Blog di Vision
Di seguito tutti gli interventi pubblicati sul sito, in ordine cronologico.
Di Christian Sottana (del 18/04/2011 @ 18:02:48, in Italia, linkato 1450 volte)

L'idea sarà sviluppata da un gruppo di lavoro coordinato da Christian Sottana e Giuseppe Staiano

Con l’attuazione del federalismo demaniale i Comuni si troveranno a breve a gestire numerosi beni demaniali situati nei rispettivi territori; la loro valorizzazione è da un lato un impegno primario dall’altro un’opportunità unica avendo effetti diretti nella qualità di vita del cittadino ed un forte impatto socio-economico nella comunità.
A questo fine è opportuno:

1. favorire la creazione di reti, bilaterali e multilaterali, tra comuni o soggetti responsabili della valorizzazione di beni statali similari (a fini sociali, turistici, etc.);

2. Istituire un Premio che favorisca una propensione sinergico-positiva tra soggetti responsabili del bene per:

  • il Comune (o soggetto responsabile) che utilizza/valorizza il bene nel modo migliore dal punto di vista sia sociale (fruibilità per la cittadinanza, delle associazioni, etc.) sia economico (automantenimento del bene, creazione di reddito/entrate per il Comune, etc);
  • la rete che valorizza meglio il bene secondo indicatori da elaborare tra i quali uno è l’incremento percentuale dei turisti sul territorio.

Nell’elaborazione dell’idea va valutata l’opportunità inoltre di istituire delle agevolazioni fiscali a favore di quei comuni e di quelle reti più virtuose che decidano di condividere le proprie buone pratiche con un ente o con una rete meno virtuosa, affiancandola o magari, nel caso delle reti, accogliendola al proprio interno.

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Di VISION TEAM (del 12/04/2011 @ 18:44:15, in Università, linkato 5355 volte)

This article is the introduction to the Vision Paper "The Internationalization Imperative" (to be presented at the conference). The working team is composed by Francesco Grillo, Oscar Pasquali, Flavius Stan, Asif Parvez, Gianfilippo Emma and Francesca Cima.

It is, in a sense, a symbolically relevant coincidence that a project whose ambition is to imagine and, then, provide a contribution to design the universities of the future starts from the country where universities themselves were given birth eight centuries ago. In fact, the overall perception is that – beyond the complexity of scenario analyses and various strategies – the future will look like the classical past. Whereas universities were born out of a network of international students demanding to the new institutions universal, not necessarily work related knowledge, the universities of the future are likely to have students as clients and international students as the key clients that may trigger their evolution in the twenty first century as more efficient entities.

The four questions that articulate the ambitious project that Vision begun in 2008 are the following: how much and what kind of internationalization do universities need? Which are the limits of most used rankings and how could we fix some of their problems and still leverage on them as a lever of fair competitiveness and innovation? How are universities  faring into the global markets of (production and transmission of) knowledge after having lost their monopoly to new competitors (think tanks, spin offs, social media, and others)? Which is the impact of the Internet on the process by which knowledge is created and distributed?

The answers to these four questions, however, depend on one even more fundamental clarification: what are  universities for? Is there a common definition that still makes it legitimate to talk about universities as such although the founding belief of any thinking on higher education must be based on the increasing differentiation that exists amongst them?

It does not take a crystal ball to predict what the universities of the future are going to be. Certain change is already happening notwithstanding the inertia that legislators and regulators display, the resistance of powerful stakeholders (including intellectual élites that do not want to forgo privileges that have gone uncontested for decades) and the failures of many reforms in producing any significant change.

Universities are changing because the eco system in which they must survive and deliver  is rapidly changing. To be more precise, it is because that eco system has long become a proper globalized market where the good to be exchanged is knowledge and  the structure of the supply and demand as well as the nature of the product itself has already changed in a radical way. Nonetheless, the shelter of public financing sometimes ends up working as an obstacle that crowds out innovation.

At the heart of change there is, undoubtedly, the discontinuity that has been brought about by the introduction and diffusion of many technologies, applications and social networks that are enabled by the Internet and the mobile devices.

First of all there is, then, a change in the nature of the product – knowledge – that Universities are supposed to produce (even preserve) and pass to future generations. The term “knowledge society” has been abused too many times. Even though its expectations have often been  not fulfilled and have sometimes turned into undesired evolutions, it still holds true that we live in an era that is revolutionary and that the revolution has been triggered by new technologies. It is a revolution similar to the one that signaled the start of the Renaissance – once again in places like Florence, Siena, Venice and the very Perugia  - and the end of the Middle Ages. In fact, the renaissance saw a blossoming of arts and knowledge mostly due to a single invention – Gutenberg’s press machine – that allowed a multiplication of the quantity of information that any individual or organization could receive, elaborate and transmit  in a given period of time. The Internet has technically made possible a fall of hundreds of times in the unit cost of retrieving, processing, sending information and, thus, in the transaction costs that according to the British economist Ronald Coase are the ultimate determinant of the size, flexibility and lay out of institutions and organizations.

