The ‘other GATS negotiations’: domestic regulation and norms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antoni Verger and Susan Robertson

‘Frontier markets’, the International Finance Corporation, and development

The University World News is carrying a report this week on a conference to be held (14-16th May, 2008) in Washington DC, hosted by a less well known outfit in the World Bank Group – the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Better known to most is the IFC’s cousin, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, generally referred to as the World Bank.

The conference, titled ‘Investing in the Future: Innovation in Private Education’ will invite participants to discuss what the IFC regards as the significant benefits for developing countries of engaging the (for-profit) private sector in delivering tertiary education.

The IFC is currently the largest multilateral agency funding private education in the world. One way of understanding the difference between the World Bank and the IFC is that while the World Bank finances projects with sovereign guarantees, the IFC finances projects without sovereign guarantees.

In other words, the IFC is primarily active in private sector projects, and in this respect it is a profit-oriented financial institution. Like a bank, IFC lends or invests its own funds and borrowed funds to its customers, and expects to make a sufficient risk-adjusted return on its global portfolio of projects.

Over the past decade, the IFC has taken a keen interest in the education sector. In 2001 the IFC published its Education Sector Strategy (with advice from the Education Sector of the World Bank). According to the IFC, the role of the private sector lies in both the provision and financing of education. This role is expected to grow, with increased pressure for more education as a result of the Education for All initiatives, and as human capital formation is advanced as a result of knowledge economy policies.

From 2000 to 2007, IFC provided $237 million in financing to 37 private education projects in 20 developing countries. The projects had a total value of $839 million.

However, rating agency Standard and Poor’s 2007 Annual Report on the IFC has suggested the most profitable and secure investments are likely to be in the higher education as opposed to the schooling sector.

Its current medium term investment strategy is to open up ‘frontier markets’ in Africa and the Middle East (Standard and Poor’s, 2007).

In an interview with the University World News, IFC Executive Vice-president Lars Thunell is quoted as saying:

Global spending on education has risen substantially over the past decade. There is a demand for more and better services, and governments are embracing private sector participation as a way to increase quality and efficiency. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the emerging markets, where demand is presenting significant opportunities.

Claims that for-profit private firms necessarily provide more efficient and better quality services, including in sectors like education is vague, and the evidence provided to date is thin.

However, the more important issue is that, like the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (see our recent report on the GATS), the IFC sees education as a ‘frontier market’ in the emerging economies, and is willing to lend funds to investors in order to advance this project. It is also ready to ‘up’ its levels of investment in order to help this project along.

We will likely see more of the IFC as efforts to advance the privatization of education move ahead and developing countries are seen to be ripe for the picking. What is crucial, then, is that we become better informed about actors, like the IFC, and their role in the global governance of higher education. This will enable us to see the very complex way in which this sector is not only developing but is being strategically progressed by actors that are often off the analytical radar of many people and institutions.

Susan Robertson

15 May update: see Inside Higher Ed‘s story ‘The private sector role in global higher education‘ for a report from Day 1 of the conference. See also this report on the conference by World University News.

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

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

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

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

NYU Abu Dhabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LNU-MSU College of International Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kris Olds

Education cities, knowledge villages, schoolhouses, education hubs, and hotspots: emerging metaphors for global higher ed

Introduction

One of the rationales for the establishment of the GlobalHigherEd blog last September was to highlight and then archive information (e.g., see ‘Foreign university campuses and linkage schemes‘) about the construction of new globalizing knowledge spaces, especially when multiple institutions (and often firms) from different countries are brought together within one space. These may take the form of a branch/overseas/foreign campus, a joint research centre, or perhaps relatively deep transnational linkage schemes (e.g., joint and dual/double degrees, or international consortia of universities).

Examples of such knowledge spaces include:

  • Dubai Knowledge Village (which is hosting Boston University, Harvard University, London School of Business & Finance, Michigan State University, Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • Bahrain Higher Education City (announced December 2006)
  • Kuala Lumpur Education City (which is working with, in the first instance, Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Singapore’s ‘Global Schoolhouse’ (which is hosting or collaborating with Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD, University of Chicago, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Technische Universität München, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Duke University, Karolinska Institutet, University of New South Wales (RIP, 2007), ESSEC, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, IIM Bangalore, SP Jain Centre of Management, New York University, DigiPen Institute of Technology, Queen Margaret University)
  • Incheon Free Economic Zone (which is working with, in the first instance, State University of New York at Stony Brook and North Carolina State University)
  • Education City Qatar (which is hosting Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College). See this flyover of Education City Qatar to give you one sense of the nature of such a space.

There are other such centres of actual or planned knowledge production (including Abu Dhabi, which is hosting INSEAD, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, New York University, and the Sorbonne), but these will have to suffice as a basis for today’s entry.

