Summer on the high seas: the voyage begins

“This voyage has already been at times glorious, exhausting, and so rewarding”

Lauren Hartig, Director of the Field Office at Semester at Sea, gives the first instalment of her travel adventures as she spends the summer on the high seas.

As an educator who loves everything international, it was my ultimate goal to be a staff member on Semester at Sea. Ten years ago that dream was realised when I sailed on the Semester at Sea Fall 2004 voyage. Even before I officially disembarked from that journey, I knew it was something I wanted to repeat as many times as possible. Ten years later, a career switch from student affairs to international education (plus a master of advanced studies in international relations) and I find myself back on the ship and in a different role.

At the NAFSA conference, I had several past voyagers remark to me that the Field Office can be the hardest and most time consuming role on the ship. After a few days at sea and an average of 12 hours a day, the best analogy is that the Field Office is like a really intense and awesome game of Tetris, but with people and places. And using a really old Gameboy! There is internet on the ship and my office receives what is probably the best connection, but by today’s minimum standard, “best” is far from what we have come to expect in our day to day technological fervor.

“The Field Office is like a really intense and awesome game of Tetris, but with people and places”

My job focuses on the actual in country experiences – the field labs and the field programs. Semester at Sea is a multi-country interdisciplinary experience with 41 faculties offering 49 class options, of which the students take 3-4. Class days are while we are at sea (even on a Saturday and Sunday based on the schedule) and each class has an in-country eight hour Field Lab developed with the home office (ISE – Institute for Shipboard Education) well in advance. Some of the choices for the summer 2014 students include Politics of Sustainable Consumption, Economic Development & Entrepreneurship, and Hormones & Health. The 465 students on our voyage come from over 212 different universities and represent 41 states and 21 countries. As we have come to expect in study abroad programs, the majority of students are female by an almost 70/30 ratio. The students, faculty, and staff can choose to travel independently in our 10 different ports/countries in Europe and Scandinavia over the next 66 days or they can sign up for overnight or day trips that the Field Office organizes and facilities in Virginia and on the ship.

This voyage has already been at times glorious, exhausting, and so rewarding. A personal highlight for me was leading a dozen students to a Wild Animal Recovery Shelter for and IMPACT trip (a service oriented experience) and getting to cuddle a baby rabbit.

If you would like to follow along with our specific voyage, please visit the semester sea News from the Helm website at www.semesteratsea.org and look for Summer 2014 updates. Stay tuned for more from me as I attempt to keep afloat in the Field Office and meet as many students and attend as many local festivals in as many countries as possible!

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Hopes and aspirations: upholding the UK’s education brand

“Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm”

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, Marketing & Communications Manager at the London School of Business and Management, writes on the importance of upholding the UK education sector’s reputation in the wake of the recent exam fraud scandal.

I started my life in Higher Education, like many others, as a Student Union Officer. With strong morals, ethics and ideals, I had plans to change the world from my glorified broom cupboard at the back of the campus wedged between the toilet and the canteen. Although my working situation has changed somewhat, my ideals have not.

After having spent time on the National Executive Council of NUS, you may be surprised to learn that I am now working for a private education provider. However for those of you that have yet to work outside of the public education sector, I can promise you, it’s not all that you may have thought it was. Or at least it’s not at London School of Business and Management.

“When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends”

With all of the current media coverage surrounding the alleged admissions malpractice of a number of private education providers, I thought I’d try and dispel the fear of impending doom that seems to come as such a comfortable bed partner to mention of private HE providers. When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends. Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm.

The London School of Business and Management is far from that. The institution that I have recently joined is filled with staff passionate about raising aspirations of people across not only London, but the world. We are all committed not only to our students and applicants, but to the UK Higher Education brand and the thousands of professionals it represents across the sector. Not unlike countless others, regardless of the subsection of the sector you work in.

“This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity”

Across the sector, from the smallest private provider to the largest redbrick university, we have all worked tirelessly for many years (admittedly, for some more than others) to shape and deliver this incredible, inspirational and aspirational sector and ultimately; brand. This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity.

