Part 6: Grand Solutions – Embedding Universities Globally.
Historically speaking, university processes have a good international track record. Early on, universities exported and imported by either admitting international students or sending theirs abroad. They attracted international students and faculty members, the latter often permanently. By using Latin as the ‘lingua franca’ outward exchanges of personnel were facilitated. New locations were sought out, sometimes for purposes of expansion, at other times as a means to escape poor and worsening conditions. International partnerships were frequent. For example, Robert E. Curran, in his 1993 exposition of Georgetown University’s history, states that Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington D.C., was left in legal limbo once pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit order. However, due to collaborative work with Jesuits in Byelorussia, the order continued to be recognized by Czarina Katherine the Great. For several decades, the Georgetown staff became members of the Russian Province.
In spite of these manifold international activities, universities have typically not translated their experience into an institutional strategy. Exchange programs often do not outlive their faculty founders and international hiring decisions are mostly made on an ad-hoc basis – though some organizations such as the ETH in Zuerich, according to Hugo Horta in Higher Education, have incorporated international faculty and students into their strategic planning. Research collaborations tend to be temporary and international investments have been very limited – be it due to budget or risk constraints.
Sheila Slaughter and Larry Leslie state in Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies and the Entrepreneurial University that since the 1980’s globalization has moved university activities towards the market, resulting in academic capitalism. Though universities are the prototype of knowledge institutions, there is only a very limited body of internationalization research. Experience is insufficiently recorded and remembered. Insights tend to be peer reviewed based on academic and methodological criteria, rather than incorporation the view of a constituency. In consequence, according to Nelly P. Stromquist in Higher Education, the knowledge and guideposts on internationalization is thin, and constitutes for many universities a search for student markets or respect among colleagues, rather than positioning their knowledge base as a global service offering.
This post is part of a series by Michael Czinkota of Georgetown University and Andreas Pinkwart of Handelshochschule Leipzig on international business research and the new role of universities. Find Part 5 here.