Creating an Organizational Climate for Global Partnerships: Challenges and Opportunities

  • William G. TierneyEmail author
Open Access


All too often, observers of tertiary education assume that the way the academic world functions today is the way it always has been organized. And yet, colleges and universities always have been in a state of change. If “world-class rankings” had been compiled in the late nineteenth century, no institutions in the USA would have likely made the list. In the most recent Shanghai Jiao Tong Rankings of World Universities, however, American universities held most of the top 20 positions, and over 50 of the top 100 spots.

1 Introduction

All too often, observers of tertiary education assume that the way the academic world functions today is the way it always has been organized. And yet, colleges and universities always have been in a state of change. If “world-class rankings” had been compiled in the late nineteenth century, no institutions in the USA would have likely made the list. In the most recent Shanghai Jiao Tong Rankings of World Universities, however, American universities held most of the top 20 positions, and over 50 of the top 100 spots [1].

With this constant state of flux in the academic world, the institutions that are most successful are those which are able to manage change and innovation in a world defined by globalization. Those who adhere to a principle of “staying the course” are likely to run aground, due to the rapidly changing conditions of the larger environment. Globalization highlights the necessity for institutions to be outward looking rather than insular. The ecology of global institutions is one where partnerships and alliances are created and maintained as opposed to a “go it alone” strategy where institutions fail or succeed by their own initiative [2].

My purpose here is to outline what the conditions are for an organization to create global partnerships and how to sustain them. As I shall elaborate, an innovative organization is different from a stable one. It requires different skills from its participants, and it functions in a different way than a stable organization. Global partnerships demand an innovative climate—but such an undertaking is not without risks and challenges.

Accordingly, I begin with an overview of how I conceive of an organization’s culture, in general, and universities, in particular. I then consider the environment in which universities currently exist as framed by globalization, and subsequently turn to a discussion of how an innovative culture might be established and maintained to enable global partnerships to be implemented and to succeed.

2 Defining Organizational Culture

Our lack of understanding about the role of organizational culture in improving management and institutional performance inhibits our ability to address the challenges that face higher education and confounds our ability to create and maintain global partnerships. Colleges and universities face increasing complexity and fragmentation [3]. As decision-making contexts grow more obscure, costs increase, and resources become more difficult to allocate, leaders in higher education benefit from understanding their institutions as cultural entities. They need to recognize that those with whom they will work on a global partnership will have a culture different from their own. The point is certainly not that one organizational culture is better than another, but instead, that working across cultural boundaries is necessary for any leader involved in global partnerships [4].

As before, these leaders continue to make difficult decisions. These decisions, however, need not engender the degree of conflict that they usually have prompted. Indeed, properly informed by an awareness of culture, tough decisions may contribute to an institution’s sense of purpose and identity and will facilitate the ability to create and maintain global partnerships. Moreover, to implement decisions, leaders must have a full, nuanced understanding of the organization’s culture. Only then can they articulate decisions in a way that will speak to the needs of various constituencies and marshal their support. Without an understanding of one’s own culture, the ability to create connections with another organization’s culture becomes that much more difficult [5].

Cultural influences occur at many levels, within the department and the institution, as well as between universities when they work with one another, regardless of whether the companion organization is in the same country or abroad. Because these cultures vary dramatically, a central goal of understanding organizational culture is to minimize the occurrence and consequences of cultural conflict and help foster the development of shared goals. Studying the cultural dynamics of educational institutions and systems equips us to understand and, hopefully, reduce adversarial relationships. Equally important, it will enable us to recognize how those actions and shared goals are most likely to succeed and how they can best be implemented.

One assumption of this chapter is that more often than not, more than one choice exists for the decision-maker; one simple answer most often does not exist. No matter how much information we gather, frequently we are able to choose from several viable alternatives. Culture influences the decision. Effective administrators are well aware that they can take a given action in some institutions but not in others. They are less aware of why this is true. Bringing the dimensions and dynamics of culture to consciousness helps leaders assess the reasons for such differences in institutional responsiveness and performance. This will allow them to evaluate likely consequences before, not after, they act. An understanding of the cultural determinants of an organization enables a decision-maker not only to understand their organization, but also those with whom they will enter into a global partnership [6].

