Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services: A Handbook

by Birgit Schreiber, Roger B. Ludeman, Chris R. Glass, and Gerardo Blanco

This comprehensive handbook provides an invaluable overview of the foundations, issues, and best practices in student affairs and services (SAS) in higher education institutions worldwide.

About the Book

As student demographics become increasingly diverse, the role of SAS in supporting student success and advancing societal goals is more vital than ever. This authoritative handbook examines the global context in which SAS operates and highlights how it aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Inside, you’ll find:

  • An exploration of relevant educational and student development theories that inform SAS practices internationally
  • In-depth profiles of over 30 key functions of SAS, such as academic advising, career services, governance, recreation, and more
  • Real-world examples of SAS programs and services from countries and regions around the globe
  • Insights from expert contributors connected to the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS)

Whether you are an aspiring or current SAS practitioner, this indispensable guide offers valuable perspectives into how SAS professionals worldwide enhance the student experience, promote inclusion and equity, and drive institutional success.

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Higher Education
Executive Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Higher Education

Book Description

Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services provides a comprehensive overview of the foundations, issues, and best practices in student affairs and services (SAS) in higher education worldwide. As student populations become increasingly diverse, the role of SAS in supporting student success and advancing societal goals is more vital than ever.

This handbook examines the global context in which SAS operates and highlights how it aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It explores relevant educational and student development theories that inform SAS practices internationally. The handbook profiles over 30 key functions of SAS, such as academic advising, career services, student governance, and recreation. Each functional area is described in depth with examples from various countries and regions to illustrate the diversity of approaches globally.

Whether you are an aspiring or current SAS practitioner, this handbook offers valuable insights into how SAS professionals worldwide enhance the student experience, promote inclusion and equity, and drive institutional success. The book emphasizes that while specific programs and services may differ across borders, SAS is united by common principles and a commitment to student learning and development. This handbook is essential reading for anyone interested in the multifaceted nature of student affairs and services and its vital role in contemporary higher education.

Get Your Copy

Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services is available for free download and print versions will be available for purchase later this fall.

Recommended Citation:

Schreiber, B., Ludeman, R. B., Glass, C. R., & Blanco, G. (2023). Global perspectives on student affairs and services: A handbook. Center for International Higher Education.

For Higher Education Institutions

Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services is an essential resource for any institution seeking to offer students an equitable, empowering education journey and experience. This handbook provides higher education institutions with practical guidance and insights to:

  • Create comprehensive student affairs and services aligned with your academic mission and goals
  • Adopt evidence-based practices to enhance student learning, development, and success
  • Improve access, engagement, retention, and graduation rates for all students
  • Prepare graduates to be responsible global citizens and contributors to society
  • Align efforts with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
For Student Affairs Professionals

Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services is the definitive guide for reflective student affairs professionals looking to enhance their work and its impact. This handbook delivers key knowledge and promising practices to help you:

  • Conceptualize, structure, and manage high-impact student support programs and services
  • Apply relevant student development theories and contemporary research in your work
  • Collaborate across disciplines to create a cohesive student experience
  • Evaluate and continuously improve student services using data and assessment
  • Champion social justice, diversity, inclusion, and student empowerment on campus
For Researchers and Scholars

Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services is an invaluable resource to broaden and strengthen the scholarship on this vital field. This handbook provides researchers and scholars with:

  • An extensive framework encompassing the foundations, issues, and practices of student affairs globally
  • Insights from authors representing over 60 countries to contextualize research
  • Contemporary, interdisciplinary perspectives to shape leading-edge inquiry
  • Opportunities to participate in advancing scholarship on student learning and success
  • Ways to apply research to promote social justice and equity in higher education

Video Interview with Birgit Schreiber

Of all the different models of student affairs the book explores across the world, could you share the example that surprised or fascinated you the most? What made this case so intriguing?

That’s a great question. We explore in the book the structures, shapes, sizes, purpose, and various different models based on theory-driven models, needs-driven models, and utilitarian models for student affairs. So, student affairs, as you say, just looks very different in different places.

