Almost a year ago, I had the privilege of presenting a plenary session titled “The University Today” at the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students World Assembly in Oaxtepec, Mexico. Over the next four Thursdays, I will be posting in four installments the four “change forces” I see at work in the landscape of higher education and the questions I believe this raises for collegiate ministries not only in the U.S. [my context] but, I believe with contextual nuances, globally. The four are: 1) the international character of higher education, 2) the impact of technology both in teaching and as a focus of the university’s mission, 3) the economics of higher education and how these are re-shaping the campus, and 4)secularization, its effects and the militant reaction it sparks.
After the discussion of each change force, I pose a couple questions. I would love to hear from others familiar with the higher education context their thoughts, questions, and rejoinders. If you are impatient and would like to hear the whole talk, it may be found on YouTube.
Increasingly, students are traveling from every nation to every nation. Current UNESCO estimates are that 3.7 million students study abroad each year, and this number is growing. Over 690,000 are in the US, but over 235,000 are in China. Increasingly, this is being funded by governments. Brazil has launched an initiative to provide 75,000 scholarships for students to study abroad in science and technology. Studies show that international study has great advantages in an enlarged perspective, language learning, international contacts and career development. The U.S. is encouraging students to include study abroad in their educational experience. What studies do not show is the increasing opportunity study abroad provides for gospel witness and partnerships in the universities of the world!
The global nature of higher education does not simply reflect the flow of people but also the flow of ideas. The necessity of collaboration across cultures was underscored by the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa where understanding of epidemiology had to walk hand in hand with understanding the cultural practices of how families care for their sick and bury their dead and those on the ground had to overcome both western ignorance and African suspicion. Whether it is a matter of dealing with contagious disease or climate change or global business, it is increasingly common for students and faculty to work alongside co-investigators half way around the world, whether virtually, at academic conferences or in the field.
Universities themselves are crossing international borders, whether through online courses or though “branch” campuses. The University of Nottingham has a campus in Malaysia, Cornell University is in Qatar, the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi and Leeds Metropolitan University has a campus in India. New York University is contending with the Chinese government about academic freedom issues on its campus in Shanghai. Indigeneity has long been a value in IFES and might it be important to listen to each other with regard to this trend and then seek to influence institutional policies in our own countries.
[Since first posting this material, Ruth Kinloch has kindly written to me, providing a link to an article she authored, “46 Study Abroad Statistics: Convincing Facts and Figures,” providing updated statistics that confirms the continuing growth and impact of study abroad. ]
- What will it mean for our movements to practice relational and intellectual hospitality with the guests on our campuses? What might we learn from our sister movements about extending welcome? And how, in each of our countries, will we work to prepare our students to be culturally sensitive witnesses, and not just tourists, as they study abroad?
- How might we help each other in grace and truth and humility to recognize the cultural blinders and cultural captivities that hinder effective cross-cultural collaboration in mission and in research.
 http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20120926-the-statistics-of-studying-abroad (last accessed 7/27/2015).
 http://studyabroad.ucmerced.edu/study-abroad-statistics/statistics-study-abroad (last accessed 7/27/2015).
 http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/choosing-university/university-branch-campuses (last accessed 7/27/2015).