Globalized higher education in the United Arab Emirates – unexpected outcomes

Editor’s note: today’s guest entry has been kindly prepared by Dr. Neha Vora. Dr. Vora recently received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. As of Fall 2008, she will be Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Texas A&M University. Her current research focuses on the dynamics of race, class, and gender in the United Arab Emirates and how they affect the large Indian migrant population. By focusing on the overlaps between state and expatriate discourses, she considers how migrants, who officially do not have access to citizenship or permanent residency, are often participants in the production of forms of exclusion and exploitation in contemporary Dubai. Dr. Vora also holds an MA in Women’s Studies from San Francisco State University. Her next research project will focus on the recent influx of American Universities into the Gulf Arab States, including Texas A&M!

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In 2006, I was in Dubai conducting research among the large Indian migrant community in that emirate. Several of my younger informants, it turned out, had attended branches of US-accredited universities, which were a relatively new arrival in the Gulf States. My research, which focused on forms of identity and belonging among differently situated South Asians, was mainly concerned about the question of what it means to belong to a place like the UAE, where despite family histories that sometimes go back generations, one has no access to citizenship or even permanent residency. I started to notice that almost all of my informants, while staking certain historical, cultural, and geographic claims to Dubai and the UAE, vehemently denied any desire for formal belonging. In fact, the exclusion of the UAE’s overwhelmingly non-citizen population was predicated in many ways on the participation of non-citizens themselves. However, one group of informants differed greatly in how they spoke about their status in the UAE, and these were the young people who had attended foreign universities in the Gulf. They were actually quite politicized. They spoke of themselves as “second-class citizens” and expressed anger at what they felt to be systemic discrimination against South Asians in the Gulf. And, surprisingly, they attributed their awareness of their own exclusion directly to their university experiences, at schools like American University of Dubai, University of Wollongong, and American University of Sharjah, among others.

In the last decade, the options for higher education in the Gulf have expanded. Higher education is one of the major focal points of non-oil development in the Gulf States, and it is of particular importance to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates. The American University of Sharjah (AUS), for example, is affiliated with American University in Washington, D.C. and confers a degree equivalent to a US four-year university. The proliferation of colleges like AUS (pictured to the right, courtesy of the AUS website) means that a large number of expatriate middle-class children, who used to have to go abroad for higher education (usually to India, Australia, Canada, the US, or the UK), are increasingly able to stay in the UAE through the time of their college graduation. Therefore, many South Asian young people I interviewed, unlike their parents or even their slightly older counterparts, had not previously considered the reality of perhaps having to migrate to another country to find work, settle down, and start a family. Here, I consider briefly how the recent influx of American and other foreign universities into the Gulf works to produce Indian youth as both parochialized South Asian and neoliberal transnational subjects, who in turn reinforce Dubai’s economic growth as well as the divide between citizen and non-citizen in the UAE.

Many scholars have connected the globalization of American universities with other trends in the university system geared at profit-making enterprises (see for example Altbach 2004; Morey 2004; Poovey 2001). In addition, there has been an increase in “market” language to speak about the university—students are considered “clients,” educational offerings “products,” and extracurricular and other options “value-added.” The marketization of education is by and large seen as a negative by American academics, who lament the contemporary commodification of higher education, part of which is indexed by the increasingly transnational nature of universities and the neoliberal orientation of international curricula. Gulf-based projects such as Education City in Qatar and Knowledge Village in Dubai seem to be prime examples of these processes, particularly in light of recent WTO negotiations to further liberalize the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which specifically includes higher education as a commodity service.

Gulf governments, faced with large demographic imbalances between citizens and expatriates, who make up the majority of the workforce in many countries, find foreign universities attractive because they provide educational opportunities for citizens that make them competitive both at home and abroad, and because they will potentially generate—after large initial investments—non-oil revenue. Foreign universities are also attractive to expatriates, who are barred from attending state schools. However, these students, particularly those who have spent their lives in the Gulf, are simultaneously inculcated into parochial national identities and an exclusion from the UAE nation-state. In addition, and perhaps conversely, the globalized American university, lamented by scholars as an erosion of the liberal ideals of the university, is providing space and opportunities for unexpected liberal politicizations and calls for rights by South Asian young people in Dubai.

When I asked Indian and Pakistani young people who attended these schools to talk about their childhood experiences, I learned that they grew up almost exclusively in South Asian social and cultural circles. Their family friends, their neighborhoods, their own friends, their schools, their leisure activities—these all produced for them a sense of Dubai (pictured here) as an Indian or Pakistani ethnic space in which they did not experience a lack of citizenship or belonging. Only in the university setting, when they began to interact with Emiratis and other expatriates, often for the first time in their lives, did they seem to develop a greater sense of the citizen/non-citizen hierarchy and the fact that they were in fact foreigners in their home. The university was a space in which all students were technically on equal footing—they had equal access to facilities, they excelled based on grades and not ethnicity, and they interacted socially with a wide range of different nationalities and ethnic groups. However, it was the very space of the academy that highlighted to my informants their difference from other groups, for they experienced direct racism and practices of self-entitlement from their peers.

While primary and secondary education in the UAE tends to follow national lines, higher education is very diverse. AUS, for example, is home to students from over seventy nationalities. For almost all of the students at universities such as this one, diversity is experienced up close in ways that it has not been before, even though they have lived their lives in a very international space. In Dubai, social, cultural, geographic, and work spaces are very segregated and defined by systemic inequalities. By entering a university space that is modeled, in most cases, on American academic institutions, these young people are placed on equal footing, at least theoretically. However, my informants recounted many incidents that made the transition into this type of egalitarian space very interesting and sometimes difficult. All of the young people whom I spoke to about being South Asian in Gulf universities told me that the thing they found most difficult was the behavior of Emirati and other Gulf Arab nationals. In our conversations, they spoke of incidents in which “locals” would cut in front of them in the cafeteria line, would expect them to share their notes and even their homework, and would speak in Arabic in mixed Arab/non-Arab social gatherings in ways that made them feel excluded. It is unclear just to what extent the social hierarchies outside of the university impact what goes on in the university itself, but while students are afforded more equality than they would be under the UAE’s legal system or in the workplace, there are inevitably ways in which these distinctions between groups seep into the university setting. AUS is an excellent example. The university, with which I was affiliated during my fieldwork, was definitely more open to the study of expatriate groups in the UAE than national universities would have been. AUS seemed happy to sponsor my residency and the professors I spoke to in the International Studies department were interested in my topic. However, after spending many days at AUS, I began to see some unique entanglements of American academic ideals and UAE societal structures.

