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April 27, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 16

Altbach Heading Up Global Education Effort

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Monan Professor of Higher Education Philip Altbach is helping lead an international effort to confront global challenges facing higher education in the 21st century.

Altbach is the Distinguished Scholar Leader of the Fulbright-sponsored New Century Scholars Program, a group of 30 of the world's senior leaders in higher education who together are addressing such global issues as access and equity in higher education, internationalization and globalization, the role of the academic profession in global change, civic responsibilities of educational institutions and the current rise in private education.

"This is a flagship program of the Fulbright agency," Altbach says. "We have a great group of people. My job is to keep herd on everybody and to make sure the groups are actively working."

The group of 30 scholars - which includes the national ministers of higher education from Yemen and Ethiopia - expects to issue a series of scholarly books and policy guidelines and recommendations for reform and change as well as sharing a number of best practices in the higher education field when the scholars gather in Paris this October for their third and final meeting. "Given the experience of this crew, the seriousness of their working and the importance of these themes, it should be very worthwhile," Altbach says.

Two of the New Century Scholars are currently doing research in the Boston area. Mohsen Elmahdy Said, executive director of the Project Management Unit of Egypt's Ministry of Higher Education, and Hans de Wit, director of the Office of International Advisor at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, are working together as part of a sub-committee examining international mobility trends in higher education.

"We are trying to see if the student flow internationally is different now than it was 20 or 30 years ago," de Wit says. "Then it was very traditional, with students going from the developing countries to the United States or Europe. Now, countries like India and China are not only sending far more students to other countries, but are receiving international students. What are the trends and issues that are emerging here?"

Said notes, "Given that the whole world is being opened to so many changes, we are hoping to come up with some policy recommendations that would benefit our countries from the good practices that we are learning from each other."

Altbach says Boston College has been a willing partner to the New Century Scholar program, providing access to the University Libraries' journal and professional publication collection - and the help has been much appreciated.

"I just got an e-mail from a young Russian scholar who doesn't have much access to the journal literature out there," he says. "She was falling all over herself because the BC library was now electronically accessible to her. Some of the countries don't have anything like that.

"It's really helping them and they are thankful to Boston College."

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