Innovation in Higher Education: Three Sites in Haiti

Recent decades have brought seismic changes to global higher education. Educational leaders labour to sharpen administration, funding, teaching and learning practices in response to an increasingly globalized and technological world. The possibilities that this changing landscape may provide are perhaps most exciting for those currently economically disadvantaged and historically underserved by higher education. The advent of a knowledge economy and the need to train hundreds and thousands of new students paired with technological developments may help correct inequalities in access and excellence in education. This study asks the question: What, however, is the lived reality on the ground? Are university faculty and administrators in historically underserved communities finding new and exciting paths forward? Or, are these educational leaders feeling entrenched and forced to well-worn paths of disempowerment? This study leverages cross-disciplinary conversations with innovation research to critically analyze these, and other, questions. Deploying a multi-site case study in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, this study gathers evidence from documents and semi-structured interviews with nine leaders in higher education across three institutions. The findings of this study indicate that innovation can take and is taking place in higher education systems in the developing world. Though structural inequalities remain, educational leaders in Haiti are working to realize perceived opportunities to define the “good” of education both privately and publicly; leverage international support; encourage students (and graduates) to stay in the country; increase student support services, and secure validity while relying on local expertise. These findings help detail a picture of global higher education and a historically marginalized community.