While AUS has a stated policy of non-discrimination, houses students of all nationalities together, and attempts to enforce egalitarianism in terms of grades and even rules against cutting in line, the staff and faculty pay structures are still nationality-based. Of course the university has an official stance on fairness, but several people I spoke to at the university, both white and Indian, told me that Indians get paid less for the same jobs, particularly administrative positions. The low-wage work such as landscaping and cleaning is almost 100% done by South Asians.

Because AUS is in Sharjah, it also follows some of Sharjah’s strict decency laws. Men and women are housed in separate dormitories on different sides of the campus and women have a curfew that they have to follow or they are reported to their parents. In addition, tank tops and short skirts are banned from campus, as is any public display of affection between men and women. In the classroom itself, which often has members of the ruling families as students, faculty members do practice a certain amount of self-censorship. They do not criticize social and economic hierarchies in front of their students because they never know how influential or connected their students might be. While American universities exist in the Gulf, tenure, if available, is tied to US home universities, and jobs are bound to visas that can be revoked at any time for any reason. Classes at these universities teach Islamic cultural history and Gulf Studies, but they do not provide much information about expatriate communities or their histories in the Gulf. Professors also told me how divisive the classroom can become when they broach topics such as migration, so they tended to tread very lightly or avoid such topics altogether.

Experiences such as the ones above, inside and outside of the classroom, were the focus of my informants’ narratives about their feelings of being “second-class” in the UAE. Ironically, it was the egalitarian platform of the university, and not the segregated environment of their childhoods, that showed them the realities of inequalities in the UAE. For these young people, then, the university experience was doubly unsettling—they had to face the impending realities of perhaps settling outside of the Gulf, and they had to face the knowledge that they did not belong in the place where they felt most at home.

This personal politicization is an unintended consequence of the private university system in places like Dubai. So, as more and more South Asian migrants raise their children in Dubai, and my informants themselves start families in the Gulf, what impact will the growing number of international universities have on the Indian community? These young people were among the first to experience not having to go abroad for higher education, and despite their sense of being temporary, many were settling down (without feeling “settled”) in Dubai. In fact, some had already procured jobs in Dubai or taken over their fathers’ businesses. The sense of insecurity and the idea that they would have to move abroad did not translate to an actual move in many cases. However, the tenuousness of their lives in Dubai hindered actual assertions of political belonging.

I left Dubai feeling that the “system” was less fixed than I felt when I arrived. The differences in politicization between young Dubai-born Indians and those in their parents’ generation were stark. These young people spoke of citizenship and rights with a sense of injustice and entitlement, and in so doing, they laid claim to Dubai in ways their parents did not. The opportunity to remain in Dubai uninterrupted, as it becomes the norm for middle-class South Asian families, might increase these feelings and lead to forms of resistance and activism that the young people I interviewed did not presently consider a possibility. And the demographic impacts of expatriates who are educated in the Gulf are unclear. On the one hand, citizens have access to more education and training; on the other hand, expatriates who do not ever have to leave may begin actively to assert belonging in the domains they previously accepted as unavailable to them, like the nation.

Neha Vora

Analysing Australia’s global higher ed export industry

The globalization of higher education and research is creating and attracting new players and new analysts. Credit ratings agencies have, for example, started to pay more attention to the fiscal health of universities, while fund managers are seeking to play a role in guiding the investment strategies of university endowments in the United States, and more recently Saudi Arabia.

On this broad theme, and further to our recent entry (‘New foreign student and export income geographies in the UK and Australia‘), the Reserve Bank of Australia released a June 2008 report titled ‘Australia’s Exports of Education Services‘. The Reserve Bank of Australia‘s:

main responsibility is monetary policy. Policy decisions are made by the Reserve Bank Board, with the objective of achieving low and stable inflation over the medium term. Other major roles are maintaining financial system stability and promoting the safety and efficiency of the payments system. The Bank is an active participant in financial markets, manages Australia’s foreign reserves, issues Australian currency notes and serves as banker to the Australian Government. The information provided by the Reserve Bank includes statistics – for example, on interest rates, exchange rates and money and credit growth – and a range of publications on its operations and research.

The scale and economic impact of this new industry is reflected in the Bank’s interest in the topic.

‘Australia’s Exports of Education Services‘ highlights key dimensions of the development of what is now one of Australia’s leading export industries such that it now generates $12.6 billion (2007 figures), and is Australia’s third largest export industry (see the two figures below from the report).

While the report is succinct, and can be downloaded for free here, I would like to flag three key themes from the perspective of the GlobalHigherEd analytical agenda.

First, reading through the report one cannot help but note the mercantilist approach that is infused in the analytical terms and data categories associated with the report, and Australian higher education ‘industry’ discussions more generally. From the dominant Australian perspective, global higher ed is unabashedly an export industry that needed to be created in a regulatory and ideological sense, and then subsequently, nurtured, reshaped over time, and more generally planned with strategic effect. Global higher ed is also situated within a broader array of educational services:

  • Higher Education
  • English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS)
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET)
  • Schools
  • Other Awards Sectors (e.g., “bridging courses and studies that do not lead to formal qualifications”)

Data on international student enrollments (1994-2007) using these categories is also available at the Australian Education International website (see the site too for clarification about source data and a key methodological change in 2001).

