Higher education around the world has made a transition due to the current societal trend of globalization. Colleges and universities around the world have entered an era where the movement of minds and cooperation of academia are fashioning out a new brand of institution. Undeniably, globalization and internationalization have had an impact not only on campuses, but also students, faculty, and administrators. Increasingly, institutions are using rankings as a measure of global impact and engagement; however this practice can sometimes prove to be rather useless in the context of the majority of universities dotting the globe. By combing through the methodologies of rankings and other global measurements, which continually increase in scope and breadth as universities struggle to cross international borders and create worldwide connections, there exists a need to further and fully define the current internationalization movement. By developing a list of indicators of global engagement for colleges and universities, the aim is to see how and why “globalization has become one of the most important factors that influence the development of higher education worldwide” (Jiang, 2008).

In fact, this era of globalization is one of the most influential factors in higher education and is pushing universities into a worldwide competition for world-class status. The final result of this inquiry provides a framework for tracking and understanding globalization and its impact on campuses. A new university has emerged. This requires rethinking the modern University, because how we track the global era of higher education is vital to its successful future. This article provides a list of indicators that identifies globalization on campuses as well as provides ideation toward the utilization of global practices and policies.

Defining global engagement through a list of indicators provides a clear and thorough observation on the impact internationalization has on higher education. Historically, there has been extensive criticism of rankings for suggesting false levels of assessment precision. Although criticized in close circles of academia, rankings are taken seriously by administrators, and academic departments are feeling pressure to demonstrate their value. Many of these departments analyze how they can use rankings data to recruit new faculty and top students (Jaschik, 2010). The development of a list of globalization indicators is pertinent to the further development of institutions in that institutions are provided with a practical tool that can assist in the development of academic and professional programs that reflect the globalization of society, the labor market and the global economy. Altbach estimates, “academe itself has become globalized, and institutions seek to benchmark themselves against their peers worldwide — and often to compete for students and staff (2010). A limitation of rankings is that there is only room at the top for as many world-class universities as meet the accepted criteria for such measurement. It is a zero-sum game, where the top 100 is limited to 100. For every space that is taken by a university, there exists one less opportunity for aspiring and emerging world-class universities. Altbach further suggests that perhaps a better idea than rankings is an international categorization system that can delineate institutions according to their missions (2010).

The goal is for a majority of schools to be able to gauge their global engagement, impact and interaction. Many criticize rankings for frequently changing their criteria or rankings’ methodologies making performance difficult to measure longitudinally, and difficult to usefully make comparisons to other institutions. However, 21st century needs to compete, to use other institutions as a point of reference, and to globalize internationally make the creation of some form of indicators warranted. Of the 80% of universities that believe their institutions appear “favorably” in the rankings, 71% promote their rankings results and marketing materials, says Jaschik (2010). This leads to further criticism of using rankings, because as Jashik states, “universities adopt policies that may not be educationally sound for the sole purpose of advancing in the rankings” (2010). For example, schools might decide to focus on faculty research and publication in order to receive citations and major publications, instead of focusing on student learning and intercultural curricular experiences.

Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it is “an act of real audacity when a ranking system tries to be comprehensive and heterogeneous (2011). He also surmises that at no point do the college guides acknowledge the extraordinary difficulty of the task they have set themselves. The first difficulty with rankings is that it can be surprisingly hard to measure the variable one wants to rank — even in cases where that variable seems perfectly objective (2011). For instance, when measuring the number of international students and faculty an institution, the number attained will include several other variables that will have an effect on the total, such as meaningful interaction, school climate and culture. By developing a list of indicators of internationalization and overhauling the idea of rankings and measurements shows promise in the development of globalized institutions on a worldwide basis, and at an innumerable level.

The internationalization of higher education is providing worldwide access and global expansion to institutions on a world stage. As scholars and researchers define and further flesh out the implications of globalization at colleges and universities, the development of indicators of global engagement can help institutions navigate through a society of fading borders. The place-based identity (Armstrong, 2007) of colleges and universities is changing and national boundaries have become largely irrelevant (Wildavsky, 2010).

With this in mind, colleges and universities must find ways to cooperate, collaborate and participate on a global scale in this era of globalization. Universities need to be able to illustrate the presence of these indicators of global engagement within the institution in order to effectively claim to be global institutions producing global scholars. Through a methodical process of definition, characterization and description, globalization at universities is operationally explained for the benefit of developing indicators of successful and progressive global academic image and recognition. Defining globalization and understanding what constitutes a global university is challenging, as institutions use unreliable and invalid rankings to define globalization. The following list of indicators offers opportunities for comprehensive, research-oriented and geographically diverse institutions to gauge global impact and influence through a standardized list. The focus is to create positive outcomes, increase the quality of programs, create innovation in learning and provide global integration.