Learning from London?

I sometimes wonder if it is worth drawing lines and generating comparisons between two seemingly disparate processes that are at work at different scales, and in different countries, but why not – I’m jetlagged with some late night time to spare.

Fig1CGSFirst, the US Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released a new report (Findings from the 2009 CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey, Phase III: Final Offers of Admissions and Enrollment), and associated press release, that flags the challenges the US has in attracting foreign students at the levels it once did. The full report (from which Figure 1 to the right is taken) is definitely worth reading. This segment of the final paragraph particularly caught my eye:

Despite the high quality of graduate education in the United States, we cannot continue to assume that our institutions are the number one destination of international graduate students. In the last three years, growth in the numbers of international graduate students coming to the United States has slowed, and now the numbers have flat lined, even though global student mobility has rapidly increased over the last decade. Given this new reality, policymakers and the graduate school community are faced with several key questions if the United States is to remain the destination of choice for international graduate students: Are there national policies that deter international students from coming to the United States for graduate school? How do we make U.S. graduate programs attractive to both domestic and international students? Within the constraints of the current economic situation, what can institutions do to more effectively attract international students to their graduate programs? And, what lessons can we learn from the successes of colleges and universities in other countries in attracting international students to their graduate programs?

Meanwhile, I was reading the Guardian‘s Tuesday education insert today, and one faculty vacancy advertisement also caught my eye: University College London (UCL) “wishes to appoint an International Relations Lecturer to contribute to research and teaching on the MSc in International Public Policy within the Department of Political Science/School of Public Policy“.  Given my interest in international/global public policy, I read through the advertisement to see what the new hire would have to teach, and came across an interesting number:

UCL is a multi-faculty college of the University of London with a population of over 17,000 students from more than 130 different countries. It is ranked by the Times Higher as one of the top five universities worldwide. Founded in 2005, the Department of Political Science has quickly established itself as a leading international centre for political research and came 6th in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) organised by the British Higher Education Funding Councils – 3rd in terms of the percentage of research deemed to be ‘world leading’ (20%) and ‘internationally excellent’ (45%). It is the only department in the UK centred on graduate teaching and research, and currently has almost 400 Masters students on its programmes.

Nearly 400 (and rising) Masters students from around the world, in a new graduate student only department.  Thus, across the Atlantic, albeit at two vastly different scales, we see flat-lining if not decline (in the US) versus rapid expansion (in UCL, London, UK).  Of course this is but one department’s experience, though I have seen broader signs that the UK has seen significant growth in graduate programmes, including at the Masters level.

LondonNow, if you really wanted to unpack the developmental dynamic further, you would have to explore issues like the context (London, a global city which is also situated within the European Higher Education Area), the national system (which incentivizes departments to create one year taught Masters programs), an emerging sense that higher education is an export industry in the UK, and so on.  But let’s also burrow down to the level of academic practice, as captured in this advertisement, and ask this question: how do faculty members in UK universities like UCL or Oxford or King’s College London balance the need to generate revenue via taught Masters programmes, with the imperative to conduct ever more innovative research (which ideally needs to generate ‘societal impact’ as well), all the while supporting increasingly large numbers of graduate students?

And where do they put them?! By my count this particular department has 16 faculty (17 with this hire), 13 teaching fellows (3 with PhD) and “almost 400” masters students. This equals 25 MA/MSc students per faculty member, or 21 per PhD holder.

I know the quality of higher education is high in the UK, and is likely excellent in this particular department, but are these numbers and proportions (students/faculty) typical at the UK level, manageable for faculty, and reflective of the attractiveness of one year Masters programs (which are not at all common in the US)?

Moreover, are learning outcomes of such programs on par across national boundaries (e.g., the UK versus the US or the Netherlands), and do PhD applicants (e.g., from the US to the UK, or from the UK to the US) come to their PhD programs from the MA/MSc with equitable levels of knowledge and capabilities, all things equal?

If so, then places like the UK (and UCL) are doing something right, and the US can perhaps learn from the UK experience.

If not, however, then it might be time to ask other questions about the nature and implications (especially with respect to quality) of the rapid growth of Masters degrees in London, and the UK more generally.

Can we learn from London, and if so what?

Kris Olds

OECD’s Education at a Glance 2008: a ‘problem/solution toolkit’ with problems?

Last week, or to be precise – on the 9th September at 11.00 Paris time, the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD), launched its ‘annual snapshot’ of the sector, Education at a Glance 2008. Within hours, the wheels of the media industry around the globe were pouring out stories of shame, fame, defeat and victory, whilst politicians in their respective countries were galvanized into action – either defending their own decisions or blaming a previous regime.

