Seeking new insights on the ‘Evolving Regulatory Context for Private Education in Emerging Economies’

Discourses on private higher education, and the role of private higher education in spurring on the globalization of higher education process, are emerging in a variety of contexts: informal discussions, classrooms, workshops and conferences, publications, protests, websites, and structured and unstructured policy dialogues.

GlobalHigherEd
is designed to help shed light on where thinking about the construction of new knowledge spaces takes place, and when possible what the content of such thinking is.

ifcbrochureOn the former role, it is worth noting that there are some ongoing on-line deliberations between now and 14 November about the “Evolving Regulatory Context for Private Education in Emerging Economies”. The deliberations are being sponsored by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and more specifically the IFC’s EdInvest. The IFC is an institution that is part of the World Bank Group. Our brief entry in October (‘”Frontier markets”, the International Finance Corporation, and development’) explains a little more about the IFC, and provides a variety of links to this increasingly important global higher ed institution.

An introduction to the forum can be found here. The general discussion thread can be accessed by following the link along the right margin to Private Education Forum, or by following this link.

Key questions in the discussion include, according to the IFC:

Week 1 – November 3 to 7: What are the major challenges in regulating private education and how might they be overcome?

Week 2 – November 10 to 14: Should government involve private providers in policy and decision making relating to the role of the private sector? If so, what are the most effective mechanisms for doing this? If not, why not?

The online discussion that is underway now is an outcome of an earlier (May 2008) international conference that was attended by a small group of government representatives, accreditation officials, private providers, and World Bank Group officials. According to Svava Bjarnason, Senior Education Specialist of the IFC, the purpose of the May event was to:

begin a dialogue between the various players concerning how the regulatory context is evolving in relation to private sector providers. At the close of that event we agreed to continue the dialogue and to host an online discussion to engage the wider community in the debate.

This two week long dialogue is underway until 14 November so check it out now if you want to contribute.

Apart from the content, it is worth noting that this IFC-sponsored event, like the broader (more ‘open’) national policy dialogues that have been occurring in Australia and the UK (see our entry ‘Higher education policy-making, stake-holder democracy and the economics of attention’), is an experiment in the use of digital technology to facilitate (it is hoped) debate, innovative thinking, and new insights.  Yet as we noted in our previous entry:

new technologies operate within an ‘economy of attention’ – a point well made by Richard Latham in his influential 2006 book The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information.

Now the essential point Latham is making is that we live in an information economy, and information is not in short supply. In fact, argues Latham, we are “drowning in it”. What is in short supply is ‘attention’! To grab attention, we need stylistic devices and strategies so that what Latham calls ‘stuff’—like debating the future directions for higher education—moves from the periphery to the center of attention.

Thus the IFC’s on-line discussion is worth tuning into and contributing to for obvious content-specific reasons, while the nature of the forum (on-line, open, two weeks long) can also be assessed as a vehicle to enable geographically dispersed voices to engage. The IFC’s hope is, we are guessing, that the discussion enables the generation of some new insights on a topic (the “Evolving Regulatory Context for Private Education in Emerging Economies”) that clearly needs to be thought about, and with considerable care and attention.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

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