It is important to reiterate that an understanding of organizational culture is not a panacea to all administrative problems, or a certainty that global partnerships will always be successful. An understanding of culture, for example, will not automatically increase enrollments, increase research grants, or increase the number of global partnerships that get formed. However, an administrator’s correct interpretation of the organization’s culture can provide critical insight about which of the many possible avenues to choose from is best when deciding about how to increase enrollment, whether to undertake a particular approach to increasing research output, or how to improve global partnerships. Indeed, the most persuasive case for studying organizational culture is quite simply that we no longer need to tolerate the consequences of our ignorance, nor, for that matter, will a rapidly changing environment permit us to do so. By advocating for a broad perspective, organizational culture encourages practitioners to:
  • consider real or potential conflicts not in isolation but on the broad canvas of organizational life

  • recognize structural or operational contradictions that suggest tensions in the organization

  • implement and evaluate everyday decisions with a keen awareness of their role in and influence upon organizational culture

  • understand the symbolic dimensions of ostensibly instrumental decisions and actions

  • consider why different groups in the organization hold varying perceptions about institutional performance.

Many administrators intuitively understand that organizational culture is important; their actions sometimes reflect the points mentioned above. A framework for organizational culture provides administrators with the capability to better articulate and address this crucial foundation for improving organizational performance in general, and global partnerships in particular.

When anthropologists conduct fieldwork to better understand the culture of a society or a collective group, they are equipped with disciplinary-specific terms, such as “fictive kinship,” that define commonly encountered phenomena. These terms are not only intelligible to other anthropologists, but they are deemed crucial for a thorough description and analysis of a given culture or cultural activity. For an understanding of institutional culture in higher education, it is therefore useful to pinpoint similarly important phenomena and provide a working terminology that can serve as the basis for a conceptual framework. Six such terms define an organization’s culture at a university: mission, socialization, information, strategy, leadership, and environment [7]. In what follows, I provide a thumbnail definition of these terms in relation to how to think about global partnerships.

  • Mission: A mission is succinct, clear, and orients the institution to its primary roles in society. If global partnerships are a central part of a university’s role, then one expects to see mention of international outreach and involvement.

  • Socialization: Socialization pertains to how new members are oriented to the mission and functions of the institution. Socialization is not a static concept and changes and adapts as individuals enter and exit the organization. If global outreach is important, then individuals will be socialized in a manner that enables them to learn about more than their discipline, country, or institution.

  • Information: The material that individuals receive and the manner in which it is conveyed pertains to this term. If the organization honors global partnerships, then a significant communicative symbol pertains to all of the members receiving information and updates about international engagements.

  • Strategy: Any organization will have an implicit or explicit plan about the direction the organization is taking; if global partnerships are important then it will be one key component of a university’s strategic plan.

  • Leadership: The board, university president, and senior administrators are obvious actors who are key in the direction the university will take. Global partnerships should have someone who oversees the strategic direction the university takes as a member of the senior leadership team.

  • Environment: A university has a variety of geographies that it can define as its sphere of influence. A local institution may define nothing more than the city or town where it is located. Regional universities may have a broader geographic region but define their clientele and outreach as a region within the country. A university that desires long-standing and impactful global partnerships will see its environment in much broader terms. Nevertheless, a university need not be so broad as defining “the world” as its environment. Instead, for strategic reasons, the institution may focus on one particular area such as the Mideast or Africa. By focusing in this manner, the organization helps frame what is and is not of importance to the university’s members.

3 Defining Globalization

The rapid development and adoption of technology along with more open economies have created an integrated global economy [8]. The globalization process has brought with it significant changes in all areas of life, including tertiary education.

