VIEWS: 59 PAGES: 4 POSTED ON: 3/8/2010
Internationalization of Tertiary Education Arthur K. C. Li Vice Chancellor, Chinese University of Hong Kong Rather than talk about my own university’s handling of internationalization, I really want to give an overview. What is the internationalization about? Why should we want to do it? What is it about, and how should we go about it? Just two days ago, I was in Washington D.C., attending the centennial meeting of the Association of the American Universities. There were some 47 heads of research universities from across continents there to discuss issues of common concern. Straight from Washing D.C., I flew here to Beijing, to attend this forum, and celebration of Tsinghua’s 90th anniversary. I sometimes doubt it was purely coincidental that more and more gatherings of this sort are being arranged for “leaders”, like ourselves, and that the subject of internationalization rather than the globalization, is better and better profiled on our conference agenda. I will remember 2 years ago, back in 1999, when the association of university presidents of China hosted its first international conference on the campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong, an entire session was devoted to the similar subject. My view is that these meetings are in themselves a form of internationalization. Perhaps one should call it the internationalization of university leaders. Such occasions are extremely valuable, for sharing our experience with our counterparts in different countries and updating ourselves on the newest trends and challenges in tertiary education. By meeting frequently and working closely together, not only can we promote the cause of the internationalization, we can also amplify the voice of the university globally, increasing our influence on educational policies, human resource development and the advancement of knowledge. I thank Tsinghua University for providing us with this opportunity to meet. And I wish a very happy 90th birthday. First of all, let’s define what internationalization is all about. I think it is now broadly accepted that the internationalization of higher education refers to the process of integrating and international dimension, into the teaching, research, and services function of tertiary institutions. As such it is not something new. I dare to say all the institutions here today have engaged in one form of internationalization or another. Only that the same activities have been known by different names, name such as academic links, collaborative research, exchange program, outreach activities, and so on. Now all these are summarized under the term of internationalization. The emphasis, as I see it, has been shifted from the means that these activities themselves to the end of ultimate objective, internationalization itself. The question that follows naturally is as follows. What is the value of these processes? Why do we want to pursue internationalization? Let me recap some of the views that already have been expressed over this. First of all, internationalization in the teaching function. In performing our teaching function, there is a general consensus. It is culturally and educationally enriching for our students to be educated in a multinational and multicultural environment. An international dimension in a curriculum will generate inter-cultural understanding, mutual tolerance, and realization that there is a world well beyond anything we can imagine. These are qualities highly valued in an increasingly globalized world. Globalization also means students are going to work in different countries, and be employed by multinational companies. Employers are increasingly looking for versatility, self-confidence, international experience, and sensitivities to cultural differences. Universities therefore have a duty to prepare our students for the realities of the world, so that they can operate in different cultural environments and become more employable. Through the internationalization of our academic program, we can also help nurture world leaders of tomorrow who will need a new set of skills and much broader perspective to deal with new problems. These problems caused by a globalized economy and global society, where events and ideas can spread and develop global potency almost overnight like the destruction of the Berlin Wall. We now turn to internationalization in the research function. The creation of new knowledge, the benefit of the international dimension is even more obvious. Great inventions and discoveries rest upon fragments of information, issued from thousands of laboratories. We know way back that Edison invented the phonogragh. But who invented the atom bomb? The story of the atom bomb involved many scientists and many different countries, and the cross fertilization of ideas led to this astounding breakthrough. Some have even said that part of the reason why the German’s fail to produce the bomb ahead of the allies during the Second World War was that they exiled all the import Jewish physicists. They distrusted non-Aryan relativity theory, and the hero worshiped their own atomic expert, Heisenberg. In other words, they lacked the international dimension in their research. The trend of international cooperation and research augmented by the tools of frontier research can be enormously expensive. Individual universities of every country may not be able to afford all the sophisticated equipment, and collaboration is obviously a sensible and effective solution. And then there are projects that deal with subjects like climatology, the environment, or the human genome. Real academic benefit can be derived from international participation. Researchers in different countries, for example, will use the same methodology to carry out their studies, findings are then collated for further comparison and analysis. And the valuable databases of new knowledge will result. In short, the creation of the new knowledge respects no national boundaries. All researchers also understand that the quality of their work is always calibrated against international standards. And their findings are expected to stand up to international scrutiny and criticism. Thirdly, let me turn to internationalization in the service function. In the dissemination of knowledge or the transfer of new ideas and technologies from academia to society, the situation is rather similar. Many a time, inventions, originated from university in place A, are found to be licensed to R&D companies in place B, and further developed and commercialized by industries in place C. The entire process from basic research to downstream development into useful and marketable product may involve numerous parties in different countries. In these cases, rely on international connection and cross-border ventures to overcome the regional differences in societal development and infrastructure support, investment strategy and venture capital supply. No single university can render such service effectively all by itself. It is clear therefore in the teaching, research and service rendering, an international dimension is both necessary and beneficial . It is up to us to make it a genuine feature of our own educational policy. But how should we go about it? Of course all the traditional vehicles such as student and staff exchange, laboratory research, academic alliances, industrial liaison, visiting programs and international forums, such as this one, should continue to play their role. We can also consider where appropriate, new vehicles, such as e-education, distance learning, franchise degree programs and even off-shore campuses. These can help us reach out much wider international community and allow a wider international community to access and understand us. But new or traditional, these vehicles can run smoothly and carry us far, only and only if sufficient groundwork has been laid. We need to, for example, design our own curriculum structure in such a way that it can flexibly accommodate credit transfer and accumulation for both outgoing and incoming exchange students. We need to identify partner’s similar aspirations and flexibility, who can really work together with us. We need to install an IT infrastructure that can support the delivery of online and distance courses and facilitate other out-reach activities. We need to have clear and practicable personnel policy that facilitate international recruitment and short term appointment of visiting scholars, policies that permit outside practice and consultancies related to international collaboration and service. And then we need to have offices to provide administrative support to international programs, offices to handle contracts, multi-lateral agreements for joint ventures, and offices to look after the international community on our own campus. It is when such groundwork has been laid that universities come face to face for some major decisions. We ask ourselves, how far do we want to go and at what speed? Do we give overseas experience to 10% of our student, 20%, or more? With how many partners should we establish meaningful links? Do we concentrate on say, 30 universities? Or do we reach out to as many as possible? Do we favor a bottom up approach? Or is it a top-down initiative, necessary in promoting our multilateral collaborations? How much manpower can be devoted to serving this internationalization effort? Many of these fall down to the matter of strategy and funding. And the answer will inevitably involve a shift in our own priorities and redistribution of resources. Our answers can also be very different, because we have different histories, we do not start from the same base, our source or finance may subject to different constraints, and our government may have different immigration policies. Finally do we have anything in common then? Yes, indeed. As universities, we are in the business of knowledge and understanding which is universal. Perhaps to be a little bit high sounding, we should say the world is our own country, mankind is our own countrymen. And our true nationality is the human race. We have a natural common need to communicate with one another. It runs in our blood, it is in our genes. Our effort to internationalize combines the human race more closely together, and much higher plane than any trade or diplomatic agreement. And whatever our difference in pace or approach, internationalization is the direction for all tertiary institutions. Thank you.
"Internationalization of Tertiary Education"