The Future of Higher Education

During the 2014-2015 school year, undergraduate and graduate international students studied in U.S. colleges and universities are 974,926, 10 percent more than the previous year, according to 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released by the Institute of International Education. I think higher education institutions need to do a much better job to bring domestic and international students together in an intentional way as international students add to a university’s mission of internationalization and global engagement.

There is a study applied a cross-sectional survey to undergraduate and graduate international students enrolled at a public university in the Midwest (Urban & Palmer, 2014). It collected international students’ perceptions on how the universities has engaged them as cultural resources in support of a strategic goal of global engagement and found that international students are not actively engaged as cultural resources.

At Virginia Tech, we have international street fair which provide an opportunity to international students to share the information about their countries, cultures, food, customs, music, and cultural beliefs. We have courses about diversity. We also have special activities and projects to interact with international students. These are good approaches to integrate international students and domestic students. I think we could do more.



Urban, Ewa L., and Louann Bierlein Palmer. “International students as a resource for internationalization of higher education.” Journal of Studies in International Education (2013).

The Values of Higher Education

Before I got admission in Virginia Tech, my advisor asked me if I would get the doctorate degree. I said absolutely yes, I liked the program and I would like to be a faculty in the future. When I came here, I knew why he asked me that question. Some previous students enrolled in our program quitted the program after one or two years because they got “good” job (i.e., with good salary). It looks like they just need some transition time before they get jobs. As many of young generation people go for higher education, we should ask ourselves “Why do we go to a university to learn undergraduate and graduate education?” Most of us would say: to find a better job and to make more money. As opposed to generations of the past, it is probably unable to obtain the number of high-paying jobs that were once available for high school graduates today. Other common responses might be: to gain social and peer respect, to fit our social circle, or to make our families happy.

With education, students need to learn knowledge and skills. More importantly, they need to learn how to develop their thinking. Except for intellectual development and learning, moral, social, physical, and spiritual development is very important. Because of globalization, students also need to develop a global perspective. Hendrik de Wit mentioned internationalization “has become an indicator for quality in higher education” (de Wit, 2011, p. 39).



de Wit, H. (2011). Internationalization of higher education in Europe and its assessment. In H. de Wit (Ed.), Trends, issues, and challenges in internationalization of higher education (pp. 39-43). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Centre for Applied Research on Economics and Management, School of Economics and Management of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, and Hans de Wit.

Geographies of Higher Education

I read an interesting paper “Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings” (Jöns & Hoyler,, in which authors provides a geographical analysis of world university rankings. They compared geographical clusters of universities and structural variations between Shanghai rankings (Academic Ranking of World Universities as compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2003) and THE-QS rankings (The Times Higher World University Ranking as produced by QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited from 2004 to 2009) that use very different types of ranking criteria. The attached maps based on the two rankings showed some common clusters of academic excellence.



When comparing the Top 200 universities in both rankings for 2009, they found the overlap of 138 universities form four regional clusters in North America, Europe, East Asia and Australia. That’s not surprise as they locate in the core of the world economy.


Jöns, Heike, and Michael Hoyler. “Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings.” Geoforum 46 (2013): 45-59.

IGEPs in the future

As a student in Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) Remote Sensing program at Virginia Tech, I was asked to fill out the information required for the IGEP annual report. I think our team did very well and I learn a lot by enrolling this program. I love to work with a interdisciplinary team to get broad ideas for my research. As I know, other students in this program also love it. When I am looking for academic jobs, interdisciplinarity is a major consideration of faculty/research positions. I am glad I was trained to do interdisciplinary research.

This is the third year for many IGEPs and the VT community is strongly looking at IGEP as a potential model for the Destination Areas. I am curious about IGEPs’ performances and the future directions of these program.


Mentoring in Geography

Our department, department of Geography, is interviewing candidates for department head this month. One of the candidate, Dr. Thomas Mote is a good model for mentoring. As head of the department of Geography at the University of Georgia, he worked with leaders of student organization in geography, discussed about what department and faculty can support undergraduate and graduate students. He encouraged students to apply internship positions which made the department keeps a good connection with some related organizations/companies. He went to specific conference sessions about challenges and opportunities for geography and shared the thoughts with the department, then faculties could adjust their mentoring strategies and students could adjust their needs.

Isaac Newton’s epigram about “standing on the shoulders of giants” is sometimes invoked in the context of mentorship. I can work toward him to build my own mentoring relationships.


Higher Education Institutions in China

Higher education in China has been profoundly influenced by the higher education systems of America and Europe, but it has unique characteristics. I will only focus on higher education institutions (HEIs) and admission to higher education in China.
There are two types of higher education institutions (HEIs) in China: regular HEIs and adult HEIs. In 2015, there were 2845 HEIs. Out of these 2553 were regular HEIs and the other 292 were HEIs for adults. These HEIs are run by central ministries and agencies, local authorities, non-government (“minban”) institutions, and partnerships with foreign universities and colleges.
Only a very small number of non-governmental institutions are authorised to offer degrees recognised by the Ministry of Education. The others are preparing students to sit examinations for a recognised degree under the government self-study examinations system, and offering training in knowledge and skills of importance to the Chinese economy.

