How changing geopolitics is affecting higher education across the world
By Sonal Srivastava
The undoing of globalisation is impacting the functioning of academic institutions and they must get attuned to a rapidly changing world
The Ukraine War has not only affected geopolitics across the world, but it is also having a huge impact on the education sector and international students’ mobility. Manuel Muñiz, provost, IE University, Spain, and dean, IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs, says that governments, corporations and universities are having to think about whether they should deepen their relations with other countries and markets.
Speaking to Education Times, Muñiz highlighted some of the major challenges faced by the world. “There are several significant challenges that are going to affect the education sector. There is a major change to the structure of the international order with the rise of new powers. Some of them such as India are very constructive and others perhaps less so. The rise of some powers, particularly China, poses a major challenge to the established order,” says Muñiz, who also served as state secretary (vice minister) at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2020 to 2021.
Being responsible for IE University’s international expansion through strategic alliances and for research and teaching in Public Policy, Global Affairs and Economics, Muñiz is worried about the uncertainty and volatility in international politics pose a big challenge not just to governments but also to corporations and universities because it means that we live in a fast-changing world and might see a fracturing of international order not seen since the end of the Cold War.
“In fact, from the end of the Cold War and right around the Ukraine War, we have lived through a period of rapid globalization, of growing interdependence across economic, political and cultural fields. Since the Ukraine war, we have begun the process of assessing that interdependence and probably reducing it, so one can see slowing down and reversal of globalisation in some areas and that has an impact on higher education,” says Muñiz, elaborating that governments, corporations and universities are concerned whether to deepen their relations with other countries and markets.
His major concern is that countries build global academic institutions with students and faculties from across the world and now instead of focusing solely on academics, the universities need to start assessing the geopolitical risks. “In the US and Australia, there are now frameworks for countering foreign influence. The universities have to regularly report on foreign funding, and the research activities on foreign faculty because of national security concerns. This process of the undoing of a part of globalisation also affects the functioning of academic institutions and they must get attuned to a world where geopolitical risk is higher,” explains Muñiz, adding that IE University is a diverse institution where around 80% of students are Spanish, however, the language of instruction in the university is English.
Talking about India’s place in geopolitics and UGC’s attempt to get foreign universities to establish campuses in India. Muñiz says, “We have working relationships with a number of Indian business institutes and universities. We have exchange programmes, and our intention is to deepen that partnership to engage in an exchange of faculty and students more intensely. India will play a fundamental part in the geopolitical puzzle in the future as the world’s largest democracy in upholding democratic values and that means we need to strengthen our bilateral relationship with India at all levels including the higher education space. For Indians, the US and the UK as international places to go and study abroad, but there are many other spaces such as Spain are also attractive for academic partnering.”
At IE University, Muñiz is also head of the IE Arts & Humanities Division and founder of the IE Centre for the Governance of Change, which examines the challenges posed by the accelerated societal and technological transformation in both the public and private sectors. He says that a large proportion of students are using Artificial Intelligence tools such as ChatGPT for their assignments and the general attitude towards banning these tools is a mistake. “We should not build educational environments that are radically different from the work environments. These tools are here to stay, we should build our pedagogies on top of what these tools can do. We have to just find a way to integrate these tools in a way that allows enhancement of learning,” adds Muñiz, explaining that ChatGPT will be to writing what the calculator was to basic calculus. “We are also testing learning in the metaverse, we have purchased 600 VR headsets and developing content for students; we are testing the learning before, throughout and after the courses to assess whether the metaverse is another space that can enhance learning. We are testing this across subject matter because teaching in metaverse might be useful for disciplines such as Architecture and Design and in the learning of skills such as public speaking and crisis management,” he says, adding that universities need to add technologies to their pedagogies and if they do not fulfil this mission as academic institutions, others such as EdTechs will do it for them.
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