As previous entries in GlobalHigherEd (see here and here and here, as examples) argue, global indicators increasingly matter, not because they are always able to tell us much that is useful, but they work as a powerful disciplinary tool on nations. This, in turn, provides the issuing agent, in this case the OECD – ostensibly a ‘collective learning machinery’ – with an important mechanism for influencing the form and scope of education policies and programs around the globe. This is the tangible stuff of globalization – but this problem/solution toolkit is not without its own epistemological problems. Let’s take a look at two countries reported on this week – which headlined the OECD’s Report in the following way.

In the UK, the BBC and the Telegraph focused on the graduate league table, and the fact that the UK has not fared particularly well. The evidence? In 2000, the UK ranked 4th in the world in the number of school-leavers going to university. By 2006, this had plummeted to 12th.

Graeme Paton of the Telegraph reported on an interview with Andreas Schliecher, the OECD’s architect of Education at a Glance. According to Dr. Schliecher, the UK has major problems in producing school leavers with sufficient quality of credentials, whilst other countries have managed to sort out these problems and were already in the fast lane, leaving the UK behind.

Ministers canvassed by the Telegraph, however, insist that they were tackling the shortfall by encouraging more pupils to go to university and by pointing out the OECD good news story for the UK, that university graduates in the UK aged 25-64 earned 59 per cent more than other people – well above the national average.

In Canada, the influential Macleans magazine reported that in the OECD Education at a Glance comparisons, Canada was one of the few countries with the highest percentage of its population having completed post-secondary education. However, we are also given another statistic, and that is that the earnings advantage gained from completing post-secondary education in Canada had decreased in recent years and was quite low compared to other OECD countries. This is reflected in the lower average private rate-of-return on investment in post-secondary education relative to other nations in the OECD.

Let’s dwell, and not just ‘glance’, at these figures for a moment, and ask what is being reported here by the OECD:

  • competitive economies need a more highly educated workplace to perform more demanding work;
  • all countries need to encourage their young people to go to university and complete a degree; and
  • the incentives for this expenditure (which is increasingly being paid by families) are that there will be a higher rate-of-return to the student than if the student had not gone to university.

However, as we can see from our example above, countries with high levels of graduation (which the OECD says is good) report increasingly lower returns to graduates (ah…and is this not bad?).

Now, this is where the underlying human capital/homo-economicus rationale underpinning the OECD’s Education at a Glance begins to falter – for it cannot explain why it is that following the OECD’s prescriptions – of a high level of enrolment in higher education – reduces the overall earnings to the individual rather than increasing it.

While not one that is acknowledged in the repertoire of the OECD’s ‘problem/solution toolkit’ approach, this is where a sociological analysis is particularly helpful. As sociologists of education (see Phil Brown and Simon Marginson) have shown using Fred Hirsch’s insights on ‘positional goods’ tied to social status in his book The Social Limits to Growth, an advantage will only have economic value when no-one else has it. That is, its value depends on its scarcity. In other words, if we all have a graduate degree, then its value is diminished in the marketplace compared with when only half of us have one. This is part of the dynamic, for example, underlying degree inflation.

There’s also another issue, and this is the assumption that jobs in the ‘new knowledge economy’ will require us all to have graduate qualifications. However, the Confederation of British Industries (reported in the UK Guardian newspaper on the 17th Sept), disagrees, arguing that universities were producing far too many graduates leaving more than a million people in jobs for which they were overqualified. They argue that there are currently 10.1 million graduates in the UK, but only 9 million graduate jobs.

The deeper, and more tricky, question for policymakers now becomes: do we encourage everyone to hop onto the same credential treadmill with fewer and fewer returns and potentially higher levels of indebtedness? To be sure, there are important outcomes for individuals of a university education. However this experience is becoming more and more expensive, and the promised lifetime earnings are likely to be less and less. And who will shoulder the cost? Families? Employers? The State? And, how might the state and interrnational organizations, like the OECD, legitimate more and more credential inflation when the current ‘knowledge economy’ discourse is showing it to be somewhat hollow?

Or, ought we not think through what a range of trajectories might be that distributes talent/skills/training and investments over a wider portfolio of education/training/career options than is currently being presented to us?

Susan Robertson

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

Engaging globally through joint and dual degrees: the graduate experience

carlin.jpgEditor’s note: this guest entry has been kindly produced by Diana B. Carlin, Dean-in-Residence and Director of International Outreach, Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and former Dean of the Graduate School and International Programs, University of Kansas from 2000-2007. At Kansas she oversaw over 100 graduate programs on three campuses and the Offices of International Programs, Study Abroad, Applied English, and International Student and Scholar Services. During her tenure, Kansas developed joint and dual graduate degrees in France and Korea. She reported on trends in joint/dual degree development at an international conference (the “Strategic Leaders Global Summit on Graduate Education“) co-hosted by CGS and the Province of Alberta, Canada in August 2007.


