May 23, 2011, 9:49 am
A few thoughts after six days in Sydney:
* It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Traveling across the international date line is really weird. It’s not just the specifics: in my case, leaving Washington, DC, on a Monday at 5:30 p.m., changing planes in LA, flying overnight for about 14 hours, then arriving in Australia on Wednesday morning. It’s also the existential question – trying to figure out, in a different sense than the expression usually means, where one’s day went. The best discussion of this I’ve come across–okay, maybe the only one–is in Bill Bryson’s wonderful book about Australia, In A Sunburned Country:
Each time you fly from North America to Australia, and without anyone asking how you feel about it, a day is taken away from you when you cross the international date line. I left Los Angeles on January 3 and arrived in Sydney fourteen hours later on January…
May 10, 2011, 9:41 am
Doing a bit of homework prior to a trip to Australia next week, I came across a decidedly gloomy prediction about the future of foreign student enrollment in that country. In a paper released last month, Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, makes “an educated guess” that the number of international students at all institutions will fall to 50-60 percent of peak levels, and by about one-third at Australian universities.
He is certainly not alone in his concerns. Many analysts have noted the impact on student numbers of two developments in particular. First came the violent attacks on Southeast Asian students in Melbourne and Sydney in 2009, which no doubt drove the 85 percent decline in Indian student enrollment from 2009 to 2010 reported in this University World News article. Then there are new visa restrictions targeted at dubious…
May 2, 2011, 3:44 pm
Arriving in Paris for a visit of a few days, I’ve been pondering the state of French higher education. I’ve written before about the system’s shortcomings, as have many others. In an excellent piece last June, the Chronicle’s Aisha Labi noted that “the defining ethos for French universities” – like their counterparts elsewhere in Europe – “has been egalitarianism, with institutions largely indistinguishable from one another in terms of mission and institutional profile.” In his 2009 book The Great American University, Columbia University sociologist Jonathan Cole cites some of the challenges France faces in creating a great university system. Despite some excellent (mostly small) institutions, and preeminence in fields like mathematics, biology, and engineering, Cole argues that these strengths may not be enough to overcome serious structural obstacles to reform….
April 25, 2011, 4:26 pm
The spread of study-abroad programs may be all well and good, but is there any hard evidence that they do anything to promote post-graduation mobility in the international labor market? Until recently, according to economists Matthias Parey and Fabian Waldinger, little was known about the effectiveness of many countries’ expensive efforts to use student-mobility programs to attract foreign workers with valuable skills. Now, however, the two academics — who teach at the University of Essex and the University of Warwick respectively — have shown that studying in a foreign country is an important route to working abroad later.
In a new paper in The Economic Journal, summarized in this short piece on VoxEU, Parey and Waldinger acknowledge the difficulties of establishing a causal link between study abroad and labor market outcomes later in life. “Students who decide to study…
April 11, 2011, 5:29 pm
When I visited Qatar’s Education City complex a couple of years ago, I came away cautiously optimistic about the prospects for outposts of universities such as Texas A&M and Georgetown to spread the values of Western liberal education. One example among others has stayed with me. The Qatari officials behind Education City made it clear that they wanted to create an environment of free speech, and they backed it up by creating a public debate series in which the proposition at the time I visited was hardly bland: “This house believes that Gulf Arabs value profit over people.”
An anecdote is not a trend, of course. But I continue to believe that the demand for Western degrees, and the desire to make them more widely available (accompanied by the adoption of practices common in the best Western institutions, such as coeducation and merit-based hiring), bodes well for academic…
April 4, 2011, 10:06 am
How can a college that isn’t a brand-name research powerhouse take part in the rapidly expanding global higher education marketplace? An administrator put that question to me the other day when I spoke at Pittsburg State University in rural southern Kansas. Pitt State (home of the Gorillas) is a regional institution with about 7,000 students. Most of them are from small towns in Kansas, with students from nearby Oklahoma and Missouri thrown into the mix. The university, a little more than two hours’ drive from Kansas City, prides itself on the attention it gives to its undergraduates, many of whom are first-generation college students. Its mission is extremely important, but it isn’t one that is usually associated with educational cosmopolitanism.
Nevertheless, in my short time on campus, I was struck by how international PSU already is. I met a math professor from Sri Lanka and…
March 28, 2011, 10:27 am
I was intrigued to read a thoughtful and detailed account in Little India of how some Indian Americans are heading back to India to seek attractive career opportunities. The author, Naomi Abraham, tells the story of a successful young American Express executive, New Jersey-born Sapna Chadha, who shocked her Indian immigrant parents by moving to India to take a job as the marketing director of American Express. The move came when her husband, Indian-born and raised but a 20-year resident of the United States, was recruited to join a software start-up in New Delhi.
Today’s Indian returnees (like their diaspora counterparts from China and other countries), are actively recruited by the government, which is seeking all the talent it can find to keep its economy competitive. Thus, conventional trajectories are being reversed. Some immigrants have always returned home, of course. But as…
March 16, 2011, 5:15 pm
I had lunch the other day with someone who was eager to get up to speed on global higher education. He asked me what I thought about the significance of branch campuses. I told him what I’ve written here before: that branch campuses are an irresistible object of fascination for journalists and universities; that they take many forms; that they’re entrepreneurial ventures with the mixed results one might expect from any educational experiment; that they get a disproportionate amount of attention given the tiny enrollments of the boutique programs at Education City in Qatar and New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus; and that there are other much more important trends to watch, notably the vast expansion of enrollment in countries like China, together with efforts in many countries to create elite research institutions.
Then I read that there are more foreign students studying at…
March 7, 2011, 9:17 am
One hundred and 11 years ago, at the dawn of the college-rankings era, an Englishman named Alick Maclean published a study entitled “Where We Get Our Best Men.” It looked at the characteristics of the eminent men of the day, including nationality, family, birthplace, and university attended. In the back of the book, according to a terrific rankings history published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Maclean published a list of universities ranked by the number of their prominent alumni. A decade later, a similar exercise in reverse-engineering produced the first U.S. college ranking, which began with a list of successful individuals, then looked back to see where they had been educated, crediting their alma maters for their accomplishments.
Last week, using a methodology remarkably similar to MacLean’s, the French grande école Mines ParisTech, a…
February 22, 2011, 10:04 am
I’ve written before that the United States shouldn’t be so worried about ensuring that its college graduation rates are the best in the world. After all, shouldn’t we applaud rising educational attainment everywhere, even as we try to improve our own? A just-released paper by public-policy consultant Art Hauptman adds a further twist to the debate: What if the widely shared premise that the U.S. is falling behind other nations when it comes to college completion just isn’t true?
I won’t try to give a detailed summary of Hauptman’s closely argued analysis, which is worth reading in its entirety (you can also watch a video of the American Enterprise Institute conference at which his finding were presented). But he offers some very helpful tools for thinking about higher-education access and success, beginning with some definitions of terms that are often imprecisely used….