Tertiary education remains at the center of economic well-being, and its import may have grown due to its importance in a knowledge economy. Education is necessary for growth both through its direct contribution to skills and workforce quality and also because of the ways in which it adds key competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, teamwork and self-learning [9]. These contribute to entrepreneurship, mobility, and the capacity to process information and new ideas.

Governments and institutions need to act quickly since they exist in a competitive environment where all countries and universities interested in staying competitive are also changing [10]. In particular, regional cooperation can add value by reaching a deeper understanding of the forces for change, sharing experiences to build confidence in the ability to adjust and to capture the benefits on offer, and removing impediments to integration. The implication for higher education is that relationships among universities across regions needs to be increased and strengthened [11].

Globalization is a highly complex process that has impacted multiple national and international arenas. At times, when individuals have spoken about globalization, the term has been employed as a synonym for American imperialism as if the term simply refers to the extension throughout the world of American power and culture [12]. Although the rationale for such an assertion is understandable, such an assumption makes it appear that the USA is not influenced by globalization, as if the country is simply on a unidirectional trajectory and globalization is the next logical stage in the country’s development. But globalization has impacted American universities just as well. What we need to do, then, is not work from a western perspective about what globalization is or how an institution should respond. Rather, although the forces of globalization may be similar across geographic borders, how a university will respond will largely result from national imperatives and the culture of an institution [13].

Regardless of the challenges that globalization may have created for the world’s economies, and indirectly universities, one point is certain: organizations no longer can look entirely inwardly and focus on a local market as if larger forces are not at work [14]. Jobs are outsourced from one country to another. A product that a company made for decades that served a niche market suddenly finds competition from a company that is thousands of miles away. A worker spends his entire lifetime in one job, and then discovers that she is unemployed because of changes in the workplace. And universities find that they cannot rely on revenue streams that once seemed certain. Government subsidies shrink because of a new definition of public goods and educational resources. Clienteles shift because on-line learning enables students to take classes virtually, rather than having to attend class on a campus. Faculty discovers that either the compensation for a traditional academic job no longer provides a salary that enables a comfortable living, or that there are opportunities beyond academic work.

Globalization, however, does not necessarily need to portend that all of the consequences are negative for individuals or organizations. However, as I discuss below, rather than assume that stasis is the norm, the “new normal” that globalization assumes is that change must be a central component of any organization [15]. Educational organizations not only have to incorporate the notion of change into their organizational ethos, they also have to train students on how to adapt to change rather than assuming that a college education provides job security for life.

Global partnerships are an obvious outgrowth of globalization. International arrangements once meant that a university might send some students for a semester abroad. Although undergraduate travel is certainly a mainstay of academic institutions, global partnerships today involve a great deal more activities from not only students, but also faculty, and different units within a university [16]. Indeed, as I suggested above, based on an organization’s culture, the environment has shifted for successful organizations that enable and encourage the actors to create global partnerships that will increase the well-being of the university.

Education is a useful example of the breadth of globalization insofar as education’s reach transcends one or another category: education not only is transformed by globalization, but as knowledge-producing organizations, schools, colleges, and universities also transform globalization. Discussions often center around globalization’s impact on economics, trade, or culture. Education cuts across virtually all of these categories. The result is that education, in general, and higher education, in particular, is undergoing as significant of a change as at any time in the last century, in large part because globalization assumes a knowledge-based economy [17].

The result is that the definition of a country’s economy now exceeds simple geographic boundaries. Communication and transportation technologies enable companies to transcend borders in ways unimaginable only a generation ago. The same may be said of tertiary education. Where one takes classes and how one takes them and who teaches these classes—indeed, even what we mean by a “class”—is being unalterably changed in a remarkably quick timeframe.

I have previously written about how the first wave of globalization was simply the movement of students across borders [18]. The number of students in the Asia-Pacific, for example, moving overseas for their university education almost doubled between 1999 and 2006, and has continued apace. There is no reason to think these increases will not continue. The new wave of globalization, however, includes not merely teachers on the move but also programs, degrees, and institutions. And “movement” is not simply geographic travel but also participation enabled by improvements in technology and communication. The underlying ethos is one of the competitions; the World Trade Organization has estimated that the global market for education is well over US $40 billion dollars. According to a report published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there were approximately 207 million students in tertiary education in 2014—a number that has more than doubled since 2000 and continues to increase [19].

