International Consortia of Universities and the Mission/Activities Question

Note: click here for a PDF of a printable version of this relatively long entry, which is also cross-posted on Inside Higher Ed.


On May 10th 2012 Universitas 21 heaved itself into the higher ed rankings world with “the first ranking of countries which are the ‘best’ at providing higher education.” As this international consortia of universities noted:

 The Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems has been developed to highlight the importance of creating a strong environment for higher education institutions to contribute to economic and cultural development, provide a high-quality experience for students and help institutions compete for overseas applicants.

A screen grab of the top 24 countries, on the basis of this assessment, is pasted in to the right, and you can download a 28 page PDF of the ranking report here. Two informative commentaries on this rankings initiative were produced over the last few days by Ellen Hazelkorn and Alex Usher.

Now, methodological questions aside, it is always worth asking the questions why has a ranking been produced, and how does the ranking fit into the sponsoring organization’s mission and modus operandi. As I’ve outlined here numerous times, many world university rankings are mechanisms to extract freely provided data from universities, which is then transformed into tables, graphics, analyses, websites, etc., that generate attention, advertising, and fuel for income-generating services provided by private firms like QS and Thomson Reuters.

But the Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems is different. First, they are not attempting to extract data from universities as their analysis is framed at the national scale.  Second, they primarily drew upon publicly available data to produce their rankings. And third, Universitas 21 is an international consortia of 23 universities (as at 2012), a rare if not lonely bird when it comes to rankings.

My guess, and this is just a guess, is that Universitas 21 is reworking its mission, and the associated suite of objectives and activities to implement this mission.  I used to work as a faculty member at the National University of Singapore (a founding member of Universitas 21) and in the early 2000s discussions of rankings were nowhere to be seen in Universitas 21-linked meetings; it was all about human mobility, nascent discussions of generating revenue via online learning, and ways to encourage collaborative research. The sanctioning of a new ranking, taken at the May 2011 President’s Meeting of Universitas 21, highlights that it is indeed a new activity; one well suited for the ‘attention economy‘ we are situated in.

While I won’t comment here on the value of the Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems, or of the emergence of yet another higher ed ranking, I do think it is a timely reminder of the value of rethinking the missions and activities of international consortia (sometimes deemed networks) of universities.  As Heike Jöns and Michael Hoyler have pointed out in various talks, consortia like Universitas 21 and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the heyday of the boom era (remember that?!), a period when universities were exploring new mechanisms to competitively further their internationalization agendas (while simultaneously being seen to be doing so). Interestingly, several of them had early hopes to capitalize on the emergence of for-credit online education as a potential revenue stream.

Smaller, younger, and more exclusive than the national (e.g., Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada), regional (e.g., Association of African Universities), postcolonial/linguistic (e.g., Agence universitaire de la Francophonie; Association of Commonwealth Universities), and global (e.g., International Association of Universities) associations of universities, these international consortia/networks of universities were formed to bring together a group of peers (or almost peers) where some put forward a view that ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link.’ The logic was to bring together like-minded universities to engender deeper and more concentrated forms of collaboration that were impossible on a bilateral 1-1 basis as well as at larger national, regional, or global scales. These consortia, as originally envisioned, were not mechanisms for capacity building (e.g., on a North-South university to university basis); instead they were mechanisms to enable the carefully selected members to become more than the sum of their parts, so to speak.

It is safe to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that such international consortia of universities have had variable levels of success since their emergence in the 1990s and 2000s. Indeed Stephen Toope, the President of the University of British Columbia (UBC), had this to say in 2011:

Inviting the world in—from brilliant hiring to attracting the top international students—cannot of itself create the critical mass of talent that’s needed to solve fundamental global problems. We need partners. We must collaborate, not only with other universities but also with community groups, civil society organizations, industry, and government.

And yet, you might be thinking, we’ve built partnerships! We’ve formed networks! We’ve been collaborating! Yes, and I would argue that so far, none of the university networks that arose at the turn of this century has fulfilled its promise. Truly successful networks typically arise in an organic fashion, from the bottom up. We can’t direct this kind of growth hierarchically. But we can, I believe, foster the conditions in which it will happen naturally. [my emphasis]

A prompt, to be sure, that international consortia like Universitas 21 and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (both of which UBC belongs to) need to have their missions and associated mechanisms for implementation debated about, while member universities also need to consider what expectations can realistically be made of the consortia they participate in.

International consortia of universities are operating in new contexts, as well, since many of them were formed “at the turn of this century.” We see, for example:

  • A blossoming of international collaborative degrees, many fueled by the largesse of the European Commission, the emergence of the European Higher Education Area, and also the desire of universities in Pacific Asia, South Asia, and Latin America to partner up at North-South and South-South levels.
  • The creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to further easily accessible (and often free) lifelong learning opportunities. Completion of the courses sometimes includes the acquisition of a certificate versus a formal credit towards a degree. This model is a sharp contrast to the early online agenda of the international consortia formed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. See, for example, Coursera, Course Hero, edX, Khan Academy, MITx, OpenClass, Udacity, Udemy, many of which were established in 2011 and 2012.
  • The emergence of professional master degrees and “new credit programs that serve non-traditional student populations,” many of which are designed to generate retained revenue for intra-institutional units (departments and schools). These schemes, though, are often targeted at very national if not regional (e.g., state/province) audiences.
  • Austerity-related budgets in many national funding councils, which has reduced the opportunity to acquire healthy large-scale research support. In such a context, ‘hitching your wagon’ via an international consortia to other universities in relatively resource rich contexts is unlikely to generate significant, if any, gains.
  • The emergence of project-specific international consortia to develop both low and high profile experiments in higher education (e.g. Applied Sciences NYC, est 2012; Center for Urban Science and Progress, est 2012) as well as defacto consortia associated with buildings and programs in select cities (e.g., Singapore’s Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE)), or even universities (e.g., both Saudi Arabia’s KAUST and Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University were brought to life on the back of temporary international consortia of universities).
  • The emergence of institutionalized disciplinary-specific networks (e.g., Global Network for Advanced Management, est. 2012) and deep partnerships (e.g., the Wharton-INSEAD Alliance, est. 2001).
  • Deep partnerships that bring together 2-3 universities to facilitate enhanced coordination and integration of teaching, research and service functions (e.g., the Monash-Warwick Alliance, est. 2012).
  • The establishment of intra-national networks or associations of universities that act as explicit or defacto ‘entry points’ for relations with foreign universities, funding councils, scholarship agencies and the like (e.g. CALDO a consortium of the Universities of Alberta, Laval, Dalhousie and Ottawa).
  • An emerging debate about the nature and value system underlying dominant forms of internationalization, including a concern that internationalization is a process “bringing commodification, increasing the brain drain and potentially diminishing diversity in higher education” (see ‘Affirming Academic Values in Internationalization of Higher Education: A Call for Action‘). This debate links into internal consortia discussions (that go back to Day 1, really) about the tensions between a member-only peer-to-peer approach vs the idea of more inclusive and diverse institutional membership structures, with more heterogeneous global geographies.

This is an interesting time for international consortia of universities. The consortia structure brings with it strengths and weaknesses.  For example, it is large enough to enable the drawing in of complementary resources, people, skill sets, networks, etc.  The scale of these consortia and the emphasis on peer-based membership structures also facilitates collaborative action on a number of levels. However, international consortia are also too large, in some ways, to facilitate rapid responses to opportunities. There is also a sense of equality in peer-based membership structures and this can preclude deeper partnerships between 2-3 members of a larger consortia. Add in the challenge of how to engender international research collaboration, as alluded to by Stephen Toope above, where you try to “foster the conditions in which it will happen naturally,” international teaching collaboration, and the collective provision of some forms of infrastructure, and you begin to see a rather complicated array of forces, dynamics, and actors to manage: all more reason for regular and open critical engagement about the purpose and value-added of international consortia and associations.

