Going Global: The Recent British Council Conference Highlighted the Growth and Struggles of International Universities

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Yusuf Adamu recognizes that he has a "problem" that most of the world's colleges and universities would love to have.

Enrollment at Nigeria's Federal University Dutse, a newly established college located in the country's historic city of Dutse, is at an all-time high, and Adamu--the school's registrar--now has to develop new strategies to accommodate students who want to use their education to become active participants in Africa's emerging economy.

"We don't want to duplicate efforts," says Adamu, who made the 12-hour trek by plane in April to Miami to participate in the Going Global conference. The conference was sponsored by the British Council, an international organization that promotes educational opportunities and cross-cultural relations around the world. "We live in a global world, so we have to find innovative ways to partner with other institutions and learn from them. We see this as an absolute necessity."

Founded in 2011, Federal University Dutse--which boasts a student population of about 1,000--is now looking to become competitive enough to send some of its best students abroad,

while also becoming a destination spot for students in the U.S. and elsewhere who want to learn about African culture and history.

"Even as we grow beyond our capacity, we still want to become better known outside of Nigeria," says Adamu. "And we want to form partnerships with other colleges across the globe."

Abroad opportunities

Not long ago, universities--much like their governments -- were reluctant to share best practices and strategies with foreign academic institutions looking to replicate successful programs.

But in an age of popular study abroad programs and social media, the isolationist borders have fallen, and collaboration between universities in different nations has become common.

In May, a team of eight Howard University students headed to Romania and Chile, where they will spend two months doing comparative cybersecurity research as participants in the National Science Foundation-funded Global Education, Awareness and Research Undergraduate Program (GEAR-UP).

The teams in Romania and Chile are part of a group of 32 science and engineering students from Howard who will conduct research abroad this summer. The program, now in its fourth year, works to grow international engagement of graduates in engineering and science through study and research abroad. It is led by the university's College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences (CEACS) and sustained through a $5 million, multi-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded in 2010.

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"National statistics suggest that very few African-Americans have the opportunity to travel abroad to study or do research," says Dr. Lorraine Fleming, the GEAR-UP director and a professor of civil engineering at Howard. "Our mission at Howard is to produce leaders for America and the global community. GEARUP is doing just that by allowing students a first-hand opportunity to practice as engineers and scientists in a global setting."

British council

Early on, the British Council became one of the early promoters of cross-cultural exchanges, setting up offices in nations across the world and luring thousands of international educators to its annual Going Global conference. This year, the conference was appropriately titled Inclusion, Innovation, Impact.

"The British Council has been bringing people together and building trust and understanding around the world for 80 years," says Rebecca Hughes, the organizations director of international higher education. "Currently, we work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff--including 2,000 teachers--work with thousands of professionals and policymakers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programs. …