The new wave of globalization includes the movement of teachers and whole institutions into overseas markets, joint degree programs offered by institutions in different economies, and distance learning programs, to mention just a few of its characteristics [20]. It has a higher level of commercial motivation: There is not only a shift from student mobility to program and provider mobility, but also a shift in orientation in the relationships between universities from a focus on development and cooperation to what might be defined as competitive commerce. The new wave offers access to skills in delivery, experience in curriculum design, teaching resources, quality assurance systems, and research capacity and an international perspective, all of which can add value for local partners [21]. But it also brings competition and pressure for adjustment. The result is that our universities have to build an innovative culture.

4 Defining Innovation for Global Partnerships

Organizations change for a variety of reasons. New organizations have fewer rules. As organizations age and expand, they gain a history and a way to conduct business. Leaders have different priorities and set the organization in a new direction. Environmental conditions force an organization to react in one way or another.

Stable organizations also are different from innovative organizations. Fast food chains are not particularly innovative. When a customer enters McDonald’s, he or she is not looking for an innovative hamburger. Indeed, in large part, the organization has been successful for its stability and its ability to replicate a similar experience across different countries. At the same time, local customs are observed. Similarly, the army is not looking for creative soldiers. The organization succeeds, in part, because the employees follow orders.

Thus, colleges and universities that are going to be innovative are different from organizations that require stability. One of the curiosities of academic organizations is that they frequently have creative individuals, even though the organization may not be innovative. Creativity pertains to inventiveness grounded in field-specific knowledge and expedited by motivation [22]. Indeed, successful academic organizations have fostered individual creativity through the assumption that a walled fortress divorced from the daily troubles and turmoil of society will enable a creative environment. How many poets or creative writers have used the university as a sinecure? Nobel Prize winners are overwhelmingly located at universities where tenure has provided them the time to be creative. Such organizational environments are entirely different from a prison or fast food franchise where no one wants workers to be creative.

Innovation requires a different organizational structure. Innovation pertains to the implementation of a creative product or process and its perceived novelty once it has been evaluated by a critical audience [23]. But how does an organization change its processes so it is seen as innovative? What might an innovative organization look like that is different from traditional organizations?

Prior to creating a culture of innovation, an understanding of the impediments that exist in organizations is prudent [24]. Consider traditional organizations and how they function. Regulations and standardization are the norm. Rules explain the dos and don’ts of organizational life. Individuals learn what acceptable behavior is and how to act. Process is important. When one arrives and leaves, how someone dresses, when days may be taken for holidays, and the like are all part of clarifying acceptable behavior. In doing so, an objective is that the processes involved in enabling the organization to function are standardized so that differences do not occur. Starbucks prides itself that the taste of its café latte will be the same whether one buys it in New York, Singapore, or Dubai. Even relatively new organizations, such as Amazon, have rules and regulations that govern behavior and standardize action.

A traditional organization incentivizes activities that produce stability, rather than disruption [25]. Employees get awards for showing up on time or by having a workplace that exemplifies company codes of conduct. Thinking “out of the box” is not typically rewarded. Indeed, managers oversee actions in order to ensure that productivity is maintained at a level that the organization has stipulated. New entrants to an organization learn quickly that reporting requirements assume standardized behavior.

Even universities that reward creative behavior have rules and regulations [26]. Research and scholarship may be creative, but the organization’s processes clarify the parameters within which one acts. The vision of the university as a monastery where academics were to be divorced from the daily concerns of society has enabled a rhythm and pace that framed acceptable modes of behavior. The desire to innovate—to scale up one’s ideas, or to have the organization function differently from its peers—was eschewed, or at least was never a priority. Until recently, when one looked at the world’s great universities, “entrepreneurial” was not a word that came to mind; indeed, an “entrepreneurial university” was not intended as a complement, for the institution in question was presumably conducting business in a manner different from what had been established.