To facilitate further discussions about the mission/activities question, I have pasted in (see below) the missions of the international consortia, networks, and associations that I know of.  I’ve listed this information in reverse chronological order, in part to see what the newest consortia, networks and associations have decided to focus upon.  If you know of any others that I have missed, please email me <> and I’ll add them here. Please keep it in mind, though, that some of these missions are evolving as I write, and the websites I link to are variable in quality and how up-to-date they are.

Kris Olds

ps: my sincere thanks to a large number of people (too many to mention here) who provided very helpful leads and insights about this topic.


Mission Statements of International Associations, Consortia and Networks of Universities

Note: these are listed in reverse chronological order from date of formation. I’ve had to make a few editorial decisions about some text as there are varying understandings about what a ‘mission statement’ is. Link through to the organizations’ sites if you need information about associated objectives and activities. Please send any necessary updates or notifications about errors below to me at <>

University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) Est. 2011 | 3 members & 2 partners

The mission of the UGPN is to develop sustainable world-class research, education and knowledge transfer through an active international network of selected Universities collaborating in research, learning and teaching to benefit global society.

Matariki Network of Universities (MNU)  Est. 2010 | 7 members

The MNU has been established to enable the universities to enhance diversity, to share ideas and expertise, and to learn international best practice from each other, recognising the shared commitment to an ethos of excellence in research, scholarship and rounded education.

WC2 University Network Est. 2010 | 12 members

The WC2 University Network has been developed with the goal of bringing together top universities located in the heart of major world cities in order to address cultural, environmental and political issues of common interest to world cities and their universities.

By promoting closer interaction between universities, local government and business communities, WC2 will help to create a forum where universities can be more responsive to the needs of their stakeholders in the context of world cities.

Global Liberal Arts Alliance Est. 2009 | 25 Members

The Global Alliance is a multilateral partnership of equals intended to strengthen education in the liberal arts and sciences. Specifically, The Global Alliance’s strength derives from expertise and experience sharing, and its emphases on the challenges and opportunities facing institutions that educate graduates for citizenship and leadership in the highly-globalized twenty-first century.

Network of Networks (NNs)  Est. 2008 | 26 members

The Network of Networks (NNs) is the idea of comprehensive network linking existing networks of universities and research institutions, which enables cooperation that will more effectively utilize the respective strengths of its members. By increasing opportunities for high-level joint research projects and student exchanges among members of existing networks, the NNs aims to provide a framework for the development of a new, integrated base of scientific knowledge leading to solutions to complex global challenges.

International Research Universities Network (IRUN) Est. 2007 | 10 members

The International Research Universities Network (IRUN) is an international network of broad-based research universities. The universities participating in the Network are well known for the international quality of their research and education, and are strongly motivated to improve that quality even further.

The aim of IRUN is to further improve the quality of research and teaching at the universities involved. Within the Network, the exchange of researchers, lecturers and students will be encouraged and facilitated.

International Forum of Public Universities (IFPU) Est. 2007 | 21 members

On October 11th, 2007, a new International Forum of Public Universities (IFPU) was created. Limited to some twenty-five establishments, the Forum brings together public universities covering a vast array of contemporary knowledge, establishments that are recognized within their country for the importance they afford to research and their close ties to the development of society. The founding universities members are from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and North America. The office of the general secretariat of the Forum is located at Université de Montréal.

The IFPU answers a need that is not being met by any existing university group. The Forum promotes the expression of values that underlie the mission of public universities in an era of internationalization. The Forum will assist in the creation of new models of cooperation in education, teaching and research. According to common themes reflecting the issues faced by public universities, the Forum will promote education and research actions between establishments by calling upon the professor-researchers of member establishments and their post-graduate students. Some twenty highly reputed public universities from four continents teaming up in the discovery and transmission of new knowledge is certainly timely responsible.

International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) Est. 2006 | 10 members

IARU members are leading research universities that share a global vision, similar values and a commitment to educating future world leaders.  On 14 January 2006, IARU members signed a memorandum of understanding to engage in various activities including summer internships, research collaborations, benchmarking best practices, and identifying shared or common positions on key public issues.  As the Alliance is small in nature, the members share a close-knit relationship.

Talloires Network  Est. 2005 | 236 members

The Talloires Network is an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. We work together to implement the recommendations of the Talloires Declaration and build a global movement of engaged universities.

Note: in 2010 the Asia-Talloires Network of Industry and Community Engaged Universities (ATNEU) was established with the aim of bringing “together key regional stakeholders from universities, industries, NGOs, communities, and governments to catalyze sustainable partnerships that identify and address the social, economic and environmental challenges and ultimately improve the quality of life for communities in the region.”

Global U8 Consortium  Est. 2003 | 7 members

Globalization of research and education activities requires that higher education itself becomes a global knowledge-based enterprise, seeking to build bridges across boundaries of diverse cultures and academic disciplines. Universities must ally with one another to create innovative research and educational advantages.

The Global U8 Consortium is an alliance of universities from around the world whose objective is a dynamic and distinctive collaboration, building innovative curricula and research programs. The GU8 Consortium focuses principally
on four related academic disciplines: Marine Affairs, Global Logistics, Business Administration, and Advanced Technologies. All GU8 members strive to advance worldwide knowledge in these areas of common expertise. We pursue excellence, focus on sustainability and responsible leadership, and impart these values through our students, researchers and partners.

Academic Consortium 21 (AC21)  Est. 2002 | 20 members

The vision of AC21 is the promoting of cooperation in education and research between members, the bridging between different societies in the world and the delivering of wisdom to all people to mutually understand and share values, knowledge and cultures necessary to improve quality of life and to foster co-existence beyond national and regional boundaries in the 21st century.

Alliance Program Est. 2002 | 4 members

Created in the fall 2002, the Alliance Program is a non-profit transatlantic joint-venture between Columbia University and three French prestigious institutions, The École Polytechnique, Sciences Po and the Université of Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne. Alliance is an innovative program whose aim is to initiate and accompany new initiatives in the fields of education cooperation, research collaboration, and policy outreach.

League of European Research Universities (LERU)  Est. 2002 | 20 members

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) was founded in 2002 as an association of research-intensive universities sharing the values of high-quality teaching in an environment of internationally competitive research.

LERU is committed to:

  • education through an awareness of the frontiers of human understanding;
  • the creation of new knowledge through basic research, which is the ultimate source of innovation in society;
  • the promotion of research across a broad front, which creates a unique capacity to reconfigure activities in response to new opportunities and problems.

The purpose of the League is to advocate these values, to influence policy in Europe and to develop best practice through mutual exchange of experience.

European University Association (EUA) Est. 2001 | 850 members

As a centre of expertise in higher education and research, EUA supports universities by:

  • Promoting policies to enable universities and other higher education institutions to respond to growing expectations regarding their contribution to the future development of a knowledge society for Europe
  • Advocating these policies to decision makers at different levels and ensuring that the voice of universities is heard
  • Informing members of policy debates which will impact on their development
  • Developing its knowledge and expertise through projects that involve and benefit individual institutions while also underpinning policy development
  • Strengthening the governance, leadership and management of institutions through a range of activities targeted at mutual learning, exchange of experience and the transfer of best practices
  • Developing partnerships in higher education and research between Europe and the rest of the word in order to strengthen the position of European universities in a global context.

Worldwide Universities Network (WUN)  Est. 2000 | 19 members

The Worldwide Universities Network comprises 19 research-intensive institutions spanning 6 continents. Our mission is to be one of the leading international Higher Education networks, collaborating to accelerate the creation of knowledge and to develop leaders who will be prepared to address the significant challenges, and opportunities, of our rapidly changing world.

Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) – International Consortium Est. 2000 | 6 members

The Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) – International Consortium is based at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California Berkeley and includes a selective group of top ranked international research universities who share the following objectives:

  • Develop and administrator an on-line, census, and customized version of the SERU survey of first-degree students for international research universities, parallel to the SERU Surveys in the US.
  • Conduct research on the student experience, sharing best practices via SERU meetings, symposiums, and joint-research projects intended to inform and drive institutional self-improvement in undergraduate education and broaden our understanding of the socioeconomic impact of these institutions.
  • Collaborate with SERU-AAU Consortium members in the generation and sharing of institutional, comparative, and longitudinal data on the student experience, including SERU surveys of students, and based on agreed data sharing protocols.

Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi)  Est. 1999 | 214 members

At the beginning of this century there was a strong need to establish new bases for a sustainable global society, taking into account environmental limits, re-examining the dynamics of global economic, political, human, social and cultural models, as well as their local manifestations. In fact we are currently experiencing a crisis of civilization, in which we must facilitate the transition towards a paradigm shift aimed at rebuilding society, with the collective desire and responsibility of attaining a better world for future generations.

This is significant enough to warrant a discussion on what the role of higher education and its social contract should be in this new era, to reinvent an innovative and socially committed response that anticipates and adds value to the process of social transformations. These changes are mostly related to the review of the educative purpose, the role of knowledge in society to address major global issues, local needs in a global context and the need to prepare people to be global actors of positive transformation of societies.

This requires reconsidering what the social contribution of higher education should be. GUNi encourages higher education institutions to redefine their role, embrace this process of transformation and strengthen their critical stance within society.

To face these challenges, the mission of GUNi is to strengthen higher education’s role in society and contributing to the renewal of the visions, missions and policies of higher education’s main issues across the world under a vision of public service, relevance and social responsibility.

IDEA League  Est. 1999 | 5 members

The IDEA League, founded in 1999, is a network of five leading universities of technology and science. Our joint activities in education, research and quality assurance, as well as our joint participation in EU programmes and initiatives make us a model of European cooperation. Together, we create added value by pooling resources for collaborative and complementary programmes for our students, researchers and staff.

Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA)  Est. 1999 | 43 members

To achieve its aims UNICA articulates the views of member universities to European institutions and to national, regional and municipal governments. It provides members with information on European initiatives and programmes, and supports them in co-operative projects. It also provides a forum in which universities can reflect on the demands of strategic change in university research, education and administration.

Association of Arab & European Universities (AEUA)  Est. 1998 | 67 members

The Association of Arab and European Universities (AEUA) was initiated in 1998 by the Lutfia Rabbani Foundation in The Netherlands. Its prime objective is to facilitate and to stimulate collaboration between universities in European and Arab countries at an institutional, departmental and faculty level. Ultimate goal is to develop human resources and promote understanding between cultures and exchanges between the civil societies involved.

Universitas 21  Est. 1997 | 23 members

The leading global network of research-intensive universities, working together to foster global citizenship and institutional innovation through research-inspired teaching and learning, student mobility, connecting our students and staff, and wider advocacy for internationalisation.

Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU)  Est. 1997 | 42 members

APRU aims to promote scientific, educational and cultural collaboration among Pacific Rim economies. In both its objectives and guiding principles, APRU embodies a commitment to global academic and research standards.

APRU recognizes that its activities can be powerful catalysts for expanding educational, economic and technological cooperation among Pacific Rim economies. The association seeks to promote dialogue and collaboration between academic institutions in the Pacific Rim so that they can become effective players in today’s global knowledge economy.

Association of East Asian Research Universities (AEARU)  Est. 1996 | 17 members

The Association of East Asian Research Universities (AEARU) is a regional organization founded in January 1996, with the goals of forming a forum for the presidents of leading research-oriented universities in East Asia and of carrying out mutual exchanges between the major universities in the region. Expectations are that this regional union, on the basis of common academic and cultural backgrounds among the member universities, will contribute not only to the development of higher education and research but also to the opening up of a new era leading to cultural, economic and social progress in the East Asian region.

ASEAN University Network (AUN)  Est. 1995 | 26 members

The general objective of the AUN is to strengthen the existing network of cooperation among universities in ASEAN by promoting collaborative study and research programmes on the priority areas identified by ASEAN. The specific objective is to promote cooperation and solidarity among scientists and scholars in ASEAN Member Countries; to develop academic and human resources in the region; and to produce and transmit scientific and scholarly knowledge and information to achieve ASEAN goals.

Consortium for North American Higher Education (CONAHEC)  Est. 1994 | 162 members

The Consortium for North American Higher Education (CONAHEC)’s primary mission is to foster academic collaboration among institutions, organizations and agencies of higher education in Canada, Mexico and the United States. CONAHEC also promotes linkages between North America and higher education entities around the world.

Compostela Group of Universities (CGU)  Est. 1993 | 70 members

The Compostela Group of Universities (CGU) is a large, prominent, open and inclusive network of universities whose overarching goal is to facilitate and promote cooperation in the higher education sector. It achieves this by acting as a platform to foster and support projects among its members as well as by participating in activities as an entity in its own right.

Asociación de Universidades de América Latina y el Caribe para la Integración (AUALCPI)  Est. 1993 | 70 members

AUALCPI primary purpose is to promote cooperation between universities in the region with the aim of promoting the integration of the Commonwealth of Latin America and the Caribbean through collaborative activities and construction of a permanent space for discussion on integration and its relationship to education.

Santander Group (SG)  Est. 1992 | 34 members

The Santander Group is a European Universities Network comprising almost 40 members from 16 European countries cooperating closely to strengthen their individual potential as they strive for excellence in university governance, teaching and research approaches.

The Santander Group is based on mutual trust, understanding, and respect for cultural diversity, which makes the network an open forum for exchange of experience and best practices in the strategic areas for the higher education system in Europe such as quality assurance and academic mobility. Thus, the Network plays an essential role in realisation of the Bologna Process objectives.

The association also encourages contacts between universities and their surrounding communities on matters related to social and technological improvements, which makes it a reliable and strong partner for regional development.

Asociación de Universidades “Grupo Montevideo” (AUGM)  Est.  1991 | 27 Members

The Asociación de Universidades “Grupo Montevideo” (AUGM) is a network of public universities, autonomous and self-governing, of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is a civil non-governmental non-profit organization whose main purpose to promote the integration process via scientific, technological, educational and cultural cooperation between all its members.

European Association for University Lifelong Learning (EUCEN)  Est. 1991 | 222 members

To contribute to the economic and cultural life of Europe through the promotion and advancement of lifelong learning within higher education institutions in Europe and elsewhere;

To foster universities’ influence in the development of lifelong learning knowledge and policies throughout Europe.

Consortium Linking Universities of Science and Technology for Education and Research (CLUSTER)  Est. 1990 | 12 members

The VISION for CLUSTER is to become:

  • The leading university network in technology for Research, Education and Innovation in Europe
  • A central player in the development of Knowledge & Innovation Communities in Europe.
  • The prime partner for Industry cooperation at the European level

Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF)  Est. 1989 | 779 members

The Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) is one of the most important higher education and research associations in the world. The AUF has also been La Francophonie’s operating agency for higher education and research since 1989. This Francophone project aims to establish a French-language international academic community that produces and transmits knowledge.

Columbus Association (CA)  Est. 1987 | 47 members

Columbus is a non-profit organization, founded by the European University Association (EUA) and the Association of Latin American Universities (AULA). Since 1987, Columbus has promoted cooperation between universities in Europe and Latin America. Its consolidated network of higher education institutions and university administrations allows directors to identify and implement institutional strategies to respond to new challenges.

Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU)  Est. 1986 | 400+ members

To Champion Hispanic Success in Higher Education

HACU fulfills its mission by:

  • promoting the development of member colleges and universities;
  • improving access to and the quality of post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students; and
  • meeting the needs of business, industry and government through the development and sharing of resources, information and expertise.

Coimbra Group  Est. 1985 | 40 members

Founded in 1985 and formally constituted by Charter in 1987, the Coimbra Group is an association of long-established European comprehensive, multidisciplinary universities of high international standard committed to creating special academic and cultural ties in order to promote, for the benefit of its members, internationalization, academic collaboration, excellence in learning and research, and service to society. It is also the purpose of the Group to influence European education and research policy and to develop best practice through the mutual exchange of experience.

Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (IOHE)  Est. 1980 | 300+ members

Founded in 1980, the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (IOHE) was created to respond to the needs of developing international relations, improving the quality of information, and promoting academic collaboration among Higher Education Institutes (HEI) in the Americas. The IOHE is the only university organization that spans the entire continent of the Americas.

The IOHE is a not-for-profit organization whose objectives are primarily educational. This is achieved by: establishing collaboration among universities of the Americas; promoting understanding and mutual support; contributing to the sustainable development of the peoples of the Americas and respecting the free discussion of ideas.

Association of Arab Universities (AAU)  Est. 1969 | 270 members

Assisting and coordinating the efforts of Arab Universities to prepare capable persons who can serve their Arab communities and preserve its unified culture and civilization, as well as to assist in developing its natural resources.

Association of African Universities (AAU)  Est. 1967 | 270 members

The Association of African Universities is an international non governmental organization set up by universities in Africa to promote cooperation among themselves and between them and the international Academic community.

International Association of Universities (IAU)  Est. 1950 | 604 members & 27 member organizations

IAU: Building a Worldwide Higher Education Community.

IAU, founded in 1950, is the UNESCO-based worldwide association of higher education institutions. It brings together institutions and organisations from some 120 countries for reflection and action on common concerns and collaborates with various international, regional and national bodies active in higher education. Its services are available on the priority basis to Members but also to organisations, institutions and authorities concerned with higher education, as well as to individual policy and decision-makers, specialists, administrators, teachers, researchers and students.

The Association aims at giving expression to the obligation of universities and other higher education institutions as social institutions to promote, through teaching, research and services, the principles of freedom and justice, of human dignity and solidarity, and contributes, through international cooperation, to the development of material and moral assistance for the strengthening of higher education generally.

As stated in its Founding Charter IAU’s mission is based on the fundamental principles for which every university should stand:

  • The right to pursue knowledge for its own sake and to follow wherever the search for truth may lead;
  • The tolerance of divergent opinion and freedom from political interference.

Union de Universidades de America Latina y el Caribe  Est. 1949 | 177 members

Promoting regional integration, defending the autonomy of universities, boosting the quality and social relevance of higher education.

Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)  Est. 1913 | 500+ members

Working with our members to promote and contribute to the provision of excellent higher education for the benefit of all people throughout the Commonwealth.

Associations of universities and the deep internationalization agenda: beyond the status quo?

Do our associations of universities have the adequate capabilities, including infrastructures, to support the well-spring of ‘internationalization’ that is emerging in member universities in virtually all countries? On some levels yes, but on other levels perhaps not.

One of the interesting aspects of the enhanced significance of internationalization in the higher education and research world is to reflect upon who takes up the agenda, and what do they really do with it.  In a variety of contexts I’ve been hearing more and more dissatisfaction with the status quo regarding internationalization, which in most universities simply means more study abroad, more foreign students, more Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs). To be sure some universities have gone very far along these paths, but these are well worn paths, and arguably not reflective of the development and implementation of internationalization strategies that create new paths, new models, deep connections, and visible yet also successful ‘signature’ projects. They are also reflective of a centralization (import) logic, and an unease about unsettling existing ways of doing things (despite the assertive rhetoric).

There are signs this situation is changing, though, with the development of branch campuses, the establishment of a range of international collaborative degrees (an issue I’ll be writing about soon), regularized co-advising and co-teaching via the systemic provision of distance learning technology, the knitting together of institutional architectures via the creation of research units within other universities, and the like. Examples of these types of initiatives are thin on the ground for the most part, though.

Scaling up, associations of universities in many countries have also been building up their internationalization agenda. Typical activities include lobbying relevant authorities about policy matters (everything from immigration and visa matters through to GATS),  the coordination of capacity building programs and projects in other countries, and member university capacity building (usually via best practices sharing, fellowships, or secondments). Some associations also provide user-pay support services for members – a trend emerging in association with the ‘cost-recovery’ agenda.

For example, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in the United States works on this front via its Commission on International Programs which has “four Standing Committees: 1) International Exchange 2) International Development 3) Academic Affairs and 4) Federal, State Private Sector Relations.” Or take the case of the Midwestern  Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) which convenes regular meetings of “Senior International Officers” (usually deans, directors, vice-provosts), while also acting as a conduit for relationship building between its member universities and individual universities (e.g., my colleagues from the University of Birmingham will be visiting this coming week) or groups of universities (e.g., Australia’s Group of Eight) from other countries.

These associations, and their cousins in other countries and regions, have shown themselves to be adroit and supportive on an increasing number of levels despite constrained resources. This said, it seems to me that there is a growing disjuncture between well-intended associations of universities and the defacto (and often not expressed) needs of their membership bases, especially with respect to the deep internationalization agenda.  Members are grappling (or not, which should be a concern!) with complex challenges and topics like:

  • How is the global higher education landscape changing, and how might we be effected by it, or take advantage of aspects of it?
  • How do we map out our university’s international connections?
  • How do we really internationalize – the process, the plan, the implementation, and the iterative process of update and revision?
  • How to we effectively plan for risk?
  • How do we frame, define, and establish governance pathways, for international collaborative degrees and internships?
  • How do we create and support (financially, and administratively) overseas units that need some legal and physical presence?
  • How do we establish and control costs, and ensure security, with respect to communications infrastructure?
  • How do we negotiate with representatives of other systems that have very different understandings of the role of higher education and research in the development process, state of the art pedagogy, academic freedom, incentives and desirable outcomes, and quality assurance and accreditation? What should the key non-negotiables be?
  • Should we, and if so how do we, engage with major transnational corporations like Thomson Reuters and Google?
  • What should we demand, and expect, of our new partners?
  • Where do we get quick and effective legal advice (most university legal affairs offices lack internationally experienced staff)?
  • How might our strategies contribute to emerging tendencies of exclusion and/or inclusion with respect to the production, circulation and consumption of knowledge?
  • Etc.

Clearly some universities have this all worked out, but they tend to be the well-resourced and capable ones like Yale or NYU. The majority of universities in the Global North and the Global South are grappling with many of these issues, and many more, yet they tend to operate on (as makes sense in many ways) an institutional and bilateral level; reaching out, making connections, formalizing relations, and engaging. They are inventing anew and while this is logical it is highly inefficient and not always risk-free given the differential capabilities of universities that are partnering up, but also the differential capabilities between universities and new players (including foreign governments and the state more generally).

Associations of universities are obvious candidates to build up the capacity of their members but they too are seeing enhanced obligations and mission creep as the denationalization process unfolds. Such associations are also grappling with fiscal constraints for they tend to reply upon membership fees as a main if not majority source of revenue. Thus there is an emerging disjuncture – universities have more on their plate, while associations have more on their plate, but the membership fee revenue foundation has intractable constraints and structural contradictions associated with it.

