Towards harmonisation of higher education in Southeast Asia: Malaysia’s perspective

The idea of harmonising higher education systems in Southeast Asia was inspired by the development of regionalism in higher education in Europe, specifically the establishment of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The idea of regionalism in higher education in Asia or Southeast Asia is a very exciting idea, indeed. Is this idea feasible?

Higher education systems in Southeast Asia are very diverse, and even within each nation incompatibility is to be expected.  In the case of Malaysia, the Malaysian Qualification Framework (MQF) was introduced to ensure compatibility of qualifications and learning outcomes within and outside of Malaysia. More importantly, harmonising the highly diverse systems of higher education in the region is seen as an important step towards the regional integration objective. But, it is important to appreciate that in the context of Southeast Asia, with its diverse systems, harmonization is about comparability; not standardization or uniformity of programmes, degrees and the nature of higher education institutions.

Admittedly, there are benefits in creating a common higher education space in Southeast Asia. The more obvious ones are greater mobility, widening access and choices, academic and research collaborations, enhanced collaboration on human capital investment, and the promotion of ASEAN and/or Southeast Asian within the fast changing global higher education landscape. The immediate advantage of such a harmonisation in higher education system is presented as easier exchange and mobility for students and academics between nations within Southeast Asia.

Arguably, the model that is most desired and considered most feasible is that which does not require all higher education systems to conform to a particular model.  The general consensus is that a system that become a reference or one that can be fitted into without jeopardising cultural diversity and national identity is considered most feasible and desired.

The likely scenarios of higher education landscape in Southeast Asia as a result of such a harmonisation of higher education systems are generally perceived as follows:

  1. Students from different countries spend at least a year studying in other countries
  2. Students in different locations are offered the same quality of education regardless of  higher education institutions
  3. Graduates from one country are recruited by the employment sector in other countries
  4. A multi-national workplace
  5. Close collaboration  between faculty in creating and developing new knowledge
  6. Close collaboration between students in creating and developing new knowledge
  7. Close collaboration between employment sectors in creating and developing new knowledge
  8. Larger volume of adult students in the higher education system

The implementation of the harmonisation idea is not without challenges. Steps should be taken in order to increase student readiness. Barriers to language and communication must be overcome and there should be serious efforts to reduce constraints that are very ‘territorial’ in nature. Admittedly, students involved in mobility program may be faced with adjustment problems particularly with respect to instructional practices, curriculum incomparability, and cultural diversity. Then there is the language problem: differences in languages post a great barrier for inward and outward mobility of students at the macro level. ‘Territorial’ constraint, whereby each country hopes to safeguard the uniqueness of their educational programs, which in turn, may ultimately constrain the implementation of regional harmonization efforts is a major consideration to be factored in.

In so far as Malaysia is concerned, it has to be recognised that harmonization is not about ‘choice’. It is a global movement that now necessitates the involvement of all Malaysian higher education institutions. There are benefits to the private players. Initially, we need a state of readiness at the macro level, whereby the aims and principles of harmonization have to be agreed upon by all stakeholders and players in the local higher education scene.

In conclusion, familiarisation with the idea and concept of harmonisation, as opposed to standardisation, of higher education system in Southeast Asia is indeed an initial but a critical step towards the implementation of a meaningful and effective harmonisation of higher education system in the region. While managers of higher education institutions and academics are not ignorant of  the idea of harmonisation, they tend to talk of it with reference to the Bologna process in Europe and the creation of the EHEA. Other stakeholders (particularly students) however are not very familiar as to how this concept could be realised in the context of Southeast Asia, which is culturally and politically diverse. Generally, students failed to appreciate the positive aspects of harmonisation to their careers, job prospects and, of equal importance, cross-fertilization of cultures.

The task of creating a common higher education space is insurmountable in view of the vast differences in the structure and performance of the various higher education systems and institutions in Southeast Asia. Admittedly, we need to harmonise the internal structure of the higher education systems in the first instance before attempting a region-wide initiative. More importantly, the determination to realise this idea of harmonising higher education in Southeast Asia should permeate and be readily accepted by the regional community. Typical of Southeast Asia, directives should come from the political masters. Thus the role of Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) is very critical to a successful implementation of this idea of harmonisation of the higher education systems. Equally important, national prejudices and suspicions need to be put aside if we are to realise regional aspirations and goals.

Morshidi Sirat

Global higher ed players, regional ambitions, and interregional fora

How do dominant national and regional players in global higher ed speak to, and engage with, other parts of the world, especially when these parts are viewed as ‘less developed’? This is a complicated question to start answering (not that it is possible, in fact!).