Other postings on GlobalHigherEd (see ‘Engaging globally through joint and double degree programmes: a view from Singapore’ and ‘Engaging globally through dual degree programs: SUNY in Turkey’) have presented model joint/dual degree programs at the undergraduate level. Such degrees are gaining in popularity for graduate students as well (as are joint/dual graduate-level certificate programs). In fact, collaborative degrees have become one of the most popular session topics at meetings of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and other gatherings of graduate education leaders. Graduate school deans are discovering increased interest among faculty and administrators to both expand their institution’s international opportunities for domestic graduate students and attract international students through collaborative degrees. Additionally, as international research collaborations become more common, future faculty and non-faculty researchers can begin developing overseas connections. Students from all participating institutions also benefit from exposure to world-class facilities and faculty.

The federal government has also been encouraging development of collaborative degrees. Funding agencies’ grant programs such as NSF’s IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) and PIRE (Partnerships for International Research and Education), and Atlantis/FIPSE (a joint European-US program) in the Department of Education.

While graduate joint/dual degree programs share many of the same advantages and structures, and must consider many of the same steps in development, as undergraduate degree programs, there are also some unique issues that require consideration and collaboration among graduate programs, the graduate school, and international offices.

cgscover.jpgBefore considering the specific issues related to graduate-level dual and joint degree programs, readers might first be interested in knowing the extent to which current international collaborations exist and what the prospects are for future growth.

A CGS survey of graduate deans last summer found that 29% of the responding institutions had some type of collaborative degree or certificate arrangement with an international university. Respondents represented a high percentage of the U.S. universities that have the largest international student enrollment: nine of the ten institutions with the highest international enrollments responded, as did 84% of the largest 25. Nearly 56% of both the largest ten and the largest 50 institutions had at least one degree program, compared with only 22% of the institutions below the top 50. The top 50 institutions enroll approximately 41% of all international students. Thus, the results provide a relatively accurate trend among universities with high levels of international engagement.

cgstable5.jpgEuropean and Chinese universities headed the list of partners for master’s degree programs, with 39% and 24% of the collaborations respectively, while doctoral programs were primarily in Europe. Business degrees constituted the most popular field for master’s degrees with 44% of respondents reporting such collaborations; engineering was next with 35% of respondents. At the doctoral level engineering and physical science degrees were reported by 13% of the respondents. [The remaining responses can be found in the survey of graduate deans report.]

And it is clear that international collaborative degree programs are growing: when asked if the institutions had plans for new joint/dual degrees within the next two years, 24% answered affirmatively overall, and the percentages were even higher among the largest schools.

Now onto the unique issues alluded to above. The growing popularity of, and planned increases in, joint/dual degrees belies a set of concerns that faculty, graduate deans, and other administrators have. It is agreed that students, especially in business, engineering, and the sciences, will conduct their life’s work on a global stage and need preparation to do so. But it is also recognized that a program’s quality assurance and plans for long-term sustainability have to be considered during the initial planning stages.

Accreditation issues, especially for some professional degrees, become a factor as well (undergraduate programs in professional schools share some of these concerns). Collaborative program administrators have to learn how “memoranda of understanding” are prepared and how exchange agreements are structured. International offices have to become familiar with the aspects of a new graduate degree and its approval might differ from the institution’s practices for undergraduate programs.

The remainder of this posting presents some of the lessons learned by members of the graduate community who have worked through establishing joint and dual degrees.

The consensus of most graduate deans is that the best programs are those established with partner institutions that have existing relationships with the U.S. university or are familiar through long-term research collaborations among a group of faculty. Most agree that it is unwise to develop a degree program around the research interests of a single faculty member. In addition to regular program reviews, graduate degree collaborations would benefit from a review after two or three years and that the programs should have some type of “sunset” clause that the program is to be terminated if it does not produce the desired level of collaboration.

From my experience as a dean and from that of others, it is important to remember that no matter how long it takes to develop a program and how well it is conceived, there will always be issues that were overlooked and require negotiation or renegotiation. Something as simple as semester start and end dates can create problems, not to mention more difficult issues related to research projects and joint supervision of a thesis or dissertation. U.S. deans have discovered that it often takes scholarship funding to kick off a new program and to get the first cohort interested. They have also found that they often need to highlight successful existing programs to stakeholders in the approval process in order to allay concerns that could end a prospective alliance. Graduate degree programs often require a year just to work through various levels of approval; thus, program proponents need to be prepared to not promise anything until all of the agreements or memoranda of understanding are completed and signed.

Through sharing experiences at conferences, on list serves, and on blogs such as this, universities initiating their first collaborative graduate degree program can reduce the number of problems by knowing what to expect at the outset. The need for graduates who have collaborated with international partners or have spent some part of their careers outside the United States—regardless of what that career is—will only grow. As a result, study abroad is likely to grow at the graduate level and produce long-term relationships that will benefit students, the institutions, as well as society worldwide.

Diana Carlin

Implementing the Bologna process in Portugal: ‘how can we know the dance from the dancer?’

