Global Higher Education

Education beyond secondary school is widely regarded as essential. The questions mostly hinge on what form this post-secondary education should take and how costly or cost-effective it should be. While that is an urgent item of discussion at the family level, it also has international relevance.

University World News provides a weekly news aggregation that highlights international publication of articles about issues across global continents. I have not been a voracious reader of this news. However, today I had time, or simply took time, to read through the abstracts of its articles and found that there is much here that is worthy of attention. What follows will highlight, with links, a few items I found of interest.

But first , why is consideration for world news about higher education important? The United States and the United Kingdom, together with a few European countries have dominated university education across the last 50-70 years. The 40-50 major universities of these countries have lead research and their graduates, at all levels but especially Master’s and Doctoral, are highly sought for corporate and government as well as university leadership internationally. Accordingly they represent an international mecca for students. Now China, Singapore, Australia, Japan, as well as African and Middle Eastern nations are gaining ground through heavy national subsidy to compete in the edusphere. The competition is mostly driven by a quest for economic development, which emphasizes digital technology, military superiority and the buildout of infrastructure to further support economic development. Keeping up to date with any of all of these developments demands attention to what is going on around the world.

The English language has been a dominating force for internationalization of higher education. I recently read an interesting article about the motivation of students in Novosibirsk, Russia (Siberia) to learn English. The study results indicates that a desire to obtain high-pay, high-prestige positions dominates the thinking of these Siberian students about learning the English language. Accordingly it becomes important for English speaking people concerned with higher education to track how language is shaping Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) across the planet.

Finally I do not believe that it is possible to remain isolated in the cocoon of American IHEs and be attuned with the advancement of a planetary imperative to protect and restore the biosphere. We are well into the Anthropocene epoch of geological history. All indicators point toward development of a planet that is unsuited for sustaining human life at anywhere approaching what our technologies have fostered. Human life has, perhaps always, had its political corruption to sustain power and dogmatism to cut through spiritual confusion. Too often the two have been joined at the hip. Intercourse between powerful political ideology and dogmatic religious ideas have dominated magical, mystical and even, so-called rational discourse across centuries. Saving the earth from an obscene anthropocene is imperative. That will never occur if global IHEs remain in silos.

  • Growing rich seems to be the major thrust of business schools. This is likely multi-pronged along the lines of students committed to building personal wealth, business colleges and their affiliated universities seeking expansion of endowments, as well as a growing dependence upon IHEs being at the forefront of national leadership in economic development. The article: Where did business schools and MBAs go wrong?  Author Robert Quartly-Janeiro writes; “Business schools are changing. Not what they teach. Not what they research. But what they cost and their very purpose. The reason? Business schools have themselves become big businesses.” The article is an eye-opener about why the trends in business education are unsustainable, the motivation for lowering fees for management degrees in some countries, and the crisis of globalization. Perhaps at its ignominious base is the production of a “shareholder first” mentality on the part of graduates.
  • As Africa emerges as a global player in international finance, the paths for its universities seem caught between the European and colonial influence and the need for economic development that is consistent with the realities of contemporary Africa. A commentary makes an arresting case that “African countries are yet to find or construct a university education model relevant to their development needs and aspirations.” The suggestion is that a “developmental” university model would better serve African nations.
  • Democrats and Republican politicians in Washington DC are strikingly at odds (surprise?) over a rewrite of the Higher Education Act. As is no longer unusual in Congress and Washington DC, a bill PROSPER Act (pdf summary), a 500+ page piece of legislation, has been developed behind closed doors without broad, let alone bipartisan, input. Conservative Think Tanks and pundits have long been at odds with progressive movements in higher education and now the benefits of liberal education are attacked in favor of education for workforce development; including but certainly not limited to STEM fields, as though IHEs exist primarily for corporate advancement and increasing our national prosperity.

Looking the other way while national and international trends and issues in higher education roil, broil and boil seems not a good idea. Taking for granted status quo for our global universities may be intellectually unworthy as we face a planetary imperative.