History matters, for it has laid a foundational path, including taken-for-granted assumptions that shape the tone, mechanisms, and power dynamics of bilateral and/or interregional relationships. Times change, of course, and the rationale and logics behind the relationship building cannot help but evolve. The end of the Cold War, for example, enabled the building of relationships (e.g., the 46 country European Higher Education Area) that were previously impossible to imagine, let alone create.

The structure of higher education systems matter too. How does a nation ‘speak’ (e.g., the USA) when there is no senior minister of higher education, and indeed no national system per se (such as that in Germany)? It is possible, though content and legitimacy are derived out of a relatively diverse array of stakeholders.

In this context we have seen new forms of engagement emerging between Europe and the Global South, and between the USA and the Global South. I am wary that the ‘Global South’ concept is a problematic one, but it is used enough to convey key aspects of the power/territory nexus that I’ll stick with it for the duration of this brief entry.

What are the driving forces underlying such new forms of global higher ed engagement?

Clearly the desire to engage in capacity building, for a myriad of reasons, is a driving force.

A second force is concern about what the other dominant players are doing; a form of global engagement inspired or spurred on by the competitive impulse.

A third and related driving force is the amorphous desire to project ‘soft power‘ – the externalization of values, the translation of agendas, the enhancement of the attraction dimension, and so on, such that transformations align with the objectives of the projecting peoples and systems.

All three driving forces are evident is a spate of events and initiatives underway in 2008, and especially this October.

Europe Engages Asia

For example, the logics of capacity building, the need to enhance ties to select regions (e.g., East, South, and Southeast Asia), and the projection of soft power, enticed Europe to forge new relations across space via the ASEM framework. The inaugural meeting of ASEM’s Ministries of Education, which was hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and titled ‘Education and Training for Tomorrow: Common Perspectives in Asia and Europe’, took place in Berlin from 5-6 May 2008. The three official ‘public’ documents associated with this event can be downloaded here, here, and here.

This initiative, as we noted earlier (‘Ministers of Education and fora for thinking beyond the nation‘), is part of an emerging move to have ministers of education/higher education/research play a role in thinking bilaterally, regionally, and indeed globally. One interesting aspect of this development is that ministries (and ministers) of education are starting, albeit very unevenly, to think beyond the nation within the institutional structure of the nation-state. In this case, though, a regional voice (the European Union) is very much present, as are other stakeholders (e.g., the European University Association).

A linked event – the 1st ASEM Rectors’ Conference: Asia-Europe Higher Education Leadership Dialogue “Between Tradition and Reform: Universities in Asia and Europe at the Crossroads” – will be held from 27-29 October in Berlin as well, while other related late-2008 schemes include:

More broadly, link here for information about the new (2008) EU-Asia Higher Education Platform (EAHEP).

The US Engages Asia

Moving across the Atlantic, to the USA, we have seen the logics of capacity building, the need to enhance ties to select regions (e.g., Asia and Africa), and the projection of soft power, guiding some new initiatives. The US Government, for example, sponsored the Asia Regional Higher Education Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between 6-9 October 2008.  As the official press release from the US Embassy in Dhaka puts it, the:

Asia Regional Higher Education Summit is sponsored by the United States Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and co-hosted by the University of Dhaka and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. This Summit is a follow-up to the Global Higher Education Summit recently held in Washington, DC. The Washington summit was convened by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and USAID Administrator and Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Henrietta Fore. The Summit’s objective was to expand the role and impact of U.S. and foreign higher education institutions in worldwide social and economic development.

It is worth noting that countries representing ‘Asia’ at the Summit include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United States and Vietnam.

The US Engages Africa

And this week we see the US Government sponsoring the Africa Regional Higher Education Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. This summit is also, like the US-linked Asia event noted above, a follow-on initiative of the Global Higher Education Summit (29–30 April 2008).

According to the official program, the Africa Regional Higher Education Summit is a three-day event:

that will address innovative approaches to meet the challenges of the higher education community in Africa; to learn from each other by sharing best practices in partnering; and to foster mutually beneficial partnerships initiated before and during the summit. In this regionally focused forum, speakers and participants will discuss how higher education influences human and institutional capacity development, and plays a role in preparing Africa for economic growth and global competitiveness.

The summit is designed to focus on developing partnerships between higher education institutions, foundations and the private sector at the national and regional levels, although consideration will also be given to international and cross-continental levels.