Therefore, for those of us working in marketing, recruitment and international offices, it is our responsibility to uphold the brand that so many have worked so hard to create. We therefore must, as a sector, seek to condemn those who work to capitalise from this hard work. At the end of the day, they are effectively destroying the hopes and aspirations of those who look to better themselves and their lives through higher education.

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Using student analytics to improve the student experience and underpin success at university  

 “Presented in a manageable way, data can be used to predict attainment, readily identify issues and implement the appropriate early intervention strategies”

Dr Paul Dowland, Senior Lecturer at Plymouth University and the architect of the S3 data system, discusses how data collected by systems such as Cengage Learning’s MindTap on the online activity of students, is being used effectively to identify top resources, improve the student experience and underpin success at university.

Student data in the form of exam results has been used in the past to evaluate the performance of individual departments within universities and student outcomes. Today universities are taking this one step further, using real-time data on student attendance, frequency of access to the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE) and level of contact with tutors. This is helping to improve student retention and results, as well as ensuring courses are better run.

Student analytics is defined by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) as the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for the purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.

All universities have access to student data through their record systems and learning environments. Presented in a manageable way, this data can be used to predict attainment, to readily identify issues and to implement the appropriate early intervention strategies.

“It is important to remember that while data can be very useful, human skills are still required to interpret and apply the information in a useful way”

Data vs. human

It is important to remember that while data can be very useful, human skills are still required to interpret and apply the information in a useful way. One-to-one meetings between a lecturer and a student can uncover details that data analysis alone would be unable to provide.

A clear institution-wide policy on the role of data drawn from student analytics should be agreed at the onset. Data typically draws on information that is easy to measure, for example, it can confirm that a student has taken a book, but not if they have read it.

Data protection

Universities should ensure that students understand exactly why their personal data is being collected, processed and stored. It is also important that universities resist collecting too much data, irrespective of its relevance – the motivation for any system should be to facilitate information sharing for the benefit of the students.

“Universities should ensure that students understand exactly why their personal data is being collected, processed and stored”

Technology

At Plymouth University, we use the Student Support System (S3) to collect assessment submissions, monitor academic attainment, tutoring and attendance records. This helps lecturers to better manage and support over 15,000 students.

Commercial companies that store and analyse data include Oracle, SAS, Newton and Cengage Learning’s MindTap. MindTap is a new personal learning experience that combines all of the university’s digital assets – readings, multimedia, activities, and assessments,integrates with the university’s VLE and allows tutors to set mock exams using the assessment feature to track student progress and to identify areas where further tuition is required.

The future

Student analytics is an important development in higher education as, in an increasingly competitive market, the potential for using data to improve services, student retention and student success is clearly evident.

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New IELTS score requirement for doctors in the UK – why so high?

“Usually you wouldn’t expect an English Teacher and a Consultant Physician to have too much in common work-wise, but that day was different”

Andy Johnson, Development Manager at The London School of English looks at the decision by the General Medical Council to revise its criteria for assessing knowledge of English amongst its members, which comes into effect this week, and the implications of these changes.

I saw a friend of mine recently who is a doctor. He’s also an Arsenal fan, though he doesn’t like to admit that at the moment! We spoke about a number of things before the conversation turned to football and eventually to work. Usually you wouldn’t expect an English Teacher and a Consultant Physician to have too much in common work-wise, but that day was different and it had nothing to do with Arsène Wenger’s team. The reason was IELTS.

The General Medical Council (GMC) announced earlier this year that from 18 June 2014, the minimum IELTS scores they accept as evidence of knowledge of English when registering doctors to work in the UK will be:

  • A score of at least 7.0 in each of the four areas tested (speaking, listening, reading and writing)
  • And an overall score of at least 7.5

The GMC will accept only the academic version of the IELTS test. For those who are unfamiliar with the IELTS scores (ranging from 1 – 9), a score of 7.5 sits between a good, and very good user of English. Bands 6 – 9 break down as follows:

london school gmc

An overall score of 7.5 is a big ask. While a minimum score of 7.0 through the four modules – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – seems achievable, now it is not enough. If you score 7.0 in say, speaking and writing, candidates would now need to score a minimum of 8.0 in the reading and listening papers to reach the minimum overall score. That is going to be very difficult for many candidates.

