NEW YORK, October 9, 2013—The Institute of International Education (IIE) has launched a groundbreaking 10-year, longitudinal study designed to explore and analyze the impact of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP) on its more than 4,300 alumni from 22 countries.
For over a decade, the Ford Foundation International Fellowships program enabled emerging social justice leaders from marginalized communities in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia to pursue advanced degrees at more than 600 universities in nearly 50 countries. IFP was initiated in 2001 with funding from the Ford Foundation through the single largest grant in the Foundation’s history, and has been housed at IIE throughout its operation.
The study offers a rare opportunity to explore over the long term how an innovative higher education program affected the lives of its beneficiaries and the communities in which they live and work, and to examine whether it shifted the picture of equity and access in developing countries and within underserved populations.
The study will be conducted by IIE’s Center for Academic Mobility Research, which has extensive experience in designing and carrying out all stages of program evaluation, from assessing program process and implementation, to examining outcomes and program impact using a range of methods. To guide the study, IIE has convened an Expert Working Group of leaders in the field of social science research, program evaluation, and higher education and social justice issues. The expert group will have its initial meeting on October 10, and IIE’s research team will be presenting on the study at the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference on October 19, 2013, in Washington D.C.
The Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program was a decade-long, $420 million initiative that supported the post-graduate academic pursuits of fellows around the world who are committing to applying what they have learned to affect positive social justice reform in their own countries and communities. The program is unique in that IFP fellows were selected on the basis of their leadership potential and social commitment as well as for their academic potential. Additionally, the program’s recruitment and selection process ensured that the majority of fellows came from groups that have traditionally had limited access to higher education for reasons including gender, race, ethnicity, region, religion, economic and educational background, and physical disability.
“As governments everywhere search for ways to educate and tap the talent of more citizens, the International Fellowships Program offers practical, real-world lessons, especially in helping people from rural and marginalized communities find a place in higher education,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “This landmark study ensures that a body of knowledge and experience built over many years can continue to help open the door to higher education for millions of hard-working people throughout the world.”
The International Fellowships Fund (IFF) – the funding entity through which the program operated – provided a final grant to support the Alumni Tracking Study , which will measure the longitudinal impact of IFP by examining the personal and professional trajectories of its beneficiaries. Using the decentralized IFP model as a starting point, IIE’s research team will collect quantitative and qualitative data at the global, regional, and country levels using a combination of surveys and extensive local fieldwork.
“To date, most alumni studies have focused on short-term outputs and outcomes, such as rates of completion, repatriation, and employment,” says Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation. “Though these data are critical to measure initial program success, they lack a more systematic look into the long-term individual, community and societal impacts. For this reason – and because IFP was a unique program model with the potential for large-scale global impact-- the alumni tracking study provides a rare opportunity in our field.”
The IIE tracking study is part of a comprehensive IFP Knowledge Management Project which includes the development of an IFP Global Archive housed at Columbia University Libraries. Beginning in 2017, the collection will be available to researchers worldwide and will include paper and digital archives, written and audio/visual documentation from the program’s International Partners, and comprehensive planning and administrative files demonstrating the IFP educational model.
Both the IFP alumni tracking study and the IFP Global Archive aim to provide researchers and practitioners with an in-depth look into the links between access to higher education, international development, and social change.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.