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From Davis to Davos

A grad student reports from the World Universities Forum in Davos, Switzerland

University Communications

University of California, Davis
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Photo: Abigail Boggs

Abigail Boggs is a graduate student assistant to Graduate Studies Dean Jeff Gibeling and Chancellor Linda Katehi. As a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the cultural studies graduate program, she is writing her dissertation on the recruitment and education of international students at U.S. institutions of higher education.

Boggs’ academic focus is on the internationalization of U.S. higher education, with a particular focus on questions of gender, sexuality, race and transnational politics.

In her role as the graduate assistant to the Dean and to the Chancellor she is particularly interested in the impact of internationalization on the lives and academic experiences of all graduate students. She also works as a liaison between graduate students and the UC Davis administration by representing graduate students in various committees; assisting graduate students in finding services, staff and resources appropriate to their concerns; and helping to negotiate problems and grievances with their departments, faculty or staff.

A former resident of Washington, D.C., Boggs attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender Studies. Before joining UC Davis in 2005, she was in charge of communications for a youth education non-profit at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. At UC Davis, she has been both a teaching assistant and instructor for the Women and Gender Studies Program.

Grad student Abigail Boggs writes about her observations as she accompanies Chancellor Linda Katehi to the World Universities Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 9-11. Katehi, an active member of the World Universities Forum, is working with other international leaders on the future of universities. The chancellor is scheduled to address the forum on Jan. 11.

Conference day 3, afternoon + evening

I apologize for the gap in my posts. After writing my summary of Chancellor Katehi’s remarks yesterday afternoon, I attended the conference’s final dinner and as I write I’m flying from Zurich to NY to Dallas to Sacramento (after leaving the hotel in Davos at 4:30 and taking three trains to the airport). While the conference was attended by what appeared to be between 80 and 100 people, the dinner was much smaller because many people had already left. Even so, just shy of 20 of us headed to the center of downtown Davos to ride Europe’s oldest funicular railway up Schaltzalp “Magic Mountain” (the one Thomas Mann writes about). We were greeted at the top by hot wine and a spectacular view of the town in the valley and across to the ski slopes.  Then we had a dinner of salad, cheese fondue and sorbet. It was really great to spend time in a very informal setting with the group. For a while I spoke with Robin Moore, a Vice Chancellor at the University of Witwatersand in South Africa, and Liza van Jaarsbeldt, a graduate student in administration at the University of South Africa. I learned a great deal about higher education in South Africa, including the fact that there were significant protests on campuses last year after a fee increase of 9%. I also learned that enrollment at the University of South Africa has grown to over 300,000 students (almost twice the enrollment of the University of Phoenix) from throughout the African continent by shifting largely to a distance or e learning model. Both Moore and van Jaarsbeldt seemed somewhat convinced that more present forms of education and knowledge exchange are preferable.

I spent the rest of the dinner talking and laughing with Donald Hall (who I’ve mentioned before), Charla Lorenzen and Susan Mapp (who delivered the paper on service learning), Chryssi Vitsilaki (the administrator from the University of the Aegean,) and Melissa Wittmeier, a language professor at Northwestern. In between some useful advice and encouragement regarding dissertation writing, the six of us really had a great time. But it was nothing compared to the next stage of our evening: a tobagon ride down an illuminated sledge run. When I signed up for the event I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for but it ended up being incredibly fun and quite an adrenaline rush. With two guides we spent about 15 minutes sledding down the mountain, sometimes at impressive speeds around tight curves. Everyone survived, though I’m pretty sure some massive bruises are forming on my legs. I walked down from the mountain with David Hursch (the professor of education from Rochester who co-wrote the paper on assessment). He gave me a lot of great advice on negotiating the education field, particularly for the job market. I’ll definitely be following-up with him. After a quick drink with several members of the group it was back to the hotel to catch a few minutes of sleep before my 27-hour journey home began. I left the group deeply appreciative and excited to keep up our conversations but also eager to get back to campus and my house. I look forward to sharing the insights I’ve gained from this experience with members of the university campus.

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Conference Day 3, morning Garden Session

Garden Session – Chancellor Katehi’s Presentation

Of the three garden sessions I attended at the conference, the Chancellor’s was the most well-attended and the most lively. I tried to keep a loose transcript of the conversation but I wouldn’t ascribe the exact words I write here to the particular participants. I also didn’t know the names of each of the participants, thus some comments are attributed to a question mark.

After one of the professors whose name I did not catch, but I believe was from a Cal State near LA, brought up the importance of thinking about prisons alongside the UC, we also discussed the lack of coherent organization for university causes. Basically, the lack of strong lobbying for higher ed.

Katehi: Suggested that this is largely due to the structure of the university in comparison with other organizations. While prisons have a solid constituent based in the guard union and other groups, the university is internally splintered and thus constantly works against itself. This undermines lobbying and public relations work.