“An overall score of 7.5 is a big ask. That is going to be very difficult for many candidates”

Since these changes were announced by the GMC to its members, there has been quite an emotive response. If you take a look at the comments section on the GMC’s site, you get a sense of the depth of feeling on this topic.

Some have accused the GMC of outright discrimination, while others have warned that the UK should brace itself for a shortage of doctors in the coming months. There is an acceptance that of course a good working knowledge of English is a prerequisite to working in the UK, but this is tempered with a belief amongst members that the GMC is setting the bar too high, and that language command alone does not make you a good or bad doctor.

I cannot comment on that last point, but as a teacher with experience of the Academic module of the IELTS exam, I know how hard it is for any student to achieve an overall score of 7.5. I can understand the consternation amongst doctors and wonder if the GMC is making a rod for its own back. My friend felt the same. As a native speaker who works with many doctors for whom English is not their first language, he had a lot of sympathy with those who are going to be affected by these new requirements.

“I can understand the consternation amongst doctors and wonder if the GMC is making a rod for its own back”

The strict deadline doesn’t make things any easier. Students taking one of our intensive IELTS preparation courses often see their overall IELTS scores rise by up to one band. As with many things though, making leaps seems easier the lower the level, but the work required to keep improving becomes more difficult the higher up the scale you go.

That’s not to say that all is lost. Students can find many tips for improving their scores – for example, this blog post from The London School’s Laura, What to do in the IELTS exam, as well as practice activities on London School Online. At the school we see students scoring high on IELTS all the time.

You can hear from Malika, a former student who achieved an 8.0 in her exam here: Malika interview video.

This was originally posted on The London School’s language blog.

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Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education

“UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume”

The following is an extract from the British Council’s Education in East Asia – By the Numbers report entitled ‘Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education’. British Council’s Services for International Education Marketing (SIEM) team helps UK institutions refine their internationalisation strategies to succeed in East Asia and around the globe. The full report is available to registered members of the British Council website here.

A recent report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on global demand for English higher education has generated a great deal of attention among education practitioners and media outlets in the UK. Most coverage focused rightfully on the first net drop in international enrolment in English higher education in 29 years, as well as discussion of the various causes of this decline. With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world “how to ruin a global brand.”

“With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world ‘how to ruin a global brand’”

Given the particularly precipitous decline in new enrolments from south Asia – by upwards of 50 per cent in two years – some commenters have latched onto any good news that they can find, especially the continued rise in the number of students from China, as a bright spot for the UK sector[1]. One even proclaimed UK higher education to be “an industry winning an important share of the huge and growing Chinese market.”

But this way of thinking about China may already be outdated, as growth in China’s outbound student market has rapidly slowed. In fact, by focusing on the modest rise in overall enrolments from China, commentators overlook the surprising halt in growth at undergraduate levels in the UK in 2012/13. With students from China making up not only the largest sending market to the UK, but also the fastest growing one in recent years, this slowdown in Chinese enrolments would appear to foreshadow crisis for the UK higher education sector.

Somewhat strangely, however, UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume. What’s more, the UK education sector is better prepared to weather a fallow period from China than any other major English speaking destination country.

Slowing dragon

There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK. China enrolled 32,000 more students in UK higher education in 2012/13 than it did only five years prior, accounting for fully 60 per cent of growth in total new enrolments of international students over this time period. Today, more than one in five international students comes from China, up from one in eight as recently as 2007/08.

“There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK”

What’s more, China’s outbound student market appears at first glance to be in fine health.  New enrolments in UK higher education increased by more than six per cent in 2012/13 from the year before, even as international enrolments from other countries declined[2].

The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study

The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study

Appearances can be deceiving though.  The seemingly healthy bump in first-year enrolments from China in UK higher education in 2012/13 masked the slowest rate of expansion since 2007/08. Moreover, all of this growth was concentrated in postgraduate courses, with new enrolments at both undergraduate levels registering net declines. In particular, new enrolments in first-degree courses came to a halt in 2012/13 after averaging 18 per cent annual growth over the period from 2007 to 2012.

