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IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000
                                   11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future
                                                                              Plenary Keynote III


Higher Education in a Changing World: An Opportunity for Global Collaboration
Stanley O. Ikenberry, President, American Council of Education


Introduction.
I am honored to address you on the important occasion of the Jubilee Celebration of the founding of
IAU. This gathering offers an ideal opportunity for all of us to ponder our shared challenges and put
into a global context the more immediate concerns that preoccupy us from day to day. And so, I
welcome the opportunity for reflection.
As we look ahead to the future, two major questions come to mind. What are the forces that are
driving change in higher education around the world? And, more important, what is our vision of the
future? Where are we headed?
In spite of our many differences, we all find ourselves in a period of fundamental change. We are
buffeted by mega-forces of such size that they are reshaping not just higher education, but virtually
every sector and every activity, all over the world.

Our Challenge.
Our challenge as academic leaders is to understand and harness the forces of change, rather than
simply flail against them, or even worse, to be quietly swept along.
The forces driving change in higher education are no great mystery. Most of us experience them daily.
The knowledge explosion, the technology revolution, and our increased global interdependence-for
example-are transforming virtually every segment of our several societies. Be it in education, the
environment, politics, commerce, transportation, banking, or communications, no sector is left
untouched. The only truly remarkable outcome would be if colleges and universities somehow escaped
this whirlwind of change.

A Conceptual Age.
Of special relevance for higher education, however, is that the relationship between our institutions
and those we serve has changed. Higher education now functions in a "conceptual age"-to borrow the
language of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.
In this new era, prosperity and wellbeing are defined less by traditional metrics and much more by the
educational levels, the intellectual strength, the creativity, and the ingenuity of people. More than ever
before, the health of nations, the vitality of our several cultures, and the traditions of freedom and
democracy depend on an educated citizenry.
So it is that the new conceptual era has altered the relationship of our institutions to the societies we
serve. It is changing perspectives, changing policies, expanding aspirations, and raising expectations.
And, on the other hand, these new dreams may or may not be accompanied by the financial resources
that are essential to transforming dreams into realities.

Paradox.
For all of us, the new era presents a paradox: The economic and technological divide between
developed and developing nations limits the capacity of some countries and their universities to
provide the conditions that are essential for full participation. We must have strong higher education
institutions and increased access throughout the world. Our commitment should be to develop all the
world's talent and foster fully the innovation that will lead to a better life and a more secure future for
all of the world's citizens.
Very frankly, as we think about governance and our many stakeholders, if we are to achieve such a
future we must work more closely together. Collaboration can help ensure that all nations will share,
that all nations will contribute, and that all nations will benefit. The risk of division along lines of
ideology, economic plenty, technological capacity, or any irrelevant dimension is one that confronts
the entire world.
In one sense, higher education helped create this new era of which we speak. The new age was made
possible by the incredible explosion of knowledge during the 20th century and the remarkable
advances in information technology that accompanied it.
The new era is calling into question many of the assumptions that have guided higher education for
centuries, including the ways in which we are organized and governed and the stakeholders to whom
we are accountable. One of these is the assumption that teaching and learning are constrained by time
and place. In the new era, technology gives us the power to transcend the barriers of time and space.
Access can be opened in ways we would not have imagined even a decade ago, and these changed
circumstances are altering public expectations and creating increased demand for higher learning.
Still another changing aspect of the environment is that in most of our countries, higher education
remains tied to the state. Indeed, in the new conceptual era, our institutions and our intellectual
resources increasingly are seen as important instruments of national policy.
The state-centered focus of higher education has predominated since the reformation in the 1500s and
continues to this day. Yet we know that the revolution in information technology, along with the
increased mobility and movement of students and scholars around the globe, cry out for more
universal, more inclusive perspectives.

Internationalization.
In his Higher Education Cannot Escape History (1994), Clark Kerr suggested that the 21st century will
mark a return to the internationalization of learning.1 As he has been on so many matters, Dr. Kerr
probably is correct in this view. Not only do we now have the power of technology to facilitate
collaboration and knowledge transfer, we also are experiencing an increased mobility of faculty and
students among universities throughout the world.
In this new utopia of collaboration and sharing there is the danger that higher education could become
homogenized. As we become more compatible and more comparable, we could at the same time lose
our precious differences. There is at least a theoretical risk of McDonaldization, and that we must
unite to resist.
Life is too complex and moving too quickly for there to be a single theory of economics, one
legitimate version of history, one acceptable interpretation of art, music, literature, or philosophy. No
institution, no nation, no group of nations can monopolize, dominate, or dictate the academic future.
Still, the opportunities for collaboration and cooperation and the possibilities to use technology to
share information and resources and to expand access are immense. And they are setting in motion
forces that are expanding the range of relevant stakeholders and redefining systems of governance and
control.