This strategic cum assertive/aggressive approach to the creation of ‘customers’ means that Australia will also ensure it has a capacity to monitor its primary competitors (especially New Zealand, the United States and the UK), and its emerging competitors (especially the group of countries that make up the European Higher Education Area, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, and China). Competition can occur through enhanced capacity to attract the mobile students who should have come to Australia, enhanced capacity to keep them at ‘home’ (via “import-substitution” policies and programs), or the external profile of weaknesses in the quality of Australia’s higher educational offerings, especially for fee-paying foreign students.

Second, the emergence of China and India as sources of mobile students is abundantly evident in the report (see Graph 5 and Table 4). Recall our 22 June entry, too, which presented data on Asian student numbers from the new Asian Development Bank (2008) report titled Education and Skills: Strategies for Accelerated Development in Asia and the Pacific. In short, Australia has strategically hooked into the highly uneven development wave evident in the ADB report, and shifted from ‘scholarship to dollarship’ (a phrase Katharyne Mitchell has used more generally) with respect to the country’s primary overseas student target. As the Bank’s report puts it:

Until the mid 1980s Australia’s involvement in providing education services to non-residents was directed by the Australian Government’s foreign aid program. Nearly all overseas students studying in Australia over this period were either fully or partly subsidised by the Australian Government, with the number of overseas students capped by an annual quota. Following reviews into Australia’s approach to the education of overseas students, including the 1984 Jackson Report, a new policy was released in 1985. This policy introduced a number of measures, such as allowing universities and other educational institutions to offer places to full fee-paying overseas students, which encouraged the development of Australia’s education exports sector. There were also changes in overseas student visa procedures aimed at helping educational institutions market their courses internationally. As a result of these changes, overseas student numbers increased significantly, and there has been a rise in the proportion of university funding sourced from fee-paying overseas students.

Third, the expansion of such a market, and the creation of significant export earnings, has created dependency upon full fee paying foreign students to bankroll a major component of the budgets of Australian universities (see Graph 4 above).

Thus, when between 15-20% of average annual revenue comes from “fee-paying foreign students”, especially the parents of Asian students, a condition of broad structural dependency exists, all ultimately shouldered upon household decision-making dynamics in places like Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Mumbai, Seoul and Singapore. And it should also be noted that the income streams being generated from these students are proportionally being reinvested into the enhancement of the faculty base; indeed, as the figure below from a new Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada report (Trends in higher education – Volume 3: Finance) demonstrates, Australia has seen a massive increase in student numbers (local + foreign) but relatively little faculty growth.

Is it any wonder then, that the Brisbane Communiqué Initiative, an initiative that we will profile in early August, was developed in 2006, largely in response to the Bologna Process?

The Brisbane Communiqué, and related initiatives in Australia, remind us that structural dependency upon foreign (Asian) students exists. Given this, Australia cannot help but be concerned about any initiative that might lead to the possible realignment of Pacific Asian (especially China), and South Asian (especially India) higher education systems to the west (aka Europe), versus the south (Australia), when it comes to the mechanisms that enable international student mobility.

Kris Olds

Strategic communications via global higher ed: the Uniting Students in America (USA) proposal

Further to our entry on the new Rand report (U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology), today’s Chronicle of Higher Education includes coverage (‘Subcommittees Debate Proposal to Bring International Students to U.S.‘)of some global higher ed-related testimony on 19 June 2008 at the United States House of Representatives. This news item is, in some ways, the higher ed side of the higher ed/research dynamic that is becoming framed in global geopolitical and geoeconomic senses by elites in the United States, Europe, Australasia, and so on.

In the context of a joint session sponsored by the US House Foreign Affairs (Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight) and the House Education and Labor Committee (Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness), advocates for the Restoring America’s Leadership through Scholarships for Undergraduates from Developing Countries: The Uniting Students in America (USA) Proposal testified yesterday. The witnesses, as they are deemed, were:

  • George Scott (Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Team, Government Accountability Office)
  • Philip O. Geier (Executive Director, Davis United World College Scholars Program). Testimony available here.
  • William B. DeLauder (President Emeritus, Delaware State College, Counselor to the President, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges). Testimony available here.
  • Philip O. Clay (Director, International Admissions and Services, University of Texas – Pan American). Testimony available here.
  • Rachel C. Ochako (Scholar, Davis United World College Scholars Program, Middlebury College). Testimony available here.
  • David S. North (Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies). Testimony available here.

As the Chronicle notes, the plan for the “Uniting Students in America” proposal:

would finance 7,500 scholarships each year for undergraduates from foreign countries who come from low-income families. Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts who is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, said he plans to introduce a bill by the end of the summer that would create the scholarship program. The program is projected to cost $1-billion over four years and would assist 30,000 students per year by the time it is fully phased in.

The testimonies point to a desire to more intensely weave together the dual objectives of international development and the enhancement of the reputational standing of the United States in the world via global higher ed. Indeed, the title of the hearing – Restoring America’s Leadership through Scholarships for Undergraduates from Developing Countries – is a blunt statement that in many ways says it all. Yet it is really the testimonies that provide the nuance and flesh to this agenda. On this note, here are some lengthy quotes from two of the speakers.

First, Philip O. Geier (Executive Director, Davis United World College Scholars Program):

Much has been written about America’s role and reputation in today’s post Cold War and post 9/11 context. Much of that literature is ideological, lacking both balance in perspective and a constructive long term strategic view of America’s special place in the world. While an exhaustive discussion of this literature is beyond the scope of this hearing, this does seem an appropriate place to suggest a few ways to achieve greater balance and a greater focus on long term approaches to America’s positive engagement with the rest of the world.

We would be well served to find a greater balance between our “hard power” and our “soft power.” We would be equally well served to find ways to build in-depth, personal relationships between the most promising future leaders in our country and their counterparts from elsewhere in the world.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates articulated these objectives clearly in a speech given on November 26, 2007. He said, “…based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former director of C.I.A. and now as secretary of defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use ‘soft power’ and for better integrating it with ‘hard power…. ’ We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about policies and goals…. We can expect that asymmetric warfare will be the mainstay of the contemporary battlefield for some time. These conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature and require the application of all elements of national power. Success will be less a matter of imposing one’s will and more a function of shaping behavior of friends, adversaries and, most importantly, the people in between.”