Editor’s note: This entry on Bologna and Portugal is one of a series of entries examining the role of the Bologna Process in the construction of the European Higher Education Area (see recent entries by Patricia Leon, Per Nyborg and Kris Olds) and exploring the consequences for member states and beyond. antonio-m.jpgToday’s entry has kindly been prepared by Dr. António M. Magalhães, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Universidade do Porto, Portugal, and Senior Researcher with the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). Antonio has been carrying out major research and written extensively on higher education governance and its transformation in both Portugal and Europe.

The development of the Bologna process in Portugal must be understood in the context of a tension between the consolidation of mass higher education and quality improvement of the system. Some analysts recognize a clear economic determination at the origin of this process. And, as the European Commission has assumed a leading role in the process, higher education policies closely articulate with the EU strategies – to become in the near future the most competitive and socially consolidated region of the world. Other analysts and institutional leaders stress other dimensions of the process.

In Portugal, by 1974, only about 7% of the relevant age group participated in higher education. After the 1974 Revolution the political stance was one of expanding higher education from an elite status, for both social and economic reasons. These efforts were confronted with a number of paradoxes resulting from the contradiction between equity goals and other factors, such as the economic context, lack of resources, pressures from the World Bank and the IMF, etc.

The public polytechnics and the private sector made a major contribution to the massification of the system. After an almost eightfold increase in enrolments, there has now been a recent decline in this trend, creating a situation of competition for students and new ‘managing’ paradoxes between the need to attract students, quality standards, and institutional identities.

The expansion period has now come to an end. By the mid-1990s, when gross participation rate of the relevant age cohort was over 40%, the government changed its priority from expansion to consolidation, meaning by that it was mainly concerned with the quality of higher education and not greater access.

The system had developed into a network of institutions and study programs that did not seem to answer the governments priorities over more than two decades:

  • increasing the percentage of graduates in areas relevant for the country’s social and economic development;
  • increasing the diversity of higher education provision;
  • ensuring a balanced geographical provision and opening the system to students from all socio-economic backgrounds.

The government elected in 2005 commissioned the ENQA to undertake a review of the Portuguese quality assurance system, asking for advice to set up an accreditation agency following the European standards. It has also commissioned the OECD to do a review of the Portuguese higher education system. The 2006 OECD report that ensued argued that the composition of the tertiary sector is not satisfactory, and considered that, in spite of the present decline in enrolments, the tertiary system still needed to expand by raising the proportion of young cohorts of tertiary entrance age who graduate from secondary school and qualify for admission to higher education, and the proportion of adults seeking tertiary education and accelerating technical change in the production sector that can generate a wage premium for skills that are provided by the graduates of the tertiary sector.

In March 2006 the Portuguese Government also passed a law establishing the legal framework thus making possible the implementation of the Bologna process. Veiga and Amaral (CIPES), in their survey on the implementation of the Bologna process in Portugal, identified an apparently pervasive optimist view.

The leaders of the schools positively evaluated the process of definition of competencies associated with the study programmes and course units, in line with the Ministry’s progress report on the Bologna reforms and with the judgment of the Bologna Follow-up Group which has scored Portugal ‘very good’ performance on the implementation of the EQF. The same went for the evaluation that the leaders of the institutions made about the curricular reform and its impact on students success.

In spite of the fact that there are signs of difficulty for universities in developing vocationally-driven study programs, and difficulties in using the ECTS, the Diploma Supplement, and despite the oblivious attitude of Portuguese HEIs towards the development of the NQF, the general idea was that national and European institutions tended to depict a favourable picture of the policy implementation of the Bologna Process in Portugal.

This positive attitude towards the Bologna Process derives, firstly, from the general features of Portuguese state, institutions, law, social structures and processes derived from the semi-peripheral position of Portugal in the world-system. The symbolic dimension of the state arising from the Portuguese European integration in 1986 was referred to by B. Sousa Santos as ‘the State-as-imagination-of-the-centre’. When translated into the political discourse, it de-legitimises any national policy that goes against European development patterns. Hence, as the European Commission has assumed the leading role in the construction of the EHEA there was no political point to not happily join the Bologna Process.

Secondly, the Bologna process was an opportunity for the government to reorganize its political steering strategies of the sector and for institutions to reshape their ‘survival’ strategies in an increasingly market-driven environment. HEIs have extensively used their autonomy in the last 20 years, though for their own good rather than for the ‘public good’ (which resulted, for instance, in an unbalanced offer of programs, by concentrating on [or disregarding] certain knowledge and training areas, etc.), governments felt the need to steer the systems and its institutions more effectively.

The Bologna reorganization of European higher education provided the occasion for that. In 2007 a new law on higher education governing and governance was passed. The perspective was to reform HEIs governance by challenging collegialism and enhancing forms of ‘boardism’ and the role attributed to external stakeholders. Additionally, the government saw in the Bologna Process an opportunity to, on the one hand, clarify the binary divide of the system by deepening the polytechnic vocational identity and, on the other, an opportunity to re-design the teaching-learning processes in a context of mass higher education.