Summit participation will be limited to presidents, chancellors, and rectors representing African and American universities, and foundation and corporate leaders to ensure maximum interaction and sharing of perspectives between and among decision makers and authorized agents. The working sessions and organized breaks will be structured to maximize input and interactions between summit participants.

The summit aims to provide opportunities for participants to:

  • Reinforce the goals of the initial Higher Education Summit for Global Development within the context of the African continent for the purpose of moving to concrete actions;
  • Raise awareness about and generate interest in the objectives of the first World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Education Alliance (GEA) in Africa and the Global Development Commons (GDC);
  • Highlight the importance of higher education in African development;
  • Add to the body of knowledge and further the discussion about the link between higher education and development;
  • Share successes and generate actual partnerships and alliances with universities, corporations, foundations and non-governmental organizations participating in the summit;
  • Generate ideas and recommendations to share with universities, corporations, foundations and non-governmental organizations;
  • Generate a progress report on the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative and planning grants.

The open press events are outlined here, while the detailed program is here. See here too for an example of a recently announced EU-Africa higher ed initiative.

‘Soft Power’ and Global Higher Ed

The soft power dimension behind the formation of linkages with regions like Asia and Africa is not always made explicit by Europe nor the USA. Yet two aspects of soft power, as it is sought after, are worth noting in today’s entry.

First, the intertwining of both soft and ‘hard’ power agendas and players is more evident in the case of the USA.  For example Henrietta H. Fore (Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator, USAID, and pictured below) is speaking at the higher education summit in Africa, as well as at the Pentagon about the establishment of the AFRICOM initiative:

Secretary Gates has spoken powerfully and eloquently on many occasions about the need for the United States to enhance its non-military as well as military instruments of national power in service of our foreign policy objectives. The Department of State and USAID are proud to play their respective primary roles in diplomacy and development.

Thus AFRICOM, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, effectively has an Africa-focused global higher ed initiative associated with it (under the control of AFRICOM partner USAID).

Source and photo caption from AFRICOM:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Left to right, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen; Henrietta H. Fore, administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development and director of U.S. Foreign Assistance; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; flag bearer; General William E. Ward, Commander of U.S. Africa Command; and U.S. Africa Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka stand together after the unfolding of the flag during the U.S. Africa Command Unified Command Activation ceremony in the Pentagon, October 1, 2008. (DoD photo by U.S. Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess)

AFRICOM Photo ID 20081003133444

Clearly the USA and Europe have adopted very different approaches to global higher ed in strategic ‘less developed’ regions vis a vis the links being made to hard power agendas.

Second, many of the US-led initiatives with USAID support are associated with political appointees (e.g., U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings), or leaders of more autonomous stakeholder organizations (e.g., Peter McPherson, President, NASULGC) who are publicly associated with particular political regimes.  In McPherson’s case, it is the Bush/Cheney regime, as profiled in Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by The Washington Post’s former Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran. But what happens when elections occur?  Is it a coincidence that the rush of US events is happening a month before the US federal election?  Will these key players regarding Africa (and Asia) be as supported by the new regime that comes to power in early 2009?

Another perspective is that such US initiatives don’t really matter in the end, for the real projectors of soft power are hundreds of autonomous, highly ranked, active, and well-resourced US universities. Last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, for example, highlighted the latest stage of Cornell’s work in South Asia, while the rush of US universities to establish campuses and programs in the Middle East was done irrespective of people like Spellings, and institutions like USAID (and the US Government more generally). In other words these universities don’t need ministerial talk shops in places like Berlin or DC to open doors and do their stuff. Of course many European universities are just as active as a Cornell, but the structure of European higher education systems is vastly different, and it cannot help but generate a centralizing impulse in the projection of soft power.

As a phenomenon, the actions of key players in global higher ed regarding in developing regional initiatives are well worth illuminating, including by the sponsors and participants themselves. Regions, systems, and international relations are being constructed in a conceptual and programmatic sense. As we know from any history of bilateral and interregional relations, frameworks that help generate a myriad of tangible outcomes are being constructed, and in doing so future development paths, from all perspectives, are being lain down.

Yet it is also important not to read too much into this fora-intensive agenda. We need to reflect upon how geo-strategic visions and agendas are connected to and transformative of the practices of day-to-day life in the targeted regions. How do these visions and agendas make their mark in lecture halls, hiring procedures, curricula, and course content? This is not a development process that unfolds, in a seamless and uni-directional way, and it is important to think about global higher ed players, regional ambitions, and interregional fora at a series of interrelated scales to even begin understanding what is going on.

