De Wit replaces Altbach at Boston College centre

Professor Hans de Wit, an authority on global issues in higher education and a regular blogger with University World News, has been appointed director of the Center for International Higher Education, or CIHE, at Boston College in the US.

De Wit succeeds Professor Philip Altbach who has headed the centre since he joined the college in 1994. Altbach, another regular contributor to University World News, retired from Boston College as professor of higher education in 2013, but retained his role at the CIHE and will continue to be involved as founding director and editor of International Higher Education.

“I am very pleased and proud to have been selected for this position,” De Wit told University World News. “I will take up the post in September and intend to continue publishing my blog with University World News.”

Born in the Netherlands, De Wit has had a long career as a higher education administrator, researcher and teacher. He will join the Boston College’s Lynch School of Education from the Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy. There he has served as founding director of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation.

A globally recognised scholar

Dean of the Lynch School of Education, Maureen Kenny, said De Wit was a globally recognised scholar in the internationalisation of higher education. “He also brings extensive experience in programme development and administration that will facilitate our reach across our campus, the nation, and to universities worldwide, including the wide network of Jesuit and catholic institutions,” Kenny said.

Altbach praised the selection of De Wit for the director’s post, noting that he had worked in academia, government consultancies and research initiatives since the 1970s.

“Hans is without question ‘Mr Internationalisation’ in the world of higher education,” he said. “He basically invented the field. He founded the most influential journal and established a programme on higher education internationalisation at the Catholic University in Milan that quickly became quite successful. He is an influential spokesperson for what I might call ‘thoughtful internationalisation’.”

De Wit said he was excited to return to Boston College where he spent time in 1994 while on sabbatical writing an analysis of international higher education for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

As well as directing the centre in Milan, De Wit also teaches at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, conducts research at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and is currently leading a study of internationalisation of higher education for the European Parliament.

He told the Boston College Chronicle that he had been long interested in how developing countries could formulate their own higher education policies, rather than basing them on what had happened in America or Europe.

“Developing countries can find their own way. They don’t need to simply copy our systems. My work has focused on helping countries develop their own interests and their own focus,” he said.

De Wit said he was looking forward to building on the success of the Boston centre, which had examined changes in higher education around the world, particularly in populous nations such as Russia, China and India.

The centre’s research has focused on topics ranging from market demand to the influence of corruption on academic institutions, while its International Higher Education journal is a 20-year-old publication that is now read in 149 countries and is translated into Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese.

“We want to build on the centre’s successes and look at how we can develop some new research initiatives, as well as some new opportunities for teaching,” De Wit said. “I see opportunities for collaborative research and an opportunity to look at the relationship between the internationalisation of Catholic universities and Catholic identity.”