In the case of public universities, the reason for the positive attitude toward Bologna is that it provides an opportunity to manage some of the paradoxes of mass higher education. By tactically managing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycles structures, institutions have been developing their strategies to escape from the lower ‘layers’ resulting from an eventual system segmentation. While accommodating the higher number possible of students they intend not to endanger their position in the divide research-driven institutions versus teaching-driven institutions. Curiously, this very attitude can be found also in the polytechnic sector that apparently finds in the vocational-drift an opportunity to counteract the traditional supremacy of Portuguese universities. According to the survey referred to above, the main goal for institutional leaders is to fulfil the paradigm shift from teaching to learning while mobility and employability are Bologna’s goals assumed by the government.

When trying to characterize the reaction of Portuguese governments and HEIs to the Bologna Process, the verse of a poem by William B. Yeats comes to mind, ‘How can we know the dance from the dancer?’ as its rationale is, one would say, functional to the management of the contradictions and paradoxes of Portuguese mass higher education. However, apparently Portuguese HEIs are singing Bologna’s song but one is not yet sure if they mean what the words mean…

António Magalhães

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

Brainpower famine in Eastern Europe: food for thought

lisboncouncilreport.jpgThe Brussels based think-tank, The Lisbon Council, sees trouble ahead for the countries of both Western and Eastern Europe. The Eastern European low-wage, low-tax, FDI-driven growth rates of today, accelerated by membership of the EU, are not going to last. A combination of low-birth rates and increasing brain drain will combine to fix their economic trajectories at well below the EU average with no prospect of improvement. And that is a problem for Western Europe too: it has been the dynamism of the East which has given a fillip to the West.

In its just issued report, The European Human Capital Index: The Challenge of Central and Eastern Europe, the Lisbon Council claims:

There is a very real risk that in coming decades Central and Eastern Europe could become a sparsely-populated area with a declining workforce that will have to shoulder the burden of a population set to experience unprecedented levels of aging and decline. At stake is nothing less than the long-term sustainability of these remarkable countries, which have added so much to Europe’s history, economy and diversity.

Now, if we look beyond the doom-laden futurology and risk of future collapse which seems to be so much a part of these calls for action, we can begin to see the contradictions in the analysis and the prescriptions. The EU economy is driven by processes of centralization and concentration and we can see this in the movements of knowledge, technology and capital. Universities are heavily implicated in this and the mobility of students and the highly skilled is the brain drain which is going to accelerate the emptying of the East. The extension of service and production commodity chains into the East and the region’s growth as a consumer market has gone hand in hand with their low tax, flexible labor laws and low state spending. In short the growth model is predicated on the very things which the Human Capital Index measures as being lacking.

The Lisbon Council solutions – reformed universities, on the job skills training, investment in knowledge, skills and innovation – require a shift in the growth model and the question is, how to achieve that within the context of macro and micro economic orthodoxy, the EU promotion of mobility and double-think about brain drain. At the time of the formation of the EU single market there was a response – the EU as a whole had to invest in the conditions for more and better jobs and a geographical spread so that capital, technology and knowledge are shifted away from concentration and centralization. The problems and solutions were posed in those terms which of course requires an increased European tax base and a commitment to significantly greater regional re-distribution and planning.

The challenges have always been clear and the solutions filled with all sorts of dilemmas which don’t even get a mention from the Lisbon Council. Human capital mantras suggest that the governments in Eastern Europe need to improve the supply of human capital, invest more in formal education, create their entrepreneurial universities and attract migrant (cheap) labor from the potentially massive new pool of Turkey etc. And so move themselves onto a different growth path. Perhaps.

One thing that is increasingly clear, is that the Economics of Education and the Human Capital theorists, and this report comes straight out of that stable, can offer descriptions based on such measures as its Human Capital Index, but its policy relevance is restricted and amounts to the same old same old. Quite how societies approaching the sorts of collapse envisaged in the report would react and what shibboleths of neo-liberal human capital development models would then be questioned seems to be beyond their remit. A pity.

Peter Jones

EU Blue Cards: not a blank cheque for migrant labour – says Barroso

berlin1.jpgThe global competition for skilled labor looks like getting a new dimension – the EU is planning to issue “blue cards” to allow highly skilled non-Europeans to work in the EU. On Tuesday 23 October José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced plans to harmonize admission procedures for highly qualified workers. As President Barroso put it:

With the EU Blue Card we send a clear signal: Highly skilled people from all over the world are welcome in the European Union. Let me be clear: I am not announcing today that we are opening the doors to 20 million high-skilled workers! The Blue Card is not a “blank cheque”. It is not a right to admission, but a demand-driven approach and a common European procedure.

The Blue Card will also mean increased mobility for high-skilled immigrants and their families inside the EU.

Member States will have broad flexibility to determine their labour market needs and decide on the number of high-skilled workers they would like to welcome.

