US/Turkish collaborations: bringing vocational schools into the global education sector

In the past three years I’ve had the great opportunity to give invited lectures, teach a graduate summer school course, and run research workshops at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey.

This has been a wonderful occasion for me to listen to, and engage with, lively and committed scholars and students around processes of globalization, Turkey’s application to the EU for accession, and the geo-strategic role of Turkey situated as it is between Asia and Europe.

So it was with great interest that I read in the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education’s (OBHE) latest bulletin; that Turkey had signed a deal with the US-based Community Colleges for International Development, Inc. An Association for Global Education to put into place an exchange between US and Turkish vocational schools.

The OBHE report was based on a lead article carried in the World Bulletin. For the Turkish Higher Education Council (YÖK), these collaborative partnerships will be instituted in 7-8 Turkish vocational schools in an attempt to improve the curriculum in Turkish vocational schools.

According to the Chairperson of YÖK, Professor Yusuf Ziya Ozcan:

Vocational schools are the engines of our economy. If these schools train the work force needed by our economy and industry, most of the problems in Turkey will be solved. If we can guide some of our high-school graduates to get further education at vocational schools instead of universities, this will diminish the crowds waiting at the doors of universities as well.

Operationalizing the program means that Turkish students would spend their first year in Turkey and get their second-year education at a U.S. vocational school, whilst US students would have a chance to spend a year in Turkey.

But, why the US and not Europe, as a model for vocational education? And why build student mobility into a vocational school program?

According to Professor Ozcan:

…the best thing to do on this issue was to get support from a country where vocational education system functioned smoothly, and therefore, they decided to pay a visit to USA.

This move by the Turkish Higher Education Council to collaborate on vocational education might be read in a number of ways. For instance, Turkey’s education system has historically had close links to US, particularly through its (former) private schools and universities. This is thus business as usual, only applied to a different sector – vocational schools.

Turkey is also a popular destination for US students studying abroad as part of their undergraduate program (see Kavita Pandit’s entry on dual degree programs between Turkey and SUNY/USA). The university residence where I stayed whilst teaching at Bogazici in 2007 was buzzing with undergraduate students from the US. Thus, this new exchange initiative might be viewed as further strengthening already existing ties along channels that are already established.

Adding a component of student mobility to vocational education in Turkey might make that sector more attractive to prospective students, whilst generating the kind of knowledge and demeanor global firms think is important in its intermediary labor force. This would give Turkey’s intermediary labor a competitive advantage in the churn for flexible skilled workers in the global economy.

This deal can also be read as the outcome of an ambivalence by Turkey and its education institutions toward Europe and its regionalizing project, and vice versa. And while there are serious moves in Turkish universities, toward implementing Europe’s Bologna Process in higher education, it seems Turkey–like a number of countries around the world–is weighing up its response to the globalizing education models that are circulating so that they keep a foot in both camps – the USA and Europe.

Susan Robertson

Private Canadian education firm buys community college and expands existing links with China

yvr.jpgAs recently reported in the Vancouver Sun, a large Vancouver-based private company called CIBT Education Group has bought Sprott Shaw Community College – the oldest and largest private community college in Western Canada. Established in 1994, CIBT Education Group runs a number of post-secondary schools in China, providing both academic programmes and vocational training.

Sprott Shaw Community College, originating in Vancouver, has grown over the last years to include 20 locations across the province of British Columbia, training 4, 500 students each year with the aim of preparing them for successful employment. CIBT Education Group intends to export Sprott Shaw Community College’s vocational programmes to China. According to Toby Chu, Vice Chairman, President and CEO of CIBT, “over 250 million workers from rural China are gradually migrating to the coastal and urban cities of China in search of better paying jobs to improve their standard of living. These workers will require extensive vocational re-training or career enhancing skills in order to secure better paying jobs in China’s modern and rapidly advancing economy. With 104 years of operating experience and over 140 additional career, vocational and degree granting programs available to us, this expansive network of supporting infrastructure, teaching resources, knowledge and experience provided in this transaction with Sprott-Shaw Community College adds tremendous value to CIBT Schools in China and our overall business.” CIBT managers based in China will ‘repackage’ Sprott Shaw’s programmes for a specifically Chinese market.

cibtsumm.jpgAs has been observed before on GlobalHigherEd, China offers a huge potential market in higher and further education. CIBT Education Groups notes in a recent Executive Summary that with 320 million students in 1.35 million schools China has the largest education system in the world. However, it is unable to meet the demand in higher education (with only 1.3% of the population currently enrolled in university compared to 5.4% of the population in the US). According to CIBT, an additional 20 million people are seeking vocational training.

At the same time as providing educational places in China, the programmes proposed by CIBT will also initiate flows of Chinese students into the Canadian education system. CIBT runs four-year courses, of which students spend two years ‘overseas’. This new initiative will direct students to British Columbia for two years of their four-year course. The practice of sending Chinese students to overseas institutions is already established by CIBT. The company has ‘credit transfer agreements’ with universities in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the UK, which enable Chinese students to transfer credits earned at CIBT institutions in China to these overseas ‘academic partners’ – thereby receiving a valuable overseas degree at the end of their course.

This is a further example of Canadian firms seeking to ‘do business’ in China. In 2007, CIBT was named in a report by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada as a case study of Canadian companies that have developed successful ‘Asian strategies’. CIBT has also established partnerships with large private education providers in the US, such as Western International University and WyoTech. In the next two years, the Group plans to build 40 new Education Centres in 40 different Chinese cities located within existing colleges or universities. It also has plans to acquire other state-owned colleges and to transform them into ‘private business colleges’.

Johanna Waters