US universities ease back on global engagement

Chief higher education lobby group finds decline in share of institutions boosting their overseas outreach, but takes comfort in unexpected areas of growth during the pandemic

November 3, 2022
A world map showing connections
Source: iStock

US colleges and universities are expanding their global engagement, but at increasingly slower rates, especially during the pandemic, a nationwide survey of institutions has found.

Nearly half of US institutions took steps in the direction of greater global outreach between 2016 and the start of the pandemic, and another fifth did so during 2020-21, according to data from 903 institutions compiled by the American Council on Education.

ACE is the main grouping of US higher education. It conducts the nationwide survey among its members every five years, describing it as the only primary source of comprehensive data about US institutions and their various types of engagement with partners abroad, such as teaching and research exchanges.

Because of the pandemic, ACE made a point this time of providing separate breakdowns on institutional behaviour before and after the Covid outbreak. It found that 47 per cent of institutions increased overseas engagement between 2016 and the start of the pandemic in early 2020, and another 21 per cent did so between then and the end of 2021. Both are well below the 72 per cent figure from ACE’s previous five-year survey.

Much of the survey period covered the Trump administration and its various actions to discourage many types of foreign collaboration, especially those involving China. In explaining the five years of comparative decline, ACE cited the pandemic “and unforeseen geopolitical events”.

It also credited the fifth of US institutions that managed gains in international engagement with an impressive show of commitment given global shutdowns during that period. It “was pretty surprising and quite remarkable”, said Kara Godwin, director of internationalisation at ACE.

The most notable area of growth in global connections among US colleges and universities, Dr Godwin said, came in the area of expanded virtual internships. That took the form of students working jobs overseas through web-based connections – a practice of particular importance in aiding students of low-income and other disadvantaged backgrounds, she said.

The share of US institutions offering virtual internships increased from 5 per cent before the pandemic to 28 per cent during the pandemic, ACE said in summarising its survey data, which it collected from campuses early this year.

The pandemic-period gains in global engagement also came in the practice of faculty using internet connections to combine classes across international borders, it said.

ACE’s measure of global engagement also includes efforts at international student recruitment. In that, the leading partner countries for US institutions were identified as China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Register
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Reader's comments (2)

Global engagement is just a jolly for senior managers to fly the world in first class flights and 5 star hotels. No need for VCs to be flying the world when simple advertising in local press is more effective. Travel money for be for real research collaborations not for VCs to live the dream.
Global engagement is just a jolly for senior managers to fly the world in first class flights and 5 star hotels. No need for VCs to be flying the world when simple advertising in local press is more effective. Travel money for be for real research collaborations not for VCs to live the dream.

Sponsored

Featured jobs