In other words, if China was the engine of growth for the UK sector from 2007/08 until 2011/12, it downshifted quite dramatically in 2012/13. And if current trends in undergraduate enrolments in the UK are a harbinger of things to come, total new enrolments could stall by as early as 2014/15, weighed down by a shrinking youth population and slowing economic growth. This will only put further pressure on UK institutions to seek new sources of international students.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the UK.

The tipping point

For one thing, the UK education sector is still far less dependent on Chinese enrolments than other major English language speaking countries, particularly Australia, where nearly two fifths of all international students in higher education come from China. Even when excluding EU enrolments from the international student population, the UK is less dependent on China for international enrolments than Australia, Canada or the US, meaning that the UK sector will feel the effects of a slowdown in new Chinese enrolments less than other education markets might.

While UK higher education is less reliant on China’s student market overall, some UK institutions have grown worryingly dependent on China for international enrolments in recent years. To wit, in 2002/03, there were 11 UK institutions at which first-year students from China comprised more than 30 per cent of all new international enrolments; by 2012/13, fully 30 institutions fit this profile, and two universities enrolled more Chinese students than all other international students combined… [Continue reading]

[1]While HEFCE’s report focused solely on English higher education institutions, the picture is largely the same for the entire UK sector.  

[2]All statistics for UK higher education institutions come from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

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Third culture kids: the blended identity of an international education

“International schools provide a comprehensive cross-cultural education that gives students access to a global, mobile community that is defined by its internationalism”

Emily Buchanan, a professional writer living in Norwich, UK, who’s passionate about education, the environment, and human rights, writes on the value of an international education and the ‘third culture’ identity of students at international schools.

For a young family which is given the opportunity to relocate abroad for a new job or promotion, there are going to be a number of things to consider. From accommodation to healthcare, planning before you go is paramount to a successful move. One of the most important things to come to terms with is education. As a newcomer, what can you expect from an international school and how will it change the way your child defines themselves?

International schools are ideal for expat families in that they cater to students who are not nationals of the host country. This can include children of international business owners, international organisations and companies, foreign embassies, NGOs, charities or missionary programs.

On first glance, this may concern some parents. After all, how will your child mix with their peers if their school is populated by students from other countries? However, many local children attend international schools to learn English and to obtain qualifications that they might not have access to in other schools – such as the International Baccalaureate, Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations.

These certificates of education are highly regarded and for this reason, demand for an international education is high. The market has grown exponentially in recent years, with statistics from the International School Consultancy Group (ISC) predicting that by the end of the year, there will be 7,200 international schools teaching over 3.7 million students in English.

“Rather than identifying with any one country or culture, many internationally-educated children and adults will consider themselves global citizens”

This market growth can partially be attributed to the advance of globalisation but also to the growth of the middle classes in emerging markets. This new population of working, well-off families has meant that in some markets, 80% of enrolment demand is from local parents who want to prepare their children for foreign university degrees. When you consider that 20 years ago, most international schools were dominated by expat students, it just goes to show how well integrated international schools have become within their local communities.

International schools provide a rigorous and comprehensive cross-cultural education that immerses students in multiple languages and gives them access to a global, mobile community that is defined by its internationalism. Anyone who has been to international school or knows someone who has will appreciate the unique cultural identity this gives you.

Firstly, if you are always on the move, your children will have spent very little time in their country of origin. Therefore, rather than identifying with any one country or culture, many internationally-educated children and adults will consider themselves “global citizens” or “Third Culture Kids”.

At an international school, where you’re from is less about birthplace and more about cultural identity. “As an expat student your cultural identity ends up being difficult to categorise,” Hannah Smith, a 16-year-old British-Taiwanese student currently living in Beijing, writes in the Guardian. “This lack of definition means that I’ve ended up in a murky haze of different cultures, with bits and pieces from everywhere I’ve lived and everyone I’ve met.”