Edward Kolodziej pressed the Chancellor to elaborate more concretely on her idea for a blueprint for education. What would it include? How would it avoid political traps?

The Chancellor acknowledged that such a process certainly could become an effort to control the form and content of higher education but suggested that the goals of the blueprint do not need to be that lofty. They could simply state the importance of higher education for the country. So far in the US, other than the Morrill Act and the GI Bill, higher education has grown organically, without a plan, and has thus developed a diversity of forms- publics and privates, non-profits and the growing for-profit sector, research oriented institutions and institutions focused solely on teaching. 1000’s of institutions with varying degrees of quality. The blueprint would not have to be a plan to assess and classify universities but a pan to help the country decide why higher education’s input is so important and worthy of public support.  Higher education should be seen as similar to healthcare – in fact, higher education has actually grown faster than health care in the US. The focus on health care is important because it is an important statement – health should be the right of all citizens. The availability of health care is important for everyone individually but also for the society collectively b/c it helps create stability.

Hall said that he already has a bit of a “bad taste” regarding the California situation because of comments from Berkeley’s Chancellor Birgeneau regarding the federal government funding the top 20 institutions in the country. He was concerned by the elitism of this statement and that a blueprint might serve to codify just such a class system.

Katehi suggested that during a public discussion many views will be expressed and that a strategy to support only 20 out of the 3000 institutions is unsustainable. Entering into this discussion is like opening pandora’s box so if we choose to go there we’ll need to be prepared to hear a variety of opinions. For instance, many private institutions also serve a public mission – should they be part of this discussion?

Robin Moore: a national blueprint would require the participation of many groups and social actors such as industry and cannot just be limited to institutions of higher education.

Katehi: Yes, many social actors and not just industry other constituencies too. As with the health care debates, this process must be very public including K-12 educators, corporations, foundations, it must be transnational. The US higher ed system is far from isolated. What is the process for such an undertaking. We clearly don’t have one in the US. But it is better to have it and all the drama that comes with it than to not have it at all.

Everyone in the room seemed to agree with this point.

Jandihyala Tilak (the plenary speaker from the 2nd morning) suggested that it was very necessary for such a blueprint to provide long term planning.

Katehi: A blueprint for the US could be modeled off of the 1960 Master Plan for California and coordinate meaningful interaction between various systems – research 1s, small liberal arts colleges, for profits, community colleges, technical schools, etc. There is a need to understand the overlaps and potential places for collaboration between institutions. This didn’t work very well at the University of Illinois or in Michigan where Michigan State and the University of Michigan worked against each other. The situation in California is a bit different – there seems to be a great degree of collaboration across institutions (though I wonder how true this is between tiers (UC, CSU, and CCC)).

The professor from Southern California said that he has a less rosy perspective on the master plan and he doesn’t see the working relationship between the CCC and CSU working all that well.

Katehi: We need to revisit the master plan but it has helped the state education system.

Marginson (the first plenary speaker): Said that the outside world does see the UC as the best model in the world but that reports from inside show its disorganization and chaotic reality. He really loved the idea of a national masterplan and suggested collaborating with Gary Rhodes, who is currently at AAUP and has written extensively on higher education. He also expressed concern for the immense unevenness across states in the US.

Katehi suggested using the crisis as an opportunity to at least envision a plan that would encourage states to do the right thing.  One model is the “Race to the Top” which has been put forward by the Obama administration (I personally don’t know much about this yet so I can’t elaborate too much on the point). According to the Chancellor, the Federal government could promise incentives for “doing the right thing.”

Hall took issue with the logic of the “race to the topic” as cultivating the wrong excesses of a competitive mindset.

Katehi: We can’t do justice to the mission of providing high quality education without triggering competition.

Marginson: It will be a matter of rethinking the system of values and standards around questions the public good and diversity rather than financial incentives.

?: There will also need to be a serious redistribution of funds. For instance, in the US it might make the most sense to redistribute defense funds.

{This is where I wanted to bring up the broad link between the culture of entitlement and self-protection that Katehi spoke of during her presentation using the example of prison funding and gated communities and the near impossibility of reallocating funds from defense to higher ed.

Chryssi: It is important to have money but necessary to have public policy in place to legitimate procuring these funds. Too often the funds have been procured without a clear design for their use.  The point must be to do essential work of teaching and research that is good for the society it self.

Marginson: Suggested Sheila Slaughter’s work where she discusses how “public good” has been redefined over the last fifty years from a public good defined by values of social justice or at least some degree of distributive justice an one premised on an individualistic financial matrix.  Here in, education is a private good and should not receive public support.

Katehi: Universities have always presupposed that they are self-evidently a public good. We need to realize that this is no longer the common perception and that we need to act to change perceptions. Faculty too often falsely assume that the state will eventual come to realize the importance of higher education on its own. Only now is it recognized that this is not the case. This is where the blueprint can come in – its aim can be to change the view of what is critical for the public good. It can call on the public to recommit itself education for the public good.