Although separated by five centuries, both inventions and revolutions did have the same effect of a drastic reduction in the entrance barriers to knowledge creation and dissemination, and the possibility to nurture many and diverse relationships simultaneously. This – as for the renaissance – is producing a mutation which is a rather more radical term of change – of what socialist philosophers of the nineteenth century would have called the structures and infrastructures of society: the processes by which we take decisions as communities (democracy as in the Vision’s project “The future of democracy”); the media by which public discourse is carried out; the organizations through which public goods (that we cannot even call any longer public services) like health, mobility, security are produced and delivered (as for the Vision papers on the impact of the internet on healthcare systems and cars); the channels (including universities) through which education is accumulated and distributed; even personal relationships and, thus, things like family and personal wellbeing (as in the Vision project on the future of family) are being fundamentally transformed.

Universities are at the front line of such a transformation. There is a profound modification in the core product that universities are supposed to “sell”: knowledge becomes about problem solving (and not only problem setting any more) and this means possible solutions to (social, technological, intellectual) problems that tend to have the novelty which is normally associated to revolutions,  This strains the institutional structure of universities because  it goes across the boundaries of different academic domains. And it is increasingly not only a question of proving relevant knowledge, but also of developing new instruments through which such knowledge is developed.

The structure of the demand is also modified: there is the replacement of a model where ninety percent of the funds used to come from the state to one where a much more diversified set of clients (students and families, private sponsors, employers, public opinion and civil society entities) are also immediately crucial to the financial survival of universities.

Last and not least, the supply becomes also almost unrecognizable to itself: universities lose the monopoly of advanced knowledge production and transmission – where think tanks like the one born out of Oxbridge graduates and firms started as spin offs of campuses like Stanford appear to be able to capture the leading edge – and higher education institutions themselves tend to compete and specialize themselves.

This is a scenario where universities cannot evidently limit themselves to “care for and attend to the whole intellectual capital which composes a civilization… to keep an intellectual inheritance intact, but to continuously recover what has been lost” as the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott may have said in describing adequately universities in a different era.

Universities must literally change their skin in order to survive: become probably smaller, more focused, quicker in order to respond to quickly changing demands, more ambitious to provide radical - cross disciplinary - answers to the kind of the problems we enumerated before.

And therein lies the challenge to the very institutional shape that universities still display, as well as the problems, the (not very) obscure disease that can become or is already the trigger of a proper decline of most of these glorious institutions.

Two are, in fact, the challenges that universities - especially the greatest ones - tend to present: the bureaucratization of the staff within universities and thus of research and the monopolistic syndrome that the shelter of the prestige of brands can produce.

Fragmentation and incrementalism are the two halves of the same issue: the bureaucratization  of Science that Max Weber theorized and that was adequate in an era dominated by a humanistic approach that had become obsolete. This approach itself risks to go out of market because of the nature of the information-based society. In years of hyper specialization, academic domains have grown as separated bodies of thought, sub-divided into smaller niches with few professors, even becoming sort of ivory towers incapable to engage into dialogue with the outside world. Diversity (and internationalization) would, instead, favor the leaders of different disciplines to better understand whether the pond in which they are the big fishes is, in fact, becoming smaller and more and more irrelevant.

The second risk is the monopolistic syndrome that especially the most famous brands may develop. Internationalization may be good especially if it becomes a two ways flow that may favor the birth of competitors even in countries different from the dominant ones: in this case competition may be crucially good for whoever may run the risk to fall asleep upon a false belief that competitive advantages cannot be filled.

Undoubtedly universities - especially most famous, best endowed ones – still have the resources to survive and prosper. But it is important to understand and acknowledge as soon as possible that some will succeed and some will disappear like dinosaurs not capable to adapt to the new environment where smaller animals may run faster.

The difference will be made by willingness to focus on problems (rather than academic domain) and to connect with others, intellectual curiosity and humbleness, scouting whoever can be an innovator, and the old passion and courage for searching and transmitting pieces of the truth.

It may seem an odd couple of virtues the ones that the universities of the future need. In fact they, in a sense, even represent a sort of going back to the values of those very first universities that were born in places as different as Bologna and Nalanda  many generations ago.

The problem solving that we will propose on whether and how to assess and market universities will be based on these basic considerations.

