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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Building a globally-focused faculty

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"Engaging faculty in internationalisation early in their careers through policies and programmes that incentivise and reward internationally-focused work means that global perspectives are embedded into the foundation of their teaching and research right from the start." according to Robin Matross Helms, works on global higher education research initiatives at the American Council on Education’s Center for Internationalisation and Global Engagement, including the International Briefs for Higher Education Leaders series.


As higher education systems and institutions seek to internationalise, there can be no denying the centrality of faculty to these efforts. The drivers of teaching and research, faculty are the lynch-pin of the academic enterprise. Their commitment and engagement are critical to the success of any campus-wide initiative – internationalisation included.

The problem is that at most institutions there are a lot of initiatives competing for faculty time and attention. Faculty members have to prioritise which efforts to join, and how to do so – by adjusting their syllabi or research agendas, taking on additional administrative responsibilities, or serving more broadly as a 'champion' of the cause among colleagues.

For an individual professor, personal preferences certainly come into play in the prioritisation process, as some initiatives will resonate more than others. But institutional policies – and the messages they send about what is most valued on campus – are key factors as well.

Focus on research
For an article I wrote in 2012, I interviewed a Chinese language instructor at a small liberal arts college in the US. He said he would love to take student groups to China for short-term study abroad trips, but had not done so, and was not planning to any time soon. Despite working at an institution that touts its teaching focus, he explained, research and publication output were the primary considerations in the tenure and promotion process.

With the decision point looming in a few years, he felt that planning and executing a study abroad programme would take too much time away from his research. Thus he chose to stay on campus – and his students missed out on a prime opportunity for global learning.

In the US the up-or-out nature of the tenure process means that for junior faculty, what is rewarded and what is not plays a significant role in determining how faculty spend their time.

When it comes to internationalisation, while 64% of institutions participating in the American Council on Education, or ACE, 2011 Mapping Internationalization on US Campuses survey reported that internationalisation had accelerated on their campuses in recent years, only 8% specified international work or experience as a consideration in faculty promotion and tenure decisions. This percentage was unchanged since the previous iteration of the survey in 2006. 

In a recent study for ACE, Internationalizing the Tenure Code: Policies to promote a globally focused faculty, I explored the tenure policy issue in more depth, with an analysis of 91 tenure and promotion policies that do include internationally-focused criteria. The report provides examples of such criteria in the areas of teaching, research and service, as well as faculty reputation and explicit contributions to institutional internationalisation.  

Related link
National Policies for InternationalizationDo They Work? - Inside Higher Ed 

Source: University Worlds News

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