Alan Kohler's Abstracts

Alan Kohler
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching
Ph.D. Student

Conference Summary
2017 American Association of Applied Linguistics
Portland, Orgeon

 Abstract

Money, money, money: Using metonymy analysis to reveal the commodification of international students at American universities

Conference Abstract
In the last two decades, seismic shifts have been taking place in the American higher education landscape, and perhaps most profound among these shifts has been the ways in which universities are funded. State funding of public, 4-year institutions declined by as much as 69.4% between fiscal year 1980 and 2011 (American Council on Education [ACE], 2012), with major universities receiving as little as 8% of their institutional budgets from state coffers (Dooley, 2006). Interestingly though, while government support for public universities withered, enrollment of international students at these same institutions has skyrocketed. According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange (2015) from the Institute for International Education, 974,926 international students studied at U.S. colleges/universities in 2014/15—nearly double the enrollment figures from 1983/84. Indeed, among presidents and administrators at U.S. universities, the internationalization of undergraduate education is increasingly seen as vital (Bok, 2006 citing Lambert 1989), and not only is internationalization an increasingly popular “buzzword” (Tardy, 2014), but it is also seen as essential to the U.S. remaining a “truly world-class higher education system” with competitive global engagement preparing student-citizens for a “globalized world” (ACE, 2016). But, with nearly one million international students often paying twice the tuition of domestic students (Heck & Mu, 2016), does this multi-cultural, student-centered explanation hold water? Uniting the explanatory power of conceptual metonymy (Catalano & Waugh, 2013) with a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approach, this study seeks an answer to this question by examining how international students are constructed in the discourse surrounding U.S. higher education institutions. Specifically, using the Chronicle of Higher Education as a representative repository for institutional discourse, this present study examines a corpus of articles and the metonymies within them that reveal a systematic pattern of commodification (Benson, 2006) within the U.S. higher education administrative discourse.

Lay Abstract

Money, money, money: Using metonymy analysis to reveal the commodification of international students at American universities

Lay Audience Abstract
Over the last several decades, the landscape of public universities in America has undergone enormous transformations, the most profound of which might arguably be the ways in which these higher education institutions are funded.  State funding of public, 4-year institutions declined by as much as 69.4% between fiscal year 1980 and 2011 (American Council on Education [ACE], 2012), with major universities receiving as little as 8% of their institutional budgets from state coffers (Dooley, 2006). Interestingly though, while government support for public universities has withered, enrollment of international students at these same institutions has skyrocketed.  According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange (2015) from the Institute for International Education, 974,926 international students studied at U.S. colleges/universities in 2014/15—nearly double the enrollment figures from 1983/84.  Indeed, among presidents and administrators at U.S. universities, the internationalization of undergraduate education is increasingly seen as vital (Bok, 2006 citing Lambert 1989), and not only is internationalization an increasingly popular “buzzword” (Tardy, 2014), but it is also seen as essential to the U.S. remaining a “truly world-class higher education system” with competitive global engagement preparing student-citizens for a “globalized world” (ACE, 2016).  But, with nearly one million international students often paying twice the tuition of domestic students (Heck & Mu, 2016), does this multi-cultural, student-centered explanation hold water?  
This study seeks an answer to this question by examining how international students are viewed, talked about, and ultimately understood by the administrators and professionals in higher education.  Current research on figurative language (i.e. metaphor and metonymy) is built upon the idea that the language we use shapes and reflects our views of the world.  Indeed, patterns in how people, places, events, and concepts are discussed and written about can reveal much--not just about cultural and social attitudes at large, but also about the shared perspectives, values, and beliefs of individuals that ultimately motivate the policies and practices of the institutions and organizations that they run.  Along these lines, I submit that a systematic analysis of the figurative language used by professionals and administrators in U.S. higher education to discuss international students has the power to reveal the true motivations behind the expansion of global recruiting efforts by American universities.  While the so-called internationalization of undergraduate education in the U.S. is purportedly driven by the evolving values of American colleges/universities that embrace an ever-globalized vision of transnational education, the administrative/institutional discourse surrounding international students in higher education—revealed through an examination of how international students are represented in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the most popular professional publication for university administrators—uncovers a more economic motivation for U.S. institutional recruitment abroad.

Last updated 16 Jun 2017