For instance, an institution that is a research-driven institution and is informed by doing research and innovation, the SAS looks different there too. Then to an institution that is embedded in an environment where we have economic and social challenges or where we want to massify, again, SAS is different there too.

A few examples for me that stood out; I’m not sure if it’s the most intriguing, but a few that I thought I’d mention is, for instance, Botswana. Botswana is located in the southern parts of Africa and is rich in mines and earth minerals. And, student affairs and higher education, until about 8 or 10 years ago, was aligned and was reporting to the Department of Labor.

So, they were focusing on producing a workforce. Of course, the student affairs and that in, in those institutions aimed to advise careers that were linked to the mines and they got funding from mines to advise students to study the sciences, to do all kinds of things related to mining. It was linked to the labor effort in that country.

It’s changed since then. But it was really interesting to see that student affairs was aligned to the labor output, to the labor force. And higher education understood itself as delivering towards producing labour, a labour force.

The other interesting case I think that’s quite different is China.

China, about 10 or 15 years ago, wanted to have a very broad student advising cohort and developed very quickly hundreds and hundreds of student advisors. And because they were located in a particular political climate their focus is citizen development. And, of course, that citizen development was aligned to political realities.

And so when one looks at the efforts in China, they were really different to the efforts in Botswana and not just the programming, but of course the structure as well.

Now coming to the structure where I think it’s really what stands out for me. One of the good examples there is in Germany, you have in Germany, what they call Studentenwerk, which is an administrative function that augments and bolsters that what the state supplies.

So the state is a social welfare state, it’s a very caring state. And it’s a state that cares for children, adolescents, and students and then adults and so forth and the aged. It’s a caring state that provides a huge amount of functions and services to everyone. And so student affairs in Germany is really one aspect of that lifelong caring state function. Student affairs is aligned with the federal and with the state’s functions and services. Now the other thing that I thought was interesting in the book, we’re looking somewhere at entrepreneurship. And if you look at countries that rely a lot on entrepreneurship and that have recently seen a surge of entrepreneurship efforts, for instance Morocco in north Africa, the United Arab Emirates,  Indonesia there is a lot of efforts in student affairs to educate students towards entrepreneurship.

They do a lot of work around lateral thinking, around innovation, around how to start small businesses, leadership in business environments, small medium business environments, and so forth. These examples just illustrate how the context within which student affairs is functioning shapes SAS.

The book argues there are certain universal principles that should shape student affairs, like equity and social justice. Could you tell us about a creative program you came across that brought those values to life in a locally attuned way?

There are many of those, and you’re quite right, we in SAS explicitly align ourselves with human rights, equity, and social justice. We use the global SDGs as our guiding framework. It’s an ambitious social justice framework for the globe, and all countries have signed up to that, so that’s our point of departure.

A good example are efforts around gender-based violence or gender justice programs. These take on different forms and in different spaces, taking into account local culture and social norms and so on. For instance, in countries where genders are studying separately, where they go to separate classes, we have countries where men and women attend different classes at different times, so your gender work would look very different.

Then in countries where there’s freedom of expression and people are free to express, on a continuum, their gender choices, gender work looks different. And so the social-cultural climate informs your programming.

Institutions often have competing interests when it comes to student affairs. Could you walk us through a memorable example you observed of this tension playing out, for better or worse?

One example I thought about, and we discuss it in the book as well, is sport. So if, for instance, sport is used as a marketing tool, as a tool to make an institution attractive, that is one way of using sport. But a lot of student affairs divisions use sport as a development avenue.

So sport can be a development tool. If we use sport as if it’s positioned with marketing, then it’s about satisfaction, it’s about excelling, it’s about attracting the best players, it’s about positioning the institution as a very high achieving in sports codes or whatever it might be.

Then, that is one way of how student affairs would be pulled into that division. Whereas, if we have sports as a development tool. Then, we would aim to have diverse teams. Then it wouldn’t matter so much if sports does well because then sports are used as a development tool for diversity, for communication, for resolving difficulties, for all kinds of learning aspects in student affairs. Sports, then, is the avenue for development and achievement in a broader sense.

