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Harvard to the World

University plans for overseas expansion in 21st century


A few lines in a lengthy speech President Neil L. Rudenstine made a month ago could make a world of difference in how Harvard professors study around the globe.

"I believe this is also the moment for Harvard to consider locating a limited number of outposts overseas, the main purpose of which would be to facilitate research and countries around the world," Rudenstine told 400 alumni in an October address.

What Rudenstine's remark--buried 12 pages into a sweeping 14 page speech--doesn't reveal is that the first such outpost could be only months away. The University has drafted rules for such an endeavor, and Rudenstine has assembled a committee to approve any proposals.

Though nothing formal is on the table, University sources say that several schools are contemplating outposts. Both Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Law School are considering an Asian office; the John F. Kennedy School of Government might have one in Washington, D.C., and HBS is considering a second in California, according to University sources.

Rudenstine uses HBS as an example of how globalization is affecting academia.

"It's no longer sufficient to study only U.S. companies if you want to understand the nature of the business world today," he says. "And at the same time the only way to understand a company in Japan or Germany is to spend quiet a bit of time there looking at it and talking to people."

Though many of these current ideas are more national than international, University officials hope to use a similar model around the globe. The idea for outposts emerged from a series of discussions last spring in the Academic Advisory Group--made up of the president, provost, associate provost and nine deans. Each dean presented his school's international activities to the group, including ideas for outposts.

Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 then chaired a smaller committee to draft the rules for such outposts. Sources describe these rules as strong in tone and content, because Harvard's top officials believe any outposts would affect the whole University's activities and image.

The guidelines require that schools discuss their plans for outposts with the Academic Advisory Group, that any outpost be open to faculty from other schools and that all activities conducted at them be in keeping with Harvard standards, sources say.

Some suggest that this stringency is due to last year's debacle in a Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) project in Russia. The U.S. government accused two HIID officials of misconduct and suspended a $14 million grant, a story that made headlines around the globe.

Currently Harvard's only international outpost--if even such a term is appropriate--is Villa I Tatti in Florence, Italy. Housed in a sixteenth-century villa and surrounded by 75 acres of Tuscan farmland, I Tatti is home to the University's Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. University officials say that the outposts being considered won't compare.

Fineberg says outposts as he envisions them will probably be only small offices with limited support staff, office supplies and research tools. He emphasizes that the sites will be temporary.

In a quieter, more subtle way, the international focus of the University is already becoming increasingly institutionalized.

Last year, Rudenstine announced a proposal for a new center--modeled on the idea for close cooperation between scholars in related fields that produced the Barker Center for the Humanities--that would incorporate Harvard's government department and its international studies departments. Mere weeks later, Sidney R. Knafel '52 donated $25 million to make the new center a reality.

And just last week, HIID and the Kennedy School announced they are jointly creating a new institute for international studies.

Already, Harvard boasts 3,238 international students, 17.7 percent of total enrollment, which places it eighth among institutions of its type, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Internationalization has been a Harvard buzzword for at least a decade. Though University officials haven't revealed an over-arching vision for these affairs, Derek C. Bok, Harvard president from 1971 to 1991, described his international outlook for Harvard in his 1987 Commencement address.

By Harvard's 400th Anniversary, he foresaw a truly international university. In his vision, by the year 2000, alumni would have endowed fellowships modeled on the Rhodes scholarships for students from more than 30 countries. By 2036, the number of foreign students would have increased to 5,000. Specialization in a foreign culture would be required of American undergraduates.

And all these requirements would be easier to fulfill since Harvard would establish branch campuses in more than 20 nations.

Rudenstine--not one to shout such broad visions from the mountaintops--seems prepared to begin at least the later step. "We have to be more international," he says.

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