Marginson: Yes, it could be a social contract of such.

Hall: But it must also be bilateral. The public will only support education when it is made clear (and true) the education supports public interests rather than private economic drives.

Katehi: Yes, and this must be down in context of what the public broadly needs at a moment. We need to illustrate how education impacts quality of life- addressing big social issues – poverty, health, energy, migration, environment.

Then I pointed out the essential role of the humanities in all of these pursuits.  Scientific discovery is of course crucial but the humanities are necessary to teach students how to think critical and productively in order to implement effective change to benefit the public good.

Marginson said that education must go beyond credentialing and passing on skills but must reenergize the liberal mission of education.

Katehi reminded the group of President Clinton’s efforts to produce a report on liberal arts education and the role of the humanities.

Abbie: I reminded everyone that part of what stymied this effort was the culture war attacks on the humanities (like the NEA) by folks like Lynne Cheney. The lack of support provided to the humanities by the university helped to undercut teaching and researching in many fields.
Chryssi – pointed out the faults and benefits to focused approaches to inquiry that center on single issues. One problem is that this can be really trendy (for instance, for a while it was gender but not it is green energy) but it can also provide for effective dialogue across institutions, locations and fields.

Marginson: Yes, this approach does get across the world approach – community and shared futures.

He also pointed out that we must be aware of the different approaches to public funding and the public good that are happening across the world. While in the US public funding for public ed is being cut, in China, Singapore and elsewhere the exact opposite approach is being taken – more money for ed to benefit the public good. We need to redefine how we think about the public good.

I suggested that the public good needs to be tied to social justice rather than economic models.

Marginson: We must invigorate a civil society and away from top down organization.

Chryssi pointed out that there are new statement on higher ed forthcoming form Europe and the Bologna process.

Katehi: Asked after the incentives for the US to follow the EU in setting guidelines for involvement. There is a process in place for these negotiations in the EU and we need the same thing in the US. We also have to be wary of the power of states rights arguments in the US. Arguments must make it clear that strengthening states is connected to strengthening the nation.

Hall: Again expressed his concerns about national assessments. He also stressed that any efforts to call on the public to reevaluate the role of higher education in the public good must be paired with a willingness of universities to be self-reflexive.

Overall the conversation was very productive and ended with a call for more conversations in the future. One of my primary concerns with this long term planning is that there are thousands of students already in the California system who are being impacted directly in the immediate. What can be done now or even within the near future to ensure that these students receive top quality education and to guarantee that the UC, CSU and CCC does not actively prevent thousands of students from receiving the education they deserve in the next few years?

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Conference Day 3, morning

View leaving hotel in the morning

I walked to the conference center early this morning in case Chancellor Katehi wanted my help with anything prior to her plenary talk. The walk to the conference is about a mile from my hotel through the center of Davos, a somewhat small ski town in the Swiss Alps. Through the breaks in buildings you can get a pretty awesome view of the mountains. I was the first attendee to arrive but the Chancellor arrived shortly thereafter. We spoke a bit about the conference thus far and about the content of her talk.  Though I was told by several conference participants that the number of people at each talk would decline throughout the weekend, and especially on Monday, the main room was quite full by 9:30 when the Chancellor’s talk began.

Chancellor Linda Katehi

Safeguarding the Future: A Call for Renewed Commitment to Public Higher Education in Challenging Economic Times”

Linda Katehi is the Chancellor of the University of California, Davis and a professor of Engineering and Women and Gender Studies.

As I suggested in my post yesterday, the title of Katehi’s talk printed in the program for the conference was quite misleading. Her corrected title (listed above) is much more accurate. She addressed concerns over the possibility of the privatization of the UC and, by extension, the possibility of more widespread privatization of universities in the US and globally. But, she also provided the WUF with a history of the importance and accomplishments of the California system and a theorization of the decline in funding for public higher education. Katehi argued that the California system is a smaller and more condensed version of the global system and therefore must be taken as a harbinger of what may come. First, she briefly outlined the current UC budget crisis (ie the state cuts to higher education funding). Then discussed the UC’s rise to prominence as a result of the 1862 Morrill land grant college act and into recent years thanks to strong state funding. She argued that the UC’s success did not happen by accident but, rather, by explicit design. It also did not just happen during prosperous times. Instead the Morrill Act occurred during the civil war, the GI Bill was passed during WWII, and the Master Plan for Education, also known as the blueprint for public education, was developed in 1960 when, according to Katehi, the US and California were still working to understand their place in the world post-WWII. At all of these moments, citizens decided to publically fund and support universities and recognized the important role they play in moving forward the public good. This degree of support continued through until 1967.