The example I could make is one of Bristol University in the UK. Bristol focuses on injustices, focuses on areas where social justice is not manifesting, where students have problems, where students have difficulties, and Bristol is very clear and very honest about its approach to caring for and counselling students. And it’s very open about social problems, about racism, about gender imbalances, power imbalances and so forth. And it is using student affairs to address these issues, and it’s very vocal about that and displays itself very clearly. So that is where Bristol is using a different approach to, let’s say, when student affairs is used as a marketing tool.

If you could design the ideal student affairs program, what are some real-world examples that have inspired your vision for the optimal services and ethos?

Of course, this is a blue sky exercise, a great blue sky question, and I love it, what would we do if we had the perfect student affairs division? And I think we would start with a context. We would say what kind of context are students coming from and going to? And, we would want to have a context that is functional, safe, and inclusive, where students feel they belong, they’re empowered, there is equality, and social welfare for everyone. Kids, learners, students, adults, and so forth. And so we’d have an environment that is caring. So that would be the ideal. So now we don’t have that. So what is the best model?

We would want to look at an ecosystem of student affairs. We would want to design a program or design a student affairs structure and model that ticks boxes from a number of lenses. So, we would want to have one that has support from entry to exit (longitudinal). We would want to have a program that has support from the inside out, focusing on the person, peers, social, and context (ecosystemic and social).

And, we would want to have an environment that gives our students a feeling of belonging, being included. That they are valued and that they can participate, that they belong. And we would hope that they would want to recreate that feeling and context again later in life. So that’s the kind of ideal student affairs model I would want to design.

While professionalization of student affairs is important, what risks come with over-standardization? Are there downsides the field should be mindful of?

That’s a great question. When we professionalize, one of the risks could be that we communicate to an institution that some people are professional carers (and others are not). Some design caring policies and systems, and care programs, and they think intentionally about the environment. They think about programming for students – and others perhaps are let off the hook, and they don’t need to think about student and staff wellness and whether students feel that they are included and belong.

Again, coming to the ecosystem of student affairs, we want everyone to think about students and to include students. So if everybody thinks about that, if we make it everyone’s business that we create an institution and context that cares, then we are OK. When we professionalize, we may give the message that only some of us are charged with that work, and others are let off the hook and don’t need to do this.

The second thing is that perhaps when we professionalize, and that’s one of the risks that are going on at the moment perhaps, is that there’s a risk of focusing on and being seduced by existing knowledge sets.

So, as the global and the generic becomes more accessible and affordable, we’re seduced into using these professionalization models, and it mutes our own experience, our own lived experiences in local contexts. The existing professionalization programs take over and dominate, and local efforts are devalued.

The local needs to be asserted or needs to assert itself so that we don’t live in these two worlds, which, on the one hand, is the here and the now (our lived experience) versus the cerebral and the imagined and the generic and the far away (hegemonic, generic, online, global). Professionalization models need to take that into account. I think professionalization models need to be very careful to make their programs locally relevant.

So local needs need to prevail and need to find a voice despite there being a hegemony of professionalization programs that exist in the world.

One more thing I want to say about professionalization is also that Student Affairs in America is very professionalized, and we have a lot of research and a lot of disciplinary knowledge that comes from there, which is so very helpful. In other parts of the world, student affairs lives in what we call the third space, which is across boundaries, multidisciplinary, characterized by ambiguity and hybridity, and there’s been a bunch of people Celia Whitchurch, Bernstein, Behari-Leak, and Bhabha who speak about the third space, the third domain in Higher Education.

So student affairs is wedged in between management and the academics, somewhere in between there. And so it’s very important that we do professionalize this space, that we give it value and transparency and accountability. Otherwise, the space floats in between the formal management and the formal academics, and it finds itself wedged in between without a clear outcome.

So I would argue very much for professionalization with a local locally relevant model.

The book discusses student affairs supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Could you share a creative example you saw of a program aligning with the SDGs locally?