Perhaps it is time for some innovative experiments in forging innovations to support deep internationalization? Four of many examples would be the creation and financing of:

  • ‘Living’ (ie virtual) manuals to guide all aspects of establishing international partnerships (one model is the Internationalisation of European Higher Education – A New handbook, jointly edited by the European University Association and the Academic Cooperation Association). Virtual manuals could include model as well as sample MoUs and legal agreements for these are rarely shared, as well as relevant geovisualizations that map out the terrain and nature of relations between universities around the world.
  • Retainers for on-demand services with select law firms to assist in shaping select aspects of the internationalization process, including in the late stages of negotiations and agreement drafting. Aspects of this assistance could be knitted into the virtual manuals idea noted above where reports (e.g., see International partnerships: a legal guide for universities) are available for review.
  • Risk assessment review manuals, with templates for both process and final reports.
  • Shared infrastructure development. [which I’ll focus in on now]

As my colleague Ann Hill Duin (Associate VP/Associate CIO, Office of Information Technology, University of Minnesota) put it to me at last week’s APLU conference (where I was speaking), why should universities establish their own IT systems in global higher education hubs when they could collaborate much more closely and reduce costs? Or why should universities from one country work on an individual basis to establish foreign presence via leased space in select city-regions when they could collaborate, via an associational or inter-associational relations, and build a purpose built structure.

Imagine, for example, a structure modeled on the wonderful Alliance Française de Singapour building (pictured throughout this entry) in Mumbai or Beijing or Shanghai or New York or Boston or Paris or Abu Dhabi or Lagos. It could include a small hotel, cinema, lecture space, marketing space, meeting space, a range of video conferencing technologies, etc. It could be of much use to member universities, and could also be leased out to local institutions, or other non-member institutions. One could imply I am recommending a foreign compound but this is not at all what I am suggesting; rather, this would be a space of transaction, a space to enable faster, quicker, more efficient and more conducive network relations, and in an aesthetically pleasing setting that is less open to the vagaries of market fluctuations in leasing prices. It would also send a tangible and visible message of commitment to host nations/cities.

In any case, this is but one of many ways we have yet to many of our associations of universities move forward individually, in partnership with other same-country associations, or else in partnership with organizations like the International Association of Universities (IAU). But these types of initiative cannot be just layered on for it they are dependent upon new streams of direct and in-kind resources from government agencies, alumni, philanthropists, member universities, and so on. New models are needed or else we have to accept a status quo that defacto penalizes universities with fewer internal resources.

In closing, I’d like to flag one forthcoming opportunity to discuss the issue of how associations of universities can better navigate the emerging global higher education and research landscape. The International Association of Universities (IAU) is organizing the fourth IAU Global Meeting of Associations (GMA IV) in New Delhi, India, 11-12 April 2011. This particular meeting is being organized in partnership with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). The purpose of the Global Meeting of Associations is to bring together associations of universities (not individual universities) and grapple with challenging issues facing associations and their member universities. This year’s theme is the Internationalization of Higher Education: New Players, New Approaches. I’ll paste in the background information flyer below, and you can register here, download background information here, and download the preliminary programme here. Further details are available via or I participated in the 2009 meeting in Mexico and was truly impressed by the richness of the discussions, and the opportunities that emerged for enhanced cooperation at a range of scales, and on a range of issues.

Kris Olds

Associations, networks, alliances, etc.: making sense of the emerging global higher education landscape

Note: this presentation, and associated discussion paper (in English), were produced for the International Association of Universities (IAU) 3rd Global Meeting of Associations of Universities (GMAIII), Guadalajara, Mexico – 20-22 April 2009. Link here for French and Spanish versions of the same discussion paper.

University associations and the enhancement of capabilities for a globalizing era

prague21march20091I recently returned from Prague, where I attended the 5th annual conference of the European University Association (EUA).  It was very well run by the EUA, professionally hosted by Charles University (Universitas Carolina), and the settings (Charles University, Municipal Hall, Prague Castle) were breathtaking.

My role was to contribute to EUA deliberations on the theme of Global Outreach – Europe’s Interaction with the Wider World.  I’ll develop a summary version of my presentation for GlobalHigherEd in the next week once I catch up on some duties here in Madison.

Some aspects of the meeting discussions complemented some recent news items (see below), as well as our 9 March entry ‘Collapsing branch campuses: time for some collective action?’ The thread that ties them all together is capability.

At a broad regional scale, the EUA, and its many partners, have had the capability to bring the 46 country European Higher Education Area (EHEA) into being. Of course the development process is very uneven, but the sweep of change over the last decade, brought to life from the bottom (i.e. the university-level) up, is really quite astonishing, regardless of whether you agree with the aims or not.

Now, capabilities in the case of the EHEA, relates to the capacity of universities, respective national ministries, the EU, and select stakeholders to work towards crafting an “overarching structure”, with associated qualifications frameworks, that incorporates these elements:

  • Three Degree Cycle
  • The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)
  • The Diploma Supplement
  • Quality Assurance
  • Recognition [of qualifications]
  • Joint Degrees

Ambitious, yes, but the distributed capabilities have clearly existed to create the EHEA, as will become abundantly clear next month when the Ministerial Conference is held at Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium.

columbiauCapabilities have also been evident this week in the case of Columbia University, which just announced that it was opening up a network of “Global Centers”, with the first two located in Beijing and Amman. As the press release puts it:

While some U.S. universities have built new branch campuses and degree-granting schools abroad, Columbia is taking a different path. Columbia Global Centers will provide flexible regional hubs for a wide range of activities and resources intended to enhance the quality of research and learning at the University and around the world. The goal is to establish a network of regional centers in international capitals to collaboratively address complex global challenges by bringing together scholars, students, public officials, private enterprise, and innovators from a broad range of fields.

“When social challenges are global in their consequences, the intellectual firepower of the world’s great universities must be global in its reach,” said Kenneth Prewitt, vice president of Columbia Global Centers and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. “Columbia’s network of Global Centers will bring together some of the world’s finest scholars to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

And in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Prewitt had this to say:

“We’re trying to figure out how to go from a series of very strong bilateral relationships and take that to the next phase, not replace it,” said Kenneth Prewitt, director of Columbia’s Office of Global Centers.

As the world becomes more interconnected, many of the most pressing issues of the day are best approached not within a bilateral framework, but by groups of scholars and researchers from diverse backgrounds bringing their expertise to bear in novel ways, Mr. Prewitt said.

See a brief slideshow on the Amman center here, and download the inaugural program launch poster here


The Columbia story is worth being viewed in conjunction with our previous entry on ‘Collapsing branch campuses’ (an indicator of limited capability), ‘NYU Abu Dhabi: realizing the global university?’ (an indicator of strong capability, albeit enabled by the oil-induced largesse of Abu Dhabi), and a series of illuminating entries by Lloyd Armstrong in Changing Higher Education on the Columbia story and some associated entries on ‘modularity’ in higher education and research:

As Armstrong notes:

“Modularity” is an ill-defined concept as used in discussing globalization of the modern corporation, in that it may mean very different things to different organizations at different times.  Generally, however, it has to do with breaking a process into separable blocks (modules) that have sufficiently well defined inputs and outputs that the blocks can later be fit together and  recombined into a complete process. “Globalization” then has to do with accessing resources world-wide to produce those modules in the most effective and efficient manner.

Now, in some future entries we will be exploring the uses and limitations of concepts like scale, networks, chains, modularity, and so on.  But what I’d like to do now, is think in a n-1 way, and beg the question: do universities have the capability to think beyond their comfort zones (e.g., about modularity; about academic freedom in distant territories; about the strategic management of multi-sited operations; about the latest advances in technology for capacity building abroad or international collaborative teaching; about double and joint degrees; about the implications of regionalism and interregionalism in higher education and research), especially when their resources are constrained and ‘mission creep’ is becoming a serious problem?