After laying out this history, the Chancellor mapped out the vast changes that have occurred in the funding and perception of the university since the 1970s. Her basic question was: what happened between the heady days of the 1960s and the recent reality that the state has cut 30% of funding for higher education in just the last year and a half? She spoke about the deep pain that students, faculty, staff and administers have experienced as a result of the furloughs and 32% fee increases. She also explained that as a result of the cuts nearly 300,000 students will now be denied access to higher education via the CSUs and CCCs. But why, especially in such an ostensibly (notoriously?) progressive state? The simplest answer seems to be a general low regard for higher education. This did not happen over night but has been part of a long-term social change. Katehi made it clear that this change cannot be attributed to particular individuals or even groups but must instead be understood as part of a generational shift. Members of the WWII generation seem to have felt an obligation to build the infrastructure and the future for the children through their own sacrifices. The generations that came of age since the 1970s seem more disposed to see goods as entitlements without feeling responsible for sustaining the goods or passing them on to the future. Education is now seen as a private good rather than as a public good. This seems to demand a high fee / high aid model for funding education but, as the Chancellor pointed out, this model runs the risk of squeezing out students from the middle class who are not eligible for aid and who cannot afford the high fees. The only real model for accessible public education is thus public funding via a tax structure. But this possibility has been nearly impossible in California since the passage of Prop 13 in 1978, which immediately dropped revenues from property taxes allocated to education by 57%. This proposition rewrote the property tax laws in California in order to correct for the vast and rapid increases in housing values in the 1970s. But, many people have pointed out that this proposition was far too extreme and has locked the state into a disastrous economic scenario. It also now requires a 2/3 supermajority in the legislature and a majority vote by the public to change tax law making it almost impossible to change.

We are now in a situation where a very small amount of tax revenues in California are split between two massive institutions: higher education and prisons. Currently, prisons receive 10% of the state budget and higher education only 7%. This inequity is the result of the rapid growth of the prisons system after the passage of the 3 strikes law in California, which was put in place as part of the “law and order” movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Another symptom of this movement is the prevalence of “gated communities” in the state. This phenomenon is part of a general movement towards self-care and personal responsibility and away from the general pursuit of public good. Many scholars identify this shift as a core aspect of neoliberalism. In the last couple of weeks, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed an amendment to reallocate funds from prisons to higher ed by reversing their percentages. We’ll see what happens with this proposal. The LA times has already reported on the various constituencies who are displeased with this proposal including the Prison Guard union and anti-privatization activists from within and without the student movement.

Katehi warned that this is all part of a broad cultural shift towards personal entitlement and away from public funding for the public good in the US and globally. In the US, at least, she suggested the formation of a national taskforce with or through the Federal government to consider a national blueprint for higher education. One of the major issues in the US so far has been that states have been left to their own devices to make decisions about the future rather than working collectively. The federal government funds research but this leaves the dissemination of knowledge, the other primary function of the university, to languish. The federal government has an obligation to at least take a position that makes higher education a priority for the citizenry. This is especially true as students are increasingly mobile across state lines and globally.

Katehi concluded her talk by saying that we are now at a crossroads and must keep two things in mind. First, that historically we’ve made bold and innovative commitments to higher education in challenging times. This moment should not be any different. And secondly, that lumping the funding of higher education with other parts of the budget is not okay. A few years ago to lump universities with prisons would have been laughable. If nothing else, the amendment to reallocate funds from prisons to higher education will instigate a necessary, if painful, public debate about the purposes, methods and impact of public higher education. Hopefully this will also encourage a national debate and, ideally, a federal master plan.

The Chancellor’s talk was very well received by the conference on the whole. People were shocked by what they learned about the state of higher education in California and seemed primed for collective action. Personally, I was very pleased to hear her articulate a clear commitment to the importance of accessible, affordable public education. I do, however, share a deep concern about the possibility of the privatization of prisons as a way of ‘saving’ the UC system. I also wonder what might be done internally within the UC system (UC, CSU and the CCC) by students, faculty, staff and members of the administration to reflect upon the purpose and function of our institutions in order to understand why we are perceived / positioned popularly as detached from the public good and to brainstorm how we can recommit ourselves and our institutions to the public. It seems like the most important thing at this moment will be a willingness to self-critique accompanied by solidarity in the pursuit of rebuilding a truly public education system.

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Conference Day 2, afternoon

Donald E. Hall

“How to Destroy a Department”

And next I was off to a somewhat more lighthearted discussion with one of the professors I’ve spent a good amount of time speaking with. Hall is the chair of the English Department at the University of West Virginia and was formerly the chair of the English department at CSU-Northridge. His talk was a satirical top ten list for how a chair can ruin a department. I can’t reproduce the delivery here and a full version of this list is forth coming in College English but here is a brief rundown.

