Welcome to our new readers

It is perhaps appropriate, following our two most recent entries, to welcome our new Inside Higher Ed readers to GlobalHigherEd – both the Inside Higher Ed site (est. June 2010), and the WordPress.com base site (est. September 2007). We look forward to engaging with our new readers, and also using this opportunity to propel GlobalHigherEd forward for our long-standing supporters.

Apart from the weblog, it is worth noting GlobalHigherEd established a Twitter service in October 2009 (see ‘Tweeting about Phoenix’s Chicago, Chicago’s Phoenix, and other matters‘). We’ve been maintaining the service @ http://twitter.com/globalhighered with several postings throughout most days of a typical week. We’ve posted 1,155 ‘tweets’ since the service was established and have attracted approximately 850 ‘followers’ to date.

Given how well things are going on this front, we’d like to encourage our new Inside Higher Ed readers to subscribe to Twitter and start following the GlobalHigherEd Twitter service for it complements the weblog, and provides a steady stream of links to relevant articles, reports, news stories, graphics, micro-analyses, and so on that we just don’t have time to cover in longer entries.

The Twitter archive for our site, as well as several other sites on this topic, is laden with material about the globalization of higher education and research.  And, as we have noted before, Twitter is the least immersive of digital communications technologies so access to this resource is really not a challenge. You can make of Twitter what you will, and to assist you in the process we’re starting to add a series of thematic ‘lists’ that bundle different types of Twitter services. As the author William Gibson (in his Twitter service Great Dismal) puts it “Twitter is like little animated hieroglyphics in the margins of a working manuscript, offering obscurely breaking news.” We could not agree more with this analogy for it captures the momentary aspect of the service, but also the fact that it can, if desired, be used to build up elements of a base for a more lengthy and substantial contribution.

The Twitter phenomenon, not to mention the weblog phenomenon, are now associated with a variety of higher education media outlets. This development both reflects the changing nature of the media, but also the enhanced pace of contextual change many of us are coping with, and contributing to. Our next entry will deal with these phenomena, though by highlighting their role in the rapid development of more ‘global’ coverage in the mainstream higher ed media outlets.  This said, it is clear that the traditional outlets (e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education; Times Higher Education), and as well as relatively newer digital-only outlets (e.g., Inside Higher Ed; University World News), are all adopting very different approaches when seeking to achieve this global coverage objective.

In any case, more on this topic shortly. But for now, welcome to our new Inside Higher Ed readers!

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

Tweeting about Phoenix’s Chicago, Chicago’s Phoenix, and other matters

Over the last several months we’ve been experimenting with GlobalHigherEd‘s Twitter service http://twitter.com/globalhighered.  Uncertainty at first has morphed into considerable happiness with the nature of this communications medium.  It is complimentary to the GlobalHigherEd weblog in that is serves as an archive of URLs (e.g., to key reports, news stories, etc.), and it reaches a very different different audience for the most part. It is also one of the least immersive of digital communications technologies which reduces hurdles to participating.

In addition, there is a fascinating conversation going on, at a range of levels, with the interlinked people and institutions we follow or are followed by.  Insights can be gained about the modus operandi regarding select institutions that Twitter, arguments and counter-arguments can be put forward, and breaking news items can be put out.  As the author William Gibson (in his Twitter service Great Dismal) puts it “Twitter is like little animated hieroglyphics in the margins of a working manuscript, offering obscurely breaking news.”

A case in point is the most recent of our ‘tweets’ today:

  • The University of Phoenix’s “virtual” (or Chicago-based) leaders and the associated costs: http://bit.ly/bxTXcw

My Google alerts system pulled in this fascinating story about the “virtual” nature of the University of Phoenix’s senior management, the significant financial costs entailed in permitting such a distanciated HQ managerial system to exist, and the city-regional disconnects generated when a Phoenix-based headquarters is largely run out of Chicago’s AT&T Corporate Center.  Alas, given obligations to review term paper proposals, review papers, and engage with colleagues about a range of university matters, GlobalHigherEd‘s Twitter service http://twitter.com/globalhighered will have to do the job, at least for today.

Please ‘follow’ us should this service be of interest. If not, no worries as we’ll be maintaining the GlobalHigherEd weblog — indeed we’re working to develop a HubZero-style platform for our global higher education and research projects, and we hope to use this virtual platform to enhance the quality of GlobalHigherEd, both the weblog and the Twitter service.

Kris Olds

Do young ‘innovators’ flourish in universities?

After nearly a year in existence, one of the regular themes we have been profiling in GlobalHigherEd is the relative weight, or presence, of universities in the global research landscape. See, for example, the 4 August entry ‘Globalizing research: forces, patterns, and collaborative practices‘. Of course universities matter – as they should and always will – but the broad trend that we have noted is that firms, think tanks, NGOs, multilateral organizations, topic-specific expert groups, and so on, are playing an increasingly important role in the production of knowledge, of innovation, of creative impulses.

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story (‘Fewer University-Based Researchers Appear on 2008 List of Young Innovators‘) which highlights the fact the Technology Review (published by MIT) only lists 17 out of 35 “Young Innovators Under 35” with affiliations to universities.  This number is down from 22 out of 25 in 2007. The other 18 “young innovators” in 2008 are based in firms including Drupal, ICx Technologies, Thatgamecompany, and Twitter. The Technology Review article includes video interviews with other winners as well.

Now, it is easy to be be critical or suspicious regarding this pattern, and even more so as this is but one US-based technology-focused magazine (as proxy measure). Yet universities are becoming, according to increasing numbers of analysts (e.g., Arjun Appadurai), merely one of many sites of knowledge production; a diversification trend that begs the question why?

Is it because of relatively low pay, or rigid institutional structures and lack of opportunity for career progression? Or is it because of ever increasing demands on faculty as mission mandates widen? Or is it due to morale challenges in the context of limited (or declining) levels of state funding? My own university, for example acquires a mere 18% of its budget from the State of Wisconsin despite being a public university with significant state-focused responsibilities.

Or is it because the carrots associated with firms and NGOs, for example, are all too obvious to young researchers? I recently returned from a year in Paris, for example, and was shocked at the lack of opportunity for genuinely brilliant young PhDs. Why wait 10-15 years, if one is lucky, to get the position and space to be somewhat independently creative, when this space is on offer, right now, outside of academe? The creation of an attractive and conducive context, especially for young researchers, is a challenge right now in numerous higher ed systems.

The position of the university as a significant space of knowledge production is not to be taken for granted.

Kris Olds