April 9, 2009
The growing trend of North American colleges creating branches abroad threatens to erode the quality of higher education and to undercut the rights of faculty members, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
"The pace of overseas expansion also threatens to affect the character of higher education in the United States and Canada. The sheer number of faculty employed in foreign operations is increasing, and most are contingent employees on temporary contracts. Because foreign programs and campuses are usually less costly, colleges and universities may make decisions favoring their development over more expensive U.S.- and Canadian-based equivalents staffed by tenure-track faculty," the statement says. "Continued pursuit of this path will accelerate the casualization of the academic workforce, taking its toll on the quality of instruction as well as adversely affecting faculty rights."
The statement asserts that "vigilance" will be required of faculties in the United States and Canada and that they should insist, through collective bargaining where possible, on the right to set missions and curriculums for these campuses, and to have a say on whether projects are started and how they are run. The general theme of the statement is that the standards and procedures used by campuses in the United States should be followed when American colleges create foreign branches. Generally, the American institutions setting up branches have pledged to follow normal academic procedures, with significant faculty roles in decision-making. But for a variety of reasons, campuses abroad are significantly different -- with more complicated hiring issues, lack of years of precedents on how things are done, and -- in some cases -- host countries for which democracy and academic freedom are relatively new ideas or haven't full taken hold.
The AAUP and the CAUT take care in their statement to note that there are many positive aspects about the international ties of North American colleges. But the statement rejects a business-style approach to promoting higher education abroad. "The expansion of higher education opportunities is a welcome feature of today’s more internationally integrated world. Not surprisingly, these international initiatives are proving attractive both to private investors and to colleges and universities," the statement says. "Advocates of private investment now refer routinely to a multitrillion-dollar global market in educational services, and efforts to open up this lucrative market further are driving bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and negotiations. As a result, globalization has become one of the principal means of privatizing and commercializing higher education."
Further, the statement says that "education should not be a commodity, bought and sold in the international marketplace and subject to the rules of competitive trade that govern a deregulated global economy. Participating in the movement for international education can rest on laudable educational grounds. But those grounds will be jeopardized if hard-earned standards and protections are weakened rather than exported."
Citing numerous international statements on standards for higher education and employment, the statement suggests colleges have particular responsibilities to employees abroad -- including non-faculty employees -- to ensure fair treatment and wages.
Colleges are also urged to consider the political and judicial realities of the countries where they are creating branches. "[A]s the U.S. and Canadian presence in higher education grows in countries marked by authoritarian rule, basic principles of academic freedom, collegial governance, and nondiscrimination are less likely to be observed. In a host environment where free speech is constrained, if not proscribed, faculty will censor themselves, and the cause of authentic liberal education, to the extent it can exist in such situations, will suffer," says the statement by the two faculty groups.
The growth of branch campuses has for some time alarmed some faculty members, while many others have not focused on the issue. Generally, institutions setting them up have been quick to say that costs are being covered -- and that there is potential for the branch to help the home campus.
How colleges will respond to the AAUP's goals is unclear. At last year's meeting of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, officials from universities with branch campuses said that plans to staff them with faculty members from the home campus were hard to carry out. Many professors lack the interest or skills to move to the other side of the world. As a result, colleges described how they were trying to attract talent -- generally paying on different pay scales, but not necessarily offering tenure.
A spokesman for Northwestern University, which just started a journalism program in Qatar, said that a majority of faculty this year are tenured or tenure-track from Evanston. But on the question of treatment of non-faculty employees, he said that the Qatar Foundation is building the facilities, and so that while Northwestern would monitor the situation, the university is not in charge of that part of the project.
Richard Toscan is vice provost for international affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, which has been in Qatar since 1998. Toscan said that of 38 faculty members in Qatar, about 3 are tenured or tenure-track from Richmond. The rest were hired for Qatar, and while they have various forms of job security based on how long they have taught, they do not have tenure. Toscan said, however, that they have "everything but," including faculty committees based on the main campus doing hiring, setting standards for the curriculum and so forth.
Toscan said that one idea under consideration is to offer tenure that would apply to Qatar but not the university's main campus. Why not offer full tenure? Toscan said that even though the program in Qatar is doing well, there are no sure things about the future. "I think these are campuses that are fully funded by the Qatar Foundation. It's one thing to guarantee state of Virginia funding, but I don't think we're as confident we can be to guarantee lifetime employment in Qatar."
Philip G. Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education, at Boston College, praised the two professors' groups for issuing the statement. He said that their joint position "raises some important questions -- especially about faculty teaching in those institutions." A central problem, he said is that "none of those institutions with branch campuses want to make permanent commitments to teaching staff."
— Scott Jaschik
Go to comments (5) »
Comments on Scrutiny and Standards for Branch Campuses
• AAUP needs to Branch out
• Posted by Glen S. McGhee , Dir., at Florida Higher Education Accountability Project on April 9, 2009 at 10:00am EDT
• Closer to home, on the vast sea between accreditation visits once every ten years, the lack of minimum standards that everyone agrees on plays out, as before.
But AAUP's narrow focus on tenure is overtly self-serving, and misplaced, and ignores what is already in place for HE QA/QC, which is what they should be relying on for their critique of what is happening overseas.
And just what is a branch campus, as distinct from a center? Interpretations vary and no one can say for sure.