  1. Before you even take the position, make it clear that you have no interest in it, resent the task and will make everyone pay for the favor you are doing the department. Exude negative energy.
  2. Express scorn for all administrators to the faculty and even to administrators’ faces. Make it clear that you loathe them and have no respect for them, especially as scholars or theorists. They’re all just failed academics anyway.
  3. Seek immediate revenge for past grievances. Use fear as a guiding administrative principle. Use Michel Foucault’s model of sovereign power as detailed in Discipline and Punish.
  4. Ignore boring problems like financial matters — they’re simply tedious. Someone else will deal with them.
  5. Never have department meetings or answer questions. Resist answering questions at all costs – be opaque and avoid group settings. If you must hold a department meeting talk the whole time. Tell stories from your past at length.
  6. Delegate all responsibilities to denizens so you can blame others but micromanage.
  7. Always tell people exactly what you think of them. Never contemplate, never think, never attenuate. Ideally do this via email, to the entire faculty listserv, late at night, after a few drinks. Also, include personal comments about the faculty in your emails – comments about their appearance, politics, and intelligence.
  8. Yell at your staff — you can’t be successful if you bottle up your stress. Again, alcohol also helps with this.
  9. Sleep with, marry and divorce several members of your department. Power is a great aphrodisiac. Think of it all as a mentoring practice.
  10. Never train anyone to do your job. It takes time.

The audience was deeply appreciative of Hall’s take on the administration of higher education. Though I’ll take exception to Hall’s particular discussions of administrators and staff (two groups of people for which I have a great deal of respect), the take certainly lightened the mood of the conference and provided a nice break from the heavier material.

David Strangway

“Innovation, Environment and Universities – China”

Formerly, Strangway was the president of the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. Currently he is the president and CEO of Quest University a small liberal arts university he started in Western Canada.

Diverging somewhat from the conferences focus on higher education, Strangway’s talk discussed the emergence of innovative environment technologies in China. His talk suggested that China will be and is at  the forefront of the development of environmental technologies because it has to be because of the size of its population, the state of its current technology and the State’s current desire to change. Change will depend on the development of technologies; the production and enforcement of regulations and standards; the cultivation of public perception; and education and research. Strangway concluded that China has both the capacity and the need to become a global center in sustainable development and innovative environmental technology.

Susanne Lohmann

“How Universities Think: the hidden work of a complex institution”

Lohmann is a professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, LA.

Lohmann’s paper analyzed the university as an information ecology protected by a governance structure and powered by a business model. She covered the idea of the university, how it should run and who should pay the bill, and the various reasons why the university experiences “rot.” According to Lohmann, the university in the US is the premier educational institution in the world. But, it is in the process of ossification and it sends many bad ideas and models abroad. The US university is successful because it is a unique site of deep specialization, the unification of ideas, and the production of common knowledge. It allows for dialectical engagement at multiple nested levels. This is facilitated by the various forms of administration that govern universities including departmental committees, faculty assemblies, student movements, university bureaucracy, political regulation and university isomorphism. The primary concern for the university must be autopoiesis , or self-regeneration.  A primary issue for autopoiesis is the current hiring crisis in the US, which is pressuring many institutions to hire increasingly large numbers of contingent and temporary faculty.

One more day of the conference to go. So far so good. I’ve seen some great talks and meet really kind scholars from across the world. This is definitely the most collegial conference that I’ve ever attended. After speaking with several professors, I’m feeling increasingly confident that I can apply for jobs in education departments, which is pretty good news. Tomorrow morning the Chancellor Katehi will be delivering her paper entitled “Privatizing the Public Research University.” I’ve gotten a bit of a preview of the paper and it seems like this title doesn’t quite reflect the content of the paper itself since the paper seems more interested in sustaining the public function and funding of the UC than the title implies. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all goes tomorrow. I’ll check back in tomorrow! Thanks again for reading.

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Conference Day 2, morning

Day two of the conference went well. I was supposed to meet up with Kandy, the professor from Western Australia, to walk to the conference but we missed each other. So I walked on my own until I bumped into a graduate student named Annie from Hong Kong who had been at several panels with me on Saturday. She is also doing work on student mobility, though she is more interested in short term travel abroad while I work on long term international study. We had a nice conversation and plan to stay in touch.

Jandhiyala B.G. Tilak

“Universities: An Endangered Species?”

Tilak is a professor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration in New Delhi, India.