With regard to developing countries we are very much aware of the need to avoid negative “brain drain” effects. Therefore, the proposal promotes ethical recruitment standards to limit – if not ban – active recruitment by Member States in developing countries in some sensitive sectors. It also contains measures to facilitate so-called “circular migration”. Europe stands ready to cooperate with developing countries in this area.

Further details are also available in this press release, with media and blog coverage available via these pre-programmed Google searches. As noted the proposed scheme would have a common single application procedure across the 27 Member States and a common set of rights for non-EU nationals including the right to stay for two years and move within the EU to another Member State for an extension of one more year.

The urgency of the introduction of the blue card is framed in terms of competition with the US/Canada/Australia – the US alone attracts more than half of all skilled labor while only 5 per cent currently comes to the EU. This explanation needs to be seen in relation to two issues which the GlobalHigherEd blog has been following: the competition to attract and retain researchers and the current overproduction of Maths, Science and Technology graduates. Can the attractiveness of the EU as a whole compete with the pull of R&D/Industrial capacity in the US and the logic of English as the global language? Related to this obviously is the recent enlargement to 27 Member States where there are ongoing issues around the mobility of labor within the EU? We will continue to look beneath the claims of policy initiatives to see the underlying contradictions in approaches. The ongoing question of the construction of a common European labor market and boosting the attractiveness of EU higher ed institutions may be at least as important here as the supposed skilled labor shortages.

Futurology demographics seem to be at the heart of the explanation of the need to intensify the recruitment of non-EU labour – according to the Commission the EU will have a shortage of 20 million workers in the next 20 years, with one third of the EU population over the age of 65. Interestingly though, there is no specification of the kinds of skill shortages that far down the line – the current concern is that the EU currently receives 85 % of global unskilled labour.

Barroso and the Commission continue to try to handle the contradictions of EU brain attractiveness strategies by the preferred model of:

  • fixed term contracts;
  • limitations on recruitment from developing countries in sensitive sectors; and,
  • the potentially highly tendentious notion of ‘circular migration’.

High skilled labour is effectively on a perpetual carousel of entry to and exit from the labour market with equal rights while in the EU which get lost at the point of departure from the EU zone only to reappear on re-entry, perhaps?

According to Reuters the successful applicants for a blue card would only need to be paid twice the minimum wage in the employing Member State – and this requirement would be lifted if the applicant were to be a graduate from an EU higher education institution. Two things are of interest here then – the blue card could be a way to retain anyone with a higher education qualification and there are implications for the continuing downward pressure on wage rates for the university educated. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out in relation to the attractiveness of EU universities if a blue card is the implied pay-off for successful graduation.

Peter D. Jones

Is the EU on target to meet the Lisbon objectives in education and training?

The European Commission (EC) has just released its annual 2007 Report Progress Towards the Lisbon Objectives in Education and Training: Indicators and Benchmarks. This 195 page document highlights the key messages about the main policy areas for the EC – from the rather controversial inclusion of schools (because of issues of subsidiarity) to what has become more standard fare for the EC – the vocational education and higher education sectors.

As we explain below, while the Report gives the thumbs up to the numbers of Maths, Science and Technology (MST) graduates, it gives the thumbs down to the quality of higher education. We, however, think that the benchmarks are far too simplistic and the conclusions drawn not sufficiently rigorous to support good policymaking. Let us explain.

The Report is the fourth in a series of annual assessments examining performance and progress toward the Education and Training 2010 Work Programme. These reports work as a disciplinary tool for Member States as well as contributing to making the EU more globally competitive.

To those of you unfamiliar with EC ‘speak’ – the EC’s Work Programme centers around the realization of 16 core indicators (agreed in May 2007 at the European Council and listed in the table below) and benchmarks (5) (also listed below) which emerged from the relaunch of the Lisbon Agenda in 2005.



Chapter 7 of this Report concentrates on progress toward modernizing higher education in Europe, though curiously enough there is no mention of the Bologna Process – the radical reorganization of the degree structure for European universities which has the US and Australia on the back-foot. Instead, three key areas are identified:

  • mathematics, science and technology graduates (MST)
  • mobility in higher education
  • quality of higher education institutions

With regard to MST, the EU is well on course to surpass the benchmark of an increase in the number of tertiary graduates in MST. However, the report notes that demographic trends (decreasing cohort size) will slow down growth in the long term.


While laudable, GlobalHigherEd notes that it is not so much the number of graduates that are produced which is the problem. Rather, there are not enough attractive opportunities for researchers in Europe so that a significant percentage move to the US (14% of US graduates come from Europe). The long term attractiveness of Europe (see our recent entry) in terms of R&D is, therefore, still a major challenge.

With regard to mobility (see our earlier overview report), the EU has had an increase in the percentage of students with foreign citizenship. In 2004, every EU country, with the exception of Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia, recorded an increase in the % of students enrolled with foreign citizenship. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Cyprus and the UK have the highest proportions with foreign student populations of more than 10%.

