ERG SES E 12, Research in Higher Education
Traditionally, universities have been the responsibility of a national system. With the expansion of transnational higher education we are witnessing the expansion of institutions with bi-national identities. Transnational higher education (TNE) represents a small but increasingly important alternative to traditional international student mobility and domestic higher education for local students (British Council and DAAD, 2014). Institutions classified as TNE facing increasing global competition, pressuring them to design distinctive structures and to provide a high quality of education, research and innovation, community engagement, and build bridges with industry in order to be attractive locally and internationally. These institutions embrace a “global identity to legitimize themselves to both home country and host country stakeholders” (Farrugia and Lane, 2012, p. 414)
Transnational education reflects global cross-border elements of education and might develop a coexistence of local and foreign institutions that impacts the national culture and identity of the people where they are located (Lanzendorf, 2008). UNESCO emphasizes that exports of higher education activities and institutions are only appropriate provided they aim at meeting the human, social, economic, and cultural development needs of the receiving country (UNESCO-OECD, 2005). Stella emphasizes that TNE is unlikely to help developing countries unless it is accessible, available, affordable, relevant and of acceptable quality (2003). With the commercialization dimension of TNE this aim may not always be possible. The views of TNE range from skeptical at one end to positive at the other end. Many scholars support the view that education is a public good and should not be treated as a tradable commodity and see TNE as a revenue generation tool. Those within this view perceive TNE as a threat to national sovereignty and culture and as a serious attack on the core values of the local system of higher education (Stella, 2003). The view of scholars who support TNE policies recognize its academic, cultural, social and political benefits. For example, possible ties between the political and economic elite of the host and sending countries gained through internationalization activities in HE can enhance mutual understanding and social cohesion in increasingly multicultural societies (de Wit, 2002).
The development of the German bi-national university model, also known as the German backed University, involves the establishment of a new institution through collaboration between higher education partners in two countries (British Council and DAAD, 2014). Foreign-backed universities usually affiliate themselves to one or several institutions in other countries in order to receive assistance in their academic development. These ‘mentoring universities’ indicate their brand of education and signify quality and contribute to furthering the host country development and capacity building (Lanzendor, 2008). Koehn (2012) observed that “partnerships offer higher education institutions in the South prospects of tapping into useful resources, networks, and skills” to support infrastructure and program development (p. 337). While this model is building its presence successfully in many parts of the world by bringing new opportunities for students, faculty, and the national education system, it is not without challenges and risks. More critical analysis is crucial to understanding the impact of transnational institutions and how they relate to higher education institutions in the host country. This study draws mainly on interview data from the faculty and administrators working at the German-Jordan University (GJU) located in the Middle East.
The study uses Policy Borrowing and the Educational Transfer model developed by Phillips and Ochs (2004) to serve as an analytical tool to explore the impact of establishing a bi-national higher education institution on the host county in terms of responding to the local needs and its potential benefits and risks. Many studies using the concept of policy transfer either implicitly or explicitly take it for granted that the process will lead to a successful implementation of a policy, program or institution (Dolowitz & Marsh, 2002). However, educational transfer does not always yield the intended outcomes. As Miller-Idriss and Hanauer (2011) stated that such models were typically absorbed into existing university frameworks and did not fundamentally alter the nature of higher education within any given nation-state. As Noah and Eckstein (1969) state: “it was one thing to assert that the study of foreign education was a valuable enterprise; it was quite another to believe that foreign examples could be imported and domesticated’ (as cited in Phillips & Ochs, 2004, p. 774). The Policy Borrowing and Educational Transfer framework shows ‘borrowing’ as a sequence of four main ‘temporal’ stages: (1) cross-national attraction; (2) decision-making; (3) implementation, and (4) internalization/ domestication. Attracting toward, transplanting and implementing new ideas domestically require the understanding of the cultural, socio-economic factors and context. This framework helps in exploring the complexity of educational transfer by connecting the idea of policy borrowing with the export/import of universities as it brings to the center the tensions between the global agenda and the local contexts that might be overlooked in the transfer process. Using this framework, the study seeks to understand how a bi-university, as an integrated institution within the local higher education system, could contribute to the enhancement of the quality of HE in the host country relevant to the ‘externalizing potential elements of the foreign system that are theoretically “borrowable”’ (Phillips and Ochs, 2004). The study utilizes a qualitative approach to understand the educational transfer process by tracing the perspectives and positions of faculty and senior administrative members at a German bi-national university. Ten semi-structured interviews took place at the university campus in winter 2017. Other relevant secondary data were also used in the analysis. The data analysis has involved the construction of themes and recurring regularities or patterns in the data.