Imperatives.
I see a number of imperatives, however, that we must confront.
The first, which we share, is the imperative to provide more education to more people over their entire
lives. In most of the developing world, higher education has been the fastest-growing segment of the
education system over the last 20 years, with enrollments increasing by an annual average of 6.2
percent in lower income countries and 7.3 percent in upper-middle income countries.
For some nations, the priority is to raise educational achievement at all levels, beginning with basic
literacy. For others, it is to increase the participation rate in higher education. And for yet others,
including my own, the national imperative is to ensure greater success rates for all students and greater
opportunities for lifelong learning.
Although our agendas and priorities may differ, the importance of higher education to social and
economic development is crucial everywhere. Along with our new-found relevance to national
interests, however, have come increased pressures for accountability and greater scrutiny.
Accreditation, assessment, transparency, comparability, quality reviews, performance measures-all are
proliferating. One must conclude that higher education has become "too important" to be left to
academics and self-regulation.

The Search for New Balances.
So it is that the academic community must struggle to find the right balance between accountability to
the society that supports us and our freedom to define our own directions and manage our own affairs.
True enough, we must earn and maintain the confidence of policy makers and the larger public. At the
same time, the work of the university must be free from those external forces that would place its
quality and academic integrity at risk.
A second imperative for higher education is that we must become more actively engaged with our
communities. And here, I define community broadly to include not just the local community, but the
regional, national, and global or international community as well. A university that fails to include in
its mission a contribution to a better society will not and perhaps should not prosper for long.
Fulfilling that role, however, requires a willingness to invite the society into the institution.
As a group of U.S. land-grant university presidents noted in a recent report, we must make a conscious
effort to organize the resources and expertise at our institutions in coherent ways that are relevant to
community, state, national, and international problems. My point is simply that while it is true that
higher education thrives in an environment that is free from excessive external intervention and
control, we dare not retreat in isolation lest we risk irrelevance to the world around us.
Still a third challenge we share is the imperative to be clearer about the fundamental purpose and
promise of higher education. A hallmark of higher learning, indeed our claim to uniqueness, lies not in
universities' ability to impart content, but in our capacity to develop higher order intellectual skills of
creativity, innovation, analysis, synthesis, communication, and sensitivity to values and ethical
constructs.
Yet, if one were to examine the actual work of many universities-what students and scholars actually
do-too often we would find a preponderance of energy aimed at content delivery and mastery rather
than at these more complex and more important intellectual skills. If the learning that occurs in
universities is primarily what the British call "surface learning"-that is, feeding back correct answers
through short-term memory and recall-then we are likely to find ourselves increasingly vulnerable to
technology that is capable of spewing out endless reams of data and information and doing so at
minimal cost.

Identifying a Strategic Niche.
Different institutions will define their promises differently. But each of us must identify a strategic
niche, define our interests and peaks of excellence, and make clear to our students and the society the
promises we intend to keep. No institution, no system of institutions, can be all things to all people. In
each instance we must devise a higher education system that is equitable, intellectually strong, relevant
to the needs of the society, and financially viable. We will accomplish that only if higher education
makes essential choices, builds networks of collaboration, and exercises greater clarity in the promises
we make to students and society.
The broad challenge we share is the collective imperative to build a bright future for higher education
around the world. The needs of humanity are great. The expectations for universities are intense. Be it
in the explosion of knowledge or in the revolution of technology, the world is changing as never
before. We are intensely interdependent. No institution, no nation, can go it alone.
For all of us, this realization has yet to take hold. In the United States, while the interest in forming
international ties has never been greater, our penchant for competition rather than cooperation
survives. In all nations, the opportunities for collaboration have never been as numerous. The means of
collaboration have never been as abundant. And the urgency of collaboration has never been as
compelling.
At the outset of these remarks, I pondered two questions: What are the forces that are driving us? And,
as universities, where are we headed?

The Driving Forces.
As to the forces, they are powerful, but for the most part they are apparent. They derive from the
conceptual era in which we live and the proliferating technological power that surrounds us.

Conclusion.
As to our future, however, and where we are headed, the honest answer must be that no one knows for
sure. This Jubilee Celebration in Durban, however, has assembled a rich array of talented and
influential academic leaders from around the world. It offers us an unprecedented opportunity to think
anew about how we can join together to harness the forces and serve humanity in new and creative
ways. If we work together, reaching across national and cultural and economic divides, we are more
likely to find the sense of direction and shared purpose we so urgently need.
Thank you.