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The professors’ recruitment system may be reasonably considered as one of the many factors capable of influencing universities’ scores in terms of market-attractiveness, students’ satisfaction, excellence, and thus competitiveness. Such systems are indeed various both in number and quality. Yet, for the sake of simplification, this paper’s assumption is that two main models exist. The first is the public system model. The second is the private system model. According to the former model, professors are civil servants recruited through general examinations, both written and oral. In the latter model universities recruit on the market and stipulate contracts with the teaching staff.

The 2010 Italian reform of the university has introduced a momentous shift in the recruitment system. While university professors are still considered civil servants – and are therefore recruited accordingly – they are also subjected to a brand new system of ex ante and ex post evaluation, whose pillars remind closely those pertaining the private system model.

To begin with, a sort of “tenure-track” is introduced. Full-time lecturers are offered a 4 years contract (renewable only once). Once the contract expires for the second time, and no posts for professors have been made available for the candidate, his/her relationship with the university is over. Secondly, professors are recruited through a single examination held at the national (and no more at the local) level. Afterwards the universities in need of new professors call the successful candidates in the list. Thirdly, professors will be evaluated on regular intervals, in order to assess their capacity in teaching and their scientific production. A negative evaluation will determine a cut in the funds available for the research.

Commentators have heavily criticized the reform. Yet, the “hybridization” of the Italian recruitment system of university professors may turn itself into a successful strategy. To such extent, two factors need to be considered. First, since the reform only defines the general framework, a significant number of secondary regulations will have to be approved. Yet, this would require political stability and consensus towards the Government. Second the new recruitment system does not guarantee the quality by itself. Severe evaluation of professors at all levels is also demanded.

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Di Giorgio Baruchello (del 11/04/2011 @ 15:55:49, in Università, linkato 7111 volte)

This of Vision is based upon a perplexing yet common equivocation. It assumes that universities, insofar as they participate in and cooperate with today’s so-called market economies, could or even should be conceived of as market agents. Under this assumption, universities would provide profitable goods and services required by relevant market segments; students would be customers of universities; which in turn would compete with other business actors in attracting investments and somehow lead to wealth creation. Such a characterisation of universities is, to say the least, historically deficient and institutionally ludicrous. Universities do have a budget and train citizen in various useful occupations, but describing them as running a business or being businesses is a cheap metaphor at best, whatever its misleading popularity may be.

First of all, universities are part of those civil commons that societies have evolved through centuries of historical progress: their past can shed light on their future. Indeed, the first university was established about a thousand years ago in the country where I was born, Italy. As tokens of civil commons, the paramount goal of academic institutions has been to increase ranges of life capacity and, specifically, attain knowledge and understanding at the highest level of articulation, i.e. qua academic disciplines. Initially, access was limited to the male members of a tiny elite. Later on, access was widened to the female members of the elite. Eventually, in several countries, access was extended to large sectors of the population upon selection by intellectual merit rather than birth right or pecuniary means. Along this path, the polar star of universities has been truth, not wealth or profit, especially in today’s dominant short-term formulation of it (cf. my 20/9/2010 entry: Truth and profit may sometimes go hand-in-hand, but they are not necessarily conjoined: a charlatan may be an excellent salesman, but his knowledge is bogus and his understanding shallow, whether he gets away with his fraudulent enterprises or not. Truth and profit may be even fierce enemies: children and their bodily organs can be remarkable sources of profit, but human dignity commands sheltering minors from commodification.

Secondly, by providing knowledge and understanding at the highest level of articulation, universities have educated generations of entrepreneurs, executives, white-collar workers and productive citizens of all sorts and stripes. They have been unquestionable centres of innovative thinking, creative experimentation, thorough revision and groundbreaking vision that translated at times into better business life. At a deeper level, universities have cultivated methods, skills and values facilitating moral socialisation, humane civilisation and intelligent communication, i.e. essential yet regularly neglected preconditions for any economic activity whatsoever. In brief, universities have been instrumental to market efficiency in many ways. Nevertheless, this market-oriented function of universities has been just one of many, often indirect, and possibly adventitious: in the 20th century, cutting-edge research in physics was led in academes of countries that did not have a market economy.

To conclude, I wish to focus upon one function that makes universities unique and may remind the reader of the reason why universities, if they are going to have a future, ought to be protected from too direct a market involvement as well as from the market’s defining aim: profit. As long as they have been allowed to do their job with adequate funding and independence, universities have served as monitoring bodies over the excesses, the threats and the falsities endangering the countries in which they had been established, if not humankind at large. In this capacity, universities have produced research and issued warnings that have prevented terrible catastrophes, e.g. the thinning Ozone layer in the 1980s. Other times, their evidence and warnings have been ignored at great cost for all, e.g. Joseph Stiglitz’s and John McMurtry’s sophisticated critiques of deregulated financial wizardry in the 1990s and 2000s. Still, even when unheard or marginalised, academic disciplines have generated ideas, novel forms of reasoning and alternative approaches that can be used to cope with the disastrous effects of human and/or natural catastrophes. As long as funds and independence are guaranteed, universities can keep serving societies as vital monitoring bodies. Reduced to a mouthpiece of market forces, they will no longer be able to do it.

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Di Arnault Morisson de la Bassetiere (del 11/04/2011 @ 15:50:48, in Università, linkato 11783 volte)

In the past 10 years, major universities and business schools have become competitors for attracting the larger number of foreign students.
International students have three major appeals for universities:  firstly, it is a non-negligible criterion for international rankings as it shows the degree of desirability of the university.  Secondly, it is an important source of revenue.  Finally, it creates a positive experience for home students to share and adapt to new cultures. 

This competition is today at its paroxysm, to the extent that universities are now opening branch campuses abroad in order to directly enroll foreign students.

This new trend has first emerged with the opening of international branch campuses in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, in countries such as Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore and China. According to the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education, there are more than 100 branch campuses around the world with the U.S. and Australian universities having  the largest number of branch campuses. To name a few of institutions leading the way to internationalization of education, we can mention INSEAD and Stanford in Singapore, Georgetown in Qatar, Harvard medical school in Dubai, Monash University in South Africa and Malaysia, or RMIT in Vietnam.

It has the advantage for these emerging countries to gain access to the expertise and recognition of leading universities in a relatively fast and inexpensive way.  Some of these emerging countries have the aspiration to become leading regional players in higher education. Singapore for example, aims to become a hub for higher education in Southeast Asia and compete to attract the brightest students from the region chiefly coming from China and India.

International branch campuses are at the forefront of the process of globalization in higher education. One of the main consequences of this trend is that it participates to widening the gap between elite universities and smaller and less prestigious ones. In becoming globalized these universities reinforce their leading roles as well as their rankings and international visibilities. They thus create a virtuous circle. Concerning student mobility, it eases the process since students are more incline to study abroad in a familiar environment. Other consequences of international branch campuses are that it encourages internal staff mobility, it diversifies risks, and it creates for the host country a favorable atmosphere to retain young talents. Additionally, it enables universities to specialize their curriculums to the host country needs.

As a conclusion we can say that international branch campuses are a non-negligible leverage for universities to gain in visibility and ranking. It offers them the possibility to get more globally integrated in high potential markets.  In the same time, it diminishes risks as it annihilates the development of young national universities. It results in widening the gap between top ranked elite universities with substantial cash flows and endowments and the less privileged ones.

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Di Hugh Jagger (del 11/04/2011 @ 15:22:31, in Università, linkato 3356 volte)

 Senior Consultant - Global eLearning Enterprises Ltd, UK

New media will fundamentally change the quality, cost effectiveness and reach of universities of the future, enabling them to compete in the markets for student, staff and funding, and deliver higher socio-economic impact.    The change will happen at different rates in different countries and institutions because different drivers and barriers will apply. However universities, governments and private sector content and technology providers, now need interlinked new media strategies to achieve the benefits.

New media will enable university teaching quality to rise as lecturers increasingly replace blackboards and slides with powerful interactive e-resources to plan and animate their lectures, including simulations and video clips. The quality and immediacy of feedback to students will improve with formative e-assessments in lectures based on electronic “voting” systems.  Feedback on student assignment will also improve as lecturers adopt electronic rubrics and marking tools, allowing them to give much more detailed feedback without increasing marking time.

Meanwhile students will increasingly supplement lectures and tutorials with self-directed online learning based on e-lectures (recorded by their own or other lecturers), interactive e-learning systems, e-books and online collaboration with other students.

 Repositories of free and commercial electronic content for both lecturers and students will grow steadily and be accessed mainly via the Internet. However today’s e-content is of highly variable quality, with relatively few “gold nuggets” amongst vast quantities of poor and indifferent content. This will change only slowly, except where governments co-invest with the private sector to orchestrate national and international content development initiatives of high quality and flexibility for multiple universities. Such orchestrated initiatives will be essential to justify the high development costs necessary to build high quality content. Countries that do this will be much more competitive in the international university sector and, more importantly, will achieve higher education standards leading to faster economic growth over time. 

New media will also fundamentally change the economics and reach of universities.  The few universities that today rely mainly on distance education have shown the way – they will increasingly use online interactive e-learning systems to improve their quality. The massive growth of institutions like the University of Phoenix in the USA and the Open University in the UK suggests this model will increasingly take market share from traditional campus-based universities. Meanwhile traditional universities will respond by increasing the proportion of distance education and e-learning in their blend, both to improve the quality of student learning and to increase the leverage of their fixed and semi-fixed assets (especially property and staff).