Most universities, I would argue, do not. Columbia clearly does, as does NYU, but few universities have the material, political, and relational (as in social and cultural capital) resources that these elite private universities do.

Perhaps the EHEA phenomenon, the role of the EUA in shaping it, can generate some lessons about the critically important dimension of capability, especially when universities are not resourced like a Columbia.

euaplenary1The framing and implementation of ambitious university visions to internationalize, to globalize, at a university scale, arguably needs to be better linked to the resources and viewpoints provided by associations and consortia, at least the better staffed and well run ones. There are other options, of course, including private consultants, ad-hoc thematic expert groups, and so on, but the enhancement of capabilities is evident in the case of the EUA, especially with respect to the construction of the EHEA on behalf of its constituent members, the creation of fora for the sharing of best practices, and the creation of new institutions (e.g., the EUA Council for Doctoral Education). It might be worth noting, too, that the EUA clearly benefits from having the European Commission‘s backing on regarding a variety of initiatives, and that the Commission is a key stakeholder in the Bologna Process.

The other side of this equation is, though, the need for universities to actually engage with, support, feed, draw in, and respect their associations. Given the denationalization process, associations and consortia are also being stretched. Some are having to cope with resource limitations vis a vis mission creep, and the uneven involvement of certain types of member universities. I might be wrong, but it seems as if some sub-national, national and regional associations around the world have a challenging time drawing in, and therefore representing, their better off universities.  This is a problematic situation for it has the potential to generate ‘middling zone’ outcomes at a collective level.

Yet, is it not in the interest of higher education systems to have very strong, effective, and powerful associations of universities? And if the elite universities in any system do not look out for their system, versus take the university view, or a segmented view (e.g., a selective association or consortia), the broader context in which elite universities operate may become less conducive to operate within.

euasummaryThe globalization of higher education and research is generating unprecedented challenges for universities, and higher education systems, around the world. This means we need think through the evolving higher education landscape, and the role of associations and consortia in it, for the vast majority of universities simply cannot act like Columbia University.

If capabilities are limited, then associations and consortia have the capacity to enable reflective thinking, and broader and more powerful university voices to emerge.  Indeed, it might also be worth thinking through how all of the world’s associations and consortia relate (or not) to each other, and what might be done to transform what is really a national/international architecture into a more global architecture; one associated with strategic inter-association and inter-consortia dialogue and sustained collective action.

And in a future entry, I’ll explore how some universities are seeking to enhance capabilities via the creation of new joint centers and experimental laboratories with distant universities and non-university stakeholders. While this process has to be managed carefully, the bringing together of complementary resources (e.g., human and otherwise) on campuses can unsettle, though with positive effects, and thereby build capabilities.

But for now, I’ll close off by highlighting the International Association of Universities’ (IAU) 3rd Global Meeting of Associations of Universities (GMAIII) in Guadalajara, Mexico, 20-22 April 2009. This event is shaping up to provide plenty of food for fodder regarding the capabilities issue, as well as many other topics. University associations are being tasked, and are tasking themselves, to enhance capabilities for a globalizing era. Yet, for many, this is relatively uncharted terrain.

Kris Olds

Collaboration among research universities: a model from the US Midwest

barb20081Editor’s note: this guest entry has been kindly prepared by Barbara McFadden Allen. Ms. McFadden Allen has served as director of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) since 1999. The CIC is a consortium of 12 research universities (University of Chicago; University of Illinois; Indiana University; University of Iowa; University of Michigan; Michigan State University; University of Minnesota; Northwestern University; Ohio State University; Pennsylvania State University; Purdue University; University of Wisconsin-Madison) located in the U.S. Midwest. Prior to that, she served as Director of the CIC Center for Library Initiatives. She is Vice President of the National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education (NCCI), a board member of the Association of Consortial Leadership, and a member of the Global Resources Committee of the Center for Research Libraries (US). She holds an MLS from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

This entry should be viewed in the context of debates about the role of consortia and associations in enabling universities to achieve their evolving development objectives (e.g., see Lily Kong’s entry ‘The rise, rhetoric, and reality of international university consortia‘).  Given the nature of GlobalHigherEd, we are also interested in highlighting how many associations and consortia are involved in the process of forging global relations on behalf of their members, engaging with new actors in the global higher education landscape (e.g., Google, or international consortia like the Worldwide Universities Network), and acting as collaborative spaces for the sharing of ‘best practices’. We’ve also noted that consortia and associations like the CIC serve as logical ‘entry points’ into the US for stakeholders in other countries, or international organizations, who are grappling with the complexity of the US higher education system (systems, really). Given these emerging functions, it is important to understand the origins, core mission, and nature of effective intra-national actors like the CIC.


Academic isolation has long been impractical; in today’s world, it is impossible. At a time when yesterday’s bright new fact becomes today’s doubt and tomorrow’s myth, no single institution has the resources in faculty or facilities to go it alone. A university must do more than just stand guard over the nation’s heritage, it must illuminate the present and help shape the future. This demands cooperation – not a diversity of weaknesses, but a union of strengths.

Herman B. Wells (1902-2000). President of Indiana University 1938-1962. Leader behind the establishment of the CIC.

Throughout its 50-year history, the consortium of prominent research universities in the American Midwest known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) has sought to create a “union of strengths” as envisioned by the Presidents of the member universities back in 1958. With the recent launch of several large-scale, high-profile initiatives (a shared fiber-optic network; an agreement with Google to digitize 10 million library volumes; and a shared digital repository called HathiTrust), the CIC has demonstrated its understanding that in today’s networked world, no university can expect to achieve greatness while standing alone. The experience of the CIC may also be instructive for those wishing to develop meaningful and productive partnerships across international boundaries. It could also be argued that the deep experience of CIC universities with collaboration gives them a competitive advantage as attractive and sophisticated partners in emerging international research collaborations.

A half century ago, CIC leaders began building this model of open, productive collaboration that has helped our member schools navigate such complex issues as how best to preserve and provide open digital content in a virtual environment, how universities can hone core competencies while sharing collective assets, and how they can foster outside partnerships to accomplish even the most complex and costly shared goals.

block_logocmykThe framework established for this collaboration has remained remarkably stable: The Provosts (chief academic officers) govern and fund the enterprise; top academic leaders on the campuses identify opportunities and engage their faculty and staff to implement the efforts; and a central staff enables the collaboration by providing administrative support that minimizes the ‘friction’ in collaborative efforts.

Along the way, we learned hard lessons about the challenges to inter-institutional collaboration. The independent nature of scholarship and the inherent competition across higher education exist as natural hurdles to sharing assets and accomplishments. We compete with one another for students, for researchers and teachers, for federal funds and private partners. When our interests do converge, we do not always share the same priorities, timelines, or strategic vision.

Within the CIC, each collaborative agreement is unique, and necessarily builds upon the trust established through earlier efforts. Through the steady development of this inter-connected web of increasingly more sophisticated arrangements, we can point to some factors for our success that might be relevant for other universities seeking to develop international partnerships:

  • The peer nature of our universities allows partners to come in with similar needs and expectations at the outset;]
  • The long-standing commitments to the partnership at the very highest levels of university administration;
  • A focus on projects that clearly leverage efforts, thereby creating more value through aggregation or coordination;
  • A flexible, lightweight framework with an equal commitment in the basic infrastructure and governance, but with varying levels of participation in any one activity;
  • Leadership for efforts arises from (or is nurtured in) the member universities, thereby ensuring that only the highest priority initiatives are launched & sustained.
  • A willingness to be patient and a tolerance for some failure.