Over the period 2000 to 2005 the number of students going to Europe from China increased by 500% (from 20,000 in 2000 to 107,000 in 2005; see our more detailed report on this), while numbers from India increased by 400%. While there is little doubt that the USA’s homeland security policy was a major factor, students also view the lower fees and moderate living costs in countries like France and Germany as particularly attractive. In the main:

  • the countries of origin of non-European students studying in the EU largely come from former colonies of the European member states
  • mobility is within the EU rather than from beyond the EU, with the exception of the UK. The UK is also a stand-out case because of the small number of its citizens who study in other EU countries.

Finally, concerning the quality of higher education, the Bologna Reforms are nowhere to be seen. Instead the EC report uses the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWI) and the World Universities Ranking (WUR) by the Times Higher Education Supplement to discuss the issue of quality. The Shanghai Jiao Tong uses Nobel Awards, and citations indexes (e.g. SCI; SSCI) – however, not only is a Nobel Award a limited (some say false) proxy for quality, but the citation indexes systematically discriminate in favor of US based institutions and journals. Only scientific output is included in each of these rankings; excluded are other kinds of outputs from universities which might have an impact, such as patents, or policy advice.

While each ranking system is intended to be a measure of quality – it is difficult to know what we might learn when one (Times Higher) will rank an institution (for example, the London School of Economics) in 11th position while the other (Shanghai) ranks the same institution in 200th position. Such vast differences could only be confusing for potential students if they were using them to make their choices about a high quality institution. However, perhaps this is not the main purpose, and that it serves a more important one – of ratcheting up both competition and discipline through comparison.

League tables are now also being developed in more nuanced ways. In 2007 the Shanghai ranking introduced one by ‘broad subject field’ (see below). What is particularly interesting here is that the EU-27 does relatively well in Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences (ENG), Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy (MED) and Natural Sciences and Mathematics (SCI) in relation to the USA, compared with the Social Sciences (where the USA outflanks it by a considerable degree). Are Social Sciences in Europe this poor in terms of quality, and hence in serious trouble? GlobalHigherEd suggests that these differences are likely a reflection of the more internationalized/Anglocized publishing practices of the science, technology and medical fields, in comparison to the social sciences, who are committed in many cases to publishing in national languages.


The somewhat dubious nature of these rankings as indicators of quality does not stop the EC using them to show that of the top 100 universities, 54 are located in the USA and only 29 in Europe. And again, the overall project of the EC is to set the agenda at the European scale for Member States by putting into place at the European level a set of instruments–including the recently launched European Research Council–intended to help retain MST graduates as well as recruit the brightest talent from around the globe (particularly China and India) and keep them in Europe.

However, the MST capacity of the EU outruns its industry’s ability to absorb and retain the graduates. It is clear the markets for students and brains are developing in different ways in different countries but with clear ‘types’ of markets and consumers emerging. The question is: what would an EU ranking system achieve as a technology of competitive market making?

Susan Robertson and Peter Jones

Europe challenges US for foreign students by adding more English courses

An interesting dimension in the battle between Europe and the US for foreign students in higher education programs is the rapid increase in the use of English as the medium of instruction in European universities. Journalist Aisha Labi, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (28th September), argues that Europe is waking up to the fact that there is a global education market out there, and that this in turn is driving a preference for instruction in English in order to be competitive. The extent of the penetration is quite staggering, though it does provide an explanation, too, of the early successful exporters of education services among the Member States (particularly the Netherlands and Germany). As Labi reports:

In the 1950s, the Netherlands became the first non-Anglophone country in Europe to teach courses in English and today offers 1,300 programs in the language. Germany offers more than 500 degrees in English, catering to its 250,000 international students. In Denmark, one fourth of all university courses are now offered in English.

Even France, with its deep seated scorn for the creeping Anglicization of its national language, assures foreign students in its marketing brochures that “they no longer need to be fluent in French to study in France”.

Labi goes on to argue that even in places like Finland, there is a real commitment to developing an international student body and that this has been largely made possible because Finland has embraced teaching in English.


Europe is now becoming a viable alternative destination to the US for international students. This is driven in part because of a number of universities choosing to teach in English in Europe and also because of the continuing fall-out in the USA from the events surrounding September 11, 2001.

However, the tendency to ‘Anglicize’ higher education instruction in order to globalize is generating new tensions within the academy. Reports Labi:

The Danish Language Council, an official organization that monitors linguistic developments, sent a strongly worded statement to the government of Denmark warning that the country’s growing reliance on English would eventually lead to social fragmentation by creating an elite class that uses English as its lingua franca.

Others argue that important knowledges are in danger of becoming lost, along with cultural knowledges that are linguistically encoded.

In order to head off such problems, some universities across Europe are considering using English at the graduate level and mother tongue at undergraduate levels. However faculty complain that students’ language competence in English is then not sufficient to help them advance to graduate studies.

