The Times Higher Education League Tables are out, the usual self-congratulatory columns have duly appeared alongside a few long faces and the Conference Season have began in all earnestness. We just ran one ourselves, which was about Indian Higher Ed but the conversation primarily centered around how Brand Britain could help lift standards. Another is due next week - under the title 'Exporting Excellence'. The moment of Transnational Education has clearly arrived - and by common belief, UK Education institutions, primarily due to their 'quality', are expected to take the lead. It is timely therefore to ask how pertinent is this expectation, and whether UK Higher Education institutions will really be able to take advantage of the 'globalisation of education'.
The strengths should be obvious: The UK institutions dominate the league tables after the US ones. Some of the world's best known universities are in the UK. The UK researchers get a disproportionately large amount of citations (14%) compared to the overall research spending in global terms (less than 5%). Despite the government's rhetoric and fumbles around the immigration policy, UK remains the second most popular destination for mobile students. UK Higher Education, if considered an export industry, is the country's fifth or sixth largest foreign currency earner. With concerted efforts spanning many decades, the UK Higher Education and its associated 'industries' have a truly global reach, both in terms of brand and delivery prowess, and recognition among the employers.
But, there is a reason for my discordant note: That all this may actually come to pass. I heard the term 'Lazy Internationalisation' first time from Nigel Healy, the current Pro Vice Chancellor at Nottingham Trent University's Business School: I believe this represents the attitude of UK institutions to transnational education quite succinctly. This 'Brand UK' thing is like a family heirloom, being mortgaged by the current generation of universities who wanted to live a lifetime of reflected glory. All the magisterial talk about global domination are closely borrowed from the rhetoric of the empire, and one could argue, I argue, most British universities are mostly insular institutions disconnected from the realities of international education.
This is not just about the current configuration of the league tables, where, despite the pre-eminence of the UK institutions, the biggest story may be the rise of the rest - the Chinese, the South Korean and eventually other Asian institutions (and some Indian business schools, in business school league tables). This is not about the weakness of the school system in the UK, where excellence is often restricted at a tiny top, leaving most of the expanding university system exposed to indifferent students. While I believe that the changes in the government funding and the overall muddle in education funding will affect the standing of the British universities eventually, we may not need to worry about it yet (perhaps). I think there is a far more urgent problem - that of lack of understanding of the changing nature of Higher Education - and common sense though it may be, it may turn out to be the most difficult to tackle.
To illustrate what I mean, let me talk about this talk about 'quality' that UK institutions often talk about. Over last half decade or so, I have had many discussions about what is meant by 'quality' (because, for me, it was essentially a variable thing) with many students as well as providers. My understanding of 'quality' as it is seen by the British Higher Education institutions is roughly this: A lesson taught in English with an Anglo-Saxon person (usually overpaid for being Anglo-Saxon) delivering the same. The fact that I am not Anglo-Saxon myself may make it sound like a complaint, but it is not: I am just trying to make a statement, as neutral as possible, what quality has come to mean. Indeed, there is absolutely wrong with this conception of quality because generations of Asian and African students perceived this to be 'quality' and paid for it, understandably because of the colonial hangovers that these societies have had. The problem is that the UK institutions have got so used to this conception of quality that they have started substituting this imperial notion for their idea of 'quality'.
This is where the insularity starts. When the global markets started changing in the last two decades, the conception of quality has started changing too: But, being in denial, and somewhat misled by the quick rise of English language in quantitative terms - more people are learning English than ever - the British HE has lived in denial for far too long that the conception of quality that has served them so well might actually be obsolete. All challenges to their self-centric view of the world, among which I shall count the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, has been dismissed as exceptional, handiwork of a few evil people rather than any broad social trend. But this would be undermining the true nature of global transformation that is all around us: More than the wars in Middle East and financial meltdown, the broader global trends such as the breaking of the middle class myth, the rise of illiberal democracies and the end of expansionary finance, define what happens in Higher Education. These trends, more obvious in the streets of Mumbai or Shanghai than the timeless environs of rural Yorkshire, have now overtaken the post-colonial dream and therefore, post-colonial conception of quality and merit that is steeped inside the internationalisation thinking of British HE.
The turning of tide in global finance, and attendant stagnation of middle class prosperity, may not spell the end of internationalisation of education, or a shift of power to the East, but this will most certainly challenge the current notions of Higher Education: A training for good life, which is defined in the context of a 'professional society', defined in the image of transformation of industrial societies. However, the gradual progression from industrial capacity building to service economies may not happen for newly industrial countries, as is commonly expected: Rather, they have to come to acknowledge the different developmental context that their trajectories may shape out, shaped, not just by secular and independent working of economic rationale, but also by the power politics of globalisation, the cultural context of post-colonialism and the environment of climatic austerity. As this awareness emerges, and this is indeed emerging in variable rates in different societies, the Higher Education must then be shaped accordingly. It must be able to accommodate the quickly changing conception of good life, rather than just supplanting the illusions of Western middle class living globally: The idea of the white professor teaching in English as the pinnacle of intellectualism will also be replaced with a new engagement with local contexts and rediscovery of culture.
I would argue that the British universities are quite unprepared for this new internationalisation (we can follow convention and call this 'internationalisation 2.0'). The whole talk surrounding 'Brand UK', the obsession with the colonial past and overwhelming influence of English language, which is an advantage but a baggage in turn, expose the poverty of their engagement with this changing context of Higher Education. The changing dynamic of Times Higher rankings (and indeed, other emergent rankings globally) should be less of an occasion for self-celebration and more an opportunity to explore and understand the nature of Higher Ed: It is not the top end of the Global 200, but the bottom of the 400 list where the gazes should rightfully fall. The rhetoric of power and prestige should at least be balanced with the ideas of possibility and preparation, the resplendent tradition could be extended only with effort to the changing context of aspiration among austerity. It is here the new global futures will be shaped: The British academe should now learn to be less of the chambermaid of the power and prestige and master the midwifery to bring about the new possibilities.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.