Sunday, August 1, 2010

Universities Go Global

Until fairly recently universities thought they were doing a good job in terms of presenting themselves as a global institutions if they had an active student exchange program. Many university leaders now are realizing that they have to do more as they recognize we are in a new globally connected era. While many mission statements may have been revised to include the term "global" and many high level statements about the intent of many universities to become a truly global institution have been issued, the follow through has often been quite disappointing. A recent report by the American Council on Education, Mapping Internationalization on US Campuses: 2008 edition found that:

" * Many institutions do not see internationalization as integral to their identity or strategy. Less than 40 percent of institutions made specific reference to international or global education in their mission statements, although that's up from 28 percent in 2001.
* The percentage of colleges and universities that require a course with an international or global focus as part of the general education curriculum dipped from 41 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2006. Fewer than one in five had a foreign-language requirement for all undergraduates.
* The majority of institutions do not have a full-time person to oversee or coordinate internationalization.
* Despite reports showing growth in study abroad participation, the ACE survey found that 27 percent of institutions reported that no students graduating in 2005 studied abroad.
* Ten percent of responding institutions offered degree programs abroad for non-U.S. students. Forty percent of these programs were established in China and another 16 percent in India."

Although some progress has been made since many colleges and universities now require students take at least one course on a global topic.

I recently visited Tanith Fowler Corsi who is the Vice President for Global Education for Catholic University housed in Washington DC and if anyone can help really overcome the many obstacles thrown in the way of highly territorially minded departments, she looks like the one to do it. Her global perspective started at a young age--born in Monaco of US parents she attended French schools and is comfortably trilingual, she has run global education center at George Mason University and is widely traveled. Her task is to help implement the university's commitment to internationalizing more of the curriculum, linking professors together and develop worthwhile sustainable international projects that produce real value to its more than 6.000 students students. The task is formidable since the tools to change any institution as large and complex as a modern university come down really to persuasion and leadership by example. Clearly we are just starting out down this global road in both K-12 as well as higher education. It is an exciting journey and we will see how both schools and colleges fair as they attempt to redefine themselves and their mission for the new century.