Right here and now: thoughts on global higher education, accountability and relevance

Hi everyone,

We were asked today to share our thoughts about global higher education, accountability, and relevance. First what do each of these things mean? Then, what a possible relationship between the three? Often there is much to be learned in the interaction and boundary between topics.

So what does global higher education mean? Is it opportunity? Is it connectivity? Is it a series of experiences? Is it potential? To each of us in higher education, we came for different reasons, different mindsets, different questions. Now, we have seen just the beginning of what an international, or a global experience could be like and how drastically different the process and outcomes are, or can be. The context that Dean DePauw, and later others will give, will create a vision for what these things can mean, given personal context.

For me, this shows that higher education can give the potential for opportunities, connectivity, and experiences. What global higher education can give to us is the opportunity for connecting with others, seeing their potential, and then experiencing a cultural exchange.

So, does this mean that accountability is a recourse for not meeting expectations? No, I think accountability is greater than being held accountable. Accountability is being accountable to yourself, your goals and aspirations. Anyone, be it a person or an institution, can be made accountable through external stressors and expectations. It is the internal code of ethics and morals that drive us not only as academics but as human beings. This higher moral standard is how we can choose to operate and maintain a high level of excellence and scholarship.

If my personal exceptions for myself, I often feel more disappointed when I cannot meet them. Sometimes these expectations can be far-fetched in goals, but others are basic. My most central expectation is to embrace and internalize failure. While none of us particularly like to fail, it is much more important to understand the reasons and be able to correct or optimize lessons learned. I do this not only to help myself, but then to give that experience to others, so that they may be able to avoid the same pitfalls.

That is how I am accountable to myself and to others.

Relevance is more ambiguous. Things can move in and out of relevance, be a varying levels of relevance for different people, in different places, at different times. If you have a certain philosophies of thought or knowing you can make things irrelevant based on principle, or contradiction. You can even make some decisions based on irrelevant data in regression analysis. Now, relevance can also be relevant to the times, which can fall into “cutting” or “bleeding-edge” research and knowledge. Relevance can also mean not behind the times, that it is not being ahead, or behind, but in the pack.

I feel relevance is contextual. That we need to place relevance somewhere in time and space and see what comes from it.

So, when we bring these three concepts together, even the order of the words makes a difference in meaning.

What is the relevance of accountability in global higher education?

How can we be accountable in remaining relevant  in global higher education?

Who is accountable for remaining relevant  in global higher education?

Is global higher education accountable in remaining relevant.

Should global higher education be accountable? (asking for relevance)

This interaction of how we ask a question, is what should be understood before moving on. The topic for this year was global higher education, accountability, and relevance. This is posed akin to a list. However, we have already seen that the way we ask questions can inherently be leading, or even misleading. What if a person brings another topic or experience into the list and changes the meaning completely?

In the end, I could go on a innumerable amount of tangents, all with different implications. However, it will be my experiences and resulting observations and reflections that lead me to a more interesting question to be asked of global higher education, its accountability, and its relevance.

My thoughts remain in how the two groups of academics from the US and Basel will work together to learn from each other and engage that task at hand. By doing so, we all can be held accountable for the opportunity we have been given to learn from others in an effort to remain relevant in our disciplines. This struggle, as we continue to understand the world and its phenomena, hopefully will lead us towards a greater understanding of global higher education and its worth.

Ken

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