Kerr, Clark. (1994). Higher Education Cannot Escape History: Issues for the 21st Century. State
University of New York Press. Albany, NY
NASULGC (March 2000). Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities,
6th Report: Renewing The Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and
Different World. National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Washington,
DC

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Durban p3 s.o. ikenberry

  • 1. IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000 11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future Plenary Keynote III Higher Education in a Changing World: An Opportunity for Global Collaboration Stanley O. Ikenberry, President, American Council of Education Introduction. I am honored to address you on the important occasion of the Jubilee Celebration of the founding of IAU. This gathering offers an ideal opportunity for all of us to ponder our shared challenges and put into a global context the more immediate concerns that preoccupy us from day to day. And so, I welcome the opportunity for reflection. As we look ahead to the future, two major questions come to mind. What are the forces that are driving change in higher education around the world? And, more important, what is our vision of the future? Where are we headed? In spite of our many differences, we all find ourselves in a period of fundamental change. We are buffeted by mega-forces of such size that they are reshaping not just higher education, but virtually every sector and every activity, all over the world. Our Challenge. Our challenge as academic leaders is to understand and harness the forces of change, rather than simply flail against them, or even worse, to be quietly swept along. The forces driving change in higher education are no great mystery. Most of us experience them daily. The knowledge explosion, the technology revolution, and our increased global interdependence-for example-are transforming virtually every segment of our several societies. Be it in education, the environment, politics, commerce, transportation, banking, or communications, no sector is left untouched. The only truly remarkable outcome would be if colleges and universities somehow escaped this whirlwind of change. A Conceptual Age. Of special relevance for higher education, however, is that the relationship between our institutions and those we serve has changed. Higher education now functions in a "conceptual age"-to borrow the language of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. In this new era, prosperity and wellbeing are defined less by traditional metrics and much more by the educational levels, the intellectual strength, the creativity, and the ingenuity of people. More than ever before, the health of nations, the vitality of our several cultures, and the traditions of freedom and democracy depend on an educated citizenry. So it is that the new conceptual era has altered the relationship of our institutions to the societies we serve. It is changing perspectives, changing policies, expanding aspirations, and raising expectations. And, on the other hand, these new dreams may or may not be accompanied by the financial resources that are essential to transforming dreams into realities. Paradox. For all of us, the new era presents a paradox: The economic and technological divide between developed and developing nations limits the capacity of some countries and their universities to provide the conditions that are essential for full participation. We must have strong higher education institutions and increased access throughout the world. Our commitment should be to develop all the world's talent and foster fully the innovation that will lead to a better life and a more secure future for all of the world's citizens. Very frankly, as we think about governance and our many stakeholders, if we are to achieve such a future we must work more closely together. Collaboration can help ensure that all nations will share, that all nations will contribute, and that all nations will benefit. The risk of division along lines of
  • 2. ideology, economic plenty, technological capacity, or any irrelevant dimension is one that confronts the entire world. In one sense, higher education helped create this new era of which we speak. The new age was made possible by the incredible explosion of knowledge during the 20th century and the remarkable advances in information technology that accompanied it. The new era is calling into question many of the assumptions that have guided higher education for centuries, including the ways in which we are organized and governed and the stakeholders to whom we are accountable. One of these is the assumption that teaching and learning are constrained by time and place. In the new era, technology gives us the power to transcend the barriers of time and space. Access can be opened in ways we would not have imagined even a decade ago, and these changed circumstances are altering public expectations and creating increased demand for higher learning. Still another changing aspect of the environment is that in most of our countries, higher education remains tied to the state. Indeed, in the new conceptual era, our institutions and our intellectual resources increasingly are seen as important instruments of national policy. The state-centered focus of higher education has predominated since the reformation in the 1500s and continues to this day. Yet we know that the revolution in information technology, along with the increased mobility and movement of students and scholars around the globe, cry out for more universal, more inclusive perspectives. Internationalization. In his Higher Education Cannot Escape History (1994), Clark Kerr suggested that the 21st century will mark a return to the internationalization of learning.1 As he has been on so many matters, Dr. Kerr probably is correct in this view. Not only do we now have the power of technology to facilitate collaboration and knowledge transfer, we also are experiencing an increased mobility of faculty and students among universities throughout the world. In this new utopia of collaboration and sharing there is the danger that higher education could become homogenized. As we become more compatible and more comparable, we could at the same time lose our precious differences. There is at least a theoretical risk of McDonaldization, and that we must unite to resist. Life is too complex and moving too quickly for there to be a single theory of economics, one legitimate version of history, one acceptable interpretation of art, music, literature, or philosophy. No institution, no nation, no group of nations can monopolize, dominate, or dictate the academic future. Still, the opportunities for collaboration and cooperation and the possibilities