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August 27, 1963 - Image 57

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The Michigan Daily, 1963-08-27
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MICHAEL ZWE

WORLD COLLEGE': Its DisappointiniHistory

IG

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY has seen
repeated, quiet efforts to establish in-
ternational universities aid centers of
higher learning. Some plans have come to
fruition and the resulting institutes still
exist; some operated for a time and then
died, others never got further than the
paper on which they were written.
Work in the field has ranged from the.
efforts of diplomats in high international
bodies to the private dreams of an Atlan-
ta, Georgia, businessman. International
education, especially at the university
level, has caught the imagination of
scholars and students in many countries,
and it is next to impossible to catalog all
the plans and programs which have been
presented in the last fifty years.
In general, proposals for international
universities have had three origins. The
first, and most prolific, are those plans
conceived by private individuals and oth-
er non-governmental, non-international
groups. International but non-governmen-
tal groups such as the International As-
sociation of Universities and the Interna-
tional Bureau of Education have been ac-
tive in the area, as have various inter-
national governmental agencies. notably
the League of Nations and the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cul-b
tural Organization (UNESCO).
The various proposals themselves can
largely be-characterized in four combina-
tions: regional or world-wide technical
centers and regional or world-wide gen--
eral universities. Some of each type have1
been suggested as summer programs to
augment national education, and some
others have been plans for complete edu-
cation with conferring of degrees. The
histories of the projects are little known
to the public, but an analysis, particular -
ly of the reasons for failure, may shed
light on possibly successful future plans
as well as indicate some of the attitudes
of this century regarding education and
international understanding.
THE SHOCK of the First World War
seems to have begun the procession of
proposals for international education
Immediately after the War, a group of
educators and Belgian diplomats orga-
nized the first modern-day international
university in Brussels. which continued to
operate in a limited way until 1936. The
originator and spokesman for the univer-
sity, Paul Otlet, quickly went to the
League of Nations as early as 1919 look-
ing for aid and assistance in his endeavor
"for international understanding."
Not until 1922 did the League of Na-
tions formally discuss prospects for inter-
national education, but private memos
indicate an intense reluctance on the part
of League officials to tender any aid other
than "moral approval" to Otlet's group.
By 1923, the League's Committee on In-
ternational Cooperation had heard half a
dozen formal requests for action in n-
ternational education. Proposals were con-
sistently referred to subcommittees of the
CIC.'
CIC member de Reynold moved
that a study be made of different means
of developing international "collabora-
tion". . . by the education of journalists
and translators, by prolonged courses for
students in principal foreign universities,
by instruction in the various national his-
tories and through the development of
international exchange programs for stu-
dents and faculty.
After four years of study, the League of
Nations dropped any idea of an interna-
tional university, largely with the attitude
of de Reynold, who said "it is essential
to avoid schemes which might encourage
-utopianism and internationalism."
The CIC met in full session in July.
1925 and discussed the findings of its
subcommittees. After considering all the
proposals-and one in particular from the
Spanish government which gave the most
detailed description of a "world univer-
sity"-CIC member Paul Destree resolved
that the proposal "goes beyond the limits
of schemes to be considered atfthe present
moment, but the heart of the matter de-
serves further study."
T HECIC ADOPTION of Destree's m-
tion was the last formal mention of

an international university in the history
of the League of Nations.
This international body had not yet
come away from the strong -hold of na-

together with students of all heritages.
No nationality is represented in greater
proportion than its national population
relates to the world, except for certain
small countries in Africa. All hope to
train men who will be able to deal ef-
fectively with men of other nations.
These aims are quite consistent with
early League of Nations and UNESCO vi-
sions of training centers for international
mediators and diplomatic personnel, but
the private nature of the universities
practically rooms them from the begin-
ning.

41

i I
ti q 4

The lonely land of books

tionalism. bit did favor increasing inter-
national contact to develop understanding
and-lessen potential tensions. It was, how-
ever: ceracteristic that the League sim-
ply favored a plan and did nothing itself
to implement the idea, other than "urge"
the member states to adopt exchange pro-
grams and develop area study programs
in their national universities.
Early official discussions decided to lay
the problem of international understand-
ing squarely at the feet of nation states.
In later years, UNESCO deliberation of
international universities also bogged
down on the issue of the role of national
universities, but the questions of finance
and feasibility in the Cold War were also
articulated.
There was also the university at The
Ha nue which specialized in international
law and drew students and faculty from
around the globe. And large scale student
exchange programs flourished, especially
f rom American universities.
These exchange programs were like
those the Leame of Nations had sug-
iested, although there is some reason to
doubt that they arose as a direct result
of League pressures But it is true that
the existence of the exchanges lessened
the urgency with which diplomats dis-
C-ssed international education.
HE COLLAPSE of the League of Na-
- tions and the coming of the Second
World War again made men wonder
about international understanding. The
post-war founding of the United Nations
and UNESCO gave some encouragement
to international education supporters. The
logical locus of discussion came in
UNESCO, where diplomats and educators
again formulated plans for international
universities. Early discussions in 1945-46
ndicated a desire to initiate new programs
and a general dissatisfaction with the
role of education for international un-
derstanding before 1939.
In all the debate, however, no one
brought forth a clear and definite plan
for a university; discussion was limited to-,
generalities and talk of future studies.
N 1945, a Colombian delegate to UNES-
CO spoke of "the importance of set-
ting up a University of the United Nations
. .. to encourage scientific research .. .
but including also other branches of hu-
man knowledge." Characteristically, he
concluded, "I cannot, of course, enter in-
to technical details."
In 1946, a Chinese delegate to UNESCO,
Chen Yuan, suggested a series of regional
universities, one in each continent, "to
gather men and women from different
countries to give them a common life
and common aim in pursuing the higher
knowledge." It was hoped that common
pursuit in education would lead to com-
mon discussion of other more political
difficulties and thus reduce tension among
nations.
THE INITIAL FLURRY of interest and
idealistic but ill-structured proposals
which followed the war tapered off rap-
idly as political conflict and cultural
chauvanism infected even UNESCO.

