Challenges and Opportunities in the Context of Internationalization of Higher Education

The World Bank’s 1991 ‘World Development Report’ has made a very interesting observation that the scientific and technological progress and enhanced productivity in any nation have a close link with investment in human capital as well as the quality of the economic environment. Scientific and technological capabilities are, however, unevenly distributed in the world and are linked with the education system in a nation.

The 21st century has seen quite massive changes in higher education systems both in terms of complexity of the systems and also in terms of its utility for converting education into an effective tool for social and economic changes. A very interesting relationship is emerging among education, knowledge, conversion of knowledge into suitable entities from trade point of view, wealth and economy.

 

READ MORE :

Internationalization of education includes the policies and practices undertaken by academic systems and institutions-and even individuals-to cope with the global academic environment. The motivations for internationalization include commercial advantage, knowledge and language acquisition, enhancing the curriculum with international content, and many others. Specific initiatives such as branch campuses, cross-border collaborative arrangements, programs for international students, establishing English-medium programs and degrees, and others have been put into place as part of internationalization. Efforts to monitor international initiatives and ensure quality are integral to the international higher education environment.

The higher education system across the world has witnessed two more interesting revolutions. The first is connected with the advent and use of computers in teaching and learning as well as research and the second is linked with communication revolution. Today, education transcends across the geographical boundaries. Besides, the structure and context of academic work also has undergone a tremendous change. Student diversity and the administrative and pedagogical demands of new modes of curricula delivery characterize the academic’s everyday working environment.

The accomplishment of any educational change is linked with the readiness of teachers to implement new methods and innovative practices. The present paper is an attempt to understand the role of teachers in internationalization of higher education in India. The focus of the present paper is to be acquainted with the challenges and opportunities for faculty in the context of internationalization of higher education and their inclination to adapt the change.

Review of literature:

A growing number of papers and studies document the many ways in which the university experience of students, academic and administrative staff has been radically transformed [Chandler & Clark 2001, Deem 2001]. Student diversity and the administrative and pedagogical demands of new modes of curricula delivery characterize the academic’s everyday working environment. Identities as academics are under constant challenge as academic staff take on multiple and often conflicting roles as consultants, researchers, teachers, counselors and international marketers. Support for academics involved in international activities is scarce and the central strategic control of resources with its demands for flexibility compromises the quality of academic life.

A qualitative study examines the role of international experience in the transformative learning of female educators as it relates to professional development in a higher education context. It also investigates how the learning productions of these experiences were transferred to the participants’ home country. Nine American female faculty and administrators who worked at universities in Arab countries in the Gulf region participated in this study. The results suggest that the transformative learning of the female educators was reflected in three themes: changes in personal and professional attitudes, experiencing a new classroom environment that included different students’ learning style and unfamiliar classroom behavior, and broadening of participants’ global perspectives. Another study sought to assess how and why some higher education institutions have responded to aspects of globalization and, in particular how organizational culture influences universities’ responses to globalization. Using a predominantly qualitative, mixed-methods approach, empirical research was used to explore the impact of globalization at four Canadian universities. A multiple, case-study approach was used to achieve a depth of understanding to establish the universities’ culture, institutional strategies, and practices in response to globalization.

Context of the study:

Political & educational context

Everyone recognizes that India has a serious higher education problem. Although India’s higher education system, with more than 13 million students, is the world’s third largest, it only educates around 12 per cent of the age group, well under China’s 27 per cent and half or more in middle-income countries. Thus, it is a challenge of providing access to India’s expanding population of young people and rapidly growing middle class. India also faces a serious quality problem – given that only a tiny proportion of the higher education sector can meet international standards. The justly famous Indian Institutes of Technology and the Institutes of Management, a few specialized schools such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research constitute tiny elite, as do one or two private institutions such as the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and perhaps 100 top-rated undergraduate colleges. Almost all of India’s 480 public universities and more than 25,000 undergraduate colleges are, by international standards, mediocre at best. India has complex legal arrangements for reserving places in higher education to members of various disadvantaged population groups. Often setting aside up to half of the seats for such groups, places further stress on the system.

Capacity problem

India faces severe problems of capacity in its educational system in part because of underinvestment over many decades. More than a third of Indians remain illiterate after more than a half century of independence. A new law that makes primary education free and compulsory, while admirable, it takes place in a context of scarcity of trained teachers, inadequate budgets, and shoddy supervision. The University Grants Commission and the All-India Council for Technical Education, responsible respectively for supervising the universities and the technical institutions, are being abolished and replaced with a new combined entity. But no one knows just how the new organization will work or who will staff it. India’s higher education accrediting and quality assurance organization, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, which was well-known for its slow movement, is being shaken up. But, again, it is unclear how it might be changed.

Current plans include the establishing of new national “world-class” universities in each of India’s States, opening new IITs, and other initiatives. The fact is that academic salaries do not compare favorably with remuneration offered by India’s growing private sector and are uncompetitive by international standards. Many of India’s top academics are teaching in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere. Even Ethiopia and Eritrea recruit Indian academics.

