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What is required to make a "Global University"?

By S.R. Shankapal,Vice Chancellor, M.S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences | Friday, 20 Jan 2017, 04:06 IST
A country’s scientific capability is quite commonly gauged by some key demonstrated achievements. In the present knowledge era, countries are vying each other to position at least a few of their own in the list of Top 100 Universities in Global Rankings. It is widely believed that the number of universities appearing in global rankings is a reflection of the intellectual capabilities of the academic, talent pool in that country. As a country which has set its ambitions to be a world player, India needs to focus on some of its energies into the education sector so that some of its universities will elevate themselves to global university status. 

A university that aspires to be recognised as a global university may have to adopt systems and practices that are globally acceptable and have global relevance. As a start a global university may need to induct, into its governing body, eminent educationists of different nationalities to reflect the international positioning and outlook. A global university, requires having access to sufficient financial resources and attracting global human talent to attain the global status and have international appeal.

With time a university that provides an environment that attracts global talent to teach, draws students from across the world to its campuses and whose education methodologies and systems are comparable to the best in the world will attain global recognition.  By so positioning itself such Universities will, in time, be recognised as international brands. 

Global universities address global issues. The purpose of education is to make humanity more intelligent, knowledgeable and wise enough to address global challenges.  To list a few: achieving sustainable development while addressing global climate change; provide access to sufficient clean water without conflict for everyone; balancing population growth and the demand for resources;  replacing authoritarian regimes with genuine democracy or other collaborative forms of government through change processes that are accepted by all; make information and communications technologies benefit the lives of everyone;  establishing ethical market economies that help reduce the gap between the rich and poor; combating the threat of new and re-emerging diseases and micro-organisms; drawing up new security strategies to reduce ethnic conflicts, check terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction; meeting the growing demand for energy safely and efficiently; accelerating  scientific and technological development to improve the condition of human beings and infuse ethical considerations into global decisions. These global issues need to be solved for achieving a society that can co-exist on the planet harmoniously. In a practical context, however, in most countries, universities are unable to undertake research to address these global issues due to lack of adequate funds.

A global university educates global students. A global University should be able to attract international students coming from different countries with diverse ethnic background and all students should be allowed to express themselves without bias or discrimination. Cultural openness is a critical pre-requisite. The willingness to embrace attitudes, pedagogies and systems from beyond the national context is necessary. This does not mean throwing away or setting aside the unique contributions that a particular location or institutional tradition might make in the process of globalisation but it certainly means being comfortable going beyond them.

A global university has global partnerships. A global partnership is to be built on complementarities with the collaborating parties gaining mutual advantage. The difference between a global university and a national or regional university is that those choices are made with a view to opening up to global influences and contributing to the global scene rather than take decisions that are driven purely by local financial imperatives. It also understands that pursuing a strategy to go international is a long-drawn effort requiring patience as partners will take time to understand, bond and take actions to assimilate each other’s unique contributions to enrich the pool
of knowledge.

Finally, a global university should educate its students to become global citizens and prepare them for global careers. It covers a wide array of challenges from certification and accreditation, at the more straightforward end, and all the way through to ensuring that the curriculum includes international problems and to the teaching of the much more complex soft or transferable skills that a global citizen must possess. 

The realisation of the dream of producing a global university, for any country, does not come easily and so also for India. It is not also sufficient that a country spends huge sums of money to push some of its universities to global university status. Other actions should be taken, in tandem, to support the cause of Global University dream. To put it succinctly it is the equivalent of converting a city like Bangalore into London or Boston and making members of faculty think like Harvard or Cambridge University professors while educating the local population to think global, act global and consciously contribute to make the local environment attain the characteristics of a true, global, melting pot.

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