February 14, 2012

Cornell Goes Global

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LAST WEEK, THE UNIVERSITY declared its intention to add between one and three international institutions as partners in its New York City technology campus, a project which already includes a collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. This most recent announcement continues the administration’s push to elevate Cornell’s standing in the world, an initiative that aligns with the University’s goal of becoming a top 10 international research institution, as stated in the 2010-15 Strategic Plan. With technological innovation making countries increasingly interconnected, the administration’s emphasis on internationalization has the potential to play a crucial role in attracting the most talented students and faculty to Cornell.

Though discussion about internationalization has increased since the University’s bid for the NYC tech campus was accepted in December, President David Skorton has made extending Cornell’s reach a primary focus throughout his tenure. In the last five years, the administration has helped strengthen a new medical campus in Qatar and developed a veterinary school in Hong Kong. With its announcement that universities from around the world will be included in CornellNYC Tech, the University becomes the first American institution to build a school in the United States with international partners, according to Provost Kent Fuchs. The administration has led the effort to transform higher education into a more global experience in recent years, and this push toward internationalization will only improve the quality of future students and faculty seeking to join the Cornell community.

The potential to expand Cornell’s international influence is a crucial component of the University’s high-priced CornellNYC Tech project. If executed properly, the administration argues, a tech campus with international partners could raise the prestige and visibility of Cornell throughout the world. However, this drive to boost the University’s reputation in national rankings is a source of concern for many Cornellians who claim that, in fact, these ratings say little about an institution’s ability to provide an exceptional education. While rankings can be flawed, prospective students undeniably place significant emphasis on how highly each institution is rated when deciding where to apply. In order to attract the most talented students and faculty, the University should take such rankings into account but not lose sight of the unquantifiable value of a Cornell education.

At this point in its tenure, the administration has shown an ability to strike a balance between increasing its global visibility and preserving the values espoused by the founders. Moving forward, the University should continue to search for this middle ground as it seeks to spearhead the globalization of higher education.