Consuls and higher education

Consuls and higher education

In my last post I spoke about the business of education (think infusion of dollars into local economies). Today, I’ll talk about how consuls may internationalize education, mainly universities, although parallels can be drawn to secondary schools offering International Baccalaureate diplomas.

I begin with the most basic way of all in which a local foreign consul contributes to international education in the community where he serves: his presentations at a university. But when they’re student- or faculty- initiated, they’re often overlooked by the very administration that publicly seeks a global role in the educational field. This means that a consul’s efforts may be DOA (dead on arrival). Sadly, there are also plenty of stories about high-ranking consuls driving out to a campus only to find themselves in search of the right room or area for their presentation. In cases like these we must wonder about the commitment to global education by the institutional leadership.

An invitation to a consul to speak before a group of students, regardless of whether it’s in the classroom or before a student organization usually begins with a simple phone call to the consulate.

It happened to me a countless number of times. Could I please come speak about education in Finland? How about visiting faculty? What was the grading system like in other countries? When my speeches on the requested topics were preceded or followed by a dialogue with the university’s global team I knew the institution appreciated the educational role of a foreign consul.

While these foreign officials can provide the first impetus for a global perspective on education, there’s one function they cannot fulfill: a formal certificate of the student-applicant’s credentials. As I say in my book, the Foreign Consuls Among Us: Local Bridges to Globalism (pp. 75-76), there are many reputable evaluation services whose work products are accepted by U.S. colleges. Some consuls will on request provide a list of such agencies.

In my next post (the 3rd) on consuls and education I’ll talk about why it’s a mistake for universities not to include a consular component in some part of their curricula. We’ll see how this shortcoming in someone’s Alma Mater may have an unexpected outcome in areas like prestige and trusteeships, as well as in financial contributions.