The success of many CIC projects and programs (some dating back 40 years or more), illustrate how the persistent, patient approach of the CIC offers both hope and guidance. Few of the most consequential agreements were easily reached. Many were the result of years, even decades, of revisiting common issues, assessing new technologies, and respecting the basic factors that make change difficult within any organization – spectacularly so when working across institutions. But we have made steady progress.

Certainly other like-minded enterprises have made similar efforts to pool resources. But the CIC stands as one of the very few that have both stood the test of time and that continues to innovate in the pursuit of our core mission – that of leveraging and aggregating the vast resources of our member universities for the common good.

Virtually every research university in the world is striving to identify their place in the broader, global context. And here it might be argued that it is virtually impossible to engage globally without partnerships (be they with other institutions of higher learning, or with communities, or governmental agencies). Our work in the CIC suggests that it is not just possible – but desirable – to invest institutional energy in the establishment and continued development of partnerships. There is a better and more meaningful way to launch and sustain efforts rather than the traditional ‘memorandum of agreement’ with which we are all familiar (and which are too often signed and forgotten). This requires an initial investment in the selection of the right partners, the identification of clear objectives that map to strengths among the participating institutions; and multi-level support from administrators, faculty and scholars.

There are many attractive and compelling opportunities for collaborating internationally. From building shared digital repositories that aggregate scholarly works, to co-investments in very large scale scientific equipment or laboratories that can be shared, to the shared development of courses and scholarly resources among scholars across the globe. Our experience in the CIC suggests that it is possible to realize the golden opportunities before us. To harness the great scholarly resources that universities command worldwide will require thoughtful, engaged, and collaborative leadership, and a recognition of the need for sophisticated mechanisms to manage, measure and sustain such efforts.

Barbara McFadden Allen

Ministers of Education and fora for thinking beyond the nation

One of the features of the globalization of higher education and research is the bringing together of ministers of education from various countries to think beyond the nation at regional, inter-regional, and global scales, as well as in a comparative sense. Thus we are seeing the nation-state creating internal competencies for statecraft via extra-territorial fora.

This is, of course, nothing new in some ways: ministries of trade and industry, or ministries of immigration, have done this for decades. But this is really the first era when ministers of education have become much more involved in strategizing about how to adjust education systems, especially the higher education and research elements, so as to engage with broader shifts in economy and society.

Here are links to some recent meetings, with associated reports:

Let me know if you know of any more that I should include – I am happy to add them to the list above.

Scaling up need not only work at the regional or interregional scale. In Latin America, for example, five higher education ministers from Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua, Venezuela signed the Cochabamba Declaration to further ALBA – the “Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of Our America”, a regional intergration initiative that is anti-capitalist in nature, for the most part.

Or in Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada (CMEC), made up on all provincial ministers of education (as education, including higher education, is a provincial responsibility), frames its international activities along a variety of other regional, interregional, and multilateral axes:

CMEC’s international activities have traditionally involved three major international organizations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Commonwealth. While other partnerships have been formed with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Education Forum, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Summit of the Americas process, both OECD and UNESCO, as well as the Commonwealth, continue to play a prominent role.

Assessments of the efficacy of such fora in facilitating new ways of thinking, innovative forms of statecraft, and extended networks of support, are lacking.  Yet it is clear that some, such as the biannual Bologna Process summit (the London 2007 event is pictured to the left), are effective in facilitating action.

In conclusion, we are seeing, via the lens of such fora:

  1. Enhanced extra-territorial agendas and networks being built up by ministries that have not traditionally been so interested, nor obligated, in thinking beyond the nation, nor even beyond the province/state scale, in some countries.
  2. Meeting agendas and joint concluding statements that are framed around adjusting education systems to mediate and especially advance economic interdependence.
  3. Evidence of the enhanced intertwining of higher education with regional and interregional R&D strategies (especially with respect to science and technology).
  4. The desire to continue advancing longstanding social and cultural agendas (given the core nation-building function of higher education), though these socio-cultural agendas brush up against economic and international migration dynamics.
  5. The inclusion of some associated voices in the ministerial-centred deliberations, and the exclusion, by design or accident, of others that have clearly not started to think beyond the nation. On this point I see the voices of some students (e.g., the European Students’ Union) included, but faculty voices (via associations, unions, etc), are remarkably absent.

In the end, it is uncertain how far these initiatives will go. The addition of new mandates is perhaps to be expected in these globalizing times, but the challenges of thinking beyond the nation for the nation (and the region) is not a simple one to face, conceptually nor organizationally. This said, these are noteworthy events, and well worth engaging with on a number of levels.

Kris Olds

New report seeks to create a world view of management education

Editor’s note: the globalization of higher education can be conceived of as a complex of processes shaped and mediated by a myriad of people, institutions, networks, technologies, events, and structural forces. In GlobalHigherEd we have been welcoming guest entries from key actors associated with the globalization process, including representatives of universities, stakeholder associations, and the like. The logic behind guest entries is to let key actors speak for themselves versus us speaking on their behalf. Guest entries in an open access blog like this also enable actors to reach new audiences, and create new forms of thinking and dialogue about issues we are all concerned about, even though there are inevitably varying viewpoints and points of consensus on such issues.

On this note, today’s guest entry has been kindly produced by representatives of the Global Foundation for Management Education (GFME), a joint venture between the two largest associations of business schools, the US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), and the Belgium-based European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). The GFME aims to identify and address challenges and opportunities in the practice of management education worldwide, and also to advance its quality and content. The GFME is focused on thought leadership and collaboration rather than on accreditation, and seeks to collaborate and cooperate with organizations and individuals throughout the world, recognizing the cultural aspects and sensitivities of its global constituency.


Growth in higher education around the world has been nothing short of significant in recent years, with tertiary education enrollments growing 94.1 percent between 1991 and 2004 according to UNESCO statistics. While the growth in higher education enrollments encompasses a variety of programs and disciplines, evidence suggests that growth in the demand for business or management education has been particularly strong. This is not surprising. As the world of business itself becomes more global, so does the demand for management talent. The spread of democracy, transitions to market-based economic systems, and more widespread participation of countries in the global economy all have helped to fuel this growth, and it is likely that these trends will continue to strengthen the need for management education in all parts of the world.

Much of the research that has so far studied management education has taken a local or regional perspective. Given the uniqueness of higher education structures and environments across regions, and even across countries, this research has proved important in understanding and improving management education in different settings.

The Global Foundation for Management Education (GFME) , however, believes that the recent growth and increased integration requires leaders in academia, business and government to be informed by a worldview of management education. This is the motivation for its recent report, The Global Management Education Landscape: Shaping the Future of Business Schools. The 72 page report includes an examination of the global forces impacting management education, recent developments in management education, and common challenges faced by the global business education community.

In the report, GFME challenges leaders to consider how management education will be affected by powerful global forces, including accelerating economic integration, demographic shifts, advances in information technology, and emerging priorities related to social responsibility, governance, and sustainability. Economic integration, it says, will necessitate greater emphasis on global perspectives in education and skills development, but not at the expense of the need to develop locally relevant educational resources. Rapid advances in information and communications technology offer many opportunities to expand access to management education and efficiently deliver educational services, though the impacts of this technology are uneven due to the digital divide among and within countries. Long-term planning for infrastructure, programs, and staffing will be affected by demographic changes, such as regional increases or decreases in the traditional tertiary-age population, changes in consumption patterns, population migration, and accelerating urbanization. And growing global interest in social responsibility, governance, and sustainability have implications for the missions, programs, and activities of business schools.

Within the context of these macro trends, GFME provides a comprehensive survey of the management education landscape in order to identify ways in which management education has adapted to the changing global environment and to discover the critical obstacles to meeting the global community’s emerging and changing needs.

