A group of students from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania is taking the concept of “study abroad” one step further.
Twenty-one doctoral students are in Hungary until July 17 to look at its higher-education system and to meet with higher education leaders. They will present their findings during a conference at Central European University, the host institution.
The International Context Education class and its travel itinerary are a part of the Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management program at Penn GSE.
The students are learning firsthand about the challenges and opportunities associated with developing and transforming higher education in Central and Eastern Europe into a democratic system.
Laura Perna, an expert in college access, choice, finance and affordability, co-teaches the class.
Last summer, Perna, a Penn alumna, co-taught a similar class in Ireland with Joni Finney, a fellow faculty member at Penn GSE. This time, she’s co-teaching this year with Diane Eynon, a senior fellow at Penn.
“Higher education in Hungary has undergone a number of controversial reforms in recent years, as the government has substantially reduced funding for scholarships and has increased the regulation of colleges and universities,” Perna explains. “We will learn a lot from this opportunity to think about the role of higher education in a very different context.”
Supervised by faculty members and assisted by doctoral students from Central European University, the GSE students will focus on students, faculty, administration, and the external community.
“The international course is a terrific experience for the students,” Perna says. “The course provides a fantastic mechanism for students to learn in-depth about the role and operation of higher education in a different national context,” Perna says.
"The course is designed,” Eynon says, “to increase the understanding of educational issues, trends and policies through comparative, cross-cultural and international perspectives. Our students are encouraged to develop their critical and analytical skills guided by an ethos of mutual respect and persistent questioning and to explore how higher education is related to economic, political and social development in Eastern Europe."