International university leaders talk globalization

University administrators from around the world gathered during the Inauguration celebrations to discuss international education.
University administrators from around the world gathered during the Inauguration celebrations to discuss international education. Photo by Lavinia Borzi .

Five top university administrators, hailing from institutions across the world, gathered during the inauguration celebrations to discuss expanding educational opportunities in a globalized world.

The panel, entitled “The University of the Future: Next Steps in Internationalization,” took place Saturday afternoon at Sprague Hall. Conversation between the participants focused on the need for more internationalization to help prepare students for a world in which they will be expected to communicate and collaborate with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Though some of the university administrators advised against certain methods of internationalization, such as the establishment of “branch campuses,” the panelists all emphasized the importance of international engagement and expressed enthusiasm about the role technology can play in making education more accessible.

Catherine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College and a Yale Corporation fellow, told the crowd that globalization brings both new advantages and new challenges to the world of academia.

“With globalization, we’ve evolved to thinking more globally, to educating students to make a difference in the world,” she said.
But several panelists cautioned against approaching internationalization with the wrong mindset.

Casper said he is “incredibly skeptical” of the trend of universities opening satellite campuses, which are additional campuses that are physically detached from the main university.

“There’s no natural law that says that universities should have [them,]” he said.

Hill said one of the problems with branch campuses is that they attempt to emulate the student experience of the main university in a completely different setting. The location of a university largely determines the student experience, she added.

“I don’t think you could recreate the Oxford experience in Cleveland,” Hill said.

Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore and member of the Yale-NUS college board of Trustees, said the liberal arts college Yale-NUS does not qualify as a “branch campus” because it is more of a collaboration than an implantation.

Other panelists agreed that the Yale-NUS initiative intends to unite the educational philosophies and cultures of two universities to create a hybrid institution.
Andrew Hamilton, a former Yale provost and current vice-chancellor of Oxford University, said Yale is one of the few institutions that is “getting rid of the colonization mission” in its efforts abroad.

Still, Tan said merging the cultures of Yale and NUS is an ongoing process.

Though the panelists spoke of Yale-NUS in a positive light, many Yale professors have expressed concerns about the project since it was launched in 2011. Some professors asserted that they were not adequately consulted before the project went forward and questioned the use of Yale’s teaching resources abroad, while other professors objected to Yale’s working with a government that restricts freedom of speech and bans homosexuality. In an April 4, 2012 opinion piece in the News, political science and philosophy professor Seyla Benhabib also referenced the “naïve missionary sentiment” of the venture.

Panelists at Saturday’s event also discussed the impact of technology on internationalization.

Carlos Enrique Cruz Limón, vice president of the Tecnólogico de Monterrey, a university in Mexico, said that online education has the potential to bring ideas together from around the world, but he added that there is still a lot of progress to be made.

He said that he participated in a large initiative to use online education at his university, but that in the beginning it was difficult to adapt the traditional techniques of teaching to the online format.

“We were trying to take the traditional model and copy it into the online model,” Cruz said. “It’s like having an astronaut ride a horse!”
Hamilton said he is not at all concerned that online learning presents a threat to traditional universities.

Technology will make education from the “great cathedrals of learning” like Oxford and Yale more widely accessible, Hamilton said.

Three of five audience members interviewed said that they appreciated the emphasis the panelists placed on the accessibility of education in a global context.
Eddie De Leon, SECCHP University Chaplain, said that discussions of this kind are fascinating because they “bring together pieces of culture and learning.”

Yale-NUS opened in September 2013.

Correction: Oct. 15

A previous version of this article misstated the surname of National University of Singapore President Tan Chorh Chuan as Chuan, when it should have said Tan.

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