May 13, 2010

Higher education beyond borders

Going Global will be hosted again in Hong Kong next year, with a set of new global challenges to address

By Anum Pasha

The state of higher education is changing in the world. Countries such as the United Kingdom are now gearing up to face numerous challenges, including the internationalisation of education as a Western construct, global competition for academic talent, equality in education, and student mobility, etc.

Enabling policy dialogue and triggering a debate on global higher education, the British Council, UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, recently hosted Going Global 4 -- the largest international educational conference in the United Kingdom.

'Going Global', now in its fourth year, invited over twelve hundred delegates from across the world and over two hundred distinguished speakers presented in forty sessions at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre in London. Focusing on key educational needs of the world, 'Going Global' commenced with an opening reception at the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum. It was titled: World Potential: Making Education Meet the Challenge Today.

Dr Javed Laghari, Chairman Higher Education Commission Pakistan, Professor Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Member O&P HEC, Mr Muhammad Asghar, Rector NUST, Dr Noshad A Shaikh, VC Liaqat University of Medical & Health Sciences Jamshoro, Nishat Riaz, Head of Programmes British Council Pakistan, and Mr Shaikh Muhammad Ali comprised the Pakistani delegation attending Going Global this year.

International platforms of discussion are exceptionally important for Pakistani educators and policymakers as they exchange ideas and return home with fresh ideas and principles to share. At Going Global, several sessions held the interest of audiences from different parts of the world.

Sessions focused on the value of institutional partnerships, education in a web 2.0 world and global research universities, among many other key subjects. Some sessions were more relevant to the Pakistani climate of education, and later emerged as topics of discussion among the Pakistani delegation.

Firstly, since the global perspective on education demands that countries do not remain in isolation, it will be difficult for Pakistan if it plans otherwise. Hence, international networking and academic linkages are essential for us. In his keynote address at Going Global, University of Melbourne Professor Simon Marginson had the same opinion, "For the first time in history, a single world society is within reach. And higher education, which ranges beyond the nation-state, is the central driver of globalization."

If Pakistan needs to move forward in the realm of education, it must develop institutional partnerships beyond borders and respond to a one-world knowledge system. Here, universities must play a major role. "Universities must get smarter to manage this. They must operate in all three dimensions at the same time: global, national, and regional," adds Marginson.

Secondly, university rankings are key benchmarks. As Pakistanis, many of us are conscious of university rankings and base our students' life-changing academic decisions on them only. Not undermining the power of rankings, Professor Rebecca Hughes, Chair of Linguistics at the University of Nottingham notes, "There are perhaps superb departments within lower-ranked institutions." In terms of institutional partnerships, academic institutions and government-run bodies such as the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan must not overestimate the ability of rankings to judge the status of a university. For powerful academic linkages, it is necessary look beyond the given numbers.

The protection of overseas students in a foreign land is a major issue. Are overseas students strangers in a foreign land or citizens of the world? In January 2010, Nitin Garg, an Indian Master's son was murdered in a Melbourne suburb. In December 2008, Sheherbano Sangji, a 23-year old Pakistani female student at UCLA was severely injured in a laboratory, and, after eighteen painful days in the Intensive Care Unit, she lost her life.

As national governments strive to protect their own nationals, international students and their security becomes a major problem which must be addressed by all nations. National governments are also striving to attract larger number of overseas students each year, but who is responsible for their individual safety?

Dr Allan E. Goodman, President and Chief Executive, Institute of International Education, gives his remarks in a panel discussion at the end of the session at Going Global. He explains there are a number of assault cases and some racial abuse, but the "Cinderella factor" is extremely important. "The bad things happen after midnight, and essentially those people who find themselves in the wrong part of town can fall victim to crime."

Campus security, student training, and informal alumni sessions must be taken very seriously when international students, including Pakistani students, embark on new journeys towards foreign pastures.

Another key concern for Pakistani students is the ever-increasing costs of international education. British Council Chief Executive Officer, Martin Davidson, seems to be aware of this problem and warns universities at Going Global, that they must not treat overseas students as mere 'cash cows'. "International students have more study options today than ever before, and in an internet-connected world, word quickly spreads when it appears that a university regards them as little more than 'cash cows'," he explains.

The UK is assisting Pakistanis by introducing dual-degree programmes. For instance, Lancaster University will be soon launching a dual-degree programme with COMSATS (CIIT) in Lahore. The international degrees will be delivered in Pakistan so students are able to cut costs. Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings says, "Lancaster will have final approval on the curriculum and the content of the degree programme and will work closely with CIIT on quality assurance. Students will be assessed through exams which are checked by external examiners to ensure equivalency."

Going Global will be hosted again in Hong Kong next year, with a set of new global challenges to address. For the UK, the goal is to look forward and address key issues pertaining to modern-day education as it encourages other nations to develop links and grow simultaneously.

No comments:

Post a Comment