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The Globalization of Higher Education

Tomorrow's Academy

Message Number: 
637

In an important but generally overlooked development, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now proposing to regulate higher education as part of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as it would any other form of trade-by removing barriers to its traffic. The goal of GATS is gradual liberalization of the trade in services, which is likely to have a broad and troubling impact on the nature of higher education by affecting such issues as subsidization of higher education, quality assurance, financial aid for certain students, and the ability to gear teaching and research to local culture and needs.

Folks:

The posting below addresses some interesting factors influencing movement toward the globalization of higher education. It is from Chapter Two: The New Competition, in The Future of Higher Education: Rhetoric, Reality, and the Risks of the Market by Frank Newman, Lara Couturier, & Jamie Scurry. Copyright © 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Imprint

989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 [www.josseybass.com].

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Who Has the Lowest Prices?

Tomorrow's Academia

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THE GLOBALIZATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Recently a new phenomenon has emerged: the globalization of higher education (see, for example, Green, Eckel, and Barblan, 2002; Altbach, 2003). We mean here the emergence of global rather than international institutions. International institutions have foreign students enrolled; their domestic students often spend some time studying abroad. Similarly, faculty come from other countries to study, teach, or do research, and the home institution faculty frequently go abroad. All of these activities have become routine for the best-known universities in the United States and increasingly so for all types of institutions, including American community colleges. It is common in other countries as well. In Canada, for example, 84 percent of universities report that "internationalization" is included in their institutional strategies (Green, Eckel, and Barblan, 2002). The British have stepped up their efforts at attracting more international students, with an increase of almos!

t 20 percent in 2002 compared to 2001, becoming a formidable rival to the United States. The number of American students accepted into undergraduate programs in Britain rose by 17 percent in 2002 (Galbraith, 2003).

Global institutions, on the other hand, conduct operations (educate students, do research, generate revenue) in multiple countries. This may be accomplished by establishing campuses (for instance, Monash University in Malaysia and South Africa), by creating learning centers (the British Open University throughout Europe and in more than thirty non-European Union countries), of forming alliances with local institutions (as with the Singapore-MIT Alliance; "Global Development," 2003). Any virtual (online) program is by its nature global, and a number of global online consortia are popping up as well (such as Cardean University and Universitas 21). Technology makes content delivery increasingly a global enterprise. What is appearing more and more are mixtures-programs that use intense short trips to the home university campus or to nearby learning centers to supplement a base of virtual course work. Several business schools have begun to offer executive education this way !

(Duke University, for example). Australian universities with strong financial support from their government are using all of these methods, in one way or another, to create a higher education presence across Asia that generates a sizable balance of trade.

American academics tend to believe the globalization of higher education presents only opportunity, not risk. To date, the total enrollment in global academic programs is still small. Far more programs are under discussion than under way. What is important to recognize is that the barriers to global higher education enterprises are falling, and the trend is up. Beyond this, the conditions favoring more intense competition from the universities of other countries are growing.

In an important but generally overlooked development, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now proposing to regulate higher education as part of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as it would any other form of trade-by removing barriers to its traffic. The goal of GATS is gradual liberalization of the trade in services, which is likely to have a broad and troubling impact on the nature of higher education by affecting such issues as subsidization of higher education, quality assurance, financial aid for certain students, and the ability to gear teaching and research to local culture and needs (GATS-Fact and Fiction, 2002). The U.S. delegation has already proposed inclusion of for-profit higher education and all testing materials and services, and it has announced that it expects soon to propose inclusion of all of higher education, despite the fact that there has been almost no debate within the academy about the impact of this on higher education. This f!

orm of rapid and potentially harmful globalization is an example of how higher education is drifting into a market-oriented system without adequate debate and planning-here and abroad.

