Video from Recent Research Talk

I owe a big thank you to the Comparative, International and Development Education Centre (CIDEC) at OISE for hosting a great day of presentations by PhD students.  It was a wonderful chance to hear about the research that is happening across our faculty and taking our students around the world.

Follow this link to watch my talk on university students’ identity change at Western branch-campuses – http://connect.oise.utoronto.ca/p1pbn4xmzl7/

 

 

Obama In KL

Malaysia Students

Malaysia’s diverse students at international program

It is fitting that US President Obama’s critique of Malaysia’s racial and religious discrimination took place on Sunday at a university. The Universiti of Malaya, which hosted the President at a townhall meeting for students from the Youth South Asian Leaders’ Initative, offers few spaces for non-Muslim students and is a clear example of the nation’s unequal policies. Yet Malaysia will need more than Obama’s inspiring words to reshape a higher education system in which students’ enrollment is determined by their ethnicity.

Malaysia has an official policy of multiculturalism, established at its founding in 1957 and granting citizenship to the ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indians groups alike.  But pro-Muslim, Malay leaders have held power for several years limiting the position of non-Muslim citizens.  The result of these polices for Malaysia’s higher education is a system that is starkly divided along ethnic lines.  At the same time, Malaysia is increasing as a destination country for international students and foreign programs.

The system is complex and diverse.  At the publically-funded universities such as the Universiti Malaya, quotas limit how many non-Malay, non-Muslims are enrolled.   Though these policies are designed to provide access to low-income Malays, in reality they alienate the country’s Chinese and Indian minorities.  In the 1980’s the growing Chinese middle class responded by establishing their own successful, private universities.  Institutions like the Universiti Malaya are directly linked to Chinese cultural and lobby groups.  Others like HELP University have entered into franchise or twinning agreements with overseas universities to offer an extensive range of degrees.

Though Malaysia’s public universities have restricted access for all citizens, the government has intentionally developed policies to encourage cross-border education by promoting branch-campuses and twinning programs.  Institutions like Nottingham University have established full campuses in Malaysia, drawing students from the all ethnic backgrounds.   Many of country’s best students – barred from the federal universities – and skeptical of the local start-ups – head to international programs run by UK and Australian schools.

For the past two decades, this unique mix of private, local and international programs has filled the gap created by the governments’ ethnic quotas.  Indeed the private system is so established, that the public universities have become marginalized and are less prestigious for students to attend.   Malaysia’s public universities would benefit from Obama’s advice.  In their case, changing the admissions policies is less about educating marginalized individuals and more about the quality of the institutions.  By excluding top students, the federal universities have decreased their reputation.  Rather they may wish to enroll students based on merit to reposition themselves as prestigious universities, while supplementing the at-risk populations with scholarships and accessible tuition.

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.

Globe reporters wage war – higher education OR health care?

As much as I find it a little corny when the Globe and Mail has their writers pseudo-spar in their articles, this weekend’s conversation between Bascaramurty  and Wente caught my attention with their unsettled disputes about higher education.

Bascaramurty ‘s first justification for the millennials’ sense of entitlement is the fact that we are the most educated generation in the history of Canada’s labour force.  She gives examples of her friends who have graduate degrees but are working unpaid internships and contract jobs as they try to enter the workforce and pay off their student debt.   Her following argument, however, seems to imply that it is the privileged status of the boomers that is leading to the uncertain work/income of the millennials, not to mention eroding the social welfare state generally. 

I would have liked her to go a bit further in her critique.  She briefly mentions the unmet expectation that we’ll all own homes, but she says nothing of the ideology that claims higher education will solve all.  Clearly it is not the solution for her peers, yet they keep heading for graduate degrees as the solution to unemployment.  Her stories are illuminating a serious contraction (dare I say illusion?) of higher education – it is still seen as the solution, even when the debt is crippling and no one is getting jobs.  When will this belief finally be shattered?     

In terms of the overall point that millennials will pay for the boomers, Wente’s response is pretty limited.  She essentially says, “yes, our privilege is screwing you out of a future.”  Her admission that some boomers won’t be able to afford retirement lacks conviction since she doesn’t seem to have any personal stories like Bascaramurty’s account.    

The reality is that this so-called generational war only applies to the upper middle class of which these writers’ are a part.  It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that these generations are completely separate things.  For us millennials, the boomers are our parents.  The link between the generations will ensure that we pay, not just for our own future, but for our aging parents and the expenses that go with them.  Unless, of course you are privileged to have parents that write for the Globe – in which case they may be able to take care of themselves.

Affordable Graduate School: Profs can make a difference

Great picture of the cost of books from SimonCotter.com

I have just finished the first week of classes for Winter 2012.  The three courses I’m taking are very cool –  higher education as it relates to nationalism, migrants workers and neo-liberal agenda.  The topics of the course, however, I knew before I attended the first class. What suprised me rather, was that none of these classes (hosted by three different depts at OISE) has an expensive text – or any cost whatsoever associated with the readings.  The profs have arranged it so that we can read all the journals articles through the library (nothing new) but they have also intentionally used books that the library has digitally… in fact I think that they were instrumental in making sure the library had the book digitally.  So here I am at beginning of the semester, looking at the $300 I have budgeted for books and thinking how nice it will be to attend one more conference in April or take the subway instead of ride my bike during snowstorms. I should also add that none of these professors appeared to be dramatically tech-savvy in any way.  The first could not figure out how to eject a DVD from her computer and another did not totally understand the university login system for the library.  BUT – for the sake of their students, they have collaborated with the devils of digital technology and saved me a few hundred dollars. It can be done – and I want to see it done more often.