Secretary Gates was drawing from the work of Joseph S. Nye Jr.’s Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (2004) which contends that effective public diplomacy includes “building long-term relationships that create an enabling environment for government policies.” Nye maintains we need to develop “lasting relationships with key individuals….”

Similarly, in January 2008, we were presented with the report [cover image above] of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee constituted jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. Its co-chairs’ message stated: “Our long term success requires not only that we deter and detect determined adversaries, but also that we persuade millions of people around the globe of our ideals – democratic freedom, private enterprise, human rights, intellectual pursuit, technological achievement.”

One of the key recommendations of the Secure Borders and Open Doors report was that “the U.S. should articulate a comprehensive policy for attracting international students….”

In my view, we are approaching an opportune time for some reformulation of our foreign policy. While we must continue to take all necessary measures to ensure our security, we should also become more pro-active in promoting our nation’s values and opportunities to others so that they can truly understand and benefit from our way of life. In this context, we can leverage one of our country’s most unique strengths, its institutions of higher learning. While worldwide opinion polls would suggest that America has lost its allure, there is no question that America’s colleges and universities remain the envy of the world and that an opportunity to gain a degree in the U.S. is without compare.

And second, from William B. DeLauder (President Emeritus, Delaware State College, Counselor to the President, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges):

I believe that there is a broad consensus around the country that student mobility contributes greatly to fostering goodwill and better understandings between nations. Some have called this a form of educational diplomacy. To be effective it must occur both ways – i.e., more American students studying abroad and more international students studying in this country.

As stated in the Report of the NASULGC Task Force on International Education [cover image above], “The goodwill and strong personal ties to this nation built through generations of students coming to our colleges and universities from around the world are important underpinnings of U.S. foreign relations.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed it this way: “International students and scholars enrich our communities with their academic abilities and cultural diversity and they return home with an increased understanding and often a lasting affection for the United States. I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here.”….

The USA Program therefore should contribute to improving the image of the United States abroad and thereby improve our diplomacy abroad. As several studies have shown, our image around the world is badly tarnished. International students who study in one of our colleges or universities will have an opportunity to meet and talk with American students and others from diverse backgrounds, to experience the diverse American culture, to learn about American democracy, to learn about American institutions, and to obtain a valuable undergraduate education that will be a strong asset in their life pursuits. Many of these students are expected to become future leaders within their respective countries. They will bring with this new responsibility a better understanding of the United States that should enhance their countries’ relationships with the United States.

In some ways this is nothing new: countries around the world have always sought to use scholarships to enhance their strategic communicative capacity, build their economies (through the import of skilled labour), build capacity in other countries, and so on. Yet these are interesting time in the US as the end of the Bush/Cheney era approaches.

Given the rhetoric in these testimonies it might seem like the US should be poised to launch, under the leadership of McCain or Obama, a much more substantial material and symbolic drive to support a vast number of global higher ed linkage schemes, including via the offer of scholarships to students from developing countries. However, the counter-current forces and hurdles are substantial despite the swell we are seeing now re. strategic communications agendas. These include increasing social anxiety in the US about access to a very expensive higher education system, a startling fiscal mess enabled by the Bush/Cheney regime, an ideological disconnect with the idea of state-led action via ‘soft power’ (US neoconservatives being more inclined to use state largesse for the tools associated with ‘hard power’), an existing sense of global higher ed dominance in some political circles (i.e. why spend more when we’re No. 1 already), and the lack of a national approach to higher education, let along global higher ed, as Lloyd Armstrong has noted in Changing Higher Ed.

This is an ongoing debate worth watching as the US prepares itself for a significant national political transition.

Kris Olds

Graphic feed: global student mobility matrix (2005)

Source: Internationalization of Higher Education: Foreign Students in Germany-German Students Abroad. Results of the 18th Social Survey of the Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) conducted by HIS Hochschul-Informations-System, 2008.

Update: see nanopolitan‘s interesting 4 June reflections (‘Indian’s studying abroad‘) on this table, and the changing nature of the foreign Indian student presence in the USA.

The Bologna Process in Africa: a case of aspiration, inspiration, or both?

The original Bologna Process architects must surely rub their eyes on occasions, and wonder quite how ‘they’ managed to let a genie ‘so big’ out of a bottle that is more often characterized as a ‘bottleneck of bureaucracy’.

The Bologna Process is not only one of the biggest news stories in higher education in Europe (see our stories here, here and here), but its magic seems to be spreading with tsunamic affect. Bologna is fast becoming a truly global phenomenon. Nations as far afield as Cameroon, China, Australia, Russia and Brazil, are either talking about, or signing on to, a Bologna style ‘restructuring brand’. Last year, the Bologna Follow-up Group released its report on the ‘external dimension’ of the Bologna Process, and whilst wrapped up in ‘euro-speak’ (‘dimension’ being a euphemism for the various modalities of Europe as a political project), it nevertheless makes for very, very, interesting reading.

Of particular interest, then, is this week’s World University News report on the Bologna Process in Africa, on this occasion with a focus on Cameroon. Since 2003 (the Bologna Process began only four years earlier in 1999) a number of francophone African countries have begun the reform of their higher education systems. These changes are regarded as essential, in view of the need for the global harmonization of higher education and increased student mobility.

For many African countries, the Cameroon included, their students study abroad in those countries which were their former colonial masters. As a result, as University World News reports:

…in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of African students studying in France totalled 125,585, almost half of all students from abroad. Nearly 54,000 of these were from sub-Saharan Africa, of whom the 6,280 Cameroonians represented the second highest contingent, after Senegal.

