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  • Bristol Studies in Comparative Education and International Development x
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In this final chapter of the collectionwe return to the aims and objectives of the book, and explore the emerging themes across the collection, as well as indicating future areas for study. The first section of the chapter draws together themes around conceptualizing the ‘small island’; the second section explores how the small island context offers scope for reconceptualizing higher education provision; and the final section outlines the value of a future research agenda focused on higher education in small islands.

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This collection shifts the focus of higher education research away from the traditional urban centre and onto small island contexts across the world. Introducing the small island as a context for higher education delivery this book extends beyond the existing literature on higher education in small states, arguing for the value specifically of the small island as a conceptual frame for exploring multiscalar dynamics between global, national and local contexts in higher education provision. Drawing on examples from around the world, the book identifies how the small island opens critical questions relevant to higher education scholarship much more widely about the purposes and functions of higher education especially in relation to national, regional and local development, as well as questions about specific issues in higher education such as quality and management. The insights offered by the contributions in this book will be relevant to higher education scholars as well as scholars in the field of island studies, and especially those concerned with the relationship of higher education provision to regional and island development.

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This chapter explore the ways in which global imperatives and processes implicate and are embodied in and through local Indigenous knowledges and ways of meaning-making within the context of Oceania. The chapter articulates conceptualizations of small island higher education using local Indigenous perspectives and practices and decolonial intentions that seek to inspire and empower local communities in higher education spaces across Tonga and Aotearoa New Zealand. Through the method of talatalanoa, examples from the first author’s experiences of decolonial work across higher education spaces in Tonga and Aotearoa New Zealand are discussed. Decolonial work across higher education spaces is ongoing and fonua-whenua-inspired, relying on theory to activate the authors’ analyses of relational Indigenous being and becoming in Oceania. This chapter concludes by drawing attention to the importance of thinking globally but acting locally as a critical Oceanian practice that centres the things that really matter to local peoples, communities and small island states.

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Challenging the Geographies of Centrality and Remoteness

This collection shifts the focus of higher education research away from the traditional urban centre and onto small island contexts across the world. Introducing the small island as a context for higher education delivery this book extends beyond the existing literature on higher education in small states, arguing for the value specifically of the small island as a conceptual frame for exploring multiscalar dynamics between global, national and local contexts in higher education provision. Drawing on examples from around the world, the book identifies how the small island opens critical questions relevant to higher education scholarship much more widely about the purposes and functions of higher education especially in relation to national, regional and local development, as well as questions about specific issues in higher education such as quality and management. The insights offered by the contributions in this book will be relevant to higher education scholars as well as scholars in the field of island studies, and especially those concerned with the relationship of higher education provision to regional and island development.

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In this chapter, the focus is on internationalization of higher education in Mauritius, a small island state in the Indian Ocean, which aspires to make higher education a pillar of its economy and transform itself into a knowledge hub in the region. It is shown how despite inherent constraints associated with small island states such as smallness, insularity and geographic location, national strategic plans and an enabling regulatory environment have supported the growth of the higher education sector. One strategic priority, and a goal, for Mauritius is internationalization of higher education. This chapter demonstrates how the chosen measures have been effective in internationalizing the sector. Beyond the usual benefits associated with internationalization, such as increased international students, provider and programme mobility, the chapter further discusses the influence and the impact of the distinctive colonial history and legacy in Mauritius on the higher education growth trajectory and strategy. It concludes that the future of internationalization, and indeed that of higher education, could be considered from a decolonial perspective and that implementation of evidence-based policies would be beneficial for the socioeconomic development of Mauritius.

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The introduction sets out the key rationale behind a book focusing on higher education in small island contexts and introduces the key themes for the book. The chapter starts by focusing on the value of a small island lens for surfacing and exploring issues of place and mobility, which are significant concerns in higher education provision more generally. The chapter then moves to providing an overview of existing literature relating to island higher education, drawing particularly on a body of work developed in the 1980s and 1990s on higher education in small states, which includes island states. Key themes from this literature are explored and contextualized in relation to current themes in higher education scholarship and the context of the small island (rather than the small state). The chapter concludes by introducing the structure of the book and providing an introduction to each of the chapters.

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Existing policy discourses in the north of Scotland focus on expanding higher education provision in the region in order to support both individuals (and their aspirations) and the regional economy. However, drawing on data from a research project with students from the islands of Orkney and Shetland, the chapter argues that there are significant limitations in the capacity of on-island higher education provision in the small islands in the region to meet the needs of all islanders and all areas of the economy. Rather, this chapter suggests that higher education planning in small islands needs to acknowledge intersecting local, regional, national and global dynamics in provision of higher education, and move towards thinking about how to function effectively within these dynamics. This involves accounting for skills flows and skills routes, and considering not just on-island higher education delivery but also the accessibility of, and routes through, other (mainland) higher education providers.

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Research on the quality of higher education in the island states of Oceania has so far contributed to a ‘deficit discourse’, depicting Oceanian universities as ‘second-class’, rather than studying such notions of quality from a critical perspective. In response, this chapter introduces a research focus on the perceived quality of higher education in Oceania. We employ an autoethnographic methodology to unpack the perceived quality of the regional University of the South Pacific (USP) and theorize our empirical findings through a geographical-spatial lens. Our findings show that ‘islandness’, in its physical form and as a social feature of place connotation, can create different kinds of (mis-)perceptions of USP’s quality. While USP is widely regarded as a premier university from within Oceania, it is prone to be underestimated from outside the region as well as from certain positionalities within the university. More (auto-)ethnographic research can be useful to further deconstruct notions of quality of universities in the island states of Oceania and beyond.

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This collection shifts the focus of higher education research away from the traditional urban centre and onto small island contexts across the world. Introducing the small island as a context for higher education delivery this book extends beyond the existing literature on higher education in small states, arguing for the value specifically of the small island as a conceptual frame for exploring multiscalar dynamics between global, national and local contexts in higher education provision. Drawing on examples from around the world, the book identifies how the small island opens critical questions relevant to higher education scholarship much more widely about the purposes and functions of higher education especially in relation to national, regional and local development, as well as questions about specific issues in higher education such as quality and management. The insights offered by the contributions in this book will be relevant to higher education scholars as well as scholars in the field of island studies, and especially those concerned with the relationship of higher education provision to regional and island development.

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This chapter examines the relationship between the geographical smallness of an island and its impact on the governance and management of public higher education institutions (HEIs). The University of Malta serves as a case study and as a basis for providing a commentary on the latest developments in this subject. The chapter also attempts to elicit comparative lessons from other small islands with similar conditions to Malta. Essentially, it reviews the small island realities of HEIs, as they strive to serve their island’s economic, social and cultural ambitions through predominantly public-sourced funds, while in parallel performing on a global higher education stage that is increasingly becoming more international, privatized, competitive and commodified. The ultimate outcome of this piece is to create a framework of the strengths, challenges and barriers that public HEIs in small islands experience. Their performance is tested against the benchmarks of efficiency, effectiveness and quality, which, in turn, are impacted by: the state’s overbearing presence in the financial and governing interests of the institution; national policies on education and beyond; an ongoing drive for massification of higher education; economic pressures and persistent demands from employers; transnational expectations, largely driven by employment targets; and sustainability issues.

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