International branch campuses: over-exposed?

 Are there too many branch campus headlines? Not quite.

A recent piece in University World News suggested that there was just too much attention given to international branch campuses rather than other forms of international activity:

International branch campuses receive a lot of attention for their motivations, successes and failures. In addition, some recent big-name endeavours like New York University Shanghai and Yale-NUS College in Singapore add to the perception that more institutions are building overseas campuses.

In reality, branch campuses form only a small proportion of the internationalisation activities and models of transnational education engaged in by institutions.

For example the United Kingdom, which has been promoting transnational education as part of its national strategy, reports that only 3% of its 600,000 students studying wholly overseas for a UK qualification in 2012-13 were enrolled in an overseas campus of a UK higher education institution.

In contrast, one out of five students pursued a UK degree through a distance learning programme.

If the goal of the global engagement strategy of a higher education institution is to be truly ‘global’ and to ‘engage’ learners from many countries in a cost-effective, controllable and flexible manner, then online and open learning cannot be ignored.

A recent report shows that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is shaping its internationalisation future around its prior initiative like OpenCourseWare and now edX.

It forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated “into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials, and even badges” with the possibility that “the credentialing entity may be different from the institution that offers the course”.

Leaving aside the tedious unbundling rhetoric it is right to observe that internationalisation is a multifaceted strategy for any university and there is much more to being a global university than just branch campuses. However, there are many such campuses around the world of many different kinds.

For example, the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus (UNMC) is home to some 5,000 students and over 450 staff, located at the edge of Kuala Lumpur in a breathtakingly beautiful setting and the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) campus houses over 6,000 students and over 400 staff). Both campuses are larger than a good number of UK HE institutions and are already, despite their relative youth (UNMC became the first overseas campus of any UK university some 14 years ago and UNNC was founded in 2004), they are already punching significantly above their weight in both research and teaching in their host countries.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

OBHE, in its most recent report, identifies some 200 or so branch campuses around the world with another 37 at least in the pipeline. It is likely that many more have been initiated since this report was published.

However, very few of these are of the scale, breadth or depth of the Nottingham developments and many are much smaller scale operations with teaching delivered in rented office accommodation by staff who fly in for a few weeks before flying back home again.

The reality is that despite their scale and success these campuses really do not get much attention. Rather the nascent developments of NYU in Abu Dhabi and Duke University in China seem to grab all the headlines despite their small scale. (Not that I’m at all cross about that.) This does therefore give a rather misleading impression of international branch campus activity.

Britain’s global university

Nottingham actually has three international campuses at present; as well as those in China and Malaysia there is the original campus in the UK which is also strikingly international with over 9,000 international students from 150+ countries. The international ethos is embraced in all that we do and is strongly articulated in the University’s mission:

At the University of Nottingham we are committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Our academic staff on all campuses are international in composition (25% are international) and outlook too. More than one in five of our undergraduates undertakes international mobility. 17% of published research outputs are internationally co-authored and 37% of our research funding is obtained internationally. We have strategic partnerships with other leading universities in over 25 countries and one of the largest scholarship programmes for students from the developing world. And we do distance learning and offer a number of MOOCs too.

So, there is a lot more to an international university than just branch campuses but, in context, it is clear that serious international campus activity can be a key component of a global strategy for a university. If only they got a bit more attention.

 

 

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Reducing University Regulation in Australia

“Red tape strangling universities must be cut”

A recently released report in Australia following a review of higher education regulation has found that an “unnecessarily heavy reporting burden” had been imposed on higher education providers by the quality agency and government.

A report in University World News notes the irony in the fact that a paper aimed at reducing red tape is 99 pages long. The piece also observes that the report’s conclusions, that the higher education sector is over-regulated and that reducing the burden on universities is sorely needed, have been widely welcomed:

The report says the quality agency had been established in an “already crowded regulatory environment”, and it proposes a reduction in its functions and the number of its commissioners. It says the minister should issue a direction to the agency’s chief executive regarding allocation of resources so that the agency can accredit courses more quickly.

Red Tape 1

The report says there should also be a reduction in duplication across the various acts that govern university regulation and a better way of improving information sharing across agencies, to reduce the need for universities to report the same information multiple times to various bodies.

In addition, the report proposes the establishment of an overarching advisory council to consult with stakeholders and advise the minister, and calls for the speedy implementation of a single national higher education data collection system.

However, it may be some time before there is progress with this agenda. With major political change underway in Australia following the recent election it is possible that reducing higher education regulation may not to top of the new government’s priorities.

MPs with fake degrees

MPs in Pakistan convicted for faking academic qualifications

A post back in 2010 noted the planned check of over 1,000 politicians’ academic credentials. A law passed a decade ago requires all MPs to hold degrees and, according to a recent University World News report, it does seem that some have been less than totally honest about their academic records:

graduation1

Following an order from the top court in Pakistan, lower courts have started convicting former members of parliament who contested the 2008 elections using fake degrees. Several politicians have been given jail sentences, and there are numerous cases now before lower courts, with judgments due soon.

Holding a degree qualification was a precondition for contesting the 2008 poll.

The cases were lodged against the lawmakers after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on 28 March ordered the lower judiciary and the election commission to take stern action against former MPs with fraudulent degrees, and to stop them from getting elected again in polls to be held on 11 May.

