English as a Lingua Franca

I ran into some interesting papers and essays on the issue of English as the lingua franca of contemporary higher education and science. They raise serious questions about the preservation of 'scientific languages', the ability to learn and teach in a non-native language, the homogenising tendencies of a lingua franca and even about flexible interpretation of plagiarism... Some time ago, biophysicist Stefan Klein wrote an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine about languages and science (Dümmer auf Englisch; English translation here: Dumber in English). Klein wants to ensure the future of German as a…Read more …

Athletics on Campus or Classes in the Arena?

As a European, my view on the relation between the university and sports is very straightforward. There's a health related function and a social function: the university provides facilities for students and staff to stay in shape and stay in touch. Simple as that! As a European in Australia, the prominence of athletics on campus surprised me in the early days when I got here (I'm pretty much surrounded by ovals and tennis courts). But then again, sports are pretty much part of everyday life here (especially the past few weeks) and obviously,…Read more …

Earth From Above

While walking through Darling Harbour yesterday - visiting the Fiesta Festival - I had a look at the Earth From Above exhibition by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Some of you might have already seen it since the exhibition has been traveling around the world the past years. I thought it was pretty amazing... Below are a few of my favorites. Click on the pictures to see the larger versions and the stories that go with them, or go here to see them all. Worker resting on bales of cotton, Thonakaha, Korhogo, Ivory Coast: 225Read more …

Brussels Sprouts and Meatballs…

While the rest of the world is concerned with petty issues like the quality of education, access to education, excellence in education, etc, some enlightened patriots with a judaeo-christian heritage xenophobic Dutch Members of Parliament see to it that their Ministry of Education deals with the questions that really matter. Here's a translation of the formal letter to the deputy minister of education [pdf]: Questions of Members Wilders and Bosma for the Deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Sciences, Mrs. Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart about Halal-meals during a school outing of an ROC (ROC stands for…Read more …

Things have changed

Not many blog posts these days...and that won't change too much in the next few weeks. I'm working hard to finish two papers for two conferences next month in Austria and Ireland. Before the conferences, I'll be in the Netherlands for a few weeks. And talking about the Netherlands... During my frequent short term writer's blocks I stumbled upon this video called "Sex, Drugs and Democracy", a documentary about the liberal nature of Dutch society. At least.... the way it was in 1994. It starts with the usual stuff. By now, everyone probably…Read more …

Culture & Competitiveness

Cultural orientation toward the future differs between countries and strongly correlates with the level of competitiveness of the country. That was one of the findings of Mansour Javidan and his colleagues in the Project GLOBE (see this month's issue of the Harvard Business Review). Since 1993, the project examines the inter-relationships between societal culture, organizational culture, and organizational leadership. Through a survey of over 17,000 middle managers in 61 societies, they found clear international differences in several areas, one of them being "future orientation". 182Read more …

The End of the University

On 8 January, at the 375th birthday (Dies Natalis) of the University of Amsterdam, University Professor Louise Fresco gave the annual anniversary speech (Dies rede) to the university community. Unfortunately, the address is only available in Dutch. With the risk of totally mutilating and distorting Fresco's brilliant style of writing, I want to share a few (translated) passages of her magnificent speech. In her address, Louise Fresco reported about research that was done by Dr. Hakim Sarastro of the University of Oeloemia. Part of Dr. Sarastro's research on European higher education was conducted…Read more …

All in 1 week

In the past week, three remarkable men have passed away. The best writer of all times, one of the most innovative artists of all times and one of the most influential economists of all times.Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) passed away last Sunday (30 April).For me, his numerous books, short stories and essays are the most remarkable works I have ever read. Both his use of language and his choice of topics make that his books and stories portray a lively picture of Indonesian societies and cultures. Toer brought history to live, from the…Read more …

Pak Pram’s new book

The IHT has an article on one of the greatest writers of our time: Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Toer (a.k.a. Pak Pram) is probably best known for his Buru Quartet, named after the island Buru where he was imprisoned while he wrote the book. It consists of four books telling the saga of the first stirrings of Indonesian nationalism seen through the eyes of a young Javanese student. The books are This Earth of Mankind (Bumi Manusia), Child of All Nations (Anak Semua Bangsa), Footsteps (Jejak Langkah), and House of Glass (Rumah Kaca). I…Read more …

Globalisation: 99 Definitions & Perspectives

While I was looking for a file in my computer I stumbled upon an old document. It's a file with a list of different perspectives and definitions of globalisation that I assembled for my doctoral research some years ago. I thought it might be of useful for students and scholars that are trying to grasp the possible meanings of the term. It is a list of 99 (give or take a few) views from different disciplines and different sectors. Most are from academics, ranging from anthropologists to economists and from philosophers to business…Read more …

Anyone but the King

Thailand is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that has shown rapid development. Economically it has done very well. It recovered relatively easily from the financial crisis in 1997 and is showing good progress in recovering from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. It has liberalised in terms of trade, but it has also become more open politically.But of course there is one thing that you cannot do, and that is to criticise King Bhumibol. The Chronicle reports:The government of Thailand has blocked access in that country to the Web site of Yale…Read more …

Languages of the Internet

Yesterday, UNESCO published a report on languages and the Internet (Click here for a PDF version for the whole report). The report is primarily on measurement and methodology, but also shows some results of these measurements. Here are some of my quick observations:English language speakers are still the largest language group on the internet with around 300 million users. The English language domination however is far less than in 2001, mainly due to the growth of Chinese and Japanese speaking/writing internet users (see graph). While in 1998, web pages were still dominantly in…Read more …

What’s the right atmosphere?

The International Herald Tribune yesterday reported about China’s investments in their universities. China is focusing on science and technology, areas that reflect the country's development needs, but also reflect the preferences of an authoritarian system that restricts free speech. The liberal arts often involve critical thinking about politics, economics and history. The government has placed relatively little emphasis on achieving world-class status in these subjects. Yet, many Chinese say - most often indirectly - that the limits on academic debate could hamper efforts to create world-class universities"Right now, I don't think any university…Read more …

More branches

Unlike the University of Warwick, the University of New South Wales will continue to develop its branch campus in Singapore. The University of Warwick decided not to establish a branch campus because of financial reasons and because of Singapore’s regulation that foreign institutions are not allowed to criticise local politics. UNSW and Warwick were the only two foreign universities granted special status by the Singaporean Government to set up fully fledged independent teaching and research institutions offering undergraduate degrees. UNSW expects to open the doors of its UNSW Asia Campus, to up to…Read more …

Snapped branches

Warwick’s decision not to set up a branch campus has become final. Today the Warwick website announced that on the 18th of October the council voted against the Singapore plans. Their press release however remains vary vague about the exact reasons compared to the article in the Financial Times and Warwick’s student paper Boar (see my previous post). The university will however keep on cooperating with Singapore:The Council further resolved that the University should continue discussions within the academic community and with the EDB with a view to bringing forward an alternative plan…Read more …