Sunday June 17, 2012
Going beyond the borders
By ALYCIA LIM
ASPECTS of international branch campus management were but some of the topics discussed at the recent 2012 Global Forum held in Malaysia.
Organised by The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (The Observatory), an information provider on higher education around the world, the forum highlighted issues such as staffing, quality, student experience, scale of operations, and managing risk, amongst others.
At the conference, The Observatory director Dr William Lawton took the time to explain the purpose of the organisation and its role.
“The organisation does not aspire to any direct policy influence in Malaysia at either governmental or institutional levels, although we would be pleased if the debates at the forum gave some useful food for thought.”
Dr Lawton explained that the word “borderless” is more of an ideal rather than a reality.
“Higher education is a tool of domestic and foreign policy, and governments are interested in how higher education can be harnessed in the service of national economic strategies.
“This is the anti-thesis of a borderless world; states have interests and they still matter a lot.”
He said that in the age of contemporary higher education, regional education hubs are being set up thus creating a border in itself.
“So being ‘borderless’ simply means that we are alluding to a better place.”
After all, Dr Lawton added that ideas do move freely to almost every part of the world.
“I think the majority of top research conducted is now done across borders,” he said.
Dr Lawton said that in order for higher education institutions to improve themselves, it is important that they retain a sense of autonomy.
“With autonomy, universities are able to create and disseminate knowledge and expertise when they have sustainable revenue streams and the freedom to design research and teaching curricula as they see fit.”
He said that governments needed to ensure their involvement was limited to issues such as legislating for transparent and effective quality-assurance regimes.
“Keeping research and partnership links open to the rest of the world is vital, and my impression is that Malaysian universities are excellent at this,” he said.
KDU University College student Kenneth Chung, 20, said that the forum was a good platform to meet professionals in the education industry.
The second-year Bachelor of Law student, who is also a student director at Youth Action Group, said, “I have a strong passion in improving the education system and hope to be able to contribute in the future.”
He said that the forum provided a platform for students like himself to share their experiences and highlight issues on the ground level.