Going global in the Brexit era

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Comment - The Sun
May 3, 2018

THE Going Global (GG) Conference opened on Wednesday with Malaysia playing host. It is said to be the first in the Asean region and augurs well for us and the region. The conference has made a name for itself after a successful debut some years ago in London.

It is popular because it provides a credible platform to discuss issues of global concern at a time when the world is shrinking and education is seen as the link that connects the dots.

What with the imbalances in access to quality education and the widening disparities across the globe, GG seems to be able to build some consensus in understanding how to "normalise" the issues.

Put in the context of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals GG is spot on. Given the colonial British influence being still dominant as a "soft power" through education in general, GG has somewhat a stranglehold in many countries of the Commonwealth.

For the less democratic countries with little or no respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, GG serves as an eye- and mind-opener for the participants to take home arguments against the often "draconian" bureaucrats who understand less about those issues of critical importance to the academe.

But this time around, there seems to be a twist – namely Britain is in the thick of the Brexit issue. Putting it at odds with the GG slogan or aspiration. It wants to withdraw from the (European) world as it were but at the same time wants to "go global".

The schizophrenic stance cannot be missed especially in the context of education where terms like "borderless", "open access", "autonomy" seem to be the defining standards of what "quality" means beyond numbers and ranking.

But many have been misled to embrace this without any regard that it is based on a commercially-driven definition of "quality" that falls far short of the substantive aspects of the intangibles (ethics, values and authenticity). And that distorts education as we know it.

Just a day before the opening of GG, BBC reported that the Home Office had instructed thousands of foreign students to leave the UK for cheating in an English Test for International Communication.

What seems to be in question is the claim that among those "accused" at least 7,000 may have been wrongly accused. Despite being in the UK legally, they were reportedly given harsh treatment and not allowed to appeal.

Some said it was "unfair" and "unjust" amounting to "abuse of power". This has led to the accusation of "hostile environment" policy attributed to the present government.

This makes a mockery of GG in the eyes of the world whose foreign students the UK wants to attract. While the jury is still out, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth seriously questioning if GG has lost its plot in the Brexit Era.