Included among these observations is the recognition of significant variance in degree structures across countries. In some regions the delivery of management education is being harmonized through efforts to align higher education, such as the Bologna Process in Europe. At the same time, management education is also being diversified through the rise of private-sector education and the emergence of new institutional forms, such as distance-education providers, virtual universities, and franchise universities, as well as the development of new program models targeted at niche markets. Significant growth in demand for business education is occurring at the same time that, in many cases, government financing is shrinking in proportion to growth in overall institution expenditures. Often, business schools are being pressured by institutions and governments to take on more students without commensurate increases in resources. The report expresses concerns about the world’s ability to support the growing demand for quality management education, especially in rapidly developing and transitioning countries.

The growth in demand for management education is also outstripping the production of doctoral faculty. Faculty recruitment and retention issues were among the challenges most often cited by business schools in a recent study, and these issues will continue to be aggravated by the high cost of providing doctoral education, the absence of business doctoral programs in many regions of the world, and perceptions that academic salaries are low compared to those for careers in the private sector.

Business schools are also finding it harder to keep pace with the evolving needs of their constituencies. Increased student mobility, global competition for students, and growing demand for global perspectives mean that business schools must balance their global aspirations with the needs of their local communities. For countries, this means supporting high quality, globally competitive institutions while also ensuring sufficient levels of access to quality management education across the broad population. Regardless of whether business schools are serving a global or local constituency, or both, they are challenged to lean about, predict, and react quickly to emerging organizational and societal needs. Surprisingly few industry-level collaborations exist between business schools and the business community; interactions at the individual school level, though common, are often disconnected and informed by personal experience, rather than broad discussion and analysis.

To address the pressing challenges identified, the report calls for numerous global efforts including: advocacy for quality assurance for the benefit of students and employers; stronger collaboration among business schools; gathering of more data and information about management education; and deeper engagement of business and government leaders to envision the future needs of organizations and societies. Each of these recommendations requires the involvement of leaders in management education, higher education policy makers, governments, corporate leaders, and management education associations such as AACSB International and the European Foundation for Management Development. It is the hope of GFME that its report will provide a foundation for constructive dialogue, collaboration, and investments in the future of management education.

Global Foundation for Management Education

EUA launches ‘Council for Doctoral Education’ to strengthen Europe’s global competitiveness

This week Georg Winckler, President of the the European Universities Association (EUA), launched what is billed as the first organization of its kind across Europe – the Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) committed to the development of Europe’s doctoral degrees.

According to Winckler, the purpose of the EUA-CDE is to develop greater levels of cooperation and exchange of good practice between the various univereua-2007-doctoral-programs.jpgsities of Europe in delivering doctoral degrees. A doctoral degree, it seems, is the sine qua non qualification for participating in, and delivering on, a more competitive European knowledge-based economy.

In 2007 the EUA tabled its report Doctoral Programmes in Europe’s Universities: Achievements and Challenges directed at the European Ministers and universities. In it the EUA showed that across Europe there had been a rapid expansion in the numbers of doctoral graduates along with a mushrooming of different kinds of doctoral programmes.

Similarly, the EUA Trends V Report (2007) reported that 30% of European higher education institutions surveyed said that they had some kind of doctoral, graduate or research school. This difference, however, as the table below illustrates, is of concern to the EUA who believe that such variation is symptomatic of chaos rather than ‘requisite variety’.

Reviewing and restructuring Europe’s doctoral programmes then– the 3rd cycle of the Bologna Process– is seen as crucial in the construction of the European Research Area. The mandate for the EUA-CDE is to bring doctoral programmes into line with each other by introducing more structured doctoral programmes, developing transferable skills, and ensuring quality.

While the Bologna Reform of the 1st and 2nd cycle of degrees (Bachelors and Masters respectively) has been a remarkable success, it remains to be seen whether the various Member States of Europe will cede some of their autonomy in order to bring the 3rd cycle – doctoral programmes – into line. It is also not clear whether structural conformity will generate the much sought after excellence and innovation for the economy rather than simply uniformity and possible mediocrity amongst doctoral programmes per se. After all, having a competitive edge means offering something new and different.

The problem for higher education institutions is that they are tied to the economy in two ways: on the one hand as engines for the new economy, and on the other as academic capitalists looking for new opportunities to generate funds to augment institutional finances.

Institutions need to be both different and similar at the same time – a paradox if ever there was one in the global higher education market.

Susan Robertson

The rise, rhetoric, and reality of international university consortia

sieg2006.jpgPhoto: Summer Institute in Economic Geography (SIEG) participants during a field trip to Milwaukee in 2006. SIEG was developed with support from the WUN, Economic Geography, the NSF, the ESRC, and several other sources.

The recently reported establishment of the International Forum of Public Universities (Forum international des universités publiques) which arose out of the 125th anniversary celebrations at the University of Montreal (Université de Montréal) in 2004, is a reminder of the growth of international university alliances/associations/consortia in recent years. The rhetoric is that as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, universities in different parts of the world need to be closely linked so as to reap the best benefits for education and research.

One of the challenges of making such university alliances work is the lack of clarity of intention, and the lack of a clear articulation of how such alliances, often formed from the top by senior university administrators, can achieve the stated objectives. In almost every new alliance, establishing research partnerships and collaboration among member universities is said to be a priority. Are alliances really an effective way to develop research collaboration though? Member universities that are chosen to be part of an alliance are often chosen for political reasons (“political” in the most expansive of its meanings). They may be chosen because they are thought to be “research powerhouses”. But different universities have different areas of research strength, and university administrators sitting together to decide an area/s among their universities for research collaboration can be quite artificial. Such alliances can then at best facilitate meetings and workshops among researchers, but the collaborative sparks must come from the ground. Throwing a group of people together once or twice and asking that they produce huge grant applications to support collaborative research is not likely to happen. Those with the responsibility of developing alliances, however, will be anxious to show results, and sometimes, just the act of bringing researchers together is hardly sufficient result.

If university alliances are to be about collaboration and partnership to enhance student mobility and learning with “equal” participation from partners, the relative likeness of institutions is important (note the wise words of the Bard here: “That every like is not the same”). The confusion of intent can have implications for membership. Should alliances have geographical representation for legitimacy (refrains of “how can we call ourselves a truly global/international alliance if we are not represented thus?”)? The clarification of intent is important to guide membership decisions, for the profile of the consortia can look quite different whether one is thinking of extending assistance in capacity building to fellow members of an alliance, or whether one is thinking of collaborative teaching, frequent student movement, and in the extreme, joint degrees.

Lily Kong

Editor’s note: international consortia include the ASEAN University Network (AUN), the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), Universitas 21 (U21), and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN). People at GlobalHigherEd are associated with several of these consortia, and the blog’s development has been partially supported by the WUN. Note, however, that Lily Kong (Vice-President (University & Global Relations) & Vice-Provost (Education), National University of Singapore) is not in a WUN member university.

In the interest of furthering thinking about the nature of international consortia, a multi-disciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students from Economic Geography 510 (at UW-Madison) recently completed a course report titled Markets & Mobility: The Rise, Rhetoric, and Reality of Inter-University Consortia. The 71 pp. report, which they worked very hard on, can be downloaded here consortiafinal3.pdf (thanks to the generosity of Kristy Lynn Brown, Andrew Epstein, Luthien Lee Niland, Kathryn Wood Rudasill, Joanne Shu-en Tay, and Katie Zaman). I know they would welcome feedback on their views here (in conjunction with a response to Lily Kong’s entry), or directly via email (their contact details are on the cover of the report…CC their prof too OK!). Kris Olds