Kris Olds

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

ALBA Declaration of Higher Education

While Bolivian president Evo Morales was welcoming Fernando Lugo, who on 20 April won the presidential elections in Paraguay, within the ranks of progressive Latin American/Caribbean leaders (see report), a HE summit was taking place in Cochabamba (Bolivia, 20-22 April) under the heading “Workshop of Higher Education for the ALBA”. At the meeting, the five ALBA (higher) education ministers (Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua, Venezuela) signed the “Cochabamba Declaration”. ALBA – as we previously noted – stands for the ‘Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of Our America’, which is a regional integration project that counters the commoditisation of education.

According to Bolivia’s education ministry, over 50 delegates from the ALBA member countries, 300 delegates from public and private Bolivian universities, including HE institutions run by the Catholic Church and the armed forces, as well as social and educational movements and organizations, participated in the workshop.

The Cochabamba Declaration lays the foundation for the integration of the member countries’ education systems. In HE, stated fields of cooperation are: research and technology, education software and distance education, mutual recognition of titles, and academic and student mobility within the ALBA sub-region. Importantly, under ALBA’s logic of integral education and social development, the HE strategies include the provision of primary and secondary education, as it is at those levels where exclusion from HE originates in impoverished contexts, even if HE is nominally fee-free.

According to Venezuela’s vice-minister of academic policies, Tibisay Hung, the ALBA policies, curricula and teaching materials open up a range of rights :

This is not about imposing anything, but to collaborate and see to it that the others also can achieve a dignified life.

Outside the meeting, the local newspaper El Tiempo reported of private university students protesting for “freedom in education” and “democracy”, claiming that “ideological impositions by Cuba and Venezuela” would “violate national sovereignty” and “divide the Bolivian family” .

The “Bolivian family”, however, has for centuries been systematically divided along race and class lines. Put into context, these “student protests” form part of a larger destabilization strategy orchestrated by Washington in order to topple President Morales’ progressive government.

Similar to Venezuela last year, in the advent of the referendum on constitutional reform, it is possible to show that such “student protesters” represent a minority as they are recruited from the traditional economic and land-holding elites who, as these lines are being written, are holding an illegal referendum on the secession of the department of Santa Cruz (Bolivia), with the objective of crippling Bolivia’s economy to provoke political upheaval.

Thomas Muhr

Mobility and knowledge as the “Fifth Freedom” in Europe: embedding market liberalism?

Europe has undoubtedly become a more mobile space. Borders have been erased, and people, capital, services and goods (factors of production, more generally) can theoretically move, unimpeded, across European space.

Apart from legal and regulatory shifts to enhance mobility, taken-for granted infrastructure systems are being constructed that enable people and their ideas to travel at enhanced speed across European space. These non-places of supermodernity, to use a phrase developed by Marc Auge, not only function to facilitate mobility, but they also signify mobility. Even within European nations, mobility is being enhanced as governments develop high-speed rail systems, for example, that enable people (including researchers and students) to cross space with increased ease.

At a seminar, late last week, for example, one of us (Kris) spoke to faculty who work at l’Université de Provence Aix Marseille 1, though who live not just in Aix-en-Provence, but also in Marseille, Paris, and places even further a-field, thanks to the high speed TGV train system. Indeed, any North American spending a year in Europe, like one of us is, cannot help but be enamored with the idea of hurtling 270km/h across the country while sipping an espresso, reading a book, and periodically gazing out at the blur of landscape that is the glorious French countryside.

In a sign that Europe is willing to use a wide variety of rationales for enhancing mobility even further, the EU spent the Spring of 2008 laying the groundwork for a “new freedom” – “the movement of knowledge”. On 15 February 2008, for example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik spoke to an AAAS High Level Panel:

Today’s Europe is built on the four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people. The knowledge society of tomorrow needs the freedom, the freedom of movement of knowledge.

But did he really mean ‘knowledge society’, or ‘knowledge economy’? Later on in February and March, the answer to this question was clear. On 14 March European Council leaders announced that:

Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a ‘fifth freedom’.

Background to this formal announcement is available in Key Issues Paper (KIP) 2008 (a contribution from the Competitiveness Council to the Spring European Council), and is worth examining for it highlights how the EU is entangling fundamental rights and freedoms with economic (market-oriented) logics, such that new rights are being created, though primarily for researchers (including non-Europeans).

Let is frame how the “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge – is being conceptualized.