1. Regular HEIs
Regular HEIs includes HEIs offering degree programs (universities, specialised institutions, and independent institutions) and higher vocational colleges. The purpose of vocational universities is to address the manpower requirements of the community in which they are located.
For regular HEIs, admission is based on scores obtained in the unified national higher education entrance examination (Gao Kao) in June; curriculum guidelines are prepared nationally, and the number of student places available in specific programmes at specific institutions is based on economic needs as determined through central government planning; and most graduating students were assigned a post of employment by the government in the past, but this is changing.

2. Adult HEIs
Adult HEIs includes administrative colleges (offer adult middle school and higher education programmes for government officers), correspondence departments and attached evening colleges (offering part-time adult higher education programmes through correspondence and attached evening colleges), employees’ colleges (offering credentials to staff/workers), independent self-study examinations (the only form of higher education in China with an entirely open admissions policy), radio and television universities (offering multi-media courses through radio, television, print, audio-visual materials and computer networks on a nationwide basis), and spare-time universities (offering sub-degree level programmes undertaken in the students’ spare time).
The Adult Education Guidance and Coordination Commission, formed by the State Education commission in 1986, administers adult higher education. In most cases the admission is based on the unified national higher education entrance examination for adult (Cheng Kao) in October. Enrolment quotas are not part of the central government plan and the graduates are not assigned employment by the government.

Google Glass in Higher Education

Google’s wearable technology is an innovative technology in education. The following infographic lists 30 ways that google glass can be used in the classroom. It is useful to support hands-on lab experiments and field work. It is also an useful tool for online learning. For example, STEMbite, a video project initiated by Vanden Heuvel who posts short educational videos filmed with google glass.

Google Glass In Education


Open Access Jouranls: the Pros and Cons

According to Peter Suber, one of the leaders of the Open Access Movement, open access is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions“. It enables ideas and results of scientific research to be disseminated more rapidly and widely. Except its benefits, there are some concerns about open access. I selected Remote Sensing – an open access journal in geosciences – as an example to explain the pros and cons of this journal.

Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292), an open access journal about the science and application of remote sensing technology in geosciences, is published monthly online by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI). This journal try to encourage scientists to publish experimental, theoretical and computational results in as much detail as possible so that results can be easily reproduced.

As an open access journal, Remote Sensing gives authors feedback very quickly. Joural managers push peer reviewers to submit their comments as quickly as possible and the articals can be published within two months if accepted for publication. Compared to some traditional journals which will need six months to one year of reviewing period, it is a big benefit.

However, as there would be a financial incentive for journals to publish more articles and Remote Sensing is based on authors paying for publication(1600 CHF (>1600 USD) per processed paper if accepted for publication), peer reviewers are unduly influenced by the needs of their publishers. I heard some reviewers complained that some authors only corrected their grammatical errors but ignored the suggestions on their methods/results, but the associated editors didn’t participate in the process to make a decision. The reviewers are angry about this and doubt about the quality of this journal.

Thus, open access is still finding its way and we have a long road to go.


Research Misconduct: Han, Dong-Pyou Case

The special case I seclected to share was a research misconduct of intentional falsification of data which resulted in voluntary settlement agreements by Dr. Dong-Pyou Han, former Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Services, Iowa State University.

According to ORI’s report, “Respondent falsified results in research to develop a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) by intentionally spiking samples of rabbit sera with antibodies to provide the desired results.  The falsification made it appear that rabbits immunized with the gp41-54 moiety of the HIV gp41 glycoprotein induced antibodies capable of neutralizing a broad range of HIV-1 strains, when the original sera were weakly or non-reactive in neutralization assays.  Falsified neutralization assay results were widely reported in laboratory meetings, seven (7) national and international symposia between 2010 and 2012, and in grant applications and progress reports P01 AI074286-03, -04, -05, and -06; R33 AI076083-04; U19 AI091031-01 and -03; and R01 AI090921-01.

For researches with lab experiments, it is usual to get unexpected results because of design of experiments, data sources, selected samples, and so on. It can be painful to repeat the experiments with “bad” results. For students who need to graduate with seasonable good findings and researchers who want to publish good scientific papers, manipulating data/equipment/processes is much easier than struggling to get desired or even perfect results. We need to keep in mind that we should be honesty in proposing, performing, and reporting research in any case.


Mission Statements

I select two universities from Virginia in United States to compare their mission statements: Virginia Tech which is a public land-grant university and the University of Virginia which is a public university.

The mission statement for Virginia Tech is “Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.”

The mission statement for the University of Virginia is “The University of Virginia is a public institution of higher learning guided by a founding vision of discovery, innovation, and development of the full potential of talented students from all walks of life. It serves the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world by developing responsible citizen leaders and professionals; advancing, preserving, and disseminating knowledge; and providing world-class patient care.” They are defined by their “enduring commitment to a vibrant and unique residential learning  environment marked by the free and collegial exchange of ideas”; their “unwavering support of a collaborative, diverse community bound together by distinctive foundational values of honor, integrity, trust, and respect”; and their “universal dedication to excellence and affordable access”.

Both of them aim to disseminate knowledge, cultivate talents and serve the society. But as a land-grant university, Virginia Tech also commit to outreach and engagement. For example, in our college (Natural Resources and Environment), we have extension programs and faculty members. Based on my volunteer experience, it encorages me to share my research findings with the public and conduct scientific research that has immediate applicability to public concerns. I am so glad I am here.