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The Global Response of Universities and Colleges to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Post-Pandemic Futures  

Gwilym Croucher

For universities and colleges around the world the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption. The pandemic created challenges and possibilities, as well as amplifying existing trends for higher education institutions. The initial pandemic-related disruption affected universities and their students in many countries and had widespread effects on their operations and teaching. In particular, the temporary closure of campuses had implications for the “on campus” experience, and the closure of inter- and intra-national borders reshaped patterns of the international movement of students. The widespread and rapid shift to online education showed possibilities and limitations for technology-enhanced learning. In addition, the pandemic had an impact on government priorities for funding higher education when many were faced with unprecedented fiscal pressures, leading to funding reductions for some universities.

Article

The State of Higher Education in the Arab World  

Islam Qasem

The mid-20th century marked the birth of higher education systems in the majority of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries. Driven by post-independence nationalism, ruling elites deemed education, including higher education, as a crucial part of nation-state building, next to the development of the army, bureaucracy, and economy. With government funding, new public universities were established throughout the region. Enrollment steadily increased as governments expanded access to higher education through lax admission and free or highly subsidized admission, and often guaranteeing employment for university graduates in the public sector. By the end of the 20th century, higher education became widely accessible in most Arab countries, but decades of neglect have led to a crisis in quality and research. Academic quality has deteriorated under the weight of decades of neglect from overcrowded classrooms, outdated curriculum, poor pedagogy, underpaid faculty, lack of quality mechanisms, strapped budget to limited autonomy. No more encouraging is the universities’ role as a center of knowledge discovery and innovation, given their lack of adequate qualified human and necessary physical resources. The low performance of public universities on the global ranking systems and the high unemployment rate among university graduates sums up the Arab higher education system’s inauspicious condition. During the last two decades, governments enacted various reform measures. To relieve overcrowded public universities and reduce public finance burden, countries in the region authorized private higher education. Consequently, the number of private universities has mushroomed, many of which are for-profit and exclusively focused on teaching. However, a shortage of cash and limited freedom to manage academic and administrative affairs continue to beset most public institutions. Some countries have made incremental changes, such as introduced measures to increase equity, endorsed new admission policies, and established accreditation and quality assurance bodies. The Gulf countries undertook far-reaching measures to transform the system. Cushioned by oil and gas revenues and a relatively small population, the six Gulf countries have invested considerably in upgrading public universities’ infrastructure, hiring faculty and administrative staff from abroad, and developing a research infrastructure including establishing new research-oriented universities. Consequently, the Arab higher education landscape has become increasingly diversified and with growing differences among countries. To compare the Arab countries on their current state of their higher education system, the countries are ranked on an index composed of three key aspects: access to higher education (gross enrollment ratio), equity (gross enrollment ratio for female), and publication intensity (citable documents per million inhabitants). The ranking shows the Gulf countries vying for the top spots. At the low end of the rank are countries which have been conflict-ridden or poverty-stricken.

Article

Coloniality, Student Mobilizations, and Higher Education  

Leigh Patel

Higher education in many spaces worldwide has been a contested space and therefore marked by student protests against colonialism and its articulations of oppression since formal education was established. In times of social movements and change, protest in the streets also spread to college campuses, sometimes in global waves. The premiere institutions in the United States, the Ivy League, were built almost exclusively using enslaved labor. Both private and public colleges in Canada and the United States and other settler colonies occupy Indigenous lands, severing land from relation to First Peoples through ongoing genocide and erasure. Colonization and totalitarianism have prompted student protests in many regions of the world and at various times in history. Because higher education is itself is a contested space in various nation-states, long-historied traditions of student mobilizations have agitated higher education’s practices borne of occupation, extraction, and exclusivity. Changes in admissions policies, faculty hiring and retention, government support, and curriculum have all been impacted by student mobilizations. These changes have been subject to being tampered down by the sheer bureaucratic weight in higher education, but they have also made important changes in access to the knowledge systems that are taught in college classrooms and the impacts that graduates make beyond their college years. Dating back to the 1600s, student protest and mobilizations have been informed by internal political education that has shaped the design of public pedagogies through the form of protests. In lyrical fashion, student mobilizations, often formed in opposition to the university, have much to teach about collective struggles for freedom that are intertwined with learning.

Article

State Initiatives on Globalizing Higher Education in Japan  

Satoshi P. Watanabe, Machi Sato, and Masataka Murasawa

The aim of internationalization for Japan during the early postwar period, still emerging from being an ODA (Official Development Assistance) recipient nation, was to promote student exchanges and mutual understanding across nations. Japan then successfully shifted its role to that of an ODA provider in the 1970s, engaging as a responsible citizen in the international community. However, the nation’s competitive edge has slipped with a long-stagnating economy from the mid-1990s onward, the national target has shifted from the ODA provider role towards desperate attempts to regain the lost edge through public investment in research and development as well as promoting internationalization of the nation. As the notions of world-class universities and global university rankings have prevailed worldwide over the last decade or so, the recent policies established by the Japanese government in response to an increasingly competitive and globalizing environment of higher education have transformed to leveraging domestic universities to compete for placement in the global university rankings. Balancing the reputation demonstrated in the global university rankings and generated inequalities in the service and quality of education provided among these institutions seems to be critically lacking in the current debate and hasty movement toward internationalization by the Japanese government. These hastily made policies do have some strong potential to build Japan’s universities into stronger institutions for learning, research, and producing globally competitive graduates. However, thorough long-range planning, keen insight into the overall impact of the policies, and clear long-term goals will be critical in attaining success.

Article

Institutional Dis/Continuities in Higher Education Changes During the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods in Kazakhstan  

Gulzhan Azimbayeva

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) higher education system has undergone radical change since the perestroika period—the Gorbachev period (1985–1991). Perestroika means restructuring in Russian. In this period, the institutional context of higher education was fundamentally transformed by the major upheavals of the political and socioeconomic institutions of the USSR. The changes in the USSR higher education had a major impact on the higher education of Kazakhstan—a former Republic of the USSR. Thus, to understand the changes in higher education in Kazakhstan, it is important to locate them in the stages of the collapse of the USSR. It could be argued that the “institutional dis/continuities” theory would allow a careful examination of the educational changes in the postsocialist context. The “institutional dis/continuities” of the perestroika period draw on path-dependency and critical juncture concepts within historical institutionalism theory. Perestroika period can be seen as a critical juncture in the historical development of higher education. Also, the policy choices which were made during the perestroika period could establish further path-dependencies in policy-making.