It is important to note that in addition to these knowledge spaces, individual university campuses of significant scale (e.g., King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)), and associated developments that are more geographically dispersed (e.g., foreign university campuses in China and Vietnam), are increasingly receiving attention from stakeholder organizations, such as the American Council of Education (ACE), the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), and media outlets including the Chronicle of Higher Education, Insider Higher Education, and the New York Times. In all cases these observers have, more often than not, taken to using terms like “hotspots” (e.g., in the ACE report pictured to the right) when describing the emergence of new spaces of knowledge production, regardless of whether they are functioning or not.

Over the last several years both of us have noted the intense interest in these new knowledge spaces, especially from traditional knowledge producers (and associated stakeholders) who have dominated the global higher education landscape. People and the institutions they represent are curious and concerned, and in the process they react to, and they produce, novel concepts including metaphors like “hotspots” as they make sense of the fast changing context.

Even developing a basic mapping of this changing context is a challenging task, a point Kavita Pandit made in Boston this week at a conference one of us (Kris) is attending. Tangible developments aside, it is also easy to miss “seeing” these initiatives for they tend to sit outside of our geo-politico/economic and methodological nationalist (and statist) frameworks for understanding higher education, a point Arjun Appadurai has insightfully made in speeches and writings. This said, a small number of scholars are doing their best to break down the national holdings, if we can use this term, that guide our analytical and research imaginations, with respect to higher education (broadly defined).

In this relatively long entry we want to highlight one fascinating dimension of the development process that we have been taken for granted – the metaphors that are associated with many of these new knowledge spaces.

Metaphors and their uses

Metaphors such as education city, or global knowledge hub, are tropes that enable us to “reduce the unfamiliar to the familiar” (Smith and Katz, 1993: 69). Familiar examples of economic metaphors that guide our economic imaginaries include trickle down, rising tides, trade wars, rollercoaster, flat earth, invisible hand, and creative destruction.

Metaphors are key elements in the production of discourses, including discourses about the changing nature of higher education, urban and regional development processes, and so on. Yet we take metaphors for granted.

While some scholars have spent their lives analyzing the nature of metaphors, there are three basic points we would like to emphasize when thinking about the metaphors associated with the types of globalizing knowledge spaces we briefly highlighted above.

First, everyone uses metaphors because metaphors are effective and necessary in projecting views, in constructing arguments, in enabling the transformation of the thinking of others, and in generating anxiety. As Cornelissen et al (2008: 9) suggest, in relationship to thinking about organizational behavior:

Metaphors connect realms of human experience and imagination. They guide our perceptions and interpretations of reality and help us to formulate our visions and goals. In doing these things, metaphors facilitate and further our understanding of the world.

Thus, the development of metaphors like education city, knowledge hub, knowledge village, and global schoolhouse, imply an initiative that is associated with (a) the production of knowledge (which is more than information), (b) education providers (broadly defined), and (c) geographical proximity (up to the scale of “the city”). These metaphors reflect the relativization of scale (see one previous entry on this in GlobalHigherEd), where higher education systems are increasingly being denationalized; reshaped, as it were, by forces and actors that are thinking at, and operating at, scales other than the national. Thus these new development initiatives are imbued with territorial development objectives; objectives associated with the building of knowledge economies and societies

In conveying a message, such metaphors simultaneously serve as vehicles to destabilize our taken-for granted assumptions, to create the shock of the new, to generate anxiety. As Don Miller (2006: 64) notes, for example:

The face of the metaphoric new is one of strangeness, even of disconcerting incongruity. It upsets the established order. New metaphors may well enthuse those ready to pursue difference; but they frighten others wanting to maintain some existing order of things.

The target of such a message includes the media, and especially universities that have not yet stretched their institutional fabrics out across space, either in the form of joint/dual/double degrees, or branch campuses. Senior international officers for Western universities, for example, are increasingly being asked to reflect upon the pros and cons of linking into these new knowledge spaces. The presence of such metaphors creates a legible and identifiable target for concern, for deliberation.

Second, metaphors need to do work, they need to struggle, and they can be left open to critique and ridicule, incomprehension, or internal contradiction, if not effectively developed. This ties into a more general point about the production of hegemony, of truth. As Nietzsche (1909: 173-188; cited in Miller, 2006) puts it:

What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthromorphisms – which, after long usage, seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding: truths are illusions of which one has forgotten they are illusions.

