Friday, May 30, 2008

Rules of romance for academic tourists

The 'romance' in the title refers to intarnational partnership between universities, and the 'academic tourists' are the university representatives -- usually high officials and a few high profile professors -- who travel to far away places in search of 'suitors' with whom such 'partnerships' are clinched; there are way too many of these tourists, particularly during winter months in the West.

As you can guess, I have a pretty grim view of this sort of stuff. Research partnerships and collaborations are best left to individuals and their research groups. This is the only thing that works. When university officials start giving excited powerpoint presentations about mutuality and synergy, it usually means a huge time sink for those in the 'partner' institution being wooed.

Anyways, the content of this Inside Higher Ed story would sound very familiar to people in many institutions in India; it is the source of the metaphors of romance and tourists (when you combine the two, the result is too awful to even contemplate ;-). This paragraph is so true that it hurts:

Nico Joste, director of international education at Nelson Mandela [Metropolitan University], ... spoke from a somewhat unique vantage point. After South Africa’s education system opened to the world in 1994, it opened too to “so-called academic tourists.… The first thing presidents and vice chancellors said was, ‘Let’s sign an agreement,’ ” Joste said. “Hundreds of agreements were signed and very little happened.”