In my last journal entry I wrote about the growing trend of partnerships between academic institutions in the global north and south. This emerging generation of partnerships is promising because it emphasizes southern leadership, capacity strengthening and long-term engagement. But these kinds of partnerships pose fundamental challenges to the prevailing politics of knowledge.
Institutions associated with knowledge production remain concentrated in the north. According to the annual "Open Doors" report, there were a record number of foreign students coming to the U.S. in 2008 This is starting to change with the proliferation of new Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in India, China and other developing countries. Despite these trends, resources such as libraries, technological infrastructure, publishers and professional associations remain concentrated in the north. Partnerships among HEIs must be accompanied by efforts to address these imbalances.
U.S. HEIs must also find ways of promoting partnerships and rewarding scholars who participate in them. In most fields, career paths are shaped by timetables for tenure and promotion that are antithetical to the kinds of long-term collaborations identified here. Reward structures that privilege individual discovery and achievement and publication in top tier journals too often also devalue collaborative work and applied scholarship.
Encouraging this generation of partnerships will require building constituencies on U.S. campuses that support them by creating spaces that allow scholars to be actively involved in partnerships and by expanding the kinds of activities that scholars are rewarded for. Most importantly, research and teaching in the north must do more to engage expertise and knowledge generated in the global south. Without building constituencies on U.S. campuses, this generation of academic partnerships is likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Director, Institute for Developing Nations,