For branch campuses whose students are eligible for Title IV funds, Federal regulations stipulate that accreditors "must undertake a site visit to the branch campus as soon as practible, but no later than six months after the establishment of that campus." Can the AAUP say that this is happening consistently? I doubt it. Maybe the AAUP needs to branch out more and broaden its view.
• AAUP & Globalizing Higher Ed
• Posted by Chithra KarunaKaran , Social Sciences at CUNY on April 9, 2009 at 11:45am EDT
• Globalizing Higher Ed in the Corporate Bailout Era of Late Capitalism
Higher Education institutions and their ancillary entities AAUP, CAUT, whatever, do not stand outside of history or politics or the economy, instead they are proactive and reactive contributors to them and players within them.
Therefore where AAUP stands depends entirely on where it sits. It is obvious that AAUP is primarily interested in protecting and preserving the interests (through dues and perks and prestige) of its core constituency (US faculty operating within the tenure system, therefore NOT adjuncts). I would submit AAUP does not give a hoot for teachers or educational arrangements in the emerging or expanding economies, except as profitable sites where AAUP members' interests can be promoted, expanded and preserved.
The AAUP is an integral part of the US higher ed political economy of Globalization which is still controlled by US-dominated market fundamentalism, masquerading as the "free market."
Has the "free market" produced an entrenched inequitable 2-tier faculty system right here in the US?
Has the AAUP been able to do anything about that inequity here at home, or does it thrive on that inequity?
Is AAUP even motivated to do so? So what is AAUP's clout vis a vis the "branches"? What can Northwestern University whose Journalism program is "embedded' in Qatar possibly teach Qataris about a free media?
My own take is that governments of the emerging (China, India, Brasil, Turkey, South Africa) as well as the disadvantaged (Uganda, Botswana) economies of the WTO should *vigorously resist* inroads by the rich (albeit currently distressed ) economies, which set up the higher ed 'braches" alluded to in the above article. These expanding economies should attempt to grow their GDP through self-reliance on their own domestic resources of teachers and administrators and most important CURRICULUM, based upon their unique history and culture.
However globalization makes this difficult, the national elites are corrupt and opportunistic, so the challenges are many, but not in my view, insuperable.
I would hate to see the proliferation of the US Higher Ed system throughout the world.
Another world is possible.
Chithra Karunakaran Ed.D.
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
• Foreign operations
• Posted by Alan Contreras , Eugene, Oregon on April 9, 2009 at 11:45am EDT
• I am very glad to see this public concern. Branch campuses, especially small ones, are very difficult to oversee well, and in foreign countries that situation is much worse. Just look at the Vietnamese operation of Northcentral University in Arizona. Some years ago a reputable Vermont college discovered that the people running its branch in Israel were selling degrees - lots of them. The Vermont college had no clue until the Israeli security people called them. if qualified faculty is one issue, competent oversight is another.
• To Arms, To Arms, Instructors Are Coming!
• Posted by Senior Professor on April 9, 2009 at 11:45am EDT
• AAUP is a faculty full employment guild. No one should misunderstand its motives and, especially misinterpret its incessant use of the shibboleth, "academic quality" to defend its self-serving position. AAUP is dead set against measuring the important things there are to mean by “quality.” They prefer to define quality as little more than input credentials. “If they look like us, they must be full of quality.”
In the applied disciplines, AAUP has reason to be fearful of adjuncts, especially practitioner adjuncts. Why? They perform better in terms of learner satisfaction and applied learning outcomes, especially behavioral competencies. If you are an undergraduate business student, the ideal teacher of finance is a masters prepared VP of Finance at a local bank. This VP might teach one or two classes a year. She pours everything she has into it and her students respond accordingly. Given appropriate curricular support, this person will teach the constructs with greater transfer to skilled behavior than will the tenured AAUP Ph.D. whose experiences in finance are limited to balancing his personal budget. The former will bring the palpably practical world of finance into the classroom. The latter will have his students doing case studies in which they are asked to imagine they are the President of General Motors (yes, still) or Warren Buffett.
On more than one occasions, the DOE conducted studies wherein a sidereal result showed that adjuncts do as well or better than tenured professors do in terms of student learning. The research was pushed into the backroom.
Learner satisfaction is substantially higher with practitioner adjuncts than with tenured professors who often teach via graduate teaching assistants and feel too important to show up for office hours.
The final nail in the AAUP coffin is the fact that tenured professors may teach 3, 4 or even six hours per term. A non-trivial part of the total cost of their teaching load is the teaching assistant and his or her office space, etc. For the same money, a school can hire adjuncts to teach eight to 15 times as much.
For a cash-strapped college, a 12:1 ratio of outputs favoring practitioner adjuncts is the deal in itself. Getting better quality instruction is frosting on the cake.
• AAUP Integrity
• Posted by Curious on April 9, 2009 at 2:45pm EDT
• "Further, the (AAUP statement says that "education should not be a commodity, bought and sold in the international marketplace and subject to the rules of competitive trade that govern a deregulated global economy."
Does anyone else find AAUP's position odd given its union-like role protecting the privileges and raising the compensation of its members with little regard for the survival or well being of the host? These folks would at least be recognized for their integrity were they to re-organize as a union instead of pretending to care about the problems of higher education.