Using the SDGs to assess the success of international education

GLOBAL

International student mobility before the pandemic was on the rise. For example, an indication, based on data from the Institute of International Education Open doors report and the National Center for Education Statistics of the United States Department of Education, is that American colleges and universities have sent tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students abroad – 347,099 in during the 2018-19 academic year.

Another is that, according to ICEF Monitor reports, Erasmus + had 470,000 internationally mobile higher education students in 2018.

And, according to a recent News from academia article, more than 180,000 additional students from countries other than the United States study on an “outside” campus for part of their university studies at a global university.

A primary goal for students who spend time abroad as part of a credit experience is a unique international and immersive experience from which they will benefit personally and professionally. Institutions must respond to this demand to attract students and strengthen their reputation and relationships abroad.

The post-pandemic is a good time to consider what it means for universities to offer an offshore experience, both in terms of the ability of their own students to be more mobile and in terms of hosting visiting students for participate for a semester or a year.

One area of ​​particular interest is the difference between two different choices made by several leading institutions when it comes to meeting the demands of today’s students: set up a multi-campus system or join. to international networks.

Why did these two systems form, how are they different, and what are the relative advantages of each? The fundamental motivation for their development may be that students are increasingly enterprising and self-reliant, seeking stronger academic degrees based on international awareness and intercultural experience.

When considering these questions, share measures of success to compare and contrast the benefits of each, as they directly benefit the student experience, provide feedback to the institution, and strengthen society.

Universities and global networks

Over the past decade, global universities have become an important factor in attracting internationally minded students. For some, what started as a branch or satellite campus model has grown into a global entity.

For a global university, every campus, whether it offers a parallel academic experience or a specific program at the local level, caters to the interests of students enrolled to study abroad and, increasingly, serves the interests and needs of students. local students on these campuses, as Nic Mitchell reminds us.

Students – and parents – may prefer the ease of the unique relationship provided by a traditional college that offers a concept of a global campus like that of Temple University where a student can choose from 10 locations, whether in their home state. from Pennsylvania, Tokyo or Rome for any given semester.

The other main development of a global concept is the emergence of university networks which build on the strengths of several independent institutions. While a few institutions have networked for decades, these have often been informal. Today, institutions better understand the benefits of collaboration to leverage resources and provide a more coordinated experience for visiting students through formal agreements and complementary programs.

Networks offer benefits at all levels, as highlighted by the Danube Rectors’ Conference where participants gain “a direct insight into national issues through its members”.

How do you know what is working and if one model is better than another? Obviously, both types of programs aim to serve their students, institutions and the common good.

Using the SDGs to measure success

We can look to four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to motivate and guide us to determine certain indicators of success based on the anticipated impacts of international education. Specifically:

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The educational experience abroad has historically been available only to the most privileged students with occasional opportunities for exceptional merit. With the crucial importance of intercultural understanding, international education is more of a necessity that should be accessible to a larger part of the world’s population.

Global universities and university networks provide:

• Possibility of different types of learning experiences.

• Expanded educational offerings, including through online options.

• Extracurricular education opportunities.

• Lifelong learning for alumni, both for those who have gone abroad and for the community at large.

SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Given the difficulties faced by women and girls in accessing education in various parts of the world, universities and global networks provide further opportunities for local women to earn an international degree and gain valuable networks. personal and professional. Here are some examples :

• Access to international study programs through global institutional structures.

• Promotion and encouragement of women’s participation in STEM subjects and career fields.

• Leadership development program.

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Raising education levels and the knowledge base has been a significant economic contributor around the world. The pandemic marks a renewed interest in building capacity at the local level, both to meet the needs of the community and the interests of young people. Global educational institutions meet these needs by providing:

• Environments conducive to innovation.

• Career opportunities.

• Professional networking.

• Cross-border collaborative research.

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The 21st century has shown the great need for intercultural understanding and leadership development for nations living in peace. Educational institutions with a global presence cultivate an environment in which:

Students gain a deeper intercultural understanding.

• The institution serves as a community animator.

• Professors are able to build stronger research partnerships.

These points relating to the four SDGs represent some of the most closely aligned benefits that should be measured to assess the impacts and success of these models and of individual institutions.

Ultimately, if we accept that the goals of international mobility systems are to build strong educational institutions that look beyond the borders of a single campus and even a single country, we must ensure that the resources spent provide solid and effective results.

Gretchen Dobson and Kathy Edersheim are the co-authors of this four-part series on international educational models. Gretchen Dobson is a global engagement strategist, author and scholar with 28 years of experience on six continents. Kathy Edersheim is president of Impacts, an organization of experts in international alumni relations, community development and leadership training that provides advice to universities and member organizations. In the next three articles, they will examine the relative merits of the structures described above on the student experience and the ability to achieve institutional goals.

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