“International students’ culture can be spotted in their tell-tale ‘international school accent’ which is a kind of transatlantic timbre that’s difficult to place”

International students relate to each other through this hybrid identification process and eventually settle on a culture that is typified by their education. This can be spotted in their tell-tale “international school accent” which is a kind of transatlantic timbre that’s difficult to place. The result of an English-speaking education that encourages bilingual conversations and cross-cultural lessons, international school accents give their students a sense of belonging and a root in an otherwise culturally disparate environment.

One of the many great advantages of international school is that students are more open to people from all walks of life. In the very fabric of their education, students are exposed to a multitude of cultures, languages, religions and values. They learn how to adapt quickly to change and how to form and nourish fast friendships. This promotes a broad-minded spirit and a multicultural attitude of acceptance. Indeed, with multiculturalism and International Baccalaureate qualifications increasingly transforming state schools, international schools might not be traditional, but they certainly reflect the future of education in a truly globalised world.

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I contented myself with speculation about rankings…

“The questions in my mind: what do the three main global university ranking compilers do it for? And surely just one small Mojito would be OK?”

Peter Brady, Associate Dean, International at Edinburgh Napier University in the UK, writes on the motives behind the ever-growing number of academic rankings and the temptation to sneak off for cocktails during conferences.

Sitting at a conference around the launch of the THE 100 under 50 in Miami, I wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped out to the poolside and had a Mojito – or two. It wasn’t that it wasn’t riveting. But it was 30 degrees outside with blue skies and azure seas, and OK – it wasn’t riveting.

However, one look at the rather efficient young woman beside me, taking notes, photos and earnestly tweeting made me feel ashamed of such a lack of commitment.

Had I known that she was from The PIE I could have sneaked off to the pool, had the Mojito and just read the tweets – although, a slight flaw in that plan, is that I don’t know how to tweet. Nor do I know how to twerk, and in both cases the world is most probably better off.

“Had I known that the efficient young woman tweeting beside me was from The PIE I could have sneaked off to the pool”

So I contented myself with speculation about Rankings. Not the usual – ‘are they any use?’ – as the answer is obvious: no if you are lowly ranked; yes if you are highly.

No, looking at the scale of the pre-launch made me wonder what is in it for the companies compiling the rankings. After all, THE was hosting an event in the same Miami Hotel where Lady Gaga held her New Year’s party.

Thankfully THE’s own Phil Baty had refrained from donning a meat suit, but it wasn’t cheap and THE isn’t a charity.

In the cases of some rankings, it is obvious why they do it. The Chinese University Ranking had some reputational issues, as it was widely reported in the press that universities were able to pay to boost their position in the table. I don’t see a problem with that as long as it is transparent. We would just have a list of universities most willing to bribe someone – not sure what use that would be, but then again I am not sure what use many rankings are.

But assuming that this is unusual, the questions in my mind were: what do the three main global university ranking compilers do it for? And surely just one small Mojito would be OK?

For Shanghai Jiao Tong University, it appears to be straightforward. No hidden agenda. The Chinese government wanted to develop research universities and research centres of excellence. They funded nine universities for this and Shanghai Jiao Tong was one of them.

A professor from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering decided that it would make sense to be able to benchmark progress against world class universities. And from this, the first global rankings, The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), was born.

It is not surprising, then, that it concentrates entirely on research excellence and is considered by many to be the most transparent.

“It includes measures such as international outlook – whatever that is”

The other two main rankers – I don’t mean Jonathon Ross style ‘rankers’ – rather QS and Times Higher, both have less noble motives.

Both wish to attract interest in their publications and from that generate revenue and enhance their brand.

Both have elements that are non-quantifiable and therefore questioned. QS is considered weakest as it makes extensive use of reputational surveys. Where selected professors are asked to rank universities throughout the world, how likely is it that a professor in one country would know of the overall reputation of all the universities in another?

In the case of THE, it includes measures such as international outlook – whatever that is – and teaching.

But now, despite this, both are spawning ranking-ettes. QS publishes university rankings for Asia, Latin America, and BRICS, and rankings by Faculty by Subject, and Top 50 under 50. And in front of my Mojito-starved eyes, the THE was launching the 100 under 50 for 2014. ‘Why, given the effort involved in compiling these lists, are QS and THE creating so many more?’ I mused.