to use technology to share information and resources and to expand access are immense. And they are setting in motion forces that are expanding the range of relevant stakeholders and redefining systems of governance and control. Imperatives. I see a number of imperatives, however, that we must confront. The first, which we share, is the imperative to provide more education to more people over their entire lives. In most of the developing world, higher education has been the fastest-growing segment of the education system over the last 20 years, with enrollments increasing by an annual average of 6.2 percent in lower income countries and 7.3 percent in upper-middle income countries. For some nations, the priority is to raise educational achievement at all levels, beginning with basic literacy. For others, it is to increase the participation rate in higher education. And for yet others, including my own, the national imperative is to ensure greater success rates for all students and greater opportunities for lifelong learning. Although our agendas and priorities may differ, the importance of higher education to social and economic development is crucial everywhere. Along with our new-found relevance to national interests, however, have come increased pressures for accountability and greater scrutiny. Accreditation, assessment, transparency, comparability, quality reviews, performance measures-all are proliferating. One must conclude that higher education has become "too important" to be left to academics and self-regulation. The Search for New Balances.
  • 3. So it is that the academic community must struggle to find the right balance between accountability to the society that supports us and our freedom to define our own directions and manage our own affairs. True enough, we must earn and maintain the confidence of policy makers and the larger public. At the same time, the work of the university must be free from those external forces that would place its quality and academic integrity at risk. A second imperative for higher education is that we must become more actively engaged with our communities. And here, I define community broadly to include not just the local community, but the regional, national, and global or international community as well. A university that fails to include in its mission a contribution to a better society will not and perhaps should not prosper for long. Fulfilling that role, however, requires a willingness to invite the society into the institution. As a group of U.S. land-grant university presidents noted in a recent report, we must make a conscious effort to organize the resources and expertise at our institutions in coherent ways that are relevant to community, state, national, and international problems. My point is simply that while it is true that higher education thrives in an environment that is free from excessive external intervention and control, we dare not retreat in isolation lest we risk irrelevance to the world around us. Still a third challenge we share is the imperative to be clearer about the fundamental purpose and promise of higher education. A hallmark of higher learning, indeed our claim to uniqueness, lies not in universities' ability to impart content, but in our capacity to develop higher order intellectual skills of creativity, innovation, analysis, synthesis, communication, and sensitivity to values and ethical constructs. Yet, if one were to examine the actual work of many universities-what students and scholars actually do-too often we would find a preponderance of energy aimed at content delivery and mastery rather than at these more complex and more important intellectual skills. If the learning that occurs in universities is primarily what the British call "surface learning"-that is, feeding back correct answers through short-term memory and recall-then we are likely to find ourselves increasingly vulnerable to technology that is capable of spewing out endless reams of data and information and doing so at minimal cost. Identifying a Strategic Niche. Different institutions will define their promises differently. But each of us must identify a strategic niche, define our interests and peaks of excellence, and make clear to our students and the society the promises we intend to keep. No institution, no system of institutions, can be all things to all people. In each instance we must devise a higher education system that is equitable, intellectually strong, relevant to the needs of the society, and financially viable. We will accomplish that only if higher education makes essential choices, builds networks of collaboration, and exercises greater clarity in the promises we make to students and society. The broad challenge we share is the collective imperative to build a bright future for higher education around the world. The needs of humanity are great. The expectations for universities are intense. Be it in the explosion of knowledge or in the revolution of technology, the world is changing as never before. We are intensely interdependent. No institution, no nation, can go it alone. For all of us, this realization has yet to take hold. In the United States, while the interest in forming international ties has never been greater, our penchant for competition rather than cooperation survives. In all nations, the opportunities for collaboration have never been as numerous. The means of collaboration have never been as abundant. And the urgency of collaboration has never been as compelling. At the outset of these remarks, I pondered two questions: What are the forces that are driving us? And, as universities, where are we headed? The Driving Forces. As to the forces, they are powerful, but for the most part they are apparent. They derive from the conceptual era in which we live and the proliferating technological power that surrounds us. Conclusion. As to our future, however, and where we are headed, the honest answer must be that no one knows for sure. This Jubilee Celebration in Durban, however, has assembled a rich array of talented and
  • 4. influential academic leaders from around the world. It offers us an unprecedented opportunity to think anew about how we can join together to harness the forces and serve humanity in new and creative ways. If we work together, reaching across national and cultural and economic divides, we are more likely to find the sense of direction and shared purpose we so urgently need. Thank you. Kerr, Clark. (1994). Higher Education Cannot Escape History: Issues for the 21st Century. State University of New York Press. Albany, NY NASULGC (March 2000). Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, 6th Report: Renewing The Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World. National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Washington, DC