His talk provided an overview of the history of the world history of the university from the 7th century BC and suggested ways to avoid what he sees as the ongoing denigration of higher educational systems. To this end, Tilak mapped out five generations of universities: 1) the ancient universities of India and Greece between 7 and 4 BC , focusing on “truth and knowledge” in a universal sense. 2) The medieval universities of the 12-18th centuries AD such as Oxford and Bologna, which centered on defending a universal idea of truth. 3) The universities of the 1800s to the mid 20th century organized based upon the Humboldtian model of education, which privileges research and monodisplinarity and are largely national and state supported with low tuition. These institutions were challenged by calls for more social inclusion and pressure from global and market based forms and thus gave way to the next generation of institution. 4) The forth generation is still somewhat in place and has been since the middle of the 20th century. These institutions mix an interest in the public good with more market driven/ privatized funding models. Influenced strongly by global market pressures and international competition, they are also research focused though transdisplinary. They often operate on a high fee, high aid model, which some have argued disenfranchises the middle class who cannot receive aid or afford to pay the high fees. Thus, these institutions are frequently less rather than more inclusive. 5) The culmination of Tilak’s talk was a warning about the coming age of the fifth generation of university formation. He suggested that these universities are essentially commercial institutions and are thus far more focused on profit, growth and/or prestige than on knowledge production via research and instruction. They are often seen as serving a private rather than public good.  Tilak argues that we must not accept that the past is simply the past or that looking for a future different from this fifth generation is simply utopian. Instead scholars must revive previous investment in knowledge as a public good that the public and the state must invest in.  Clearly, this talk has important implications for the current discussions taking place at UC regarding the current budgetary crisis and its impacts, such as the fee increases.

Garden Session

After Tilak’s talk, I went to the garden session and spoke with the president of Quest University in Canada, David Strangway, and representatives from the University of Rochester, the University of Illinois, the UK and Kaplan’s online learning corporation. It was fascinating to discuss Tilak’s matrix of university forms with scholars from such a wide array of institutions. Part of the discussion focused on the various uses of the language of university and typology of institutions. For instance, we talked about how and why different types of university structures have emerged in various countries  – from the US to Brazil to India. One very interesting observation was about the role of the World Bank’s structural adjust programs in requiring ‘developing’ countries to disinvest from public systems of higher education. In many countries, this has enabled the proliferation of a large number of sub standard private institutions, something which we could argue is happening in the US in institutions such as the University of Phoenix (the largest ‘university’ in the US). One wonders how the defunding and shrinking of community colleges in the US may encourage more growth in this area.

Andrew Wall and David Hursh

“Examining National Assessment Systems: Challenging the Management of Higher Education Paradigm”

Wall and Hursch are Professors in the University of Rochester’s Department of Education.

Wall and Hursch’s paper questions the models and purposes of assessment in US higher education, suggesting that the current model fulfills neoliberal logics of privatization and corporate management. They suggested that faculty re-envision assessment as a core component of their practice centered on a dialogic consideration of value rather than financial accomplishment.  Much of the talk built off of Chris Newfield’s discussion of the transformation of higher education in the US since the 1970s and the influence neoliberal logics of management and the backlash of neoconservatives against the social movements of the 1950s and 1960s. One of Newfield’s primary contentions is that a major vector of neoconservative strategy in the “culture wars” was to discredit and remake institutions of higher education so that they would focus on creating productive rather than critical citizens. Wall and Hursch suggest that systems of assessment play directly into this process. They were particularly interested in national and international ranking systems (much like Jeffrey Miller’s talk yesterday). Assessment here works as a symbolic capital rather than as a means for meaningful reflection, enabling corporate management and undercutting the principle of shared governance.

Hursch and Wall proposed two alternatives for assessment: 1) to reevaluate the purpose of assessment 2) and to rethink the method of assessment.  Rather than being about accountability and improvement, they suggested that the emphasis should be on democratic deliberative society, pedagogical or institutional self-reflection and knowledge development in the field of higher education. New models of assessment must also be responsive to concerns put forth by theorists such as David Harvey about the anti-democratic and even violently exclusive tendencies of neoliberal governance and their impact on the form and function of educative bodies.

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Conference Day 1, afternoon

During the afternoon, I was able to attend a series of three brief talks. While the plenary talks (such as the ones described in my last post) are each allotted 45 minutes with no Q and A, the session talks are only half an hour and try to allow at least 10 minutes for questions. Plus, there are three of these talks at a time so the attendance is much smaller than for the plenary. For most talks there were about 15 people in the room.

Tersa Swirski

“Creativity in Higher Education: Learning in an Age of Supercomplexity”

Swirski is faculty in Business and Economics at the Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Swirski presented an overview of her study of the place of creativity in university curriculums.  I attended the talk primarily because I was intrigued by her use of the term “supercomplexity,” which she attributed to Barnett. However, this was not at the core of her own study, or at least didn’t seem to be at this point. Instead, she presented a literature review of what she means by the idea of creativity in higher education during globalization, citing theorists from Appadurai to Nussbaum as central to her thinking. I was particularly interested in her discussion of “graduate capabilities,” which she defined as providing good citizens, unknown futures, and employers’ expectations. While I’m still not exactly sure what she meant by these terms, I do wonder how members of the Davis community would respond to a similar question – how do students, faculty and administrators understand the purposes of graduate education? How do opinions vary within and between these groups? Across disciplines? Cohorts? I was pleased to hear Swirski’s discussion of creativity as organized around “critico-creative thinking,” a term she ascribed to Passamore 1980. After her formal talk, the attendees had a pretty fascinating conversation on how to encourage creative thinking in the classroom that echoed many of the conversations that took place in the Seminar in College Teaching I took last quarter through the TRC on the Davis campus and that I know have been taking place with in the Women and Gender Studies faculty and graduate students.