First the Competitiveness Council’s Key Issues Paper focuses on four core recommendations:

A. Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation
B. Unlocking business potential, especially of SMEs
C. Transforming Europe into a sustainable economy
D. Encourage European Success in the Global Marketplace

Second, it is within A (Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation) that the Fifth Freedom is embedded:

A.1. “Invest more and more effectively in Knowledge, Research and Innovation”
A.2 “The Fifth Freedom”
A.3. “Strengthen Europe’s Innovation System”

More specifically, the Fifth Freedom is framed as such:

In order to succeed in the transition to a highly competitive knowledge economy, the European Union needs to create a “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge. Member States and the Commission are invited to deepen their dialogue and expand their cooperation in order to further identify and remove obstacles to the cross-border mobility of knowledge.

  • The Commission and Member States should take concrete steps to increase human resources for S&T and to enhance the mobility and career prospects of researchers through a coherent set of focussed measures taken in partnership (“European research career and mobility package”); this should also include the concept of “family-friendly scientific careers”, to be developed on the basis of the spring 2008 Presidency initiatives. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a communication on this in 2008.
  • Member States should continue to put their full efforts into implementing higher education reforms, including modernising universities so that they can develop their full potential within the knowledge triangle; a stronger emphasis should be put on life-long learning and cross-border learning opportunities. A review of future skills requirements should be envisaged at European level as part of the follow up to the “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative;
  • The European Union needs to continue to work for significant increases in broadband penetration. The Commission is invited to monitor the performance of the EU in the internet economy and report back in time for the 2009 European Council. The Commission is further invited to develop a strategy for e-science building on and strengthening e-infrastructures, so as to ensure the sustainability of European leadership in this field.
  • A Community-wide voluntary framework for the management of intellectual property at public research institutions and universities is needed. The Commission is invited to present its recommendation and Code of Practice on the Management of Intellectual Property (“IP Charter”) by public research organisations, with a view to their adoption in 2008 in order to enhance knowledge exchange between public research organisations and industry.

Announcing that ‘knowledge’ would be created as the Fifth Freedom to be championed by the EC within the EU, observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Presidency Conclusions from the 13/14th March meeting, and the background supporting documents, have somehow confused political and economic agendas. This is because we have tended to associate freedoms with political ideas like ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, or human rights, such as the right to education.

But perhaps the freedoms and rights association is breaking down in contemporary Europe. Freedoms, it would seem, are now economic rather than political rights, embodied in labour and intellectual property, and embedded in market-oriented relations. They also apply unevenly to people (including non-EU citizens) depending on their status vis a vis the production of what is perceived to be valuable knowledge. This is akin to the concept of “graduated sovereignty” that Aihwa Ong has spoken about – the differentiated (graduated) existence of freedoms, rights and responsibilities, within territories, depending the economic status of the person in question. In Singapore, for example highly skilled temporary migrants have the right to rent and even buy apartments, while temporary migrants who work as domestic workers or construction workers are forced, by law, to reside in housing provided by their employers.

So, to return to the EU example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik is thus able to state, again at the AAAS High Level Panel:

For EU policy, I start with the – relatively – easy part: I have radically opened our funding programme, with a double strategy:

  • Full association of our neighbour countries, with focus on those who have a perspective to become Member States
  • Full participation of researchers all over the world. Every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team. For all but the rich countries, eligibility equals funding. That is quite a step. We also fund the researchers from rich countries if this is what is needed for the scientific excellence of the project.

Thus one of us (Kris, a Canadian in the US) can now directly link into and benefit from one of Europe’s new freedoms – the freedom of movement of knowledge – given that “every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team”, but this eligibility only applies so long as the person in question is a researcher (with PhD), and positioned within a network that has been vetted as a qualified “European research team”.

Freedoms framed this way also depend upon the reform of the practices of new types of institutions (in this case universities and research funding agencies), versus the reform of legal systems, for example.

The application of a freedom discourse to knowledge (the “freedom of movement of knowledge”) is but the latest example where a Europe of knowledge – in the service of the Lisbon Strategy – is being brought into being. The development process is a messy one, with entangled conceptual vocabularies, and periodic debates about possible contradictions (e.g, see Per Nyborg’s entry ‘Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one‘). But the structural pressures to transform Europe’s economy, its many higher education systems and universities, and its research and development practices, will continue to create such confusions, and new concepts, for some time to come.

Kris Olds and Susan Robertson

‘Malaysia Education’: strategic branding leads to growth in international student numbers 2006-8?

Several months back in our round-up of the global higher education student mobility market, we reported that Malaysia might be viewed as an emerging contender with 2% of the world market in 2006 (this was using the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education figures which reports only on the higher education sector).

