Ronit Lis-Hacohen (co-author of this blog) is the director of Technion International, the Technion unit whose purpose is to integrate all Technion international activities. Ronit currently manages five employees, while only one year ago she managed 18 employees. The organizational change that she led, which, on the fact of it, reduced her managerial responsibilities, was intentional. Her decision to lead this change resulted from the realization that the Technion's international strategy would be implemented more efficiently if most activities carried out by Technion International were assimilated into other Technion units – both academic and administrative – rather than executed in isolation by Technion International.
Applying the MERge model (Hazzan & Lis-Hacohen, 2016), which we developed and published five years ago, Ronit managed to affect the organizational change described in this blog, within several months. This blog describes the rationale and the activities conducted as part of this change and analyzes it through the MERge prism. Specifically, this blog describes how the Technion assimilated its international activities into its other units' activities and, at the same time, reduced operational costs related to its international activities.
In recent years, higher education has been undergoing significant changes driven by forces such as globalization, knowledge-driven economy, labor market demands, competition between traditional institutions, and advanced information technologies (Antony, Cauce, & Shalala, 2017; Barber, Donnelly, Rizvi, & Summers, 2013). One such change is internationalization.
The literature distinguishes between globalization and internationalization. For instance, the report prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education describes the distinction between globalization and internationalization as follows: "We define globalization as the reality shaped by an increasingly integrated world economy, new information and communications technology (ICT), the emergence of an international knowledge network, the role of the English language, and other forces beyond the control of academic institutions. Internationalization is defined as the variety of policies and programs that universities and governments implement to respond to globalization" (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009, p. iv). In other words, globalization deals with economic, political, and social forces that push higher education towards greater international involvement (Altbach & Knight, 2007).
The scope and volume of the international activities of universities range from research collaboration and student and staff mobility to study-abroad programs, foreign language programs, and recruitment of international students. Indeed, higher education institutions are taking various measures in order to increase internationalization: they offer different programs based on international content, they open branch campuses and hubs abroad, establish strategic partnerships with universities overseas, and encourage the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a source of profit (Mihut, Altbach, & De Wit, 2017).
Internationalization at Home (IaH) is a complementary aspect of internationalization. The European Association for International Education (EAIE) expert community defines IaH as follows: "Internationalization at home touches upon everything – from the academic curriculum, to the interactions between local students and international students and faculty, to the cultivation of internationally-focused research topics, to innovative uses for digital technology. Most importantly, it focuses on all students reaping the benefits of international higher education, not just those who are mobile". Beelen and Jones (2015) present another definition of IaH that emphasizes its benefits for all students: "Internationalization at Home is the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students within domestic learning environments" (p. 69). In the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, novel approaches to IaH, such as virtual exchange and online activities, have received increased attention.
The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology was established in 1912, about 36 years before the establishment of the State of Israel. It is a public science and engineering research university located in Haifa, Israel. In 2019, the Technion was ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities. It has 19 academic departments, 60 research centers, and 12 affiliated teaching hospitals. Since its founding, it has awarded more than 100,000 degrees, and in the Israeli ecosystem, the Technion and its graduates play a major role in the narrative of Israel as the "startup nation" (Senor & Singer, 2011). In 2013, The New York Times called the Technion Israel's Hard Drive. The Technion has two oversea campuses: one in New York (Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute) and one in Shantou, Guangdong Province, China (GTIIT - Guangdong Technion - Israel Institute of Technology).
In 2009, in light of the growing attention given to globalization in higher education, the Technion established an International School to manage its international undergraduate program in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since then, more and more activities were gradually added to its responsibilities, so that by March 2020, it was managing all of the Technion's international activities related to international programs, international students, and international academic relations that are not related to research collaborations. Main activities include two international undergraduate programs (in Civil and Environmental Engineering and in Mechanical Engineering), two summer programs (in Science and Engineering and in Entrepreneurship with a professional internship), study abroad and student exchange programs, Ersmus+ programs, and a variety of customized programs. In addition, the International Center's activities included the Technion's collaboration with the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHI) on matters related to international activities and alliances and different activities related to the Technion's international population (such as, Visa, social activities, etc.).
In the spirit of the concept of Internationalization at Home, and based on Ronit Lis-Hacohen's research-based examination described below, the Technion management realized last year that an organizational change was required, whose purpose was to assimilate the concept of internationalization into all Technion units, both academic and administrative.
