Uni­ver­si­ties must help every­one to see that glob­al­i­sa­tion is a force for good

Peter Mathieson, pres­i­dent, Univer­sity of Hong Kong

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

In this era of in­stant global trans­fer of in­for­ma­tion, ac­ces­si­ble in­ter­na­tional travel and rapid tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, young peo­ple have the po­ten­tial to be global cit­i­zens. Uni­ver­si­ties set them­selves the aim of pro­vid­ing a truly in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for their stu­dents and staff.

I am a pro­found be­liever in the mer­its of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the moral obli­ga­tion that uni­ver­si­ties have to en­sure that their stu­dents and staff have ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties all over the world. Our role is also to help to equip them with the skills and tools that they need to max­imise the self-im­prove­ment and so­ci­etal ben­e­fit that can stem from those op­por­tu­ni­ties. How­ever, such a be­lief in glob­al­i­sa­tion is far from univer­sal: I am well aware that many peo­ple feel that glob­al­i­sa­tion has helped oth­ers but not them, or that the ben­e­fits of glob­al­i­sa­tion have been ex­ag­ger­ated.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in var­i­ous parts of the world have cap­i­talised on this sen­ti­ment: elec­toral sur­prises in the UK and the US (among oth­ers) have in­cluded an el­e­ment of antiglob­al­i­sa­tion motivation. De­feated French pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Marine Le Pen said that “glob­al­i­sa­tion is slowly chok­ing our com­mu­ni­ties”. Whole sec­tions of so­ci­ety need con­vinc­ing that glob­al­i­sa­tion, which in my opin­ion is largely ir­re­versible, at least in the short to medium term, is a force for good, not for evil. Uni­ver­si­ties can and must play a part in this. At my in­sti­tu­tion, the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, our ef­forts fall into two ma­jor cat­e­gories: in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion at home, and the cre­ation of op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side Hong Kong. For the for­mer, the foci are in­ter­na­tion­ally minded cur­ric­ula; di­verse and in­te­grated in­ter­na­tional pop­u­la­tions of stu­dents and staff; vis­it­ing speak­ers, teach­ers and schol­ars; in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences; cul­tural events, some­times in col­lab­o­ra­tion with for­eign con­sulates, trade mis­sions or busi­nesses; lan­guage tu­ition and so on. Of course we are as­sisted by our lo­ca­tion in one of the world’s most vi­brant in­ter­na­tional hubs, on the doorstep of main­land China and within a short flight of half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

This ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion also as­sists the sec­ond aim, the cre­ation of op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side Hong Kong. We have set our­selves the am­bi­tious tar­get of pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to 100 per cent of our un­der­grad­u­ates for two ex­pe­ri­ences out­side Hong Kong dur­ing their four (usu­ally, some­times five or six) years of study: one in main­land China and one some­where else in the world. For our re­search post­grad­u­ate stu­dents, our aim is also 100 per cent, but we ex­pect this to be only one such op­por­tu­nity, cog­nate with their re­search project and likely in­flu­enced by the in­ter­ests and con­tacts of their su­per­vi­sors.

This plan, es­pe­cially for un­der­grad­u­ates, brings ma­jor chal­lenges of or­gan­i­sa­tion, qual­ity con­trol, safety and fund­ing. Yet we firmly be­lieve in the ed­u­ca­tional and ped­a­gog­i­cal ben­e­fits of such ex­pe­ri­ences. We be­lieve in tak­ing stu­dents out­side their com­fort zones; ex­pos­ing them to new places, peo­ple and cir­cum­stances; chal­leng­ing them to see the world from the per­spec­tive of oth­ers some­times very dif­fer­ent from them­selves; con­firm­ing our view that much learn­ing can and should take place out­side the class­room. The op­por­tu­ni­ties can be many and var­ied: dual or joint de­grees, se­mes­ter or whole-year ex­changes, study-abroad mod­ules, in­tern­ships, ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing, work­ing with schools, uni­ver­si­ties, in­dus­try, char­i­ties or so­cial en­ter­prises.

We do not aim to be pre­scrip­tive. Some of these ac­tiv­i­ties can be credit-bear­ing, but this is not a pre­req­ui­site. But how can we mea­sure “global cit­i­zen­ship”? How will we know that we are suc­cess­fully pro­vid­ing our stu­dents with the ap­pro­pri­ate ele­ments to max­imise their op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mod­ern world?

One out­come mea­sure will be em­ploy­ment statistics, but these will need more gran­u­lar­ity than is cur­rently eas­ily avail­able. Our grad­u­ate em­ploy­ment statistics are in­cred­i­ble: 99.7 or 99.8 per cent em­ploy­ment in ev­ery re­cent year. How­ever, we need to know where these jobs are, how “in­ter­na­tional” they are, which parts of the univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence in­flu­enced job choices or em­ploy­ers’ de­ci­sions and how much mo­bil­ity has been cre­ated.

League ta­bles of in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion al­ready flat­ter us: for the past two years, we have been placed third in the world in Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion’s rank­ing for in­ter­na­tional out­look, and in 2017 we were the top com­pre­hen­sive univer­sity in this league ta­ble.

If we achieve our 100 per cent tar­gets by 2022, which is our stated aim, where will we be in the league ta­bles – and does it mat­ter?

Peter Mathieson is speak­ing on the topic “Mod­ern grad­u­ates: cit­i­zens of the world or cit­i­zens of nowhere?” at the 2017 Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion World Aca­demic Sum­mit in Lon­don from 3 Septem­ber.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.