Susan Mapp and Charla Lorenzen

“International Service Learning to Create Global Citizens”

Mapp is in the dept of Social work and Lorenzen is in the dpt o f Modern Languages. Both are at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, USA

I attended this talk primarily because I am personally interested in the notion of “global citizenship” in my own work and because I’m aware that this terms is frequently invoked in curriculum discussions on the Davis campus. Mapp and Lorensen ‘s prsentation descrbied the international service learning programs that they have developed and conducted at Elizabethtown College, a small liberal arts college in the Untied States. The began the talk by describing the college as small, 95% white, suburban and 2/3 women. I can’t really imagine an institution more different from UCD. They then described the trips they’ve arranged to Ireland, Thailand and Vietnam. Though it sounds like the students and instructors enjoyed their trips and worked to develop a degree of awareness around cultural difference, I left the talk concerned that the kinds of “awareness” developed did more work to reify the supposed difference between the US and ‘other’ countries than may be desirable. While I am actually quite wary of the term “global citizenship,” in that citizenship is tied to nation-states and has always operated as an exclusive category predicated as much on including some people (usually through categories such as race, sexuality, ability, gender, ethnicity and class) as on excluding other people through those same categories. After the talk, one person did ask the presenters about their use of the term but their response was somewhat thin. This seems like another great conversation for Davis students to take up. For myself, I think that critical considerations of the category of citizen and the term global are necessary before engaging in such a pursuit.

Jeffrey Miller

“Organizing a Higher Education System:  A Comparison of France and the U.S.”

Miller is a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Delaware.Though this talk was intended to be a co-presentation by a US professor and Alain Alcouffe a professor from l’Universite Toulouse in France, Alcouffe was unable to attend. Unfortunately, this meant that what was supposed to be a comparative discussion was ended up primarily being a discussion of the organization of US institutions of higher education. Though this seemed to be quite useful for those attending the paper from other countries, I was already quite aware of most of the information. I was most interested in Miller’s discussion of the undue impact of rankings systems on higher education in the US and globally. Much as students learning for standardized tests can be seen as compromising actual education, universities and colleges organizing their strategic planning primarily around rankings seems equally dangerous for education. As Miller pointed our, many universities see research and the construction of state of the art buildings (from gyms to pools to labs to performance spaces) as more immediately beneficial and quantifiable than improving teaching or student services.

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Conference Day 1, morning

January 9th

WUF LogoConference Opening

Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and members of the World Universities Forum International Advisory Board stood in for Fazal Rivsi, the conference’s primary organizer who was scheduled to speak but unfortunately could not attend for medical reasons. Kalantzis and Cope both briefly addressed the ways the World Universities Forum (WUF) is modeled off of and as a counter-point to the World Economic Forum, which will be held in Davos in the coming weeks. They argued that higher education is a major engine behind the global economy and must be a more central concern at high-level international forums. This conference provides an opportunity to discuss higher education across national contexts in ways that the WEF is a meeting group for business and political leaders. Another consensus between Kalantzis and Cope was the urgency of the need for these kinds of conversations. As they both stated, higher education is changing rapidly and it is essential for people who are dedicated to universities and colleges to meet and talk to understand how the internationalization of higher education in the age of globalization is shifting all institutions.

Cope was particularly interested in two concepts: 1) distributive knowledge systems and 2) ubiquitous learning.

  1. In regards to distributive knowledge systems he was particularly concerned with how the production and distribution of knowledge has been and is changing. For instance, knowledge is no longer only being produced in university settings.  We must also consider the knowledge produced in corporate labs and the media. We also need to think about what makes academic knowledge valid and valuable and how these systems are in crisis – especially the publishing industry, which plays such a critical part in the tenure system. Universities must capitalize on the willingness of people in elite economic spheres to invoke the rhetoric of the “knowledge economy” and find a way to make good on the role of universities as the engine of the knowledge society.
  2. In discussing ubiquitous learning, Cope was interested in informal, “real life” learning in everyday life. What is the impact of this on university curriculum? What is the new economy of provision?

Simon Marginson

“International Student Security: Globalization, state, university”

Marginson is a professor of education at the University of Melbroune. His work is focused on questions of globalization.

Centered in the Australian context and drawn from Marginson’s co-authored book that is forthcoming in May/June 2010, the talk primarily engaged global student mobility and what he and his fellow authors term the “security of human subjects.” He addressed the importance of thinking of higher education within an emerging world society that is regulated by state policy but operates transnationally. He suggested that looking at the policies that impact the human security of mobile students could set a precedent for how a world society will handle the security of all mobile subjects – from tourists to refugees.