Around Africa, such as in the Maghreb region (made up of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), groupings of countries are busy putting the Bologna model into place. With higher-education traditions modeled after the French system, all three former French colonies are currently realigning their higher education systems with the licence, master, doctorat (LMD or 3-5-8) architecture that is now a part of the French higher-education landscape.

These processes have been pushed forward by a series of regional meetings. In July 2007, a conference was convened in the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss African Universities’ Adaptation to the Bologna Process. This meeting followed two conferences in Dakar, Senegal (July 2005) and El Jadida, Morocco (May 2006). The 2007 conference aimed to discuss ways in which African universities could use lessons learned from the Bologna process to build more cooperative international relationships across four main themes:

  • the decision process that has brought African universities or countries to opt for the Bologna model
  • the direct or indirect effects of the decision to adopt the Bologna model: curriculum reform, quality assurance and accreditation, mobility, recognition and joint degrees, professional master’s/research master’s degrees and doctoral schools
  • the current evolution of the emerging countries’ universities, and their place in globalization
  • the role of international and/or financial organizations in the promotion of the Bologna model.

It is clearly important to ensure articulation between different countries qualifications regimes to ensure ease of mobility across borders.

However, this is not the only reason for advancing a Bologna-inspired restructuring of higher education. It is also being used as a tool to generate new forms of regionalism, a development GlobalHigherEd has been covering in earlier entries (see here and here). The World Education Services, for example, reports that for the three countries of the Maghreb, much of this regional collaboration was undertaken with an eye to developing a ‘Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area.’ A founding document for the proposed education area was signed in January 2006 and is known as the Catania Declaration . In addition to Euro-Mediterranean and Maghreb countries, Egypt and Jordan are also signatory to the Declaration.

So, while the advance of the Bologna Process in Europe does have important implications for those countries that continue to have strong ties to Europe’s system of higher education and labour markets, Bologna is also important as it is triggering new pockets and forms of regionalisms. It is in this sense, then, that we might say that Bologna in Africa is both aspirational and inspirational.

Susan Robertson

New foreign student and export income geographies in the UK and Australia

I’ve been visiting the University of Warwick for the last two days and have noticed a serious level of international accent diversity at various campus sites, far more than was the case when I was a PhD student in Bristol in the mid-1990s. Not surprising, perhaps, given Warwick’s position as the third largest recipient of foreign students in the UK, as the Guardian coincidentally noted yesterday:

The universities with the largest numbers of international students.

2006-07 (latest figures)

1. Manchester University 8345
2. Nottingham University 7710
3. Warwick University 7435
4. Oxford University 6555
5. City University 6380
6. Cambridge University 6340
7. University College London 6135
8. London School of Economics 5980
9. Westminster University 5735
10. Birmingham University 5505

Grand total of international students in all years (ie not just in their first year) at all universities in the UK and including undergraduates and postgraduates was 351,470

A related graphic on the regional “hotspots” in the Guardian is here. Recall that the UK is the second largest recipient of foreign students in the world.

Meanwhile in Australia, the 5th largest recipient of foreign students in the world, Australian Education International just released an interesting Research Snapshot (May 2008) that captures some of the economic effects of receiving foreign students [note: if you click on the table a clear full screen version will pop up]:

This is a significant economic impact. The same snapshot notes:

Of the total export income generated by education services in 2007, $12.2 billion was from spending on fees and goods and services by onshore students, and a further $370 million was from other education services such as offshore students’ fees and education consultancy services3. Education services remains Australia’s 3rd largest export, behind coal and iron ore ($20.8 billion and $16.1 billion respectively), and the largest services export industry ahead of personal travel (tourism) services ($11.8 billion).

This said, there is a distinctive geography to the impact:

Thus, while aggregate data tables (e.g., from the OECD’s valuable Education at a Glance 2007) are important to assess, there is huge institutional and geographic variation regarding the integration of foreign students into any one nation, highlighting, again, the importance of breaking free of methodological nationalism.

Kris Olds

The ‘other GATS negotiations’: domestic regulation and norms

In our previous entries (here and here) in GlobalHigherEd we introduced the World Trade Organization (WTO) and explained the content and implications of the liberalization negotiation within the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The liberalization negotiation is the most well known activity within the scope of GATS. In fact, very often the GATS and education literature restricts the content of the agreement to its liberalization disciplines (that is, market access and national treatment).

However, other negotiations that are equally relevant to the future of higher education are also taking place, and specifically the negotiations on Domestic Regulation (DR) and Norms.

Discussion on these topics takes place as the logical consequence of the fact that the GATS is an incomplete agreement. In the Uruguay Round, the GATS was designed and signed, but member countries did not reach a consensus in sensitive issues, such as Domestic Regulation (Article VI) and the so-called Norms (Articles X, XIII and XV). So, after Uruguay, two working groups – composed by all WTO member countries – were established with the objective of concluding these articles.

Domestic regulation negotiations
Article VI establishes that the national regulation cannot block the “benefits derived from the GATS” and calls member countries to elaborate disciplines and procedures that contribute to identify those national regulations that states’ impose on foreign services providers that are ‘more burdensome than necessary’. The regulations in question include those associated with:

  • qualification issues (for instance, certificates that are required by education services providers),
  • technical standards (which can be related to quality assurance mechanisms), and
  • licensing requirements (which, in some countries and sectors might refer to conditions and benchmarks on access to the service).

One of the procedures that is being discussed in the framework of the Working Group on DR is a polemical ‘necessity test’. If this instrument is approved, Member States will have to demonstrate, if asked, that certain regulatory measures are totally necessary to achieve certain aims, and that they could not apply any other less trade-restrictive alternative.

Rules
In the framework of the Working Group on Rules, three issues are being discussed:

  • Emergency Safeward Mechanisms (Article X): These mechanisms, when settled, would permit to countries to retrieve some liberalization commitments – without receiving any sanction – in case that it can be demonstrated that the liberalization experience has had very negative effects. Southern countries are more interested in the achievement of strong mechanisms, while developed countries pushes for softer disciplines.
  • Government procurement (Article XIII): The Working Group examines how government procurement could be inserted in the GATS framework. Therefore, transnational services corporations could become public procurement bidders in foreign countries. Developed countries are most interested in strong disciplines in relation to this rule.
  • Subsidies (Article XV): In this case, Members are elaborating disciplines to avoid the “distortion to trade” provoked by subsidies.

