23 May 2017

Is internationalisation dead in a ‘post truth’ age?

This was the question posed by a panel exploring how universities and their internationalisation agendas can survive in a so called ‘post-truth’ world, during Going Global 2017.  

The session, chaired by Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle, also discussed how to  measure the benefits of internationalisation, and whether internationalisation has become part of an elite agenda that has failed to address the concerns and needs of local communities and society.

Panellist Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, UK, touched on the issue of public trust in experts, and how experts are perceived to be linked to the elite. 

She said: ‘The public now feel entitled to express contempt of experts and elites, and universities fall squarely into both these categories. We have to focus on the issue of trust. We will continue to work together in the service of knowledge and society but we need to publically engage like we never have before to demonstrate the ways in which international co-operation can contribute to a better world to everyone.” She added that in a ‘post truth’ world, universities are part of the solution.

John Hudzik, Professor at Michigan State University, spoke of the ‘powerful global drivers’ for higher education internationalisation. He said: “We are seeing the continued globalisation of everything: economies, markets and employment are not going away. Talent, ideas and cutting edge knowledge are the most important things. We’re moving from brain drain to brain circulation.”

He also highlighted that universities are staying away from measuring the outcomes of internationalisation, explaining, “It’s scary, in case we think not a lot of good comes out of this.”

The benefits of internationalisation for China were described by Ka-Ho Mok from Lingnan University, Hong Kong, SAR China. He told the audience that over the last 20 years, governments in East Asia have invested more in higher education because they ‘believe in internationalisation.’

He explained: “In the case of China and Hong Kong, the government want to mobilise the private sector to contribute to students having international experience.  But how to prove value? The most important evidence comes from student experience and we support students going for exchange programmes.”

Nico Jooste, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa, discussed the inequalities that exist in a globalised world.  He said: “Internationalisation and globalisation are not happening in a world that is flat – it’s happening in a world with inequalities.  We as educators living in a bubble need to understand this and universities need to find a way to link the global to the local….modern knowledge to indigenous knowledge. We sometimes don’t appreciate how entangled the world of higher education. We spend not enough time on finding solutions to real social issues. We don’t do enough empirical work on the benefits of international activity.”