ERIC Identifier: ED350971
Publication Date: 1992-08-00
Author: Pickert, Sarah M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.| George Washington Univ. Washington
DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Preparing for a Global Community. Achieving an International
Perspective in Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
With the world integrated by economics, communications, transportation, and
politics, Americans increasingly see that they live and work in a global
marketplace of goods, services, and ideas. Policy makers and the public want
educational programs to reflect the international ties that bind people as they
bind nations. Colleges and universities must produce graduates who know other
cultural histories, languages, and institutions. American institutions must work
harder to broaden understanding of world events by offering the perspectives of
The challenge to educators is to deliver graduates who are competent not only
to function professionally in an international environment, but who are equipped
to make personal and public-policy decisions as citizens of an international
American higher education is meeting this challenge in many ways. Some
institutions include their goals for international education in campuswide
strategic plans. Others incorporate comparative and international assessments
into individual disciplines. Core curricula are being altered to ensure that all
students know more about the languages and cultures of other countries.
Faculty-development opportunities are being created to help implement these
changes. American students are being encouraged to study abroad, and foreign and
American students with international experiences are being asked to bring their
backgrounds to the fore.
Administrators are devising new structures for coordinating increased
international activities. Many institutions are joining consortia to work on
international projects with local, national, and international businesses and
organizations; such programs increasingly are planned and assessed in a
For consistent reference, the term "international higher education"
represents international relations (study of relations among countries), area
studies (study of particular regions of the world), foreign languages and
cultures, comparative and international approaches to individual disciplines,
and environmental, global, or peace studies, which examine issues affecting more
than one nation. These education efforts can extend to every discipline and
professional school, weaving together academic institutions, private nonprofit
entities, businesses, local and national governments, and public and private
In the 1990s, higher education has had to adjust to a more competitive world
economy, increased access to and interest in the world at large, and
globe-spanning electronic databases and computer networks. The decentralized
nature of American higher education allows state and private institutions to
make contact with educators abroad, bring curricula into consonance with job
requirements, and devise ways to carry out the international aspects of
institutional missions. But other nations view international education
differently. Shaped by geography and history, national concerns guide the
responses of these countries to the content and form of international education.
As colleges and universities worldwide expand joint educational endeavors, they
influence one another's views of and participation in this field.
HOW IS INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION INCLUDED IN CURRICULA?
focused on improving the international expertise of language majors and
foreign-affairs experts, American colleges and universities now strive to teach
all students about other countries and cultures. Language is not being ignored;
standards for language proficiency are being tightened, and requirements for
languages and study or work abroad are cropping up in professional programs. On
the wider scale, institutions are revising general-education courses; for
example, nonwestern countries get broader coverage in history and civilization
courses. Depth and breadth of curricular applications vary, but this trend is
evident among two-year, four-year, and graduate programs.
Throughout the curriculum, faculty are including material from other
countries--books, films, videos, music, newspapers, even live satellite
broadcasts. A few institutions make academic experience gained abroad part of
the domestic curriculum by requiring enrollment in seminars, research work, or
demonstrations of bilingual proficiency. Some offer certificates or joint
degrees to students who complete a series of such courses.
It also is possible to have an international experience without leaving the
classroom, thanks to advances in computer and satellite communication. American
students now can interact directly with their counterparts throughout the world.
Efforts to merge educational databases might improve access to research or
curricular activities in other countries.
WHO STUDIES ABROAD?
More students in higher education are
studying outside their home countries. In European Community nations, student
mobility is increasing; an ERASMUS project goal is to enable by 1992 at least 10
percent of EC students to acquire academic training in another member state.
Educators and administrators at U.S. institutions want to match this goal,
increasing the diversity of students who participate and the number of countries
offered as choices.
In a major U.S. government initiative, the National Security Education Act of
1991 tripled federal spending on undergraduate study abroad. The law provides
more money for overseas graduate research and grants to support programs in
international and area studies and foreign languages.
Analyzing study abroad from a cross-national perspective, institutions can
compare the experiences of American students abroad with study-abroad programs
sponsored by other countries.
The United States draws more foreign exchange students than any country, but
the numbers and destinations of foreign students are shifting (Chandler 1989).
Asian students, who make up the majority of foreign students enrolled in U.S.
institutions, are being wooed with some success by Australia, Japan, and other
HOW IS INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION ADMINISTERED?
budget reductions, U.S. campuses are fielding demands for a curriculum more
deeply infused with international and multicultural components, for greater
access to study abroad, and for closer cooperation with multinational
businesses. Institutions are deepening ties to institutions in other countries,
coordinating programs through international-studies offices or campuswide
committees, and cooperating with state and regional consortia (Anderson 1988).
At the international level, U.S. representatives are working with EC and
United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
authorities to standardize educational credential reporting, licensing, and
certification. In a gesture likely to bring more students across more borders,
these bodies are trying to ease student mobility across national educational
systems and develop databases to facilitate exchange of needed information
(European Center for Higher Education 1987). The EC leads efforts to create a
comprehensive structure to administer international higher education. As higher
education follows other industries into the global market, governments are
looking with increased regulatory fervor upon joint educational business
ventures (Chambers and Cummings 1990).
HOW CAN FACULTY AND ADMINISTRATORS IMPROVE INTERNATIONAL
The first step is to define the term. Clarify its meaning on your
campus. Raise the concept on campus; see if "international education" as you
understand it is backed by institutional policies toward international and
foreign-language studies, foreign students, and faculty development.
Curriculum. Consider the extent to which your institution exposes students to
other languages and cultures. Are international elements available even in
professional schools? Do students acquire the foreign-language proficiency
demanded in their chosen fields? Do all students get the chance to study abroad
and to use that experience in later course work? Compare your institution's
offering with those of colleges and universities in other countries.
Participants. Widen opportunities for international contact by reducing
barriers to foreign study created by scheduling and academic requirements. Bring
foreign students and teachers to the United States, and use international
satellite and telecommunications in the classroom. Examine your own program in
light of the efforts of other countries to send and receive students from
Administration. Evaluate structures that help or hinder international
activities. Does a campuswide strategy exist to promote such efforts? Does a
comprehensive document report these activities? Are measures of progress
adequately communicated to the campus? Are course offerings, faculty hirings,
and grant proposals coordinated with other institutions in your community,
state, or region? Consider how other countries administer programs and how you
might coordinate your efforts on an international scale.
Anderson, Charles J. 1988. International Studies
for Undergraduates, 1987: Operations and Opinions. Higher Education Report No.
76. Washington D.C.: American Council on Education.
Chambers, Gail S., and William K. Cummings. 1990. Profiting from Education:
Japan-United States International Education Ventures in the 1980s. New York:
Institute of International Education. Report No. 20. ED 320 488. 180 pp. MF-01;
Chandler, Alice. 1989. Obligation or Opportunity: Foreign Student Policy in
Six Major Receiving Countries. New York: Institute of International Education.
Report No. 18. ED 312 981. 144 pp. MF-01; PC-06.
European Center for Higher Education. 1987. Bibliography of Available
Literature Relating to the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas,and Degrees and to
International Mobility in Higher Education. Bucharest, UNESCO: European Center
for Higher Education. ED 292 428. 122 pp. MF-01; PC-05.
Groennings, Sven, and David S. Wiley. eds. 1990. Group Portrait:
Internationalizing the Disciplines. New York: The American Forum.
Lambert, Richard D. 1980. "International Studies: An Overview and Agenda."
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 449: 151-64.