strategies.  That is why it is important to keep in view the unexpected and unwanted consequences that such developments may bring and to listen to higher education stakeholders from other parts of the world.

The Global Knowledge Society is a highly positive concept.  Can we build it using competing regional blocks? Can it be built without the global South?  What must we do to ensure that people of all nations participate not merely as subjects but as empowered actors whose contribution enriches the global space?  How far do we wish to see higher education become merely an export sector or an instrument of economic and political diplomacy, rather than a sector that can serve as models for new types of collaborative relations and innovative partnerships?

I look forward to taking part in this Forum and debating these and related issues that may serve to bring us closer to realizing the Global Knowledge Society ideal.

Thank you.

Juan Ramón de la Fuente and Eva Egron-Polak

References

  1. Altbach, P.G., Reisberg, L. and Rumbley, L.E., (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution, WCHE, Paris: UNESCO.
  2. Finn, M.G. (2010) Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2007, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, USA.
  3. IAU. The Third Global Survey on Internationalization of Higher Education, Paris: IAU (forthcoming)
  4. Rhodes, Frank H.T. (2010) in Weber, L.E and Duderstadt, J.J. (eds). University research for Innovation, Glion Colloquium Series No 6, London: Economica.
  5. Roslyn Kunin & Associates, Inc. (2009) Economic Impact of International Education in Canada: Final Report, prepared for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  6. OECD. (2009) Education at a Glance 2009: Global Indicators Paris: OECD Publishing, France.
  7. Salmi, J. (2009) in Higher Education to 2030, Volume 2 Globalisation, Paris: OECD Publishing, France.
  8. Trow, Martin and S. Gordon, (1979) Youth Education and Unemployment Problems: an International Perspective, Carnagie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education. USA.
  9. UNESCO, (2009) Global Education Digest 2009: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Canada
  10. Universities UK, (2010a) Making It Count: How Universities Are Using Income From Variable Fees, London: Universities UK.
  11. Universities UK, (2009b) The Impact of Universities on the UK Economy: Fourth Report, London: Universities UK.
  12. World Education News and Reviews, (WENR) January/February 2010 Volume 23, Issue 1, http://www.wes.org/ewenr/10feb/africa.htm

Associations, networks, alliances, etc.: making sense of the emerging global higher education landscape

Note: this presentation, and associated discussion paper (in English), were produced for the International Association of Universities (IAU) 3rd Global Meeting of Associations of Universities (GMAIII), Guadalajara, Mexico – 20-22 April 2009. Link here for French and Spanish versions of the same discussion paper.