This analysis shows that change is not always a result of proactive planning, but a reaction to external and internal pressures. For the case of GJU, the impulse that sparked the establishment of an Applied Sciences University is politically motivated by both countries Jordan and Germany to invest in collaborative projects of clear economic and social benefits. German engagement in such projects is intended to fulfill foreign, cultural, education and development policy targets through “education export” (Kammueller, 2017), and strengthening its global presence is both politically and institutionally motivated (Fromm, 2014). For Jordan, the imperative for this collaboration is linked to the need for an applied sciences university that can contribute to the country’s development. The decision to establish the university is perceived as an opportunity to transfer to Jordan the Germans’ know how in advanced technology, teaching, research, professionalism, and culture. It's an opportunity to train students in areas related to industry, enable them to be ‘experts in their majors’ and to compete globally. While this could be perceived as a form of brain drain, many faculty members perceive this as reducing the pressure on the local labour market. In assessing the impact of this model six themes emerged in the implementation and internalization stages of the policy borrowing framework. These themes are: A Sense of ownership and success, Differentiation and Institutional diversity, Local responsiveness - Globally integration, Knowledge and Culture transfer, and A Sense of hope. In summary, the analysis affirms the benefits of transnational higher education but calls for more in-depth analyses of the impact in relation to the rationales and values that guide similar educational transfers in various contexts.
British Council and German Academic Exchange Service (2014). Impacts of transnational education on host countries: Academic, social/cultural, economic and skills impacts and implications of programmes and provider mobility. London: Author. Clausen, A., Schindler-kovats, B., & Stalf, N. (2011). Transnational Education ‘made in Germany’. DAAD. de Wit, H. (2002). Internationalization of higher education in the United States of America and Europe: A historical, comparative, and conceptual analysis. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Dolowitz, D. P., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from abroad: The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making. Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration, 13(1), 5–23. Farrugia, C. & Lane, J. (2012), Legitimacy in Cross Border Higher Education: Identifying Stakeholders of International Branch Campuses. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(4), 414-432. Fromm, N. (2014), Transnational higher education by German universities: Main drivers and components, J. No 181. TranState Working Papers, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597. Kammueller, S. (2017). Transnational education with a collaborative stance: The profile of German TNE. IEM Spotlight Newsletter, 14(1). Retrieved from http://www.nafsa.org/ Koehn, P. H. (2012), Turbulence and bifurcation in North–South higher-education partnerships for research and sustainable development. Public Organization Review, 12, 331–355. Lanzendorf, U. (2008), Foreign-Backed Universities: A new Trend, International Higher Education, No. 51, The Boston College Centre for International Higher Education. Retrieved from http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/ihe/issue/view/803 Miller-Idriss, C., & Hanauer, E. (2011). Transnational higher education: Offshore campuses in the Middle East. Comparative Education, 47(2), 181–207. Phillips, D. and Ochs, K. (2004), Researching policy borrowing: some methodological challenges in comparative education. British Educational Research Journal, 30(6), pages Rajjal, Y. (2015), 10 Years GJU: A Story of a University. German Jordanian University Publications. Amman, Jordan. Stella, A. (2003) Quality Assurance of Cross-border Higher Education, Quality in Higher Education, 12(3). UNESCO- OECD (2005), Guidelines for quality provision in cross-border higher education (Paris, UNESCO).
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