Last week, Malaysia’s leading newspaper The Star reported that figures had increased between 2006 and 2008 by 30%, bringing the overall numbers of international students in Malaysian international schools and higher education institutions to 65,000. According to the following calculations by industry analyst (see pamjitsingh.ppt) the Malaysian government is well on target to realise its 2010 goal of 100,000 international students.

Taking into account the forecast in world demand by 2010, the Malaysian government estimates that their market share would need to grow from its current world share of international students (schools and higher education) of 3.9% in 2004 to 6.6% in 2010. In comparison to the global average annual growth rate of international students which is around 7.4% p.a, the Malaysian target growth rate would need to be in the order of 24.0% per annum to achieve the 2010 target.

In order to realize this goal, a new Higher Education Ministry Marketing and International Education Division was created.

    dr-nasser.jpg

    Dr Mohamed Nasser Mohamed Noor took on the post of Division Director in January 2006. According to Dr. Nasser, the success of this rapid increase can be attributed to Malaysia’s ‘branding’ of its education sector – ‘Malaysia Education’. It would seem that Malaysia is not far off course to realize their 2010 target if they maintain their current progress of 30% increase over two years (2006-2008).

    Branding has emerged as an important strategy for governments seeking to strategically develop their higher education markets. Nick Lewis’s entry on Brand New Zealand carried on GlobalHigherEd late last year illustrates how cultural re/sources, such as ‘clean’, ‘safe’, ‘green’ New Zealand, are being drawn upon to realise value and to reposition New Zealand in a highly competitive market.

    Similarly Europe (see this report destination-europe.pdf) has been casting around for an identifiable ‘brand’ to market itself as a significant player with an identifiable ‘product’ in the global higher education market. This means finding a combination of distinctive elements that enable the country or region to position themselves in relation to the competition.

    The ‘Malaysian Education’ brand draws on deep cultural, religious and political resonances to promote its product – one that emphasizes lifestyle, culture and quality of education. This includes the value to be gained from its unique multicultural population of Malay, Indian and Chinese; its Islamic religion; and its experience of colonialism. Despite the contradictions inherent in this new form of neo-colonialism, these cultural values and symbols are being (effectively?) mobilized to open up the African, Arab, Chinese and Indonesian markets.

    Malaysia’s story demonstrates the high level of fluidity in globalising the higher education market. It requires players to be highly competitive, constantly utilize intelligence, be attentive to strategies as to how to open new markets, and have a way of representing the sector as an attractive and unique brand.

    Will Malaysia leave behind its ’emerging contender’ crown and don the mantle of a major player in the region? Much depends clearly on what the other players in the region do – Singapore, China and Australia. Let’s see what 2010 reveals.

    Susan Robertson

    Interregionalism and the globalization of higher education: new Euro-Asia initiatives

    One of the interesting aspects of change in higher education systems is how they are being denationalized; reshaped, as it were, by forces and actors that are thinking at, and operating at, scales other than the national. In social science terms (e.g., see the work of Neil Brenner) this is often deemed the “relativization of scale”; the process whereby actors operating at the global scale, the inter-regional (e.g., Europe-Asia) scale, the supranational regional (e.g., European, Asian) scale, the national scale (e.g., Germany), the subnational regional (e.g., Silicon Valley) scale, and the urban scale, all come to play increasingly important roles in shaping a “multiscalar” development process. See, for example, these two recent reports by the European University Association (EUA) and the OECD on higher education for regional development in a globalizing era:

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    In this case we have a regional stakeholder organization (the EUA), and a multilateral organization (the OECD), both framing development processes simultaneously at the urban, regional, and global scales, with the national scale present, though clearly not dominant. Don’t forget, as well, that the OECD is a creation of member states, and its global thinking is therefore animated by, and mediated by, the nation-state. This is a point Saskia Sassen has insightfully driven home, most recently in Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press, 2006).

    On the higher education and research policy front one emerging phenomenon worth taking note of is interregional dialogue. For example there is a now a decade long series of formal Transatlantic Dialogues, anchored by the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), and the European University Association (EUA). These meetings are always framed by ‘global’ thinking, but focus on achieving interregional objectives and enhanced understandings of what is going on on both sides of the Atlantic.