Marginson discussed the case of Nitin Garg an Indian student in Australia who was stabbed to death in Melbourne last week (1/2/10). Though he was the first international student to die from such an attack, this event is part of an ongoing trend in Australia wherein young, primarily white men from lower socio-economic groups attack international students from South Asia. According to Marginson, the Australian government’s refusal to react towards or even acknowledge this violent trend belies their assertion of Australia’s tolerance that is central to the state’s economically motivated effort to recruit international students. While Australia and the US net about the same amount of economic benefit from international students (between 15 and 17 billion dollars), international students in Australia represent a full 20% of the student population while they are only 3% of the US student population. Largely due to the movement of  students from Asia, education is Australia’s third largest export.  Even without the state acknowledging this violence, applications from India (one of the largest senders of students internationally) have dropped by 50%.

In the end, Marginson argued that the case of Nitin Garg demonstrates the ambivalent relationship of Western nation-states to international students — the desire and need to recruit these students for economic purposes is pitted against the state’s fears of border crossing and resistance to providing the students with sufficient services to guarantee their security. As Marginson points out, the recent case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the former Nigerian international student in London only seems to exemplify these fears. For Marginson and his coauthors, security is not conceived narrowly, as has often been the case, in relationship to the security of the nation-state and citizens but in a broad sense including the physical security as well as health, housing, and general standard of living of non-immigrant visitors. Marginson argues that the commercialization of higher education and international education in particular focuses on money rather than human needs and thus has a demonstrably negative impact on the lives of international students in Australia.

Garden Session

After attending Marginson’s talk I participated in a small “garden session” (though it was really just in a conference room with one rather pathetic looking plastic plant). It was attended by myself and 7 other conference goers from Singapore, India, the UK, the US and Australia. We had an interesting discussion about the different models of international education across our different locations. What stuck out as the most telling to me was the fact that while US policy towards international students essentially forces them to leave the country after their studies, other countries encourage students to stay. In fact, Singapore bonds international who study there to two years of working either in Singapore or for a company based in Singapore.

Given Marginson’s own interest in security and death regarding international students I was also able to instigate a discussion on international students and mental health, a topic central to my own work. The session provided a unique opportunity to engage with a diversity of scholars from across geographic and institutional locations. I’m particularly interested to speak with Wes Young of the UCD Services for International Students and Scholars about these discussions upon my return.


I spent lunch speaking with Kandy Dayaram professor in the School of Management at Curtin University of Technology, in Perth, Marginson and Donald Hall, the chair of the English Department at the University of West Virgina. All three were kind enough to listen to a description of my own work and offer several useful suggestions for readings or directions my dissertation could go. We also discussed some of the broad changes happening within higher education in the US and all three, though Marginson in particular, are looking forward to seeing Chancellor Katehi. Marginson mentioned having some lovely conversations with the Chancellor in the past. As a someone who’s hoping to head onto the job market in the very near future, the lunch demonstrated what a great opportunity small, international conferences can provide for networking and practicing speaking with faculty from different places and types of institutions.

Chryssi Vitsilaki

“Higher Education in the ICT Era: Challenges and Prospects”

University of the Aegean

Vice Rector of Finance and Development

Vitsilaki’s talk addressed the uses of information and communication technologies in higher education. Though she started off by discussing an innovative master’s program that she has developed at the University of the Aegean using ICT, her talk primarily focused on the various ways that ICT is already being used on university campuses for administrative, research and teaching purposes such as data collection, storage and management. She also discussed some of the hurdles to further uses such as the sporadic use and purchase of software products, the refusal to update existing systems, and fear of technology / that technology will eliminate administrative positions in the university. In the end she advocated for strategic planning by a team that maps out all of the uses of ICT across the university to see what the best steps will be for incorporating ICT into all aspects of university life. The one pitfall that I am particularly concerned about that she didn’t fully address is how ICT or e-learning impacts educational outcomes – both those that are measurable/testable and the more abstract abilities such as critical thinking that as a scholar in the humanities or of particular concern to me.

After this brief one session break to jot down some quick thoughts, I’m off to my next session.

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Welcome to Davos

Thanks for reading this blog. I’ll try to keep it as light as possible while providing an overview of the various presentations and talks I attend as part of the World University Forum.

I arrived in Davos, Switzerland (from Davis, via New York and then Paris) last night after taking a series of three trains (Paris–>Zurich–>Landquart–>Davos Platz). It was a long day but it is beautiful here, even in the dark. After checking in with some folks from Davis, I made my way into town to check out the area and ideally buy a phone card. Though there were lots of shops and restaurants, it turns out that people here don’t really use phonecards so I traversed a somewhat steep hill back to the hotel to return to the internet and skype, have some dinner, and continue preparing for the conference. After a quick dinner, ordered in less than stellar French via a waitress who seemed to speak primarily German, it was back to my room to review the program of talks and read an article or two. Overall, the day was successful and I went to bed excited for the days to come.

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