By 1949 official discussion was limited
to regional centers of specialized research.
The first assemblage of experts convened
by UNESCO met in 1949 ,under the lead-
ership of Prof. Robert Angell of the Uni-
versity's sociology department to discuss
the feasibility and structure of social sci-
ence research centers. The committee fin-
ally suggested that regional cross-disci-
plinary centers be established to study
specific problems in the social sciences.
Top priority was to be given to "the hu-
man implications of technical changes"
and then to "the formation of mass opin-
ion."
UNESCO has e tablished International
Social Science Research Centers which
carry on research in these fields. In 1953
it also established the European Center
for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva,
which brings together some of Europe's
top ranking physicists.
THE INCREASING political pressures
of the Cold War and the jealousy of
national universities made it impossible
for UNESCO to take further steps to
create an international university center-
ed around common education of students
from all countries, with faculty members
taken from among the best of each na-
tion. Such an endeavor irritates the aca-
demic administrators of national univer-
sities who, by supporting an international
university, imply that their own large uni-
versity is not international. The London
School of Economics, Harvard, the Euro-
pean College of. Social Sciences, and oth-
ers like them do not easily admit that they
are not "international."
The Cold War has made it increasing-
ly difficult to answer the question "how
would economics, political science and
history be taught? How could departmen-
tal unity be maintained with Russian and
American professors together?"
Until such questions are answered, it
remains most difficult to finance an in-
ternational university.
THE LACK OF INITIATIVE on the part
of UNESCO in establishing an inter-
national university to educate students,
as well as carry out research, has led to
a number of private endeavors in the
field. The UNESCO department of higher
education files include several detailed
plans for a United Nations University,
each with a request that UNESCO ini-
tiate the university.
Other groups have operated independ-
ently to open private universities, most of
them in Western Europe. The Quakers
have scheduled the opening of a summer
World Friends' College on Long Island,
New York this year. Other summer insti-
tutes with international faculty, interna-
tional student body and general curricu-
lum have been established at' The Hague,
Brughes; Geneva and Paris. One of the
few full year international universities
is the New Experimental College in Co-
penhagen, founded in 1962.
All of these institutes grew out of a
desire to develop an international orien-
tation among the students, to train them
in the different ideologies and bring them

THE LIMITED financial basis of all of
them means that equipment and li-
brary resources are severely limited. The
latter has been partially overcome by-lo-
cating the universities in large cities with
excellent research libraries. But that does
not entirely answer the difficulty.
Lack of funds also necessitates small
scale operation. The Copenhagen Experi-
mental College could afford only 21 stu-
dents, and the faculty could not be paid.
The alternative is to operate summers
only, with subsequent decrease in expect-
ed attendance.
Small scale operation and lack of re-
search opportunities equal to the great
national universities makes it impossible
to attract well known, respected faculty,
and with no research facilities and no
outstanding. faculty, few serious students
will attend. Those who do will find that
their education carries little academic
respect.
THESE ARE the problems facing pri-
vate initiative for international educa-
tion today. An alternative is activity
through UNESCO, with all of that body's
prestige and potential financial and aca-
demic resources. But in that UN body
political conflicts are many and progress
is slow.
The United States has had its share of
activity for international higher educa-
tion. The Association for an International
University in America has researched the
problems involved, and, the Association
for Commitment to World Responsibility
(ACWR), on this campus, has done ex-
tensive work in the field.
Historically, detailed analyses of spe-
cific problems and stumbling blocks to a
world university have been avoided in
favor of generalized ,.statements of princi-
ple. What is needed now is a sophisticated
approach to such questions as finance,
curriculum and administration of a large
scale international institute of education
and research.
When diplomats can be shown specific
answers to these questions, international
education as a step towards peace and
economic and social development will
have been taken. When nationalistic
jealousies decline enough to allow the sys-
tematic airing of other cultures and
ideologies by their own exponents, peace,
co-existence and mutual understanding
will become operational in the modern
world. That day cannot come too soon.

VOL. X. NO. 1

MAGAZ IN E

AUGUST 27,

1

>

Two Books and A Critic: Their Views on 1

off to a world university?

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