DR and Rules negotiations are different to the liberalization negotiations in the sense that the former are not developed progressively (i.e. round after round). On the one hand, once each country reaches an agreement, consecutive negotiations on these areas will not be necessary. On the other hand, DR and Norms affect all sectors indiscriminately because, in contrast to liberalization negotiations, they are not negotiated sector by sector.

The outcome of the Working Groups on DR and Rules will thus modify the balance between the legitimate capacity of the states to prosecute certain social objectives (for instance, in relation to the access and quality of public services such as education) and the obligation to guarantee a free trade environment for transnational services providers.

Given the importance of these ‘other’ negotiations in the GATS, our view is that the education community should make sure that they also keep a watchful eye on them. GlobalHigherEd readers might find the information in the periodic publication TradeEducation News, launched by Education International, a useful way of doing this.

Antoni Verger and Susan Robertson

‘US universities no longer only game in town’ (on National Public Radio)

National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States played three shows on the 11 May Sunday Weekend Edition about global higher ed issues. All three are available below.

‘U.S. Universities No Longer Only Game in Town’
Listen Now [4 min 58 sec]
Weekend Edition Sunday, May 11, 2008 – In the past few years there has been an increase in applications to American graduate schools but the rate of growth is slowing. Beth McMurtrie, international editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education talks with Liane Hansen about why there has been a decline in the number of foreign students attending U.S. universities.

‘Higher Education in China Expanding’

by Larry Abramson and Liane Hansen
Listen Now [2 min 52 sec]
Weekend Edition Sunday, May 11, 2008 – China is in the midst of a building boom of colleges and universities. The country is attempting to improve the quality of these institutions and its world ranking.

‘University Creates Student Oasis in Egypt’s Desert’
by Liane Hansen
Listen Now [6 min 30 sec]:
Weekend Edition Sunday, May 11, 2008 – The city of New Cairo is the future home of the American University in Cairo, which is building a sprawling 260-acre campus to replace the current campus downtown

Thanks to Noel Radomski of WISCAPE for the tip.

A Malaysian critique of Australian branch campus operations

Further to the debates about institutional mobility we have been profiling in GlobalHigherEd, malaysiankini recently posted this story:

Foreign universities giving it to us real good

The general public is not aware that a certain Australian university which has a campus here has little interest in developing the nation’s intellectual capital. Over the last year, it’s hidden agenda is to steal Malaysia’s wealth and brain power, contributing very little to the nation while delegating distinguished locals to insignificant supporting roles while harvesting their intellectual work for the benefit of Australia.

Keep reading here, though do be warned it was written by a “disgruntled former staff” member (with all that that brings with it, for good and for bad).

Thanks to Education Malaysia for spotting this one.

Kris Olds

Debating NYU Abu Dhabi and Liaoning Normal University-Missouri State University College of IB

The globalization of higher education is associated with a wide variety of trends and impacts, though these obviously vary across space, system, and type of institution.

One of these trends is institutional and program mobility; an emerging phenomenon we have paid significant attention to in GlobalHigherEd, including via these recent entries:

Two fascinating articles have emerged this past week that dig into this broad topic with a focus on some of the organizational challenges of institutional and program mobility.

NYU Abu Dhabi

The first article (no subscription required to access) is in New York Magazine (21 April 2008), and it examines relatively intense debates about NYU Abu Dhabi, an initiative that we profiled in October (the entry was partly inspired by INSEAD‘s strategic thinking about globalization of higher education models for higher ed institutions). The New York Magazine article includes a variety of critiques of the NYU Abu Dhabi initiative, mainly from within NYU itself. The critiques focus on:

(1) The dilution NYU’s ‘brand name’, lucidly captured in this quote by influential NYU professor Craig Calhoun (who is also President of the NY-based Social Science Research Council):

Many professors fear that, as sociology professor Craig Calhoun puts it, NYU is “creating a second-tier version of itself,” spreading itself too thin and turning the university into an academic chain restaurant—“a conglomerate with a number of wholly owned subsidiaries.”

(2) The forging of a relationship with an authoritarian political regime; an issue intertwined with concern about academic freedom, and possible problems given the sexual and religious identities of NYU faculty, students, and eventual visitors (e.g., conference attendees from Israel).

(3) The treatment of foreign labour in Abu Dhabi; labour inevitably to be used to construct the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, as they were for the iconic Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

(4) President Sexton’s leadership style vis a vis the decision-making process, and the subsequent planning process, which is captured in this quote:

To many faculty, the Abu Dhabi project embodies the worst of John Sexton’s indulgences and the short-sightedness of his glory-seeking ambitions. Mary Nolan, a history professor who has been teaching at the university for almost 30 years, describes the Abu Dhabi project as “a quintessentially Sexton operation. He thinks he has some sort of a missionary calling, but he operates in a very autocratic manner. Deans are kept on a very short leash, and faculty governance has been absolutely gutted.”

In some ways these are criticisms that are to be expected given the ambitious nature of the initiative, and they remind us of the debates underway in the University of Warwick (UK) about a possible campus in Singapore (before Warwick pulled the plug in 2005). However, the article is noteworthy in that the critiques regarding NYU Abu Dhabi are emerging part way through the planning and implementation process such that some faculty clearly feel there is an opportunity to ‘stymie’ the initiative.

The New York Magazine article is also fascinating for it conveys, in a subtle way, the intermingling of the two geographies of NYU Abu Dhabi:

  • A vibrant and brash global city situated in the United States, which is where an equally vibrant and brash higher ed institution is embedded, and,
  • A fast changing Middle Eastern city, and emirate, that is using the capacity of a developmental state to create a post-oil development imaginary, economy and society.