The book is full of examples of the SDGs, and we know from some of the research we’ve done that there are some SDGs that have a broader expression in student affairs. Green initiatives, hunger initiatives, equality, and gender initiatives. So those have a lot of focus, and the student affairs focuses a lot on those goals. What I think the book says also though, is that when we think about the SDGs, there’s a number of things we need to do.

We need to live the values. We must practice and model the values. We must, ourselves, actively live these values in our systems and processes in student affairs. On the one hand, we have SDGs as a focus program, so programs focus on the SDGs. But secondly, the SDGs should be infused in all our programs, whether those are programming for advising or career choices, or gender programs, whatever it might be.

SDGs need to be infused into these. And the third is that we need to live and model the SDGs to our students. We source green; we live diversity; we live human rights for our students so they see this is what a world looks like when the SDGs manifest.

So, as you say, Student Affairs goals include improving retention and success, and that is one of the SDGs (SDG4), and we are aligned very firmly with that. We enhance student learning and development and we empower them to become agents of social justice themselves, and transform the world that they go into so they become agents of social justice.

Finally, you make the case that student affairs could transform higher education globally. For those seeking to realize this vision responsibly, what guidance would you offer professionals?

I think that’s a powerful part of how we then change the world through our students. We help students become citizens of the world and promote social justice. They become social justice agents, and they live those values. But we also create a context and a life where students can feel included and feel that they belong and that they can participate. And if they have this experience in our environments at our institutions, then they will seek to recreate this for themselves and others in the world of work, or in their families, or in their adult lives, wherever they go. So I think that is a powerful way of how we can help transform the world.

Search the Book

Learn about global student affairs by asking questions about a country or functional area covered in the book.

Praise for the Book

“This unique and important book provides both theoretical perspectives and practical examples of good practice in student affairs. The book has been designed to support practitioners, scholars, and policymakers in higher education across the globe to learn from and with each other. The 42 chapters highlight the diverse functions of those who do the important work of supporting diverse students’ learning and development in different national and institutional contexts. This book will be useful in many different contexts, as a reference and a guide.” Betty Leask

“This work situates Student Affairs as a critical aspect of the diverse ecologies of intellectual practices that constitute transformative academic life globally, in a context where market cultures continue to marginalize the quality of student services. The scope of the book will resonate to diverse stakeholders interested in rejuvenating the very idea of a university by rescuing the institution from the imperatives of the market and centering students as critical levers of this process. The book is rich in terms of its geographical coverage and thematic and theoretical perspectives. It is an important resource for academics interested in deepening their research around student affairs, as well as institutional managers in search of what frameworks work in organizing students’ affairs as a critical part of the academic life of institutions.” – Ibrahim Oanda Ogachi, Council for the Development of Social Science Research In Africa

“Over the past two decades, the importance of Student Affairs and Services has grown rapidly, due to increasing internationalisation, diversity, and continued inequity in Higher Education across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic elevated student affairs’ role, especially as impactful solutions around student support were globally demanded. So this book comes at the right time, providing answers to global challenges which practitioners in SAS are faced with. It also offers the chance to deepen global collaboration and find global solutions. This book is an asset for teachers, faculty, policymakers, and students of student affairs across the globe.” – Achim Meyer auf der Heyde, Senatsdirektor (ret.), Deutsches Studentenwerk, DSW

“The objectives and functions of the Asia-Pacific Student Services Association (APSSA) are very much the same as other student affairs associations and services, namely, to enhance liaison and cooperation between its practitioners and professionals in the development of student affairs work and services, promote the welfare of students in tertiary education and enhance inter-cultural understanding and communication skills. Global Perspectives on Student Affairs and Services: A Handbook is a comprehensive resource for practitioners, professionals, and scholars working in student affairs and services to inform everything from global citizenship education to improving student outcomes and social justice. This handbook features evidence-based research and best practices from around the globe and reminds us of the importance of considering local and global contexts when designing and providing student affairs and support services and I commend it to you.” – Jonathan Munro, President Asia-Pacific Student Services Association