Some universities will also use new media to increase their market reach, enabling them to recruit students nationally and internationally and serve them with online e-learning systems, lectures and tutorials, with a limited local physical staff presence. Others will teleconference distant lecturers and tutors into their campuses, because they are better (e.g. world renowned experts) or cost less (e.g. based in low cost regions or countries).  This will unleash a global lecturing market where those with superior communications skills, pedagogic techniques and electronic media will attract large national or international online audiences, threatening to undermine mediocre local lecturers. Equally online distance tutoring services, some based in low cost countries, will grow and move into the mainstream.

Universities will also use new media to strengthen links with business partners, for example by teleconferencing remote business speakers into lectures and tutorials. They will also respond more quickly to employers’ changing needs by rapidly adapting their courses year by year based on e-curricula and e-books.

Barriers to the adoption of new media content and distance education models include the cost, quality and lack of alignment with local curricula, language and culture of e-content; the resistance of university staff; and the quality of collaboration technology (especially real time audio and video conferencing). These barriers will only be overcome by concerted national or international initiatives to develop content and technology platforms, coupled with local deployment projects using change management methods. Governments will need to take a stronger lead in partnership with the private sector to overcome the barriers and achieve the potentially huge benefits of quality, cost effectiveness and reach of universities.

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Di Fabrice Hénard (del 11/04/2011 @ 15:12:14, in Università, linkato 8729 volte)

Analyst, OECD - IMHE

The number of students enrolled in higher education outside their country of citizenship practically doubled from 2000 to 2008 (OECD, EAG 20101) and this trend is likely to continue. Student mobility is however the most visible part of a greater topic, namely internationalisation, which is more complex and multifaceted. One aspect, sometimes referred to as internationalisation at home, consists of incorporating intercultural and international dimensions into the curriculum, teaching, research and extracurricular activities and hence helps students develop international and intercultural skills without ever leaving their country (OECD, 20042 , Wächter, 20033 ). Throughout the world, other fast-growing forms of internationalisation are emerging (eg transnational education sometimes delivered through off-shore campuses, joint programmes, distance learning, etc) and suggest a more far-reaching approach, especially where higher education is now seen as an integral part of the global knowledge economy.

Today, internationalisation provides new opportunities for all higher education institutions and functions as a two way street. It can help students achieve their goals to obtain a quality education and pursue research. Institutions, on the other hand, may gain a worldwide reputation as well as a foothold in the higher education community and meet the uncertain challenges associated with globalisation.
As part of a broader strategy, internationalisation can offer students, faculty and institutions valuable insights. It can spur on strategic thinking leading to innovation, offer tremendous advantages regarding pedagogy as well as student and faculty collaboration and learning assessments. With the infusion of internationalisation into the culture of higher education, students and educators can gain a greater awareness of the global issues and how educational systems operate across countries, cultures and languages.

The many aspects and complexity of internationalisation raise various challenges for policy makers (eg with regards to optimising mobility flows, equal access to international education, protecting students and quality assurance (OECD, 20084). Likewise, institutions must be more responsive and orchestrate all of these various aspects consistently in order to reap the benefits of internationalisation as well as face the potential risks that it presents.

In a new study, the OECD’s Institutional Management in Higher Education programme (IMHE) is aiming to shed light on the impacts of internationalisation on teaching-learning, research and extra-curriculum activities, on the evolving perception of internationalisation within the institutions and on the impacts on governance of the higher education systems and institutions.

This article is extracted from a paper authored by Richard Yelland, to be published shortly.

1. OECD (2010), Education at a Glance 2010, OECD, pp. 325-327
2. OECD (2004), Internationalisation and Trade in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges, OECD, Paris.
3.  Wächter, B. (2003), “An Introduction: Internationalisation at Home in Context”, Journal of Studies in International Education, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 5-11
4. OECD (2008) Tertiary Education for the Knowledge Society, Volume 1, Special features: Governance, Funding, Quality; By Paulo Santiago, Karine Tremblay, Ester Basri and Elena Arnal, pp 235-307.