Thus the NYU Abu Dhabi initiative is, regardless of its strengths and weaknesses, an outcome of the articulation of two forceful and strategic developmental agendas that will inevitably complement and contradict for these disparate geographies are starting to be brought together. This said, while NYU is led by a powerful president (Sexton), he has much less capacity to direct, to guide, to lead, to govern, than do Abu Dhabi’s political leaders. Moreover, unlike globally active service firms (e.g., law firms, accountancy firms), faculty for higher education providers, least of all tenured faculty, cannot be forced to work at an overseas campus. Relatively flat hierarchies in Western universities mean that organizational behaviour is vastly different than in globally active private sector service firms. So while Sexton’s critics are using the firm/franchise analogy to voice their concerns about the transformation of NYU’s institutional culture, and possible damage to the institution’s reputation (brand name), Sexton is in a seriously constrained position, vis a vis the implementation process. Bringing a foreign/overseas/branch campus to life is a challenge few university presidents have experience with, partly due to organizational and other resource limitations.

If NYU Abu Dhabi is clearly an experiment in formation, as we think it is, we certainly hope that both boosters and critics, at least in New York (where a greater density of insightful analysts are based), are documenting this experiment so that others can learn from the development experience.

LNU-MSU College of International Business

Meanwhile, over in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a joint venture between Liaoning Normal University in China, and Missouri State University in the United States, known as the LNU-MSU College of International Business, is the recipient of some forthcoming (2 May 2008 ) and very illuminating coverage from Paul Mooney (the Chronicle’s China correspondent) with input from Beth McMurtrie. The article (subscription required to access) outlines a series of problems, including unresponsive faculty, unqualified contract faculty (2/35 with a PhD), faculty turnover (nearing 50% last year), inadequate equipment for science courses, flagrant student cheating, English and Mandarin language skill inadequacies, inadequate distance communications systems, and on and on it goes…

Where is the quality assurance dynamic and effect, you may ask? Even this is inadequate, as this lengthy segment from the Chronicle article outlines:

All overseas degree programs run by American universities must be vetted by their accreditors, in this case the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Karen J. Solomon, associate director of the commission, calls the LNU-MSU venture “very interesting and promising.”

She expresses surprise at the complaints that students and faculty members made to The Chronicle. For example, she says, it was her impression that a large number of faculty members from Missouri had been to the Dalian campus to work with students.

“The university is making a pretty big commitment in time and people, which is better than other programs,” she says.

Ms. Solomon acknowledges that the commission has not yet sent anyone to visit the campus, and that she relies on reports of its progress from Missouri State administrators. But, she adds, AACSB International: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business has reviewed the program in Dalian, and “we take that into consideration.”

However, Jerry E. Trapnell, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer for AACSB International, the primary accreditor of American business schools, says his organization has never visited or even reviewed the program.

The accrediting group’s last visit to Missouri State was during the 2002-3 academic year, he says, at a time when AACSB International was reviewing programs on a 10-year cycle. The bachelor’s-degree program in China had just started and did not yet have any students, says Mr. Trapnell, and his association does not review associate-degree programs.

AACSB International plans to review the LNU-MSU program during Missouri’s next scheduled review. Mr. Trapnell says the association is switching to a five-year review cycle, so he’s not yet sure when Missouri State’s turn will come up.

“There’s a whole bunch of things I’d be looking at,” says Mr. Trapnell, including academic quality, admissions, program-review mechanisms, and student and faculty qualifications.

Although he cannot speak specifically about the China program, Mr. Trapnell says his association expects that half of a degree program’s faculty members should have “significant experience,” which he defines as holding a doctorate and having extensive work experience in the field.

“That would be a concern,” he says when told of the lower qualifications of the instructors in Dalian, “because one of the things we worry about is that the school is expected to deploy qualified faculty.”

MSU administrators are likely to be busy this week answering questions about their failure to deliver, if the indicators in the Chronicle article are even half true. It is also worth noting that LNU-MSU is attempting to hire right now, as this 31 March 2008 advertisement in the Chronicle conveys. In case you are wondering, 8000 RMB is US $1,144.57 per month. Given the comments above from Jerry E. Trapnell, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer for AACSB International, this advertisement is clearly pitched at the wrong audience (MA degree holders alone). Yet given the salary and working conditions, could they actually attract quality PhD holders?

While it is highly unlikely that NYU would ever go down the MSU path, both articles shed light on the globalization of higher education development process, highlighting how much of a challenge it is for universities to move beyond MoUs and Agreements to establish and then effectively govern new forms of global networks. One dimension of this challenge is that many universities are having a difficult time facilitating intra-institutional ‘buy-in’ (aka a sense of ownership and commitment) from the people who bring universities to life, for good and for bad – their core faculty. Yet if core faculty don’t buy-in, grand visions, or even modest visions (like those hatched by MSU administrators), are much more likely to have problems, and perhaps fail to deliver. This is, of course, one of the reasons institutions like the OECD and UNESCO are becoming involved in the governance of transnational higher education (e.g., see the guidelines on ‘Quality provision in cross border higher education’). Yet these are early days on this front, as the LMU-MSU case clearly demonstrates.

Kris Olds

Just saying “no” to overseas branch campuses and programs: Ivy League vs UK logics

Over the last two days we’ve received information regarding leaders of two universities – in this case the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University – making clear statements that they have no interest in opening degree-granting campuses or programs abroad. Both decisions were highlighted in The Daily Pennsylvanian (22 April 2008), while the Yale decision (regarding a possible presence in Abu Dhabi) was profiled by the UK Higher Education International Unit, a relatively new (circa 2007) institution with a website, and newsletter, worth keeping an eye on.

The Yale and Penn stances contrast, sharply, with the stance on overseas degree-granting ventures adopted by numerous UK universities that were profiled in today’s other GlobalHigherEd entry. The crux of the matter is related to (a) control over brand name reputation, and (b) quality assurance (QA) concerns, as determined by the respective Ivy League universities versus QA agencies. These quotes from The Daily Pennsylvanian say it all:

While the University has “considered” exporting education overseas, Penn President Amy Gutmann said the University is not ready to open a degree-offering program on a satellite campus.

