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Internationalization of Tertiary Education

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					                 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.

				
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