“Universities are only going to mention rankings that they are doing well in”

Someone more charitable than me may suggest that it was a response to the argument that there are many different types of university and to be more useful there should be comparisons of universities which are similar.

But I don’t think so.

It is quite straightforward. Universities are only going to mention rankings that they are doing well in. So if there are a significant group of Universities who do not do as well in the rankings (such as those under 50), there is not going to be any engagement by them with QS or THE – and thence no revenue.

So the answer was obvious – make a new ranking. At one stroke you have 100 universities that can say they are in the top 100 in the world. All of whom will cite the company that produced the rankings in publications and websites giving free advertising.

And just think about how easy it is to sell space on the website/newspaper/magazine which hosts the list which cites your university as world class!

And as I listened, Phil Baty pointed out that THE would strongly resist the urge to change the age from 50 years. It hit me like the first slurp of cold Mojito in the sunlight – pure genius. Unlike the standard rankings, where year on year there is not a huge amount of movement, and certainly few newcomers, this ranking will be refreshed constantly as universities – like myself – find themselves on the wrong side of the hill that is 50 years old and excluded from the club.

Twelve out of the fourteen UK universities cited in THE’s 2014 list will be 50 in the next few years. So they will drop out if the rankings completely, to have their place taken by completely different universities – all of whom will want to spend money to shout to the world that they are best.

And that is just the UK universities.

So given this, it is unlikely that these companies will stop there. There are so many universities who still haven’t made a top 100 in anything yet – think of the money to be made by the publishers if each and every university could get its place in the sunlight!

So the question I pose to you, dear readers, is what do you think the next world university rankings will be? My suggestion is Top 100 Universities for Management Organisation Janitors Interaction and Theoretical Operations – not because it makes sense but purely for the acronym.

And as for my Mojito, unfortunately I never got it, as the day became more interesting. We began to discuss how the THE could improve the metrics they use in the rankings to make them more useful and I began to muse that having a commercial motivation isn’t always wrong.

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Reimagine Education: how do we measure success in higher education teaching?

“There is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people… but its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down”

Martin Ince, Chair of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board, writes about how we measure success in higher education teaching.

What is higher education for? The answer depends on who you ask. For researchers, universities are the place where new knowledge is generated. For politicians, they are vital sources of innovation and economic growth.

But there is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people. Students may leave university with a degree that opens up a lucrative and satisfying profession, or they may have improved their minds rather than their earning power. They may be 21 or 91. But in either case, the key to their university experience is how well they were taught and how much they learned.

The only problem is that it is tricky to see how well this vital function of universities is being carried out. Higher education is still provided largely by “destination” universities using time-honoured teaching methods. But these techniques now exist alongside distance learning, and blended methods that use a mixture of these approaches. But whatever combination is in use, its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down.

“This issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale”

I chair the advisory board for the QS World University Rankings, and this issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale. Even within the UK, it is captured only indirectly, by surrogates such as student satisfaction. This does not work internationally, because a course that satisfies someone in Chicago might not go down well in Seoul. And we are well aware that despite the validity of traditional methods, teaching is being transformed by new approaches and new technology.

This is why QS was delighted to back the suggestion by Professor Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of our advisory board, for a global competition to recognise innovative approaches to teaching in higher education.

The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education has assembled a distinguished panel of judges from around the world to examine evidence-based claims for innovative approaches to higher education pedagogy. They welcome evidence of distance, presence and blended approaches to teaching, from any type of institution and in any subject. There may also be awards for the top innovations in specific regions or in subject areas.

A specific feature of Reimagine Education is that entrants have to show that students feel the benefit of the innovations they have made. They are encouraged to complete a student survey to prove the claims they make for their improved pedagogy.

We are sure from the response so far that Reimagine Education is timely. Please do spread the word about it, and consider entering yourself. The inaugural awards will be presented at a major conference at Wharton in December, and publicized heavily by QS and Wharton.