Welcoming foreign universities:

Very recently it is announced that the government of India is preparing itself for permitting foreign universities to enter the Indian market. The foreigners are expected to provide the much needed capacity and new ideas on higher education management, curriculum, teaching methods, and research. It is hoped that they will bring investment. Top-class foreign universities are anticipated to add prestige to India’s postsecondary system. All of these assumptions are at the very least questionable. While foreign transplants elsewhere in the world have provided some additional access, they have not dramatically increased student numbers. Almost all branch campuses are small and limited in scope and field. In the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Malaysia, where foreign branch campuses have been active, student access has been only modestly affected by them. Branch campuses are typically fairly small and almost always specialized in fields that are inexpensive to offer and have a ready clientele such as business studies, technology, and hospitality management. Few branch campuses bring much in the way of academic innovation. Typically, they use tried and true management, curriculum, and teaching methods. The branches frequently have little autonomy from their home university and are, thus, tightly controlled from abroad.

Foreign providers will bring some investment to the higher education sector, particularly since the new law requires an investment of a minimum of $11 million – a kind of entry fee – but the total amount brought into India is unlikely to be very large. Global experience shows that the large majority of higher education institutions entering a foreign market are not prestigious universities but rather low-end institutions seeking market access and income. Top universities may well establish collaborative arrangement with Indian peer institutions or study/research centers in India, but are unlikely to build full-fledged branch campuses on their own. There may be a few exceptions, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is apparently thinking of a major investment in Hyderabad.

Indian education is a joint responsibility of the Central and State governments – and many States have differing approaches to higher education generally and to foreign involvement in particular. Some, such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have been quite interested. Other States such as West Bengal with its communist government may be more sceptical. And a few, such as Chhattisgarh have been known to sell access to university status to the highest bidders.

Significance of study:

The volatile situation in higher education system vis-à-vis internationalization of higher education creates many opportunities as well as challenges to the teachers of higher education. Pressures for change in the field of teacher education are escalating significantly as part of systemic education reform initiatives in a broad spectrum of economically developed and developing nations. Considering these pressures, it is surprising that relatively little theoretical or empirical analysis of learning and change processes within teacher education programs have been undertaken. The present study considers this situation and makes an endeavor to understand the challenges faced or anticipated by the teaching faculty in the context of internalization of education.

Aims of the study:

The present study is aimed to understand and analyze the position of college teachers in general and those of working undergraduate colleges.

Data collection:

Locale of the study:

Data for the present study is collected from the college teachers situated at Hyderabad. Colleges in Hyderabad are generally affiliated to Osmania University. In addition to various colleges, the city is home to three central universities, two deemed universities, and six state universities. Osmania University, established in 1917, is the seventh oldest university in India and the third oldest in South India. Indian School of Business, an international business school ranked number 12 in global MBA rankings by the Financial Times of London in 2010 is also located in Hyderabad.

Colleges in Hyderabad offer graduation and post graduation and post graduation programmes in science, arts, commerce, law & medicine. College of Engineering – Osmania University, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Indian Institute of Technology, etc. are some of the famous engineering colleges in Hyderabad. In addition to engineering colleges, various institutes known as polytechnics offer a three year course in engineering. Gandhi Medical College and Osmania Medical College are the centers of medical education in Hyderabad. Colleges and universities in Hyderabad are run by either by state government, central government or private individuals or agencies. Hyderabad Central University, Nalsar, NIPER, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, English and Foreign Languages University, Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, are some of the other universities located in Hyderabad.

Universe and sample:

There are 146 degree colleges offering undergraduate courses [B.Sc., B.Com, and B.A] situated at Hyderabad. Teachers working in these colleges are taken as universe for the present study. Most of these colleges are having academic consultants whose tenure is limited either to one term or one academic year. Academic consultants are not eligible for faculty development programmes of the University Grants Commission. Various programmes meant for faculty development are available for aided college teachers. Hence, the present study has selected aided college teachers working at Hyderabad as a sub category of the universe. At the outset, a focused group interview is conducted in order to collect information as to the willingness to train oneself for internationalization of higher education. Out of 150 lecturers participated in this focused group interview fifty were selected as sample for the present study by using random sampling method.

Data for the present study is collected by using in-depth interview method with the help of a schedule. Information as to the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents, educational achievements, awareness of national and global career structures, research culture, working conditions, information as to the strategies adapted by the college in order to equip for internationalization is collected. Data collection is done during the months of march-may 2010.

The qualitative information on awareness and availability of national and global career structures, strategies for integrating the international dimension, professional development, needs post-doctoral research culture, refresher courses and working conditions was collected by using case study method by using in-depth interviews.

National and global career structures:

Kaulisch and Enders [2005, pp.131-32] note that faculty work is shaped by three overlapping sets of institutions: 1] the generic science system, and systems in each discipline which to a varying extent are cross-national, emphasize the autonomy and mobility of researchers, and foster competition based on scholarly merit and prestige; 2] rules about work, competition and careers, where academic work is embedded in national policy and cultural settings; and 3] the organizational operations of universities, which both reflect national and local traditions and are touched by common trends such as massification, growing expectations about social relevance and the nationally-parallel global transformations. A fourth element in the mix that might be of growing importance is the impact of internationalization and globalization on academic careers.

The present study finds that the available opportunities for the teaching faculty are based on all these four elements. Most of the respondents experienced interplay of all these elements in their work life. More than fifty per cent of the respondents felt that the massification of education is burdensome and acting as an obstacle for faculty improvement.