University of Nottingham`s beautiful Malaysia Campus

I have been quite amazed at the differences between the institutions that are self-identifying as “branch-campuses.”  Some are just a few classrooms rented in an office building while others have beautiful white-washed buildings with landscaping, ponds and student-life space.   Certainly, there has been a lot of talk about how sustainable branch-campuses are and  how soon they will all shut down.  But as heavy investments are matched with an increase in student enrollment, it seems that many are here to stay.

You can read some of my views on branch-campuses at University World News

Branch-campus students thrive on high-stakes competition:

Protege to peer: Measuring maturity at branch campuses:

Here is my beautiful daughter – helping me pack for our fieldwork adventure.  This fall was monumental.  With a lot of childcare support from my mom and wonderful neighbour Olga I defended my thesis proposal on October 30th.  My dear supervisor Ruth Hayhoe was very diligent in editing my ethics forms and (in what can only be described as a miracle) it only took 3 weeks to receive approval from the University of Toronto.  This evening we leave for Dubai, UAE to research the student experience at British branch-campuses.  Childen’s Ministry Coordinator – FINAL – March 3 2015Baby Packing

Worldviews 2013 Conference – Toronto

Tonight is the opening keynote for the Worldviews 2013 conference.  Adrian Monck (World Economic Forum) is speaking on public trust in the media and how this affects higher education.  The conference investigates the relationship between higher education and the media – issues of MOOCs, knowledge mobilization, internationalization and more… Thursday and Friday’s sessions look great – I will personally be attending talks on journalism and education hubs.  Full agenda here

Ontario Research Policy Symposium – May 16, 2013

This Thursday, I am helping Glen Jones and the higher education program at University of Toronto host a research symposium on key policy issues facing Ontario’s post-secondary system.  This event is being co-organized by Lucia Padure (MTCU) and Richard Wiggers (HEQCO).  I am looking forward to the first presentation Life After High School – presenting the findings of a recent research study into students’ first year at PSE.  There will also be info on college-uni transfer, institutional diversity/differentiation, and student choice.  One of the goals of the day is to spark a network of stakeholders interested in Ontario’s PSE research.  If you’re interested in watching the event online – join us at 9:30 Thursday morning.

Regime change in Venezuela means uncertain future for higher ed

Picture of Venezuela University ProtestThanks to my colleague Elliot Storm at the University of Toronto, I have been learning a lot about the state-university relationship in Venezuela.  The two have been at odds in the past decade and with the death of Hugo Chavez, the future is uncertain.  Will the government continue to implement university change in a forceful way or work together with the institutions to develop sustainable higher ed?   Read our article in University World News here.

The Values-void in Branch Campuses

It is always discouraging to start a research project only to find that the phenomenon you want to study just doesn’t exist.  That was the case when I set out to categorize and evaluate the mission and vision statements of Western branch campuses in education hubs.  Turns out the majority of branch-campuses out there don’t have any reference to a mission or vision statement.  Quite the blow to my neatly organized project.

My first reaction was to expound weakly that the accepted absence of something that is pretty standard in a parallel education context is worth studying.  But when I actually looked at the sample websites of the branch campuses there enough simlarity to suggest that official mission/vision statements were missing but unofficially the majority of branch campuses are marketing themselves to the same tune.  They say the same things, offer the same programs and are trying to capture the same students.  I definitely found enough to research and would like to encourage cross-border educators to be more explicit about why the do what they do.

The study has just been released in the following article:

Grace Karram.  (2012) “A futile search for values and pedagogy? A discursive analysis of the   marketing messages of branch-campuses in higher education hubs.” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, (Online First)

Globe and Mail – where’s the answer?

The globe and mail is currently publishing a series of articles in which stakeholders question Canadian PSE.  They are asking if it is relevent, if it should be open source, if students are hirable, if teaching if effective, if universities are innovative… and more.  This seems to be stemming from the slight decrease that Canadian schools saw in recent global rankings.I would like to suggest that any evaluation needs to be based in previous objectives – how is Canadian education doing what it has set out to do.  And if the evaluators wish to critique the objectives then a bigger debate is necessary about what we are doing in Canadian PSE.  If the objectives change for Canada, then global rankings may not be all that important as indicators.

How many of you have moved home after uni? No shame in staying home!

This infographic from Sarah Wenger ( makes an important point – the status of moving away is not worth the debt.  Leaving home for university/college has become a status symbol of the middle class whether or not students can afford it.  True, many students are forced to re-locate for certain programs or due to their distance from an institution, but many leave just because it is a “coming of age” tradition.  Why not just buy a nice car and spend some money at coffee shops so you get the break you need from parents’ home and can still afford life after school.  More importantly, the shift away from home can isolate and dislocate young adults from their social communities.  Lots of students move back home after failing to succeed in their first year – a failure that may not have been necessary if students had remained imbedded in their home networks.  I’ve just had a baby girl and I’m preparing to ramp up this rant so I am very convincing in 18 years!

OECD Economic Survey critiques Canada for poor innovation in spite of high PSE indicators

Picture of OECD SurveyOn Thursday, June 14 – I helped Glen Jones and the higher education group at OISE host the authors of the recent OECD Economic Survey of Canada.   Though the survey was criticized for saying little new about Canadian innovation or PSE – the suprise was that report seemed to suggest PSE was the solution to the poor innovation.

Here’s are my thoughts in University World News – OECD Survey finds post-secondary strong….