Globally, a good name is gold

Among all the changes in an international higher education sector, one constant is the primacy of integrity and quality

May 5, 2016
Hands with thumbs up (approval) illustration
Source: iStock

At a regular meeting at Times Higher Education HQ last week, colleagues seemed a bit thin on the ground – it’s rare that everyone’s in the country, let alone the building, but there were definitely fewer than normal.

Where was everyone, I asked? A couple were in Africa, travelling first to Ghana (for our Africa Universities Summit) then on to Cape Town (for the Going Global conference); another was in Singapore, where we now have an office working with universities across Asia on data benchmarking; a fourth was in Kazakhstan, delivering a seminar on institutional performance; a fifth was looking rather tired, having just flown back from the US.

Later, I flicked through some recent issues of THE. Last week’s cover story was a critical analysis of Germany’s Excellence Initiative; the week before it was China’s involvement in African higher education; the issue before that we looked at the curtailment of academic freedom in Turkey; and this week we hear different academic perspectives on the challenges facing scholars in fevered and fractured modern India.

I could go on, but I’m already labouring the point – higher education is global in a way that most other sectors can only dream of, and for those of us lucky enough to be immersed in it, the pace of change, and the range of issues and opportunities faced by those studying, teaching, doing research, leading institutions or setting national policy is almost limitless.

This globalisation takes many forms. There is the current of students flowing from East to West; there are the peripatetic academic careers; there are the research collaborations that cross national boundaries; and there are the institutional forays into global partnerships and, occasionally, overseas campuses.

Many of these trends are being driven at a micro level: individuals taking personal decisions about where to work and study, or who to collaborate with. Others exist on a macro scale: the funding schemes that prioritise international collaborations, or government initiatives that incentivise or discourage brain gain and drain. Sitting between the two are the universities themselves, which also have a crucial role to play in setting the pace and priorities.

The way in which national approaches stack up is unpicked by a new analysis from the British Council.

The study is based on a detailed review of the policies affecting international higher education in 26 countries, evaluating and comparing over 100 pieces of legislation and national strategies to determine how approaches vary.

Among its conclusions is that, taken as a whole, Germany and Malaysia have the “most balanced” approach to international higher education (assessed against 37 indicators), with the UK and Australia also performing well.

An area of widespread weakness is quality assurance – reflecting how for many countries, the focus in transnational and international higher education has been on delivering scale.

But for those that perform well on this measure, including the UK, it’s a crucial advantage.

As our World Reputation Rankings 2016, also out this week, make clear, university “brands” – their prestige and profile – are hard-earned and easily tarnished.

Yes, higher education is changing, and competition is fierce and global. But quality and integrity are a constant as the only foundations on which universities, and national systems, will prosper.

john.gill@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest