Home | 2011 Workshop

Higher Education Challenges
August 17, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.

Presenters: William Saint, Independent Consultant
Patrick Guilbaud, Virginia Tech
Lynn Roth, Eastern Menonite University

Moderator: Gary Bittner, USAID Office of Education

In this interactive learning session presenters offered insight on the changing role of higher education in development work. Main topics covered included new international collaborations among higher education institutions and developing countries, challenges faced in higher education development work public private partnership for higher education.

William Saint discussed what he referred to as the global higher education revolution and how world university systems are collaborating more than ever before. This revolution is due to several factors: the dynamics of massification; transnationalization through information technology and exportation of education as a commodity, high mobility of staff and student populations; and diversification of private and public sector higher education. Current challenges for higher education include rethinking what kind of education drives a knowledge economy; what we mean by teaching and learning with the shift from single/multi-disciplinary thinking to transdisciplinary thinking (problem solving); as well as the shift from passive to active learning. Educators also should place strong emphasis on process skills, knowledge management, conflict mediation, and problem solving in order to cultivate brain power. Another challenge is funding expanded access. Many governments cannot finance expansion and if the system is based on elite higher education, families may be less able to pay. The practical reality is that finance is strongest when there is collaboration between public and private joint investment, and that higher education needs funding from both sources.

Patrick Guilbard discussed higher education assistance in Haiti noting challenges such as high unemployment and underemployment; political turmoil; little regional cooperation; a rigid class structure that allows little social mobility; widespread corruption and cronyism. Guilbard mentioned several helpful factors to working in the realm of higher education: maintaining a focus on current program/project goals with baseline assessment data; securing a broad base of commitment and collaboration from day one; seeking out energetic local partners and obtaining buy-in; and looking for two or three quick and tangible wins (low-hanging fruit).

Finally, Lynn Roth of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University discussed the Center’s three-year partnership with the University of Hargeisa, Somaliland. Through this collaboration, a School of Conflict Resolution was established at the University of Hargeisa.

Key take away points from this discussion included the role of higher education in development work is evolving as are the topics and methods of education for developing countries. Additionally, collaborations between US higher education institutions and host countries are beneficial relationships that help develop higher education programs and grow the capacity of both the host country and the US institution.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
Eastern Menonite Univeristy, Roth : Open
Saint : Open
Virgina Tech, Guilbaud : Open

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com