An innovative organization rewards experimentation. Rather than being divorced from society, an innovative university is more likely to think about ways to engage with the larger environment. Such an observation is particularly important with regard to global partnerships. Bringing ideas to market is no longer disdained, but applauded. The implication is that an institution is likely to have services that augment faculty ideas in non-traditional ways rather than standardized ones. Faculty once wrote for one another via scholarly journals. Innovative organizations utilize social media so that professors are able to extend their ideas not only to their confreres but also to the larger society.

Rather than standardizing processes, innovative organizations set stable goals about what they want individuals to do and to produce; they then enable individuals to create the means of production. Rather than acceptable norms of behavior with regard to how one dresses or when one comes and goes from work, an innovative organization is more likely to focus less on micromanagement and pay more attention to goals. Autonomy within an innovative organization suggests that individuals should be encouraged to create patterns of behavior that will empower them to do their work, rather than assuming that the organization is the best determiner of organizational behavior. Difference, rather than similarity, is celebrated.

How an organization spends its time and resources is a useful clue for understanding if innovation is an organizational priority and whether global partnerships are a central part of the culture, or peripheral. Offices devised to regulate behavior may succeed in a traditional organization, but not in an innovative one. Instead, temporal and fiscal resources will be geared toward encouraging experimentation and risk. “Venture capital” is an idea outside of traditional organizations where resources are put toward experiments. By definition, an experiment may fail. An innovative organization will have internal funding mechanisms that support experimentation; in effect, the organization has an internalized form of venture capital that rewards risk [27].

Curiously, tenure was once seen as a structure that facilitated experimentation; over time, however, the concept has been turned on its head. Assistant professors commonly profess to undertaking activities that are less risky in order to publish articles that will enable them to achieve tenure. The socialization process creates a culture that gravitates against experimentation and toward conservative behavior. For the twenty-first century, academics need to revitalize structures and processes so that they reward, rather than penalize, experimentation.

Similarly, the vision of the isolated academic working on research isolated from one’s colleagues and peers has to be reconsidered in an innovative environment. Rather than standardized, isolated behavior, the organization seeks distributed problem-solving. Teamwork matters. Innovative organizations encourage multiple perspectives and ideas. Rather than a solo composition, think of the metaphor of an orchestra where different players have different parts to play in order to create a brilliant piece of music. Innovative organizations encourage individual experimentation, but they also frame individual action across actors so that the outcome is unique, rather than similar.

The need for innovation is only likely to increase. Newspapers were once a mainstay of society. Only a generation ago, no one would have predicted their demise. Individuals thought of social media as entirely different from the newspaper and as something used largely by younger people. And yet, countless newspapers have been downsized or closed over the last twenty years. The ability to adapt to new environments is a skill that needs to be fostered. Hence, the assumption that higher education does not need to be innovative in a manner fundamentally different from the past is perilous. Universities need innovation to manage a potentially turbulent future—or more urgently—to avoid irrelevance.

One outgrowth of globalization and the ability of universities to incorporate innovation into their culture are seen by a growing interest in international research cooperation. The research community is being asked to respond to issues that apply across borders such as climate change, for example. Cooperation is valuable as institutions respond to these sorts of issues. Cooperation and cross-border projects have a number of advantages [28]. They include:
  • building research capacity and drawing together required research expertise

  • studying problems in situ

  • providing research students with an international experience

  • combining research beneficiaries and helping avoid problems of free-riding and therefore underfunding

  • helping to capture economies of scale

  • avoiding costly duplication

  • capturing the benefits arising from differences in relative costs in research inputs

  • gathering insights from comparative studies

  • adding to the impact of research results

  • reducing technology transfer costs.

