Guiding graduate students for the global workforce

Thirty-four higher education leaders from 15 countries have agreed on a set of principles to guide universities and graduate schools in preparing doctoral and masters students to meet the demands of the global workforce and economy.

The International Guidelines Created for Supporting Global Skills and Careers were approved at the Sixth Annual Strategic Leaders Global Summit, “From Brain Drain to Brain Circulation: Graduate education for global career pathways”, held in Bavaria, Germany, earlier this month.

The conference, organised jointly by the US-based Council of Graduate Schools and the Technische Universität München, included deans and leaders of graduate schools and representatives of national and international associations devoted to graduate education.

Along with Germany and the US, the countries represented were Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China (including Hong Kong), Denmark, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa and South Korea.

According to the conference media release from which the current article draws its information: “Evidence suggests that researchers and highly educated professionals may work in multiple countries over the course of their careers.”

This global trend, along with the fact that global R&D networks and new technologies for collaboration are stimulating research that benefits multiple countries and regions, and that “many countries are making new investments in graduate education in order to maintain a strong domestic talent pool and recruit international students”, prompted delegates to re-examine the concept of ‘brain drain’ and to focus rather on ‘brain circulation’.

In the interests of supporting today’s doctoral and masters students in entering and leading this rapidly globalising economy and research enterprise, the guidelines include 11 key principles.

First up is that graduate leaders should “communicate the importance of global training opportunities for students, early-stage researchers and faculty on their campuses”.

The principles emphasise integrating international experiences and training into graduate degree programmes “through promoting joint and dual degree programmes, academic research exchanges, and internships”. Universities are also urged to use the “international diversity of their campuses as a basis for training in cross-cultural skills”.

Providing “robust support systems, programmes and services for international students and early-stage researchers on their campuses” is seen as crucial.

Included as the fourth principle is respect for “reciprocity in international collaborations” and recognising material and non-material contributions alike.

The principles argue that intellectual leadership of faculty and students needs to be engaged in developing “innovative and interdisciplinary global research practices and related experiences appropriate to the field”. It is also suggested that faculty and researchers “identify specific global competencies within and across degree programmes”.

The seventh principle puts the emphasis on preparing students and faculty to “use emerging technologies to advance and share knowledge globally”. Promoting research collaboration and management, communication and networking is seen as key.

The “ethical issues that emerge in a globalising workforce” – including human health and safety, protection of the environment, and the quality of research – are highlighted as the eighth principle.

Also stressed is the importance of assessing and sharing the outcomes of global experiences and partnerships. As the ninth principles states: “It is critical to differentiate desired outcomes for different career pathways, for example, in academia, industry, government and non-profit sectors.”

The 10th principle highlights the need for collaboration with external partners in government, industry, professional societies and NGOs, “to facilitate multi-directional talent flows”, and includes the importance of universities “communicating the impact of policies regarding, for example, immigration and professional credentials, on research productivity, national and regional economies, and on individual career trajectories”.

The final principle focuses on financing: “Encourage funding agencies to allocate funding for international research experience and global competency training for PhD candidates.”

Ernst Rank, a graduate school dean and director of the international school of science and engineering at the Technische Universität München in Munich, Germany, said: “As one of the authors of the ‘principles’ I fully agree with all the statements.”

Rank told University World News: “I would like to add that I consider it extremely important that universities as well as state governments consider it their own responsibility, and that it is to their own benefit, if young researchers gain international experience.

“This should also reflect in substantial financial support for incoming and outgoing students.”

Speaking to University World News James Wimbush, professor of business administration and dean of the graduate school at Indiana University, who was among those who approved the principles, said:

“The agreed-upon set of principles came after much discussion about the increasing need for graduate degree holders to be able to perform in a global setting, regardless of the nature of the work.

“These principles help provide direction in the training of graduate students so that they will be well equipped with the global competencies that will be needed in the not-too-distant future.”

He told University World News that a few weeks previously Indiana University had created the school of global and international studies, with the objective of better coordinating the institution’s “current wealth of international programmes”.

This, he said, would not only add to the university’s current international-focused degrees but also continue to increase the number of international collaborations for academic units and faculty, and the number of international experiences and activities for students.