There is more about the competition, and our motivation for launching it, at www. reimagine-education.com. The site also has entry details and the timetable.

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International education as an industry: “only talent that has truly been educated is an asset to an economy”

“Teaching and learning is not an industrial process; it is a human endeavour with all the triumph and tribulation that comes with it”

Hanneke Teekens, Chair of the Board at AFS Intercultural Programmes in the Netherlands and former member of the board of directors of the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC), writes on attitudes towards international education, asking how helpful it is to approach it as an ‘industry’.

Over the years I have resisted the term ‘ the industry’ when referring to the internationalisation of higher education. Perhaps because I am a non-Anglo, coming from a tradition of public and affordable higher education that is seen as a non-commercial good. But ask any person in the street what is meant by ‘the industry’ and nobody would come up with international higher education. In other words, it is an in-crowd term in ‘our circle’ that is best avoided with a wider audience.

Moreover, using this terminology denies the specific context of education. Producing knowledge, to stay with the vocabulary of the market, is built upon a relationship that involves teaching and learning and not one of selling and buying. Education requires personal involvement of both teacher and student. A student must want to learn. The affective part of learning is the first step and requires an attitude of curiosity and engagement. In international education even more so.

Sure, diploma mills can sell a diploma and they do, but that does not mean anything has been taught and learned. Education is an intrinsic cultural and social good, with clearly a strong economic impact. Teaching and learning is not an industrial process; it is a human endeavour with all the triumph and tribulation that comes with it. Universities have a long tradition of imbuing society with critical thinking and innovation. It is essential for our industrial society to acknowledge that autonomous role.

“Universities have a long tradition of imbuing society with critical thinking and innovation. It is essential for our industrial society to acknowledge that autonomous role”

Education is not for free and neither is it cheap. Some parts of the world have capacity issues and declining enrolment of home students in other countries makes the inflow of foreigners an attractive option – on the one hand to help battered finances, but also to enhance the quality of education.

Moreover, international graduates are considered important ambassadors and increasingly are seen as potential immigrants to strengthen the workforce. Talent is on the move and there is no denial that economic considerations are a top priority. But only talent that has truly been educated is an asset to an economy. Hordes of people with a whole list of impressive degrees, but with no competencies to deal with globalised working and living conditions will feel frustrated and so will business and industry. More research on how to improve the relevance of international education for the international workplace is clearly needed.

“Hordes of people with a whole list of impressive degrees, but with no competencies to deal with globalised working and living conditions will feel frustrated and so will business and industry”

I write these lines high above the clouds from Amsterdam to Brazil, where later this week I will present at the Faubai conference in Joinville. My workshop concerns the impact of international student mobility on the home institution. The main question addresses the curriculum. How do we prepare all graduates, both home and international, to deal with globalised working and living conditions?

I kill time and read a whole stack of papers and journals. One article really catches my attention. The headline is ‘From Communism to Catholic school’ , by Kyle Spencer. (International NY Times, April 8, 2014). The accompanying picture shows us a pensive 18-year-old Di Wang, one of 39 Chinese students at a suburban school in New Jersey. The article informs us that Ms. Wang wants to continue to go to college in the US but will remain an atheist. At the same time the director of the seminar that teaches the basics of Catholicism comes to the conclusion that unless you know about Jesus it is going to be really difficult. Fortunately Di Wang sometimes prays to thank God for a beautiful day and the DePaul Catholic High School receives a wonderful fee.

In the end Ms. Wang sums up her learning experience as ‘do good, avoid evil’. It is an insight that Confucius came up with centuries before the Catholic Church even came to exist. More importantly, or downright worrying, is the fact that Di Wang may never be aware of this.

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HE marketing in a digital age: ‘it’s not so much about the channels that you use, it’s about the questions that you ask’

“My favourite case study is about the University of Nottingham in 2010, before the UK general elections… Almost every article about the election in the significant UK media quoted a University of Nottingham Politics department faculty member”

US higher education marketing expert Michael Stoner talks to Gerrit Bruno Blöss about how universities market themselves in an age of digital technology and social media. Michael Stoner is author of ‘Social Works’, a book about social media marketing in higher education.

