A new era for universities

By Michael R Czinkota and Andreas Pinkwart

MAY. 22, 2011 Japantoday

Universities and their internationalization are important. Traditional knowledge exporters,such as the United States, Germany, France and England, aim to maintain their high share in the growing international academic market. They recognize the economic benefits of educating students who, when back home, will decide about purchases for infrastructure, engineering and other economic goals.

Exporting higher education generates income for universities and encourages them to become global entrepreneurs. The market is growing. Higher education students have increased by 53% since 2000 to more than 150 Million in 2007.In Australia and New Zealand, education is the third and fourth ranking services export. In the United States,  international students and their dependents contributed $ 18.8 billion to the economy during the 2009-2010 academic year.

Universities shift their role from a provider of human resources to an innovation engine and entrepreneurial hub. Academic knowledge is transferred to new products and processes.Due to its ability to integrate international students and researchers, academia can commercialize knowledge and research in ways that companies cannot replicate.

Traditional internationalization within universities was a bottom-up activity, based on personal connections by an individual faculty member or by research teams. Increasingly, however, leading universities grow internationally as part of a top-down activity driven by institutional directives. Several key reasons account for this shift: A scientific approach demands awareness of and interaction with international work in order to benchmark one’s own competence. Internationalization is also part of becoming a competitive enterprise and contributes to capacity utilization. As part of their mission, universities need to provide a global social infrastructure and networks for their graduates. They also can assume new roles as incubators and connectors for emerging ideas and innovations. Asian countries in particular undertake major efforts to enhance the position of their universities.

For centuries, universities were leaders in international activities. They exported and imported students and faculty members by either admitting them or by sending them abroad. Latin as the lingua franca facilitated exchanges of personnel. New locations were sought out, and international partnerships helped expansion, or were a means to escape poor conditions. For example, Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington DC, was left in legal limbo in the late 18th century, when pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit order. However, by working with Jesuits in Byelorussia, the order continued to be recognized by Czarina Katherine the Great. For several decades, the Georgetown Jesuits were members of the Russian Province. Universities also raised funds on an international scale. They ensured international quality control, when in 1233 A.D. a papal bull ordered that those admitted as teachers in Toulouse, had the right to teach anywhere without further examinations.

Today, companies are the international leaders. They differentiate their international activities into investments (inflow and outflow) and trade (imports and exports). They shift entry approaches based on market needs. To some markets they export. Global sourcing and offshoring is used in others. Firms conduct franchising or licensing and often recruit their staff from around the globe. They make investments, either as sole owners or in joint ventures, and shift venues whenever necessary.

Universities have limited their response to globalization. Typically, they do not translate their experience into an institutional strategy. Many exchange programs do not outlive their faculty founders. International hiring decisions are mostly made in isolation rather than as part of a planned direction.  Research collaborations tend to be temporary and international investments have been very limited – be it due to budget or risk constraints.

Since the 1980’s, globalization has moved university activities towards the market. Though universities are the prototype of knowledge institutions, there is only a very limited body of internationalization research in this important service sector. Experience is insufficiently recorded and not remembered. Insights tend to be peer reviewed based on academic criteria, with scant links to constituency needs. In consequence the knowledge and guideposts on internationalization is thin, and constitutes for many universities merely a search for student markets or respect among colleagues. International partnerships often only are intriguing wallpaper for a university president’s office. University implementation of international strategy often remains at the level of international business activities by smaller and medium sized businesses: limited, ad-hoc, unsystematic and frequently inconsistent.

Universities need to demonstrate the international benefits they can offer. The Roman Empire mainly expanded by offering market places, roads, language, laws, and linkages. Outsiders joined because affiliation offered the opportunity to live better. Universities need to achieve such voluntary interest as well. Given their knowledge base, their human talent and their cross-disciplinary capabilities, universities need to make the cost of non-collaboration so high that firms seek them out as knowledge source and partner. In addition to funding, universities need freedom. Just has universities helped define the openness and knowledge of principalities and kingdoms, today they can help define global society, competitiveness and influence.

In developing content, universities should concentrate on specific aspects in which to become multidisciplinary experts. Specialization has worked for firms, and will allow universities to provide more value added to society. It will also be important to provide the connectivity between business, research and policy. Profits alone are insufficient for societal prosperity.  Religion, family, culture, security are only a few of the components which universities can incorporate a systemic perspective. This will set their thinking apart and lets their educational efforts become the transmission belt for the internationalization of their economy.

Michael Czinkota is a professor of International Marketing and Business at Georgetown University and the University of Birmingham in the UK. He served in the Reagan and Bush administrations in international trade positions.

Andreas Pinkwart is professor of Entrepreneurship and the president of the Handelshochschule Leipzig. He served as Minister for Innovation, Research and Science in NorthrheinWestfalia and as Deputy Chair of the Free Democratic Party in Germany. 


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