Redefining international higher education in the new era

23 Dec 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic forced universities around the world to redefine how education is delivered to students who physically cannot come to class. The pandemic may also be an opportunity to redefine what international higher education means, said Professor David Goodman, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU). This month Professor Goodman delivered the final China Talk conducted by School of Humanities and Social Sciences for 2020.

Professor David Goodman

Redefining ‘international’

‘International’ is not a product that can be readily or tangibly acquired. Bringing international students into a university for example doesn’t necessarily mean it’s international,” he said.

Instead, he suggested that an international university is where people from different countries and cultural backgrounds contribute interesting, unique ideas to make something new – a university such as XJTLU.

“True international higher education is a continuous conversation about how to bring people, ideas and challenges together,” Professor Goodman said.

With that in mind, universities can explore how this can occur with less requirement for international travel, he said, such as XJTLU’s ability to provide Chinese students an international education within their own country.

Education innovation

“Digital technology enables students to access university libraries in other countries, acquire learning content from multiple sites, and meet and communicate with people from different cultures,

“There is a whole range of resources and sources waiting online for staff and students to reach.” Noted by Professor Goodman.

XJTLU’s online and blended HyFlex instruction used in the past two semesters has already bridged physical borders. Yet, he said, international universities have not exploited these technologies to their best effect. He noted that consumers’ interest and savvy with digital products will likely move the digital teaching and learning enhancements forward.

HyFlex Instruction

He cited Deakin University in Australia as one example of this push to improvement: its academic staff record 10-20 minutes of the lecture at a time rather than a full hour, enabling students to watch at their leisure and solving issues with uploading, streaming or downloading larger recordings.

Another example will be the short courses provided by diverse global content providers through the XJTLU Learning Mall -- these offerings will constantly evolve based on the users’ needs, he noted.

Professor Goodman said examples like this point to other possibilities in transforming international higher education, such as “stackable” short-course programmes, which could become a new way to acquire a university degree,

“I’m not saying that universities will completely adapt to digitalism and consumerism. However, I suspect part of the curriculum might need to be changed, to listen to the needs of consumers,” he said.


Changing is the key word

Potential changes to international higher education are not something to fear.

“The world is changing all the time, and so will international higher education. We can embrace the change and look forward to a bright new future, because there’s no reason to be against it,

“For internationalisation and international higher education, what we need is hope and imagination.” Said Professor Goodman.

By Ying Jiang

Edited by Tamara Kaup

Photo by Wenjun Liu

23 Dec 2020