    In this context the EUA announced, on 21 February, that it is partnering with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic), to “establish an EU-Asia Higher Education Platform for European and Asian academics and policy makers”. This initiative is being facilitated by the European Commission’s Asia Link programme. As the EUA puts it, the purpose of the two-year project is to:

    • Provide a means for enhancing information exchange, dialogue, and cooperation in higher education and research between the two regions;
    • Develop best practices for institutional development and cooperation, and foster mobility of students and academics between the two regions;
    • Draw attention to the role and situation of universities in developing countries.

    Throughout the course of 2008-9, a series of workshops and round tables in Asia and Europe will be organised, targeting institutional development and cooperation issues. Amongst the themes that are expected to be covered will be higher education governance and management, decentralisation, cooperation in graduate education, and interregional and inter-institutional cooperation in quality assurance.

    While this is a complement to other forms of engagement also underway, and it is only targeted at parts of Asia, it is a noteworthy one.

    First, and most importantly, there is much to learn in Asia about European developments over the last ten years given that Europe is grappling with the ‘modernization’ of its higher education system at a regional scale, though in a manner that blurs scales of action and intent, and takes into account national sensitivities and differential capacities for statecraft.

    Second, it differs from the nature of North America-Asia and Australasia-Asia engagement, both of which tend to be relatively more person to person (e.g., the Australian Scholarships, the Fulbright awards) or event-oriented (e.g., student recruitment fairs, the US University Presidents’ Delegation to Southeast Asia).

    In contrast, the EU-Asia Higher Education Platform is a truly post-national/interregional initiative, of a programmatic nature, and with an associated development agenda that focuses on systemic change.

    In addition, and tying back to the start of this entry, note the presence of the nation-state in enabling EU-Asia relations to be forged, both directly and indirectly. This initiative is one that will also inevitably be forced to grapple with huge national variations in Asian higher education systems, and the lack of institutional capacity to operate at a regional scale in Asia, with respect to higher education. Yet while nation-states in Asia have not (yet) prioritized the construction of a regional higher education imaginary, it is only a matter of time given the structural forces that are reshaping Asian societies and economies. The complexion of the changes that will eventually emerge, and the nature of the intra-Asia and Asia-Other dialogue(s) facilitating them, have really yet to be determined.

    Kris Olds

    Have the grandiose plans for a European Institute of Technology been stripped bare?

    eit.jpgLate last week the European Commission (EC) moved one step closer to the establishment of a European Institute of Technology (EIT). It also announced the creation of four innovative public-private partnerships, or Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI), in the field of technology as part of their strategy to “bridge the competitive gap” between the EU and their economic rivals, the US and Japan.

    The idea of the EIT was first mooted in a proposal by the European Commission (EC) to the European Council in February 2006. It was intended to be a flagship research university for excellence in higher education to rival the USA’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the press release of that period put it:

    ‘’Excellence needs flagships: that’s why Europe must have a strong European Institute of Technology, bringing together the best brains and companies and disseminating the results throughout Europe’’ said José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. ‘’The EIT will be a light and flexible organisation”, stressed President Barroso. ‘’It will teach graduates and doctoral candidates, carry out research and be active in innovation, both in some strategic thematic areas and in the field of science and innovation management’’.

    “If Europe is to remain competitive, then we must ensure that we improve the relationship between education, research and innovation,” said Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism. “It is a common perception that in Europe, this relationship does not work as well as it could. Europe consistently falls short in turning R&D results into commercial opportunities, innovations and jobs.

    This grand plan would thus combine world-class education, research and deep engagement in effective innovation processes. Numerous reactions to the idea of the EIT have emerged since then, some supportive and some critical, with expected concern from European universities that the EIT would drain resources from existing research budgets.

    Eighteen months on, and it would seem that the proposal for a two-level structure combining both a bottom-up (universities and researchers in Member States) and top-down (Governing Board) located in a grand building (location to be decided) has been abandoned as too difficult to negotiate. Instead, the Commission has ended up with a stripped down version which some commentators argue is nothing more than a university joint venture modeled on the Networks of Excellence (NE) that are part of the Framework 6 and 7 architecture. More widely this could be viewed as a typical outcome of the EC’s adventures; grand plans that member states and the private sector are unwilling to finance – with the 4.5 billion euro Galileo positioning system meant to rival the US system as another troubled example. This said the EIT is being funded for a solid six years as of 1 January 2008, and to the tune of EUR 308.7 million in total.

    The fate of the EIT should be seen within a framework of competing interests between the European Union and Member States; of concentrating the best resources of Member States in one location that is governed at the European scale, versus allowing Member States to strategically harness and govern their own resources for economic competitiveness with some gesturing to Europe. According to Maria van der Hoeven, the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs:

    We shouldn’t create a situation where we take all the knowledge out of the universities and bring it together in one spot, to the effect that you drain the national universities.

