"The World View" is a blog published on Inside Higher Ed that addresses current issues in international higher education. This is a collaboration with the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. We post a weekly essay from one of our bloggers who are international educators in different regions of the world. The following excerpts are from my most recent blog posts.
Has Political Correctness Run Amok?
December 6, 2015
Recent student demands to rename and retract names of courses, academic programs and research centers, to include “triggers” in course syllabi, as well as to cancel speakers deemed offensive to specific university campus constituents have already received much attention in the media. Still we feel the need to register our response as well. This is much more serious than political correctness run amok, we believe that this threatens the academic enterprise.
There are, of course, no easy answers. As modern societies continue to come to terms with the darker aspects of their history, it is not surprising that controversies appear. The problems of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual behavior certainly deserve more attention. And universities are particularly well suited to examine these complex issues. That is only if we are capable of conceding complexity.
It is difficult to imagine that any instrumental figure from another time could withstand the judgment of later decades or (even) centuries. We are after all, in many ways, products of our time. And as we examine the life of Woodrow Wilson and others, there is much to be learned if we try to understand why the same man who achieved many important accomplishments in so many areas, committed acts that we find deplorable.
Full text here.
Is the Whole Just a Collection of Parts?
November 16, 2015
Increasingly, US institutions are granting credit towards degree for other types of “pre” or “extra” learning in lieu of campus-based, campus-designed curricula. This includes awarding credit for an growing array of experiences—knowledge acquired through life experience, coursework completed online, study completed in pathway programs, and job-oriented training provided in boot camps.
In theory this makes sense. After all, why make someone endure (and pay for) a class when they already possess the knowledge being covered? Why not offer students different kinds of learning opportunities? Does it make a difference where and how knowledge and skills were acquired? A degree should simply represent that the holder possess a certain body and level of knowledge and a set of competencies.
It’s “outsourcing” that makes me particularly uneasy. Pathway programs were one of the earlier forms of “outsourcing” part of the degree program, where universities partner with (often) for-profit corporations who provide transitional programs to international students with part of the program offering “guaranteed” university credit. Boot camps seem to be the latest twist in the tradition of validating work done elsewhere. Boot camps are programs designed and provided by unaccredited, non-academic institutions, for the purpose of developing employment-oriented skills. Several colleges already outsource part of their degree program to pathway program providers; others are experimenting with “outsourcing” sections of their curriculum to boot camp providers. As universities incorporate more and more work completed elsewhere, and now with a growing trend to validate study provided by third-party partners outside of the academy, the degree begins to look like a patchwork quilt of study.
Full text here.
Culture, Politics and Star Trek
June 30, 2015
While New York University and Fort Hays State University in Kansas were pacifying fears in the US Congress about limits placed on academic freedom for their campuses in China, Stockholm University joined the University of Chicago and Penn State and closed the Confucius Institute on its campus. Experience teaches us repeatedly that locating abroad or hosting international institutions on our campus, unavoidably forces us to confront thorny dilemmas. With a commitment to (at least) the idea of the internationalization of higher education surging throughout the world, it’s time for a more substantial and open discussion about the cultural and ethical challenges we face as we try to combine our social and educational values with those of others.
Full text here.
Rankings and Quality
April 21, 2015
At the recent INQAAHE (International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education) bi-annual conference in Chicago, there were more than a few disparaging references to the rankings. The conference brought together representatives of national quality assurance agencies from all over the world. For individuals who dedicate their working hours (and most likely endless additional hours of reflection and research) to the quest of defining, evaluating and pursuing “quality” for higher education, the rankings are an unwelcome distraction indeed.
While New York University and Fort Hays State University in Kansas were pacifying fears in the US Congress about limits placed on academic freedom for their campuses in China, Stockholm UniI suspect that the frustration of the attendees at the INQAAHE conference is that the rankings too often become a surrogate for quality. No matter how many articles appear in the media or in academic journals explaining the rankings— their flaws, their limitations, etc.—stakeholders outside of the academy will continue to reference them to conclude which universities are “the best”. This is all the more frustrating for those of us familiar with the criteria that shape the results of rankings as they are often not relevant to the needs of the individuals and organizations that use them.
Full text here.
The Gold Rush
March 17, 2015
In Elizabeth Redden’s recent article, The Branch Campus Boom(s), she offers historic perspective on the development of international branch campuses. Quoting Dr. Anna Kosmützky (University of Kassel, Germany) extensively, the article implies that this phenomenon is here to stay although, perhaps, not necessarily a viable long-term strategy for all comers.
As Dr. Kosmützky notes, for many universities the entry costs are minimal, as cash outlays are typically covered by the host government. The venture is attractive to all concerned as it provides the host country with the prestige of foreign degrees awarded on national soil and builds the international profile of the international university. So, a win-win. But is it? Several issues still dog this dimension of internationalization.
Full text here.
February 17, 2015
In the global competition that determines which country commits the most and worst human rights violations, there are only losers. If universities anywhere are going to engage in international endeavors and partnerships, then the members of those academic communities will have to decide whether and how to confront policies and practices of host governments that they may find distasteful.
While New York University and Fort Hays State University in Kansas were pacifying fears in the US Congress about limits placed on academic freedom for their campuses in China, Stockholm UniFlogging someone for opinions expressed in a blog—as recently happened in Saudi Arabia—is indeed horrific. Yet amidst the international outrage few people seem to realize that there were many Saudis who were just as appalled as the rest of us. In the same vein, I’d like to think that people outside the United States appreciate that there are many US citizens outraged by the atrocities committed by our government at Abu Ghraib or by the lack of due process afforded prisoners at Guantanamo confined there for more than a decade. The question, as posed in a recent article by Elizabeth Redden, is when should abuses of human rights by governments become barriers to university engagement. If we all limit ourselves only to countries that share our democratic values and practices, there would be very little collaboration indeed. What then?
Full text here.