Starting in October 2020, the Technion management approved a change process whose three main principles were:
Following this change, the number of full-time positions at the International Center dropped from 18.6 to 12: the Technion International Office retained 6 positions, 6 positions were distributed among other Technion units, and 6.6 positions were eliminated (due to the fact that they duplicated activities conducted elsewhere at the Technion).
The MERge model encompasses three meta-professions – management, education, and research – that, according to the MERge model, every practitioner should gain. Based on disciplinary knowledge, these three meta-professions GEnerate a comprehensive understanding of the practitioner's professional environment as well as improve the accomplishment of his or her organizational role and foster his or her professional development. The MERge model emerged based on our many years of experience and application of the amalgamation of these three meta-professions in all sectors.
The MERge model for professional development (Hazzan & Lis-Hacohen, 2016) is relevant for employees in all sectors, including the first sector, industry, and the third sector, including academia. With respect to academic institutions, in Hazzan and Lis-Hacohen (2016), we illustrated the usefulness of the MERge model for both academic and administrative staff, who can use it to accomplish and develop research projects, educational activities, and administrative roles.
The MERge model is highly relevant today in academia due to the significant changes (mentioned in the Introduction) that have taken place in higher education lately, partially, but not only, as a result of new technological tools that foster globalization and democratization processes (Berman, 2012).
We now analyze the above-mentioned organizational change undergone by Technion International, from the MERge perspective.
Research: While managing the Technion International Center, Ronit decided to pursue a Ph.D. on internationalization in higher education. This decision, which was tightly connected to her everyday professional work, led her to further explore the concept of Internationalization at Home. Her research led her to two main realizations:
The three above-mentioned principles that guided the organizational change were formulated based on this realization, which resulted from the research perspective Ronit employed in her Ph.D. research.
Management: The above change process reflects a deep understanding of managerial principles: organizational culture, elimination of role duplications, cost cuts while maintaining and even improving quality (Hazzan, 2020), and a wide organizational perspective over a narrow departmental one. The navigation and leading of the change process itself required meeting with many role holders (e.g., deans of relevant units and managers of administrative units) as well as collaboration with the Human Resources department to carry out the transition of several employees to other units and termination of the employment of several other employees. This process required Ronit to keep delivering the Technion's strategic plan for Internationalization at Home and to connect it to other activities that take place in the various Technion units. Furthermore, as part of the organizational change, it was agreed to evaluate it two years later, to check if any further improvements are warranted. Though currently the evaluation process is perceived as a managerial decision, it is planned to accompany the evaluation process with a Research activity.
Finally, the GEneration element of the MERge model is associated with the change process described above.
This blog tells the story of an organizational change and the relevance and suitability of the MERge model for its accomplishment.
We highlight two of our main messages:
Altbach, P. G. and Knight, J. (2007). The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities, Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3-4), 290-305.
Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L. and Rumbley, L. E. (2009). Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. Sense Publishers.
Antony, J. S., Cauce, A. M. and Shalala, D. E. (Eds.). (2017). Challenges in Higher Education Leadership: Practical and Scholarly Solutions. Taylor & Francis.
Barber, M., Donnelly, K., Rizvi, S. and Summers, L. (2013). An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead. London: The Institute of Public Policy Research. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/files/FINAL%20Embargoed%20Avalanche%20Paper%20130306%20(1).pdf
Beelen, J. and Jones, E. (2015). Redefining internationalization at home, The European Higher Education Area - Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies (pp. 59-72). Springer.
Berman, E. P. (2012). Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine, Princeton University Press.
Hazzan, O. (published May 27, 2020). Is A (Nearly) Zero-Cost Model Plausible for Science and Engineering Programs?, BLOG@CACM.
Hazzan, O. and Lis-Hacohen, R. (2016). The MERge Model for Business Development: The Amalgamation of Management, Education and Research, SpringerBriefs in Business. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319302249.
Mihut, G., Altbach, P. G. and De Wit, H. (Eds.). (2017). Understanding Higher Education Internationalization: Insights from Key Global Publications. Springer.
Senor, D. and Singer, S. (2011). Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle Paperback – Illustrated, Twelve.
Ronit Lis-Hacohen is a Ph.D. student at the Technion's Faculty of Education in Science and Technology under the supervision of Orit Hazzan and Avital Binah-Pollak. Her research focuses on the role of social sciences and humanities (including internationalization) in science and engineering undergraduate education. She is also Manager of the Technion's International Office. Orit Hazzan is a professor at the Technion's Faculty of Education in Science and Technology. Her research focuses on computer science, software engineering and data science education. For additional details, see https://orithazzan.net.technion.ac.il/.
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