Ideas For A Global College

If I am working for one thing, it is to create a truly global college, which prepares the students to take advantage of the global opportunities that are in front of us. I am conscious that there are many generalisations in that goal: The globalisation that we see is at best semi-globalisation, and the world is still a very divided space; the opportunities are still very skewed, and biased in favour of a few; and the model, education for profit, may have its own inherent biases that may change how and what the students can be prepared for. 

However, it must be said, my approach is informed by my background, and therefore, despite these apparently insurmountable challenges, I remain optimistic. I come from a suburb near Calcutta, a metropolitan city in India, but growing up in the suburb, it seemed a million miles away. I had not been out and about on my own in the big city, which was only few miles away from where I lived, till I was almost 18. Indeed, I had a fairly protected childhood, growing up in a relatively affluent environment, and was sent to a school nearby, which delivered its instructions in vernacular. I was expected to join the family business after I completed my education, of which not a lot was expected. Everything in my life, what I should do, where I should live, who I would marry, seemed predetermined at this time. However, none of that really happened. Indeed, one thing led to another, and I went on to live a very different life from what it seemed a done deal even when I was 18. However, if there is a common theme in all the events that transformed my life, that was the positive force of globalisation - my training in IT with a for-profit school, my work in business, my travelling and finally, the international expansion of businesses I work for. Despite the challenges, therefore, globalisation is a very real force for me, a positive thing; despite the scepticism, the Internet has transformed my life; and for all the right wing rhetoric in Europe and beyond, my views are shaped by travel and international business.

At the same time, I am aware that we are only at the semi-global age. Our education, in most cases, divides rather than integrates. Technologies of integration still remain on the margin, and the open commons of Internet is now increasingly divided in the walled gardens of Facebook and the like. The politician's rhetoric about the threat of the other - a cynical attempt to demonise the unknown rather than embrace it - attempts to steal the soul of globalisation, the movement of people and diffusion of culture. The education we offer, technocratic and often uncritical, is parochial and embedded within its cultural context. My life experience, of being an active participant and a product of globalisation, makes me see the enormous human potential - and because we are not yet there, the wastage of it - of globalisation. This, to me, presents the big opportunity.

The truly global opportunity, in my mind, can be unleashed by exploration of three positive forces: Creativity, Enterprise and Technology Savvy. In that order: As we have to imagine a global world first, one that is global in ideas and relationships, not just in narrow technical sense. Human globalisation is still unattained, and in fact, in the last two decades of globalisation of technology and capital, we have gone back on human globalisation. It will require a creative feat to imagine the possibilities, open our minds and embark upon an education to be a global individual (the pun is intended). Enterprise will be required to construct the global system then, within the businesses our students work for or the communities they live in, and the tools of this trade, the enabler of this globalisation, will be technology, our modern methods of transport, communication, information analysis and service. 

These three factors, forces, therefore, will be embedded in the college that I wish to build. On a practical level, the college will offer courses in Business, Education, Information Technology and Law & Governance, the four areas the battle for global humanisation is being fought. In keeping with the ethos, the college will have a global campus, a combination of a brick-and-mortar one here in London, extension facilities in Istanbul, Mumbai, Krakow, Dubai, Manila, Shanghai, Port Louis and Sao Paulo, partnerships with similar minded institutions in the United States, and an online campus underpinning this all. The students will be able to travel between campuses, indeed will be encouraged to do so: The credits for studies they have done will be portable - they can go to another campus and pick things up from where they left off in another.

This is indeed ambitious, but not a pipe-dream anymore. There are significant challenges - finance, people, regulatory approvals, issues such as language of delivery, consistency of instruction, variation in learning cultures and expectations - but, looking closer, all of these barriers are being lowered by the same force that this is purported to serve, globalisation. Indeed, in some areas, at least in terms of middle class ambitions, the world is becoming flat, though indeed in other spheres, such as political rhetoric, it is becoming more divided. 


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