My point here is that there are real drivers for international cooperation and global partnerships, far beyond mere reputation setting for newcomer or mid-ranked institutions. A generation ago, only a handful of universities might have looked across geographic borders to establish relationships, but today such activities are increasingly common. These activities are also a great deal more than simply sending students abroad or welcoming students to the host institution primarily to generate a revenue stream. Instead, a broad array of activities is being contemplated largely because globalization has both enabled and required universities to think and act in ways different from the past. What enables universities to act decisively by forging and sustaining global partnerships? I answer this question in the next section.

5 Sustaining an Innovative Environment and Building Stable Global Partnerships

I have argued that globalization requires innovation in universities that historically have traditional cultures framed by a socializing process that inculcates a mission that usually is historicist rather than forward-thinking. The organization’s environment is generally local, and the information provided meets the needs of a traditional organization. Strategic plans generally seek to improve incrementally based on a traditional organizational structure. What we need to confront, however, is a new intellectual framework oriented toward change and innovation.

The challenges that academe faces to develop and sustain global partnerships in a competitive environment are numerous. Academic staff, for example, require skills different from those who taught subject matter in a classroom and conducted discrete research. Of consequence, teaching will undergo a sea-change and research will require skills associated with teamwork and cross-cultural collaboration. The result is that the kind of individuals we hire is likely to require a different framework from the past, and our universities will need pedagogical and research training centers aimed at equipping staff with skills required for a globalized universe.

As I noted above, “venture capital” is a normal term in the business world, but foreign to those of us in academic institutions. Academics generally conduct discrete research or find funding from a government agency. Global partnerships may well need venture capital from a funding arm of the university or from the business world. For such funding to occur, the skills researchers need not supplant what world-class researchers currently have, but rather necessitate additional skills of the researcher or within the university. Simply stated, a chemistry professor needs a laboratory to undertake research. In a global environment where universities hope to attract venture capital, in addition to traditional academic materials such as laboratories, universities also require technology transfer offices, units that are able to develop business plans, and offices that establish relationships with business and industry that look to marketing ideas in the natural and social sciences [29].

There is also not one predetermined manner in which universities must move. In the past, a university might have simply figured out which areas of the world they wished to send their students and created arrangements with a few institutions together with faculty exchanges. The current options are more complex. Universities need to choose a model of internationalization [30]. Program and provider mobility comes into play. An array of choices exists that decision-makers actively need to consider and accept or reject. “Brick and mortar” campuses in another country remain an option, but virtual campuses are also a possibility. Dual enrollment options exist such that one campus might offer a discrete number of courses and another institution across the world will offer the other. Some universities will see dual degrees as beneficial to their students and others might think it decreases the brand. The result is that quality assurance is no longer a “one size fits all” model but must be adapted to the mission that the institution has chosen for itself.

One conundrum of globalization is that over the last generation there has been a mania about international rankings [31]. Ministries want their institutions to be represented on league tables. The risk, of course, is that all universities then need to adhere to the same sorts of activities. Precisely at a time when a university’s culture ought to choose an identity that sets itself apart from other universities, there is a pressure to conform. Over time, however, rather than a move toward isomorphism, universities are likely to establish unique global partnerships that enable innovative relationships to occur based on the unique cultures of the institutions. Organizational cultures gravitate against isomorphism as if one institution’s identity is akin to another. Rather, a university needs to come to grips with its own identity, make its uniqueness clear to internal and external audiences, and then develop relationships with global partners based on those differing identities.

Markets respond to diversity and unique ideas. Not all partnerships will succeed, but the successful organization is one that is open to experimentation and trial and error. To be sure, support structures need to be in place that enable such relationships to germinate, but the future lies less in mimicking what other institutions have done and instead in building an identity based on innovation.

Because of increased collaboration across borders and a focus on differentiation rather than similarity, the import of quality assurance is likely to rise. The most obvious example is that of for-profit higher education in the USA. New providers entered the academic market and their experimentation gained initial admiration. Over time, the experiments were cause for concern. Low completion rates, increased costs, and fraudulent claims plagued the industry when governmental and accrediting agencies investigated its activities [32]. The same sort of oversight needs to be done with the ventures universities begin across the globe to ensure that the activity is of high quality and measurable cost. An increase in global partnerships suggests that a Ministry of Higher Education’s role is likely to move from a funding agent to that of a design or certification authority. The likelihood also exists that cross-border collaboration will require cross-border alignments of those who determine quality assurance.