    While the EC argues that currently research and development is far too fragmented across Europe, that there are not sufficient numbers of high class researchers (they point to the weaker performance of Europe in relation to science citations, Nobel Prize winners and the numbers of European universities in the top 100 universities rankings), private enterprise does not invest sufficiently in research and education, and talented European graduates leave to take up posts in the US.

    The four JTIs link the public and the private sectors – approving research initiatives worth 9.3 billion euros: nano-electronic technologies (3 billion), computing systems (2.7 billion), innovative medicines (2 billion), and airplanes and air transport (1.6 billion). These public private partnerships are intended to help the EU raise R&D spending to 3% of GDP (from 1.8% currently) – one of the Lisbon objectives. The EU is also hoping to overcome the stagnation in R&D spending which has resulted in the EU trailing the US for most of the decade. According to the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, “Europe is too slow to turn cutting edge technologies into marketable goods”. EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik dismissed suggestions that the four JTIs would run into similar problems that faced the Galileo satellite system where the companies and member states balked at the levels of investment being demanded by the EU. For the JTIs the private sector is expected to commit upwards of 60%, with national governments combining with the EU to contribute the other 40% in all but the medicines and aircraft programs (where the 40% contribution would come entirely from the EU).

    These two initiatives – the EIT and the four JTIs – reflect the challenges facing Europe in its ambition to become a globally competitive knowledge-based economy. Institutions like the European Commission are viewed as vehicles to enhance research capacity at the European level yet they are also critiqued for both the content of their initiatives and their legitimacy in claiming some governance over higher education. In response the European Commission is pushing forward, albeit in a halting way. It is also concurrently seeking to learn from other spaces of knowledge production as we noted in our recent entry on the EC’s interest in the role of technology transfer offices in underlying the recent stem cell research breakthrough. The Commission is also eager to learn more about the nature of collaboration, distributed knowledge, and geographically fragmented research networks. Thus this news item about the EIT needs to be placed in the context of a search for new knowledge/spaces in both a regionalizing and a globalizing era.

    Susan Robertson and Kris Olds

    Update:

    EU capitals start bidding for European technology institute – 12.12.2007 – 09:23
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    With the European Union next year set to launch its Institute of Innovation and Technology, some EU capitals have already started their bids to house the institute.

    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

    Designing the ‘University of the Peoples of the South’ – a case of regionalising the ‘Venezuela Bolivarian University’ model

    In times of increased global educational segregation under the so-called ‘knowledge-based economy’, the Chavez government has sought to democratize access to, and the contents of, higher education (see our earlier report on Venezuela).

    About a week ago, Venezuela’s Bolivarian News Agency reported on the progress made in designing the University of the People’s of the South.

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    According to Luis Quintana, Coordinator for International Relations in Venezuela’s Higher Education Ministry, the proposed ‘University of the People’s of the South’ is a new addition to the Bolivarian ‘Alternative for the People’s of Our America’ (ALBA) project which to date has tended to focus on the eradication of illiteracy in countries such as Bolivia and Nicaragua.

    Representatives from Argentina, Puerto Rica and Colombia (amongst others) last week discussed the internal organization of the university, its relation to society, the nature of the research program, and its territorial organization.

    The philosophical-politico conceptualization, however, appears to follow Venezuela’s Bolivarian University (UBV), founded in 2003, where those excluded from the global education market – ‘the South’ – can study free of charge.

    Referring to the ‘University of the Peoples of the South’, Luis Quintana is reported as stating:

    …popular and indigenous knowledges will be crucial to generate knowledges that would overcome the capitalist system of domination and the depredation of nature…the ‘South’ is a geopolitical rather than a geographical concept..the ‘South’ is where the exploited and the dominated are….

    Luis Fernanda Sarango, Director of the Intercultural University of the Nationalities and Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador, adds that the idea of the University for the People’s of the South is historical and forms part of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

    Implicitly reiterating the Bolivarian principle of knowledge production for democratic, informed active citizenship, Sarango states:

    It’s not about professionalization for the market, so that they keep using us for the market. It is about life.

    The idea of a university anchored in a set of principles which explicitly rejects the global market model that is currently in vogue is important, if only as an alternative imaginary. It will be interesting, too, to follow the regionalising project as it unfolds amongst the ALBA partners over the next few years. GlobalHigherEd would welcome any insights and commentary on these projects.

    Thomas Muhr

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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