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International Relations Lecturer at the US International University (Kenya)

In most, if not in all, parts of the African continent the presence of, as well as access to, training opportunities in universities is often linked to economic development and prosperity.  Indeed, universities are no longer perceived as ‘ivory towers,’ that are privy to a few, but rather as institutions that contribute towards the public good by promoting equity through the intellectual and economic empowerment of local communities. As a result, the demand for university education has been growing rapidly over the past few years among both traditional and non-traditional students. For instance, the number of students’ eligible for university education at the beginning of the millennium, in Kenya, was approximately 40,497 and it is estimated that approximately 150,000 will seek university admission by 2015. Whereas, this impending avalanche of potential students has been depicted as a crisis in waiting for the higher education sector on the continent, it also provides a huge opportunity for the increased integration of the continent with other parts of the world through the internationalization of higher education. Within this context, internationalization necessitates the adoption of variegated non-traditional teaching and research methods that will cater for both conventional and unconventional students as well as respond to demands for human capital – which is the major contributor to development.

Consequently, governments and key stakeholders in the higher education sector should not respond to the student avalanche by developing policies that will shut-out a majority of qualified students in a bid to control and standardize admission numbers but rather, continuously expand, diversify and refine the higher education infrastructure by embracing the liberalization of the sector. A recent development in education liberalization has been the adoption of e-learning as a method that enables institutions to provide educational services not only to a wider market place but also to students located in different geographical regions. Through e-learning, established universities in developed parts of the world can offer internationally recognized degree courses to a wide typology of students in Africa and other parts of the world. Some of the advantages of e-learning include flexibility in terms of content delivery and cost-effectiveness because of the affordability of digital material. It has also been noted that “well designed e-learning course content can improve understanding and encourage deeper learning which is essential to the success of most student.” (Isa and Hashim 2010).

In spite of the attractiveness of e-learning as an option that is likely to meet the growing demand for non-traditional access to university education, it is important for stakeholders to ensure that the increasing demand does not overshadow quality assurance and student-focused learning in virtual classrooms. The challenge for future universities and other key stakeholders therefore, is to develop mechanisms that will test quality assurance across borders. 

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Di Rui Yang (del 11/04/2011 @ 14:02:39, in Università, linkato 3463 volte)

Assistant Dean (Research Projects and Centres) at Hong Kong University

To the Chinese higher education system, internationalization means to return into the international community. This has significant implications for both sides. China’s recent strides in higher education have shocked the world and thus have invited much discussion. While some have reached a conclusion of a swift rise of Chinese universities on a global stage, even trying to characterize it as a Chinese model; others have stressed the marketization and corporatization of the system, claiming that China is moving in line with the ‘global tides’; while still others have expressed their great concern about the sustainability of China’s higher education development. Indeed, China’s achievements are truly remarkable. The number of peer]reviewed papers published by Chinese researchers rose 64]fold over the past 30 years. Becoming the world’s second largest producer of research papers, China is remaking the knowledge-economy landscape.

In order to better understand the future development of China’s higher education, it is highly necessary to look back at its cultural and historical roots. China has rich traditional culture. Unlike the outward-looking Western thinking, the central attention of the Chinese way of thinking has been inward-looking, confined almost exclusively to human behaviors. Such different orientations of cultural thinking have led to different historical trajectories of higher education. Throughout the modern era, Western and Chinese learning have contended for hegemony. Education has always been a key aspect of reform efforts. The transfer of Western practice conflicts with the Chinese traditions. Modern universities are a foreign transplant to China. Indigenous Chinese highest learning institutions only shared superficial resemblance with the medieval university in Europe. The central purpose of China’s modern higher education has been to combine Chinese and Western elements at all levels including institutional arrangements, research methodologies, educational ideals, and cultural spirit, a combination that brings together aspects of the Chinese and Western philosophical heritages. This, however, has not been achieved.

The emphasis has always been on use, with corresponding ignorance of body. The development of Chinese modern universities has always been confronted with the absence of both classical and modern ideas of a university. While Chinese longstanding traditions never attempted to seek the ontological significance of knowledge, practical demands, consciously and unconsciously, have always been the highest priority. As part of national reform agenda, China’s contemporary policies are in continuity with reforms since the 19th century. Throughout this period, Chinese universities have experienced ups and downs in putting into practice the then already popular vision of retaining “Chinese learning as the essence” while systematically incorporating the new knowledge essential to build the nation. This explains why the best experiment was achieved by the National Southwestern Associated University in the 1930s during the Sino-Japanese war, and justified the argument that the lack of central government during 1911-1927 provided Chinese higher education with the possibility of vigorous experimentation.

Today, China’s strategy remains the same. At certain stage, such a strategy could be effective. China’s universities beat India’s in almost every international ranking. According to the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by the Graduate School of Education, Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2010, China has Peking University and Tsinghua University in the top 200; Fudan University, Nanjing University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, University of Science and Technology of China, and Zhejiang University in the top 300, Shandong University, Sichuan University and Sun Yat-sen University in the top 400, and 12 others in the top 500. China features 22 times in the top 500, and India only twice.

