22 SES 07 A, Internationalisation in Higher Education: Adaptations and Perspectives
Systems of higher education around the world are characteristically engaged in processes of reform and these processes have formed a focus for higher education research. However, the nature of academic publications devoted to this matter has yet to be examined. This paper represents a first attempt in that direction.
Higher education reforms can be understood as sets of policies intended to improve higher education systems. Such reforms could include changes in quality systems, institutional governance, access mechanisms, curricula, and funding (Bernasconi and Celis, 2017). Changes might be implemented at a regional level - for example, across a group of countries or states sharing historical, financial, political and/or cultural backgrounds - or at a national level. Reforms have taken various paths. Some have manifestly been responses to problems in public policy. Others have been intended to pursue particular political goals. Often, there are iterative processes of reform and unintended consequences that, in turn, prompt yet further reforms.
Many topics have been the subject of papers in the international literature. Some of these topics include massification, stratification in access and across institutions, limitations on public funding, privatization, processes of accountability, and the role of markets in higher education (Hearn, Warshaw, Ciarimboli, 2016; Enders, De Boer, and Weyer, 2013; Texeira and Koryakina, 2011; Kogan and Hanney, 2000).
The presence of recurring research topics in the literature about higher education reforms suggests the hypothesis that there might be emerging here a universalized use of terms. This, in turn, could point to a relatively homogeneous framework that steers scientific priorities and research topics in scholarship around higher education reforms. In this paper, it is argued that although the configuration of knowledge production on higher education reforms may present a homogenous or global appearance, it may also vary according to circuits of knowledge production. In these circuits, the research activity and the publication of journals and books produced by top-ranked universities and research centres in well-industrialized countries (Connell, 2007) - or ‘the Core’ (Cardoso and Faletto, 1979) - are well represented, while other research centres and publications produced in peripheral countries are under-represented (Guzmán-Valenzuela and Gómez, 2018;, 2018; Beigel, 2014; Vessuri et al., 2014).
This paper offers potential explanations for such imbalance and opens a debate about the particular character of the production of knowledge on higher education reforms with a special focus on Latin America.
Using both a bibliometric and a thematic analysis, the study here examines the patterns of published papers that have focused on higher education reforms. Most of the leading journals in the world are indexed in the Web of Science (WoS), which is the oldest and most recognised database of academic journals. It produces indexes of journal impact that are used across the world, not least for the purposes of compiling university rankings. It includes several collections, the core collection being the most prestigious of them. It also includes SciELO which is a leading index compiled in Latin America and South Africa (Alperin, Fischman, & Willinsky, 2011). The total number of papers included for the analysis was 348 articles, of which 284 are indexed in WoS and 64 are indexed in SciELO. This sample was the result of two processes of selection and filtering. Firstly, articles were selected using the searching tools offered by WoS for both the core collection and the SciELO citation index, taking into account formulae from previous investigations (Kuzhabekova et al., 2015). Secondly, articles were examined one by one by reading their titles and abstracts so as to exclude papers unrelated to higher education reform. Analysis The bibliometric analysis provided valuable descriptive statistics about the most significant trends across the world about higher education reforms for the selected period of time (2010-2017). Thematic analysis was conducted in order to identify the main themes about higher education reforms contained in papers written by at least one Latin-American author and whose content referred to Latin America in either the WoS or the SciELO indexes.
The data indicate that there is a growing number of papers on higher education reform from regions from around the world. However, the global rise in these research papers shows an unequal distribution in geographical terms. Seven countries are the main producers of WoS papers (USA, Russia, China, England, Australia, Germany, Spain), accounting for 52% of the papers. Africa and Latin American have little presence. In the SciELO database, Brazil has the highest number of articles (15) followed by Colombia (14), and Argentina (12). Africa has no presence and Asia and Oceania are nonexistent. These findings suggest a geopolitical imbalance in the material conditions of knowledge production across regions. Countries with well-advanced economies tend to have the most productive systems of scientific research (Mataković, Pejić Bach and Radočaj Novak, 2013). This pattern suggests the presence of geopolitical factors in supplying an architecture to the circuits of knowledge production around higher education reform. In this system, certain types of knowledge are more visible (Santos, 2014). The differing nature of the databases considered here (WoS and SciELO) also contribute to this geopolitical imbalance, with WoS being oriented to an international audience and SciELO targeting regional (Latin American) audiences. In the Latin American region, a significative number of papers - in both the WoS and SciELO indexes - exhibits what might be termed a distinctive epistemic identity around higher education reforms. This epistemic identity expresses a discontent about ideas and practices emanating from countries in the Centre, not least since there are processes here – in Centre-periphery relationships – that have been said to constitute epistemic colonization (Connell, 2007; Cardoso and Faletto, 1979). This is work funded by the national research council in Chile (Fondecyt 1170374).
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