Universities interested in building global partnerships obviously need offices focused on the matter, but to build a regional and global community, a variety of mutual topics need to be discussed. Commonsensically, global partnerships require multiple partners. A first step is to develop new data collection systems that will be utilized by those groups who are working together. Institutions can be proprietary about their university’s data, and global partnerships require the opposite sort of action. Data sharing, especially among institutions without a history of data collection and analysis is an initial step for successful collaboration.

The sharing of data, however, is simply a first step in regional cooperation that needs to be considered, developed, and enhanced over time. Universities in developing economies often face a severe “brain drain” that needs to be reversed [33]. Global partnerships in open markets suggest not simply an economic free trade zone, but also an academic one where faculty participates actively at more than their home institution.

Similarly, rather than a reliance on national professional and disciplinary associations that cater to a local clientele, cross-border associations can work together to increase the teaching and research capacity of the academic staff in the region. Just as global partnerships suggest increased student and academic mobility, so too might staff mobility be enhanced. The key component here is a commitment to openness, experimentation, and rigor in the mode of supply.

Research cooperation also will be reconfigured. Rather than research project “A” being done in one institution and research project “B” in another, there ought to be a proliferation in modes of supply. The joint funding of Ph.D. programs, for example, is one possibility for partnerships where faculty and students from multiple institutions work together on projects that are of regional benefit and enable students to gain skills aimed at the future rather than the past. Students trained on more than one campus return to their host university with networks and skills not ordinarily gained in a discrete program.

Although I have argued here for a changed organizational culture aimed at innovation in an era of globalization, of necessity, one key player in the environment needs to be addressed. Universities are located in countries and in one manner or another they are framed by the stance a country takes toward its neighbors and toward education. A country can enhance or restrict global partnerships based on its willingness to have its institution engage in such activities. As opposed to previous opportunities, however, a country does not necessarily need to provide long-standing revenue for an activity. Nevertheless, a country also has to be willing to enable its institutions to operate in ways that may be at odds with the cultural or economic mores of the country. “Venture capital,” for example, is not a phrase commonly used in socialist countries, but I have suggested such an arrangement might be beneficial for a university seeking a global partnership.

How faculty thinks and works is not only framed by an academic culture but also by the national culture from which they come. In general, I see such differences as a strength, and institutions and faculties can work out their differences, but if a nation state is wary of such collaborations, then long-standing partnerships are going to be at risk. An initial step is for a ministry and its institutions to develop codes of conduct that enable the ground rules to be understood. Finely tuned, restrictive rules are less likely to enable collaboration then models aimed at enabling partnerships. Any country has a vested interest in seeing its universities prosper, but in general, steering global partnerships from afar, such as from the ministry, is less likely to produce sustainable projects. Those closest to the project are the best qualified to determine the parameters of the project.

6 Conclusion

I have approached global partnerships as entering a new era because of globalization. Although universities always have had unique cultures, I have suggested that rather than aiming at maintaining the status quo, the culture now needs to shift toward innovation. Such movements certainly come with risks, but also rewards. A successful university aimed at innovation and increasing global partnerships will acknowledge that not all such ventures will succeed. Nevertheless, the parameters of what is necessary for global partnerships will be apparent. Such projects do not simply occur without cultural and structural supports both within the university and at the Ministry level.

The future holds great possibility for new sorts of arrangements that go far beyond simply shipping students to one or another country or for singular faculty exchanges. The potential for arrangements that work at resolving some of the world’s more intransigent social and environmental ills are significant. The question is if our institutions have the ability to reorient themselves toward long-standing arrangements that enable our students, faculty and staff to function and prosper in new ways.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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