Nevertheless, the promise is doomed to be limited. China has a considerable distance to go before its aspirations to create truly world-class universities are fulfilled. In the present great leap forward in Chinese higher education, what has often been missing is attention to cultural and institutional establishments. An internationally recognized scholarly ethos may take longer to develop than many academic and/or political leaders in China are willing to admit. Simply buying state-of-the-art laboratory equipment or pushing for more journal articles will not guarantee the kind of intellectual atmosphere that has developed over centuries on European and American campuses. Although China’s recent developments deserve to be noted, they could soon hit a glass ceiling.

China’s universities have been able to improve their hardware considerably, while, as is always the case in China, the software building takes much longer. In order to be truly “world-class,” Chinese universities cannot afford to continue to avoid the important and dwell on the trivial. Universities as cultural institutions have three layers with materials on the surface, social institutions in the middle, and values at the core. China’s import of the Western university model has been centered mostly on the material level, with some touches on social institutions, while the core of the Western model, such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy, has rarely been understood, let alone implemented. The idea that the Western university model could work well on Chinese soil has been mistakenly taken for granted. For long, Deng Xiaoping’s aphorism “Black cat, white cat, who cares as long as it can catch mice” has been burnt into Chinese souls. It is now high time to notice the nature of the cat because the mice to be caught would definitely be different.

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 The last two decades have seen the concept of internationalisation move from the fringes to the heart of the institutional agenda. Nowadays, we encounter the hype words “internationalisation”, “international recruitment”, “global player”, etc. in nearly every strategy plan, mission statement or target agreement in higher education institutions. Virtually no university feels it could do without. As a result one could argue that the advocats of internationalisation of the earlier days have finally succeeded in their mission, and the author feels to be one of them. Well: Did we?

With its transition from the fringes to the core, internationalisation has experienced the same metamorphosis experienced by other concepts and ideas. By becoming mainstream, a concept becomes accepted as standard and develops into a tradition1. With this move (from innovation to tradition)  comes a substantial change in attitude. Traditions are to be accepted, to be defended, not to be argued with. And suddenly, what began as a new, exciting approach, full of challenges and risks to overcome, becomes a common concept whose pros and cons are better not discussed. Or as it was put by a conference speaker at the beginning of his speech: “We of course all agree that mobility is good”.But is it? By nature? Necessarily? I do not think so. We know of many cases of mobility which are neither for the benefit of the traveler, nor for the host or the country of origin (Aneas is one them), not every student becomes a better person and less stereotype-driven just by travelling. Furthermore, the PRIME report of the ESN2 tells us that many students still do not get recognition for their credits earned abroad. In addition, German officials like to boast about recruiting thousands of international students but in fact in some subject areas about 65% of them do not finish their degree and instead drop out.  Mobility... a good thing in itself? No, I think that it can be good and that every student should have an option to study abroad but this has to be combined with much more responsibility and accountability. Do we know enough about learning outcomes of international mobility? Do we all have useful indicator-based monitoring systems in place to see whether mobility has achieved what we wanted it to achieve (and do we even know what we want)?

And yet, internationalisation today is the white knight, the positive concept as such. Whereas globalisation is the black knight, the evil concept, the neo-liberalism in flesh. Why is that? Who decided that the term is defined by one and not the other? If we look at the word itself, globalisation seems to be much more applicable and modern (embracing the world as such) than internationalisation (talking about relations between states: inter nationes). Thus one might argue, as internationalisation moved from innovation to tradition, the metalevel paradigm has to move from internationalisation to globalisation. Reality seems to indicate that this indeed is taking place: English has become the new lingua franca of the world, we see a global strive for harmonisation of quality levels and structures (Bologna and beyond), European as well as global accreditation increases, mobility numbers rise (with all the problems attached as mentioned above), HE is seeing a tendency towards commercialisation and even commoditisation. Last but not least, we see a shift from cooperation to competition or at least cooptition.

This bears consequences for international work. We need less belief and more knowledge, as well as less input focus and more outcome orientation. If internationalisation as a term has a future, then perhaps based on Hudzik’s concept of “comprehensive internationalisation”3. 

All this takes place beyong the boundaries of the old nation state. Of course, the state still often represents quality and provides – to a substantial if though decreasing degree – the core funding of HE. But essentially, we see a withdrawal of the nation state on many fronts: some examples are the reduction of state budgets (where still applicable) e.g. in Germany, UK (Brown report), the diversification of portfolios of HEIs, their recruitment activities, franchising or offshore campuses.

On a theoretical level, what we can observe might be nothing other than Sassen’s concept of de-nationalisation4 , which is usually not applied to universities but cities, companies and alike. A strong indicator for this trend could be the development of international networks or clubs of HEIs whose numbers have been growing exponentially in the last three decades.