An advance look at how some aspects of globalization may affect the way higher education functions can be seen in the workings of the European Union, the one place where a great deal of planning has taken place. The development of the Common Market led to a strong interest in facilitating the movement of professionals across country borders. This has led in turn to a joint effort to increase the number of students from other Common Market countries at each EU university, with a target of 10 percent of total enrollment. To help reach this target, the European Union created a range of programs that encouraged and subsidized such "study abroad." One of them, the Erasmus Program, uses financial aid and promotes collaboration between universities to encourage mobility of students and faculty members. Since its establishment, more than one million people have taken advantage of the opportunities it offers, with some twenty-five hundred universities from twenty-nine European co!

untries involved.

In time, it became evident to the Europeans that more than access was involved-that Europe needed to compete for the best students, many of whom head to the United States or Britain. Among other concerns, the Europeans felt they needed to reduce the confusion over different types of degrees (and the unwillingness of universities to accept each other's degrees) and to improve the attractiveness of their universities. In 1999, in Bologna, a European Higher Education Area was formed. Among other steps, the Bologna Accord called for standardization on a three-year bachelor's degree and a two-year master's by 2010. (The Netherlands, Italy, and Spain have already begun implementing the change.) A new quality agency, the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, has been established to ensure standards. The Europeans also moved to teach some programs in English, which is fast becoming the international language of business. Thirty percent of universities in!

continental Europe-even some French universities-now offer programs in English, almost all of which were established since 1990 (Rocca, 2003). Recruitment, advertising, and marketing campaigns have been launched. Frans Zwarts, the rector of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, summed up this activity: "Traditionally, European educational systems focused on accessibility. Now they are realizing that they have to compete for top talent on a global level" (Riding, 2003). The EU has also established a substantial fund (about $20 billion yearly) for the support of European research (a sum roughly comparable to the U.S. investment in university research). In meeting after meeting, the Futures Project has heard the determination of European leaders, political and academic, to compete with the United States. Unnoticed by most American academics, this country has been surpassed on a number of educational measures. OECD comparisons rank the United States tenth for !

high school graduation, thirteenth for entry rate to a four-year (bacc

alaureate) education, and tenth for entry to a two-year (associate's) education (Mortenson, 2003).

Given the right circumstances, societies can gain from the entry of global higher education institutions are set in their ways and outmoded in their approach, new institutions are bringing a breath of fresh air, pushing the older institutions to new action. In many settings, new institutions are needed to keep up with demand. The number of tertiary students worldwide doubled in size in just twenty years, growing from 40.3 million students in 1975 to 80.5 million students in 1995, and the growth is continuing (Task Force on Higher Education and Society, 2000). Where existing access and funding is limited, new institutions from abroad are expanding opportunity. New institutions may also bring needed diversity to the type of experience available to students. For example, programs taught in English are permitting students broad access to the global workplace and the worldwide network of academia.

At the same time, there are dangers. Cross-border initiatives are subject to the vagaries of political changes, as MIT recently learned when its collaboration with India's information technology ministry, called Media Lab Asia, fell apart after the appointment of a new minister (Rai, 2003). A foreign institution may be insensitive to the local culture and students' needs. Criticism has already arisen that the quality of some overseas programs is less than that at the home campus and that universities from developed countries have not focused on local concerns in developing nations. The use of English raises for some people questions about cultural imperialism and homogenization. Developing countries would surely be ill-served if universities from the outside replaced local universities rather than supplementing them.

There are other profound changes in progress that deserve greater attention. One is the aggressive growth of for-profit global institutions. For example, the parent corporation of the University of Phoenix has begun operations in Brazil, Mexico, India, and the Netherlands and is eyeing several other countries (Jorge Klor de Alva, personal communication, Mar. 2004). Sylvan Learning has been acquiring small private universities (the eighth was just announced) around the world (Blumenstyk, 2003). The goal is to build a worldwide network that shares curricular materials and other resources. If, over the next decade, a global higher education sector led by for-profit institutions emerges, what are the concerns for the public purposes of higher education?