Globalization a Logistical Headache for Many Universities

Jun 27, 2011

As schools like the University of Toronto and the National Autonomous University of Mexico begin expanding their operations on a global scale, the difficulties that their administrations must face mount. How can schools successfully transition to international status?

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By Eric Garneau

Moving Day

Anyone who's ever relocated before can probably attest to the fact that sometimes it's the little, unexpected things that cause the most trouble. In all the effort of trying to find a new place and getting your possessions (and yourself) there, what you should do once you're actually set up can slip your mind. You might imagine that holds especially true for academic institutions slowly making their way into the GRU (Global Research University) game. When a school decides to expand its operations, it might end up missing some smaller details that snowball into major problems.

For instance: schools making an international leap should be sure not to ignore the laws and customs of the country into which they're expanding. There could be slight differences between nations that end up troubling the school in ways administrators hadn't anticipated. Besides that, a 2010 piece in The Chronicle points out that local and national governments seated where a school expands will be looking out for their own interests, possibly at the expense of global development (which of course is the primary reason for a school to go multinational in the first place). Expanding schools should therefore consult with native governing bodies to help ensure a smooth transition.

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Staffing Concerns

Another key issue schools face when they go international - they need a faculty. Finding the right instructors and researchers for an institution half a world away can be difficult, especially if the school plans on sending some of its home staff to another land. That leads to a complicated negotiation phase that leaves school administrators debating provisions like what kind of plane tickets faculty will get for their semi-annual trips home, and what kind of vehicle they'll be given to get around in their new surroundings.

Schools need to make sure, in the words of The Chronicle, that they don't 'damage their brand' by giving positions to faculty members who don't live up to standards set at their home institution. Still, authors of a recent report on internationalizing U.K. schools suggest an upside to globalization - a whole world of staffing opportunities. Perhaps it's necessary to move an administrator or two to an international post, but why not look to the global academic community for other faculty? Schools can probably find staff to suit their needs in many locations.

Internationalization Made Easier

The above-mentioned report, A Guide to Offshore Staffing Strategies for U.K. Universities, exists to help would-be international schools consider those minute aspects of globalization that may have escaped them. Similarly, the University of Washington website hosts a page on global operations support to assist such schools, which includes sections on intellectual property and exporting.

Our world becomes increasingly smaller every day, and technology and education are at the front of that movement. It should be no surprise, then, that some schools are looking to establish a worldwide presence. Though such a move isn't always easy, it can bear great fruit for learners around the globe.

One of the ways education is becoming international: OpenCourseWare.

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