Welcome to this special themed issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences in which a set of authors from Ethiopia, China, Indonesia, Finland and South Korea explore the internationalisation of higher education from the periphery and another group from Italy, New Zealand, Australia and the UK analyse market-making in higher education institutions. The articles in this special issue represent some of the collaborative results from an ‘Initial Training Network’ project funded by the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme that analysed ‘Universities in the Knowledge Economy’ (UNIKE) in Europe and the Asia-Pacific Rim.1
The internationalisation of higher education is addressed in two linked articles. The first is from the perspective of peripheralised countries or regions. Universities in the Global North benefit from being better-resourced than those in the Global South and from the widespread assumption that Western models of teaching and research are superior and universally relevant. Sintayehu Kassaye Alemu, Mei Qu and Zulfa Sakhiyya present case studies from sub-Saharan Africa, China and Indonesia, showing how universities and governments in these countries are attempting to rebalance their relationships with the higher education systems of Europe and North America.
Universities in sub-Saharan Africa are heavily dependent on foreign donors, and this form of internationalisation has for many years contributed to large numbers of academics and other professionals leaving the region for jobs in more affluent countries with better-funded higher education systems. Those resisting the detrimental effect of this trend argue that universities need support from their international partners to produce and disseminate knowledge that is relevant and useful to African countries.
In China, government strategy since 1978 has been to strengthen the international ranking of its research in the natural sciences and then, from the second decade of the twenty-first century, to seek international partnerships that enable the sharing of Chinese language, culture, science and technology. But in recent years some aspects of enduring and egalitarian international partnerships have been put at risk by increasing tensions between Western countries and China.
After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Indonesia was obliged by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to begin privatising the higher education sector. The policy was reversed only after strong resistance and a decision of the Constitutional Court that such privatisation was unconstitutional. The government switched to promoting international partnerships as an alternative way of encouraging competition, driving up the quality of Indonesian universities and increasing their status in the global higher education market. Connection to global market forces will not necessarily bring Indonesia's higher education sector in from the periphery and could have similar results to privatisation.
In the second article, Sonja Trifuljesko and On Hee Choi examine the experiences of international students in two European universities. Despite Finland having two official languages and Finnish being spoken by the vast majority of the population, international doctoral students at the University of Helsinki are not required to learn Finnish. The model of internationalisation in operation is based on the notion that English should be the common academic language even in non-Anglophone countries. While this makes study abroad possible for English-speaking international students, it also signals that they are temporary residents and occupy a peripheral position. ‘Englishisation’ also peripheralises the non-Anglophone universities themselves and can create tensions over language use in informal university settings.
The international students that feature in the UK case study come from China, Korea, India and Mauritius. Whereas many had initially sought to integrate in British society and learn about British culture, nearly all of them felt academically and socially marginalised, and two of them had experienced rudeness or insensitivity from members of academic staff. Several of the students were reluctant to speak in class or ask questions of the lecturers. Instead of face-to-face interaction, they used digital spaces such as the university's virtual learning environment, the websites of student societies and social media platforms to gain easy access to course materials, find out about social events and keep in touch with family and friends back home.
The third article in this issue is about market-making in higher education. Nick Lewis and Susan Robertson argue that market-making in universities is not a uniform process but the result of actions by many different people at various times and in diverse places. They identify four stages in the process of marketisation – imagining, framing, qualifying and locking in and these are illustrated by six vignettes.
In the first vignette, ‘Imagining: Imagineering the marketised university’, Nick Lewis and Cris Shore examine the efforts of management consultancies and think tanks to re-imagine and re-engineer public universities. They analyse two reports from 2012 and 2013 that interpret existing trends and problems in higher education in such a way as to justify much more involvement of profit-making private companies in the sector.
In the second vignette, ‘Reframing I: From universities to higher education market actors’, Janja Komljenovic shows how government policies have reframed, both materially and ideologically, the role of British universities as sellers of education services competing for student customers in the marketplace. Interviews with administrators in two high-status universities reveal how significantly governance, administrative structures and spending decisions are affected by this reframing.
In the third vignette, ‘Reframing II: Brokering in the marketplace of influential ideas’, Tatyana Bajenova analyses the relationships between universities and think tanks in European Union policymaking. Some think tanks have expanded their activities to include training and PhD programmes, and some university research institutes offer consultancy work. While these developments bring the two types of organisations into competition, they also increase the scope for collaboration in accessing European Union funding.
In the fourth vignette, ‘Qualifying and calculating university values’, Miguel Antonio Lim and Chris Muellerleile explore the use of citation data, student satisfaction surveys and university rankings. University leaders, ignoring the fact that the apparent objectivity of numerical data is the result of subjective decisions about what to include in these surveys, seek to increase their institutions’ scores and outrank their rivals. In doing so they provide the private companies that collect the data with more lucrative opportunities to sell them customised market research.
In the fifth vignette, ‘Locking in markets and instituting entrepreneurship’, Cris Shore shares his observations of three university events between 2013 and 2017. Each one celebrated entrepreneurial academics who had secured large amounts of money for the institution through the commercial applications of their research. The nature of all these ceremonies was indicative of a growing emphasis on the duty of public universities to contribute to economic innovation and growth and an associated narrowing or undermining of the broader mission of the university to serve the public good.
In the final vignette, ‘Locking in markets: Fashioning compliant corporate subjects’, Nick Lewis reflects on an attempt in 2015 to turn dissatisfied academics into conforming corporate subjects. A university department that had suffered for over fifteen years from a series of mergers and physical relocations was found to have high levels of staff dissatisfaction. The university's human resources unit brought in private consultants to run an organisational culture change programme. The consultants ignored the specific circumstances of the department and the duty of academics, enshrined in New Zealand law, to serve the public, democracy and truth. Instead, they used generic corporate concepts, values and models that identified the ideal academic as a team player who adhered uncritically to corporate goals. The exercise also told the department little that they did not know already and provided no solutions to staff dissatisfaction.
The issue concludes with Lesley Wood's review of Socially Responsible Higher Education: International Perspectives on Knowledge Democracy by Budd L. Hall and Rajesh Tandon, Ron Barnett's review of Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures by Anke Schwittay and Penny Welch's review of Co-creating Learning and Teaching: Towards Relational Pedagogy in Higher Education by Catherine Bovill.
Our thanks go to the authors of the articles and book reviews, the anonymous referees who commented on the manuscripts, the Editorial Board and everyone at Berghahn Journals.
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