Should Penn ever seriously consider a degree-granting outpost campus, it would only be because the school found such a program in line with its mission and consistent with its educational standards, Gutmann said.

She said the University’s ability to recruit faculty overseas was not up to par, but added that partnerships with universities on other continents have been successful.

And in the UK Higher Education International newsletter:

Quality assurance struck at the heart of Yale’s decision to withdraw: ultimately the University did not believe it could devote adequate numbers of faculty to the Abu Dhabi institute to guarantee academic standards. Yale President Richard Levin said ‘We don’t want to offer degrees unless we can essentially staff the courses with a faculty that is of the same quality and distinction as the one here in New Haven… and at this stage in the development of international programmes, that’s not easy to accomplish.’….

In an interview with the Yale Daily News in October 2007, Mrs Ellis warned, ‘You cannot have the ‘luxury Yale experience’ — the couture line — in New Haven and then the Canal Street fake version somewhere in the Middle East. You must never compromise on your brand or your honour in such ventures [or] chip away one iota of quality or core values that have made Yale, Yale or the Louvre, the Louvre.’

No doubt straining not to say, ‘I told you so’, Mrs Ellis was re-interviewed by the paper last week. ‘The rewards would have to outweigh the potential political and reputational risks to Yale,’ she said, before raising a fundamental question: ‘What’s in it for Yale? Abu Dhabi needs Yale, but it is not clear to me that Yale needs Abu Dhabi.… It seems to me such deals make most sense for institutions looking to raise cash and their international profile. Last time I checked, Yale needed neither.’

To be sure Yale, and Penn, both seek to create ‘global footprints’, but institutional and program mobility is clearly not a desirable option for them right now, if ever. It is also noteworthy that Yale and Penn have relatively deliberative institutional cultures, at least compared to many universities with overseas campuses, and thorough debate occurs before key decision-making points; a feature of institutional governance that frequently leads to the rejection of these types of proposals, as the University of Warwick found out in 2005 when deliberating about the implications of opening a large campus in Singapore. This said, it is noteworthy that a peer university – NYU – has gone very far down the institutional mobility path, highlighting the diversity of approaches adopted to institutional globalization.

In closing, GlobalHigherEd understands more news items will be emerging on the broad issue of QA and overseas degrees (in China) in the coming weeks, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted…

Kris Olds

UK-China partnerships and collaborations in higher education

Both China (PRC) and the Hong Kong SAR offer an expanding and highly competitive market opportunity for overseas higher education institutions (HEIs). As noted in a recent report commissioned by the British Council (UK-China-Hong Kong Transnational Education Project), a number of UK HEIs are providing hundreds of new ‘international’ degree programmes in Hong Kong and China.

According to the Hong Kong Education Bureau, in January 2008 there were over 400 degree programmes run by 36 different UK HEIs in Hong Kong. On the one hand, UK HEIs can be seen to work as independent operators, offering a number of courses to local students registered with the Hong Kong Education Bureau under the ‘Non-local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Ordinance’. At the same time, UK HEIs have also initiated a series of collaborations between UK and Hong Kong HEIs. These collaborations are exempted from registration under the Ordinance. In January 2008 there were over 150 registered- and 400 exempted-courses run by 36 different UK HEIs in Hong Kong.

These are a relatively recent phenomenon – according to the British Council Report, more than 40% of joint initiatives in Hong Kong were begun after 2003. Overall, the UK is a significant provider of international education services in Hong Kong, providing 63% of ‘non-local’ courses (compared to 22% from Australia, 5% from the USA and 1% from Canada). These links were bolstered by the ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Education Cooperation’ signed on 11th May 2006 by Arthur Li (Secretary for Education and Manpower HK) and Bill Rammell (Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning UK). The memorandum aims, amongst other things, to strengthen partnerships and strategic collaboration between the UK and Hong Kong.

UK HEIs’ involvement in delivering HE in China is ostensibly less well developed. However, in 2006, UK HEIs provided the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) with information on 352 individual links with 232 Chinese HE institutions or organisations. Some recent significant developments with respect to international ‘partnerships’ with Chinese institutions include Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University (XJTLU), located in Suzhou in China, and The University of Nottingham Ningbo, which is sponsored by the City of Ningbo, China, with cooperation from Zhejiang Wanli University. Other examples of UK-China international partnerships include: Leeds Metropolitan University and Zhejiang University of Technology; Queen Mary, University of London and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications; The Queen’s University of Belfast and Shenzhen University; and the University of Bedfordshire and the China Agricultural University.

In 2006, the QAA conducted audits of 10 selected partnerships between UK and Chinese HEIs in order to establish if and how UK institutions were maintaining academic standards within these partnerships. The main findings are that:

  • nearly half (82) of all UK higher education institutions reported that they are involved in some way in providing higher education opportunities in China;
  • there is great variety in the type of link used to deliver UK awards in China, the subjects studied and the nature of the awards;
  • in 2005-06 there were nearly 11,000 Chinese students studying in China for a UK higher education award, 3,000 of whom were on programmes that would involve them completing their studies in the UK;
  • institutions’ individual arrangements for managing the academic standards and quality of learning opportunities are generally comparable with programmes in the UK and reflect the expectations of the Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education (Code of practice), Section 2: Collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning), published by QAA.

The map profiled above was extracted from this report. A similar exercise was carried out in 2007 on partnerships between 6 UK HEIs and Hong Kong HEIs.

These practices and partnerships exemplify the international outlook of many UK HEIs, and underscore the perceived (significant) role of China in their future planning and policies. Unlike Hong Kong, China is seen as market ripe for expansion, with substantial unmet demand for higher education that will only grow into the future. China is by far the biggest ‘source’ country of international students globally, and UK institutions are increasingly recognising the possibility of taking their educational programmes to the students.

Johanna Waters