Your book features more than two dozen case studies of universities employing social media in their marketing. Which one of those examples is your favourite, and why?

My personal favourite is the one about the University of Nottingham. In 2010, before the general elections in the United Kingdom, they saw an opportunity to position the staff of their Politics department as expert commentators. There are three reasons why that case study is so interesting.

First, none of the things that the University of Nottingham did would be far beyond the scope that an expert PR publisher in 1985 would have done, except for the fact that they used a blog, Twitter, e-mail, and YouTube, which of course did not exist in 1985. A lot of the conceptual framework for the campaign was based on sound PR practice. You identify the people that you need to reach out to and how to reach them, and then you work the channels. It’s different today than in 1985 because we are operating in a different timeframe, but the basic PR principles still hold.

Secondly, they were very careful in identifying the outcomes that they were seeking. They were very SMART in setting goals – measurable, achievable and realistic – and they blew all their goals out of the water. They wanted to involve four Politics department faculty members, and they actually involved eight; they wanted 20 pieces of international coverage and they achieved 466… Almost every article about the election in the significant UK media quoted a University of Nottingham Politics department faculty member.

“If you are thoughtful about the way you construct the campaign, the effects can be even more far-reaching than the original goals”

A third reason is that the campaign had significant impact not only because they achieved their goals – but they demonstrated that if you are thoughtful about the way you construct the campaign, the effects can be even more far-reaching than the original goals. You could say that achieving a 15% bump in applications is significant, and it is, but, in a university environment, having other faculty members look to your department as a success is a really significant achievement that is hard to measure.

This case study shows that it’s not so much about the channels that you use, it’s about the questions that you ask, the needs you have. That’s basic marketing 101.

In some of the case studies, the reason for using social media for marketing was to build the brand while keeping expenses low.

Social media is often about keeping the external spend low. One of my frustrations with higher education and some of our colleagues is that they look at an external spend as a cost, but they don’t view staff time as a cost. To me, as a business person, it’s a huge cost. If I have a developer who is working on an internal project and not working for a client, then that’s a real expense to me, we’re losing income. Just because the higher education institution is booking revenue in a different way than we do it doesn’t mean that staff time shouldn’t be seen as a valuable asset and looked at in the entire picture of costs.

“If I have a developer who is working on an internal project and not working for a client, then that’s a real expense to me”

That’s one of the big challenges when we talk about accounting for these projects: if you’re really using social media effectively, people will be spending time on it. That’s time that they’re not going to be able to do other things. You have to recognise that. If you don’t, the project is not going to be as successful as it otherwise would be. So the advantage of a project like the one at the University of Nottingham is, of course, they had a fixed timeframe; it’s easier to run a project like that because the expenditure of staff time happened in a much shorter timeframe.

How much does a typical US institution spend on marketing?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. I was on a state university’s campus recently and they had a study done that indicated that the institution was spending US$71 million on marketing. But when you looked at the budget that was controlled by the university’s central marketing unit, the spend was about $3 million. What’s the right answer? I can’t really tell you. That institution is having a struggle now how to answer that question. And this kind of fragmented marketing organisation is really typical for universities in the US, but also internationally.

Do you see differences in the approach to social media between Anglo-Saxon countries, where education is expensive for the students, and “cheaper” countries like Germany, where institutions rely more on state funding than tuition fees?

“You want to build buzz around your institution because you want better students… perhaps you want to be the Harvard of Germany”

Many institutions that aren’t very concerned about marketing in terms of recruiting or fundraising are interested in social media because their focus in marketing is to enhance the brand value of the institution, so marketing is focused on the brand. It’s not related to student recruitment or fundraising. That’s something where social media could be very important and an essential tool. You want to build buzz around your institution because you want better students, even though you are as affordable as any other university – but perhaps you want to be the Harvard of Germany.

Gerrit Bruno Blöss is a Valuation & Business Modelling consultant with Ernst & Young in Stockholm. He assists clients in business plans, financing and business valuations, especially in the technology environment.

This interview was first published by CHIP.DE in German – read the original here.

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