Ready to inquire about the unknown and knock on doors –
a close look into deficiency in internalisation of higher education
When it comes to internationalisation, one common view is that university students should have an international vision. Is that so? Why do we demand that university students be internationalised?
I have been frequently asked such questions: "What high salaries could you offer to attract professors? Why is there a shortage of international and foreign scholars in Taiwan? If your university ranks high in world university ranking, would renowned professors seek teaching positions in your university of their own accord? What kind of secrets did you use to attract international students?"
Of course, the most likely answers people thought of are closely associated with salaries and resources. The English teaching environment and the reputation of the university come second in attracting talents. But people forget that, in addition to sufficient funds and high rankings, some fundamental issues are often ignored, if we wish to promote the internationalisation of higher education.
Many people in universities, and in society at large, regard all sorts of talented people and geniuses as "candidates" or "job-hunters", which is the result of the seemingly democratic and prevalent "election culture". It will be a pity if people go so far as to think of universities as superior places and exert excessive demands while dealing with talented people and scholars.
It goes without saying that universities should recruit outstanding talent. Teachers of superior-class not only cultivate excellent students, they help to attract ever-increasing funds. Many outstanding senior scholars have long held, well-desired positions and would not feel it a special honour when a "great university assumes a lofty attitude" towards them, while those doing their utmost to seek positions with crooked knees are probably people without decent positions and, most probably, not necessarily the first-class scholars you really want. Even those young scholars who are wandering in the human resources market, looking for suitable positions, will usually choose the right universities, just like good birds perching themselves on the right branches. Scholars, young or senior, are willing to serve a university that is equally willing to respect them. Giving applicants due respect is the basic attitude our society and universities should adopt.
In Taiwan, the most frequently asked questions applicants face are: "Why are you interested in our university?" or "Why don't you apply for a position in other universities?" What idiotic questions! Why can't you emphatically say, "Our university (or department) enjoys a prestigious academic position"; and we hope you would give it serious consideration. Please tell us your requirements and suggestions." If we could adopt such an attitude, I am sure we would be able to learn about areas that require improvement.
Without modern practices and mentality, how could one succeed in recruiting international experts and scholars (not necessarily foreigners or those from other places)? Without experts and scholars with international vision, how could we cultivate and turn out students with international vision or request that they have international views? Anyway, the university should stoop to recruit excellent scholars. Being ever ready to recruit all sorts of talents and embrace novel notions is the main driving force for US prosperity. Human resources are the main force of a nation's competitive edge. If universities in Hong Kong and Taiwan fail to understand this and put it into practice, internationalisation of higher education is nothing but an extravagant wish.
Universities and university teachers should first attain international standards before we require students to strive for internationalisation. Never feeling ashamed to ask and learn from your subordinates and being willing to knock on the doors repeatedly to urge the talented personage to take up a responsible position, are stories demonstrating our ancestor's eagerness to seek talented personages. Such good practices are lost in our own culture but picked up by countries that have attained internationalisation. We should make more effort to catch up.
December 2, 2013