Higher education research goes global

Until recently the study of higher education and its international dimensions was the field of a small group of research centres and scholars, primarily in the developed world, and even there, funding and resources were scarce. There are new initiatives, though, which indicate a more positive and global development of research in international higher education.

The Centre for Global Higher Education

The official launch of the ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education, or CGHE, took place on 2-3 February 2016 in London. CGHE is the largest research centre in the world specifically focused on higher education and its future development.

It has more than £6 million (US$8.7 million) in funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, or ESRC, in the United Kingdom for work over 2016-2020 and is a partnership of three UK universities and several universities from around the world.

CGHE is a partnership led by the UCL Institute of Education at University College London, with Lancaster University, the University of Sheffield and international universities including Australian National University (Australia), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), Hiroshima University (Japan), Leiden University (the Netherlands), Lingnan University (Hong Kong), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China) and the University of Cape Town (South Africa).

A core focus of CGHE is maximising the impact of its work on policy and practice. The centre is headed by Professor Simon Marginson and includes several other key scholars in the field of higher education, such as Professors Peter Scott and Ellen Hazelkorn.

Global Centres for International Higher Education Studies

In the same vein, on 14-15 January, the first meeting of the Group of ‘Global Centres for International Higher Education Studies’, or GCIHES, took place in Santiago, Chile.

This group was established as a result of an initiative of the Centro de Estudios de Políticas y Prácticas en Educación, or CEPPE, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Center for International Higher Education, or CIHE, at Boston College, USA.

The group includes four other partners:
  • • The Centre for International Studies, Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Russia.
  • • The School of Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
  • • The Centre for Higher Education Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.
  • • The Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy.
The group is coordinated from CEPPE in Chile.

The launch meeting of the GCIHES group took place in the context of the XII Higher Education Summit, a conference organised by CEPPE every year. The group has decided to focus on joint research and professional development, as well as dissemination.

Among the projects that the group will start are:
  • • A comparative study of doctoral education in the world, with a specific focus on emerging and developing countries;
  • • Research on Catholic universities, identity and internationalisation;
  • • A summer institute in 2017, planned to take place in Shanghai; and
  • • A conference called “Higher Education Forum on Africa, Latin America and Asia” to be organised by Professor Damtew Teferra, director of the Centre for Higher Education Development, in Durban, from 19-20 August 2016.
The partners of GCIHES have already been collaborating bilaterally, for instance, on studies of the academic profession by CIHE in the US and the Higher School of Economics in Russia. They will now go one step further to undertake joint research and professional development.

The fact that the group is formed by six research centres from different continents and with a strong presence from the emerging and developing world breaks the dominance of European and Anglo-Saxon research in higher education.

The group does not have the same generous funding sources as CGHE, but builds on its own funding and smaller grants, for instance, from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the Higher Education Forum on Africa, Latin America and Asia conference and the Luksic fund for the Catholic universities project.

The three Catholic universities in GCIHES held a first seminar in Santiago about the latter project, presenting three institutional case studies on how these Catholic universities deal with internationalisation as part of their mission. They intend to develop this study with a larger number of case studies from different countries around the world.

Expansion of International Higher Education

CIHE’s publication, International Higher Education, is also expanding globally. In addition to the English version and its translations into Chinese, Russian and Spanish by three of our partners in GCIHES, the publication is also translated into Portuguese and will soon be available in Vietnamese, translated by local partners there.

You can have free access to the online version of the publication in all these different languages at .php/ihe.

Two spin-off publications focusing on regional higher education issues have also been established. Now in its third year, the publication Higher Education in Russia and Beyond is published by our partner, the Higher School of Economics in Russia. In 2016, another publication will start, Higher Education in South-East Asia and Beyond, an initiative of the HEAD Foundation in Singapore, in cooperation with CIHE.

Another new initiative is relevant to mention in this context as well.

Autumn 2016 will see the launch of a 12-month Master of Arts in International Higher Education at Boston College, an initiative of CIHE to provide a strong international programme combining education, research and field experience through a mixture of blended learning with on-site faculty and scholars from around the world, including our partners in GCIHES.

Shanghai Statement of 2013

All these initiatives, in particular the establishment of CGHE and GCIHES, can be seen as a product of the “Shanghai Statement, The Future of Higher Education: The need for research and training for the higher education enterprise” in 2013.

Reflecting the thinking of 33 research and policy professionals concerning the future development of the field of higher education research, policy and training, the statement noted: “This developing field is so far limited to a fairly small group of countries.”

The statement made an appeal for more research and the development of research centres at universities around the world, for doctoral studies in international higher education and adequate funding.

The statement was a product of a roundtable initiated by CIHE. As a follow-up, the centre created an inventory of research centres in higher education around the world, published as a Worldwide Higher Education Inventory, which is now available as an interactive map on its website.

These initiatives illustrate the growing importance of higher education research and dissemination in a global context. Where higher education research was in the past limited and mainly focused on national and regional aspects, like the sector itself, the shift is now towards international higher education. This is an important development.

Hans de Wit is professor and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, USA. E-mail