HEIs obviously start to act more and more on a global scale – without ignoring the local settings of course – and in order to survive on that level they form clubs (in complete accordance with the Theory of Voluntary Clubs5) . It is not effective to boast about being the “best German” university but rather “a global player”. Even if methodologies are weak, a rank within the top100 of any of the rankings of the day is increasingly more relevant than the position in any given country. The nation state is therefore increasingly more of a nuisance and hinderance rather than a focus point for identity and branding: legislation makes joint degrees difficult and offshore earnings hard to transfer, can create conflicts between national regulations (no fees) and activities on global markest (fees a must). To put it provocatively: one could argue that the nation state insures that inter-nationality is still needed nowadays and that globalisation is restricted and the individual HEIs – each to a different level – look for ways out by de-nationalising themselves (through networks, fund diversification, etc.).

The Böll Foundation Delphi on Higher Education 20306 came to similar conclusions: by 2030 the state will still have its functions but the major music will be played on a global level and HEIs will de-nationalise themselves more and more (although this word was not used).

So what then is the vision for 2050: Maybe the (virtual) network university? The role of HEI clubs today and the recent development of a sort of meta-level clubs (clubs of clubs, although so far only in the form of cooperation agreements),  distributed learning and distributed campuses and the digital global citizen as both the main actor in an HEI as well as the increasingly typical recipient of its activities, products and services all seem to suggest that.

And yet the nation state is still there and we hear on conferences the caveats of the danger of globalization, although in each and every case we can also argue for the positive: Brain drain or brain gain can be – and is – contrasted by the idea of brain train. To loose the brightest can also mean to create new productive links and gain new export connections, to find ways to overcome the demopgraphic challenges etc. In the end, it comes back to the problem of innovation and tradition. Looking at these aspects from a traditionist’s perspective means they become threats and you have to defend yourself against them probably by covering up your weaknesses and boast about your perceived strengths. Looking at them from an innovator’s position means they become opportunities but only if you improve your weaknesses and use your real strengths.

In such a situation we may rightfully ask: If HEIs are de-nationalising themselves, is inter-nationalisation still the concept with which to grasp this development? Or do we not need to regain ownership of definition for the term globalisation, free it from neo-liberal biases and use it in its pure meaning: the concept of inter-dependence of everything and everyone in the bio-system Earth regardless of place, time, age or nation?

Does moving from inter-nationalisation to globalisation in terms of HEIs mean that Fukuyama is right, at least in the case of HE, in that the end of history has come with the end of the nation state?7  I would argue that as much as he withdrew from this revolutionary idea at the end of his famous contribution this is also doubtful in the case of HE which has to do with some misconceptions (the role of the state reduced to that of a financial contributor, limitations on national responsibilities, less focus on national interests on a global scale, etc.) and one might argue that the role of the nation state will not so much disappear as change. I envision the nation state of the year 2050 much more in the role of one important but not by far the only stakeholder of an HEIs, a partial financial contributor and demander challenging the HEIs much stronger than today to deliver in return for the finances received solutions for issues such as demographic change, diversity, or energy sustainability. In short, to me the nation state 2050 will be this: the network state.

The de-nationalisation of higher education itself and universities as its main actors will lead to a change of the rules of the game and this calls for the terms of trade being redefined between HEIs and the nation state. With both actors turning into network actors, there will be a need for a new concept of state-HEI interaction.

1 see (Brandenburg and de Wit 2011)
2 see (Apsalone, et al. 2009)
3 see (Hudzik 2011)
4 see (Sassen 2008)
5 see (Potoski and Prakash 2009)
6 a project in 2006 for which the author was acting as one of the experts: results see
7 see (Fukuyama 1992)


  • Apsalone, M., T. Bort, St. Friedrich, T. Filoni, J. Panny, and D. Scherer. PRIME 2009. Problems of Recognition in Making ERASMUS. Brussels: ERASMUS Student Network, 2009.
  • Brandenburg, U., and H. de Wit. "End of Internationalization." International Higher Education, no.62 Winter 2011: 15-17.
  • Denman, B. The Emergence of international consortia in higher education. Camperdown NSW: University of Sydney, PhD thesis, 2001.
  • Fukuyama, F. The end of history and the last man. London: Penguin Books, 1992.
  • Hudzik, J. Comprehensive Internationalisation. From Concept to Action. Washington D.C.: NAFSA, 2011.
  • Potoski, M., and A. Prakash. Voluntary Programs. A Club Theory Perspective. Cambridge, Masschusetts; London, England: MIT Press, 2009.
  • Sassen, S. Territory Authority Rights. From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton: Princeton University Press: updated edition, fourth printing, 2008.
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