The apex court’s orders were based on its earlier verdict, passed in June 2010, which ordered the Higher Education Commission and the Election Commission of Pakistan, or ECP, to verify the degrees of all 1,095 parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies.

The remainder of the story indicates that some of those convicted have received very small fines. Others have simply absconded. It is a rather strange law which does seem to encourage such behaviour.

Mapping global student mobility

A new interactive map

University World News has a piece on a new UNESCO interactive map on global student mobility which shows the inflows and outflows of mobile students across the world.

East Asia and the Pacific is the largest source of international students, representing 28% of the world’s 3.6 million mobile students in 2010. Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the most mobile students, and several countries have more students abroad than at home.

These facts are highlighted in a new “Global Flow of Tertiary-level Students” interactive map published by the UNESCO institute of Statistics (UIS) in Canada last month.

“The surge in internationally mobile students reflects the rapid expansion of enrolment in higher education globally, which has grown by 78% in a decade,” says the UIS, which defines ‘internationally mobile students’ as those who have crossed a national border to study or are enrolled in a distance learning programme abroad.

Some of the data seems a bit strange though. For example, it seems that the UK sends no students at all to China (which cannot be the case) and sends the same number of students to Malaysia as to the Vatican.

It’s a really good piece of work and quite diverting. What will be even more interesting is mapping changes in these student movements over time.

Naming internationalisation “will not revive it”

Is internationalisation in need of revival?

Hans de Wit, who is a professor of internationalisation of higher education, has published a really interesting piece on University World News on why “naming internationalisation will not revive it”.

A recent phenomenon in the debate on the future of the internationalisation of higher education is the inclination to put new broad-based labels on it: mainstreaming, comprehensive, holistic, integrated and deep internationalisation are some of the ones we see used in recent writings and presentations.

The most common current label appears to be ‘comprehensive internationalisation’, thanks mainly to the paper with that title which past president of the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), John Hudzik, wrote this year with the subtitle ‘From concept to action’.

I saw Hudzik speak on comprehensive internationalisation at the 2011 Going Global conference earlier in 2011 and found his arguments reasonably convincing. I also wrote a piece for Times Higher Education on internationalisation and the University of Nottingham experience which set out some of the ways in which the rhetoric can be turned into reality (without using any new terminology). De Wit continues:

In Europe the term ‘mainstream(ing) internationalisation’ is becoming more common, although this is perceived less as a concept than ‘comprehensive internationalisation’. It is used to describe a process emphasising the need to position internationalisation within the core of higher education instead of keeping it as a marginal issue.

Why do we see this emergence of new labels? What do they mean and how are they used? And will they advance the debate on the future of internationalisation started by Uwe Brandenburg and me in our recent International Higher Education essay with the provocative title “The End of Internationalisation”?

These questions occurred to me after chairing a debate on “What do we mean by ‘deep internationalisation’?” at the Australia International Education Conference in Adelaide on 13 October 2011.

There are lots of terms for what we mean by internationalisation when executed at an institutional level for strategic rather than opportunistic reasons. And Professor de Wit’s reflections on the various meanings of these terms are worth considering further. He continues, setting “deep” against “comprehensive” internationalisation:

Even after the session I was not clear what our Australian colleagues meant by the term ‘deep internationalisation’ and it also seemed to me that they themselves were not very clear or convinced about it. From what I can ascertain, ‘deep’ internationalisation seems to lie somewhere between ‘comprehensive’ and ‘mainstream’.

It is a bit clearer what John Hudzik means by ‘comprehensive internationalisation’. His definition – although I read it more as a statement and action plan – reads as follows: “A commitment through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research and service mission of higher education”. He continues, adding values, ethos and internal and external stakeholders.

It’s an interesting article and I think de Wit is right to be suspicious of those who seek to apply labels to justify or perhaps overstate their international activities. Giving a name to a set of institutional operations or aspirations doesn’t necessarily make them more substantial or meaningful.

But what all of these names do seem to have in common is a seriousness of purpose and intent – they do represent an attempt to render internationalisation as a coherent and intelligent approach to higher education in the global era. So, whilst they may have many flaws and in some cases serve to overstate the reality of institutional operations, there is merit in seeking to describe and rationalise these activities. So, I think we are far from “the end of internationalisation.”

Another world ranking – this time for Islamic universities

A new ranking for Islamic universities

University World News has a story about another international ranking, this time for Islamic universities:

The Iran-based Islamic World Science Citation Center has launched a new classification system for Islamic universities, using the criteria of research and education performance, international cooperation and scientific impact. The first phase of the system has been implemented by ranking Iran’s universities and research institutes.

Extracting data from databases such as ISI, Scopus and Google Scholar allows for powerful and useful analysis for evaluating research performance from an international perspective. But this is inadequate for assessing scientific research in Islamic universities, as most of the Islamic countries’ journals are not covered – especially those not using English.

The new Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC) classification system uses key performance indicators, including research (50%), education (35%), international outlook (7%), facilities (3%) and socio-economic impact (5%). The system extracts data both from direct contact with universities and from institutions’ research journals, which are collected and processed in different subsystems of the ISC.

It seems that the heart of this is the journal issue. Is this just about language or is it subject matter? In any case, it will be interesting to see how this one pans out and how many institutions feature in both this and the other international tables.