Whatever decisions are taken by European ministries and universities over the next decade, it is clear that this issue, if anything, is going to hot up.

Note: also see our 15 September entry (‘Europe’ looks to the Asian (China?) higher education market) on this issue in GlobalHigherEd.

Susan Robertson

BPP College is the first private (for profit) company to gain degree awarding powers in the UK


BPP Holdings plc (BPP), Europe’s leading provider of professional education, announced on the 24th September that its subsidiary, BPP College of Professional Studies (BPP College) has been granted degree awarding powers. The grant will allow BPP College to award qualifications including undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the UK. This is the first for profit private sector company to have been awarded such powers to enter what is regarded as a very substantial and profitable market. This story has hit the headlines of the UK newspapers concerned with education and investment, while shares in BPP Holdings plc went up 13% overnight.


This decision by the Privy Council in the UK follows a three year full scale review and inspection by the Quality Review Agency (QAA). This process of review covered BPP College’s organization, governance and management, as well as quality assurance processes. While GlobalHigherEd is aware of the review procedures, it has not managed to sight the review report.

BPP College plans to offer post graduate courses in business and law related subjects – including financial and actuarial services, finance and marketing from September 2008. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the market for business and law-related post graduate studies involves around 120,000 students in the UK, with a significant component paying full foreign fees. However, from 2009 BPP College plans to move into the undergraduate market, targeting undergraduate students who will be expected to pay around £10,000 to study at one of its UK-based colleges. BPP estimates that the market size for Business and Law post graduate degrees being at least £800m per annum.

This development is likely to send shivers through the higher education sector which, to date, has seen private companies (including international) operating, but never on a ‘for-profit basis’. The question is, does it matter? Will quality be assured? Will salaries go down? Where will the profit margins come from in this highly competitive market? Further, how will BPP position itself in relation to other global players, like Australia, who are a preferred destination for Asian students at the undergraduate level because of its lower living costs and relatively efficient visa systems?

To be sure, these are important concerns and ones that GlobalHigherEd will follow. However, we think that another significant issue is what will happen to the relationship that universities (until now the sole providers of post graduate studies in the UK) have long held as central to quality graduate learning, and that is the importance of research-based teaching to ensure graduates develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes oriented to new knowledge creation rather than simply transmission.

As if to anticipate this line of questioning, Carl Ligo, Principal of BPP College of Professional Studies, planned, according to the Financial Times:

…to pay top dollar to get the best lecturers.

Using language that is likely to outrage some academics in more conventional universities, he added: We don’t have the baggage of traditional research, so we’re more focused on customer service.

Letting the private sector in might well suit the government. Last week’s Education at a Glance 2007 report from the OECD showed Britain had fallen behind other countries in the proportion of young people entering college or university. As the Financial Times noted in their comments on the matter today:

…private sector involvement could also bring the government closer to its target of ensuring that 50 per cent of young people undertake higher or further education.

Which ever way we look at it, the Privy Council decision represents a significant shift in the regulatory environment shaping global higher education in the UK.

Susan Robertson

Doctoral programmes in Europe’s universities/watching Europe from the USA

The Chronicle of Higher Education (5 September 2007) is profiling a new European University Association (EUA) report titled Doctoral Programmes in Europe’s Universities: Achievements and Challenges. The report can be downloaded (in PDF format) here.

It is also worth noting that while the Chronicle is ostensibly an objective news source, it is worth tracking too for it regularly has choice quotes from representatives of key American institutions (universities, associations, political bodies) that are both surveying and responding to competitive impulses from other regions of the world. This Chronicle story, for example, states:

Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, whose member institutions are primarily in the United States and Canada, has been a close observer of the transformations taking place in European higher education. “The challenge across the board in Europe is to find ways of putting in place administrative structures at an institutional level that will provide quality assurance but also stimulate innovation, and improve and advance the quality of the students’ experience,” she said.

European governments have been explicit about their ambitions for improving their international competitiveness through greater research capacity, and the changes taking place in Europe are undoubtedly making graduate programs and universities there more competitive, Ms. Stewart said. “I think that’s good for American graduate schools and universities,” she said. “We thrive on competition — we compete with each other, we understand how to compete.”

Thus you can partially acquire an understanding about dominant American logics, regarding the global geopolitics and economics of higher education restructuring, by reading the subscription-based Chronicle, and the high quality (and free) Inside Higher Ed website. And on a related note, where are the European media outlets that survey developments in the European Higher Education Area, let along the rest of the world? The Times Higher is far too UK-centric, and the Financial Times does a good job but it is a business newspaper. Interestingly the Chronicle‘s daily update is also sent out via email to subscribers at approximately 6:30 am (Eastern Time Zone in the US), just in time to be read when the US higher ed community begins waking up their computers. Between it, and Inside Higher Ed, American actors seem to be relatively better informed about what is going on at a broad scale than are the Europeans. I am happy to be corrected if you think I am wrong.