Leaving aside debates about the construction of ‘truth’, it is clear that some of the metaphors developed and circulated, to date, have done more work than others in creating a legible and coherent understanding of what is going on, or what might be on offer. Thus we see some highly effective metaphors (e.g., Qatar Education City), which have come to be accepted, and legible in higher education circles in the targeted West, while others are ineffective, and perhaps far too broadly constructed. Incheon Free Economic Zone, for example, is a state planned development zone which is supposed to include a:

global center for cultural and intellectual exchange,” explains Hee Yhon Song, founder and former head of the College of Northeast Asian Studies, in Incheon City, and a key broker in the new agreements.

Mr. Song predicts that Incheon could eventually play host to more than 40 research institutes and at least seven foreign campuses, luring students from across the region. Eventually, he and others believe, South Korea could be the center of a regional government, along the lines of Brussels in the European Union.

Incheon, though, lacks a knowledge-based economy metaphor. “Free economic zone” smacks of export processing activities (factories), yet another ‘iconic’ world trade centre building, and somewhat sterile industrial landscapes. This said, these are early days in the Incheon’s development process, both materially and discursively. And on another level, might Free Economic Zone be a more accurate metaphor for what is going on in this era of academic capitalism, at least in some of the development initiative that are bubbling up around the globe?

Other metaphors that are perhaps too vague, and not legible at a transnational scale, include “global schoolhouse”. “Schoolhouse” is an troublesome metaphor in many countries for it implies primary level education only. Another common metaphor, “education hub” (as in Hong Kong Education Hub) is left open to critique for it can just as easily imply flow through, and tunnel/vacant/vacuous just as much as its other meaning (centrality of “activity, region, or network”).

Yet one place – Singapore – that has employed both of these problematic metaphors, succeeded in achieving its discursive objectives when it created an exemplary metaphor: “Boston of the East”. As Rear RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, put it in 2000:

Our vision, in shorthand notation, is to become the Boston of the East. Boston is not just MIT or Harvard. The greater Boston area boasts of over 200 universities, colleges, research institutes and thousands of companies. It is a focal point of creative energy; a hive of intellectual, research, commercial and social activity. We want to create an oasis of talent in Singapore: a knowledge hub, an “ideas-exchange”, a confluence of people and idea streams, an incubator for inspiration

In short, metaphors are necessary, but not all metaphors work equally well in attempting to bring to life such development initiatives.

Third, metaphors are political, in the broadest sense of political. They are strategically deployed to structure and interpret events, development processes, development projects, and so on (Kelly, 2001). This leads the human geographer, Trevor Barnes (1996: 159), to argue that:

The more general point is that we must continually think critically about the metaphors we use—where they come from, why they were proposed, whose interests they represent, and the nature of their implications. Not to do so can lead us to be the slaves of some defunct master of metaphors.

So, while metaphors provide “color and entertainment” (Czarniawska-Joerges and Joerges, 1988), while they are designed to convince, and while they work (and fail), they also conceal as much, if not more, than they profile.

Take Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC), for example. KLEC builds upon the successes of Education City Qatar in generating a legible space for the siting of foreign universities in Malaysia, in and around the national capital and the Multimedia Super Corridor that Timothy Bunnell has so ably assessed. KLEC, though, is primarily a property development vehicle. KLEC’s key strategic partner TH Properties Sdn Bhd., a national property development firm is a subsidiary of Lembaga Tabung Haji, an established financial institution. As KLEC notes:

TH Properties’ most significant development to date is Bandar Enstek. Bandar Enstek is strategically located just 8 minutes from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) and 10 minutes away from the Main Terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It is only 38 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur City Centre via the ERL and a mere 5 minutes from the Sepang F1 Circuit. It is a RM9.2 billion integrated township set over 5,116 acres of prime land. Expected to be fully completed in 2025, Bandar Enstek will be home to 150,000 residents who will enjoy high quality communications infrastructure, fixed and wireless connections included, to support unlimited broadband applications provided by TH Properties’ technology partner, Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

Education and property development, or education for property development? How many other education cities are in reality for-profit residential or industrial property development vehicles, first and foremost?

Other exclusions from, or obfuscations generated by the education/knowledge production metaphors include the fact that some of the so-called hotspots, especially in Saudi Arabia, have substantial security infrastructure to prevent attacks on faculty by Al Qaeda. Or exclusions related to the gendered or disciplinary structure of such knowledge spaces, for they are, and will inevitably be relatively masculine, and selective with respect to disciplinary offerings. But a more (perhaps!) accurate metaphor like Science and Engineering Dudes from the US Ivy League Hub just does not do it.

Or take the case of Qatar and Singapore, two ambitious global education hubs that proudly include highly ranked universities like MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, while (by accident or design) letting universities like Calgary and Queen Margaret fend for themselves in the producing their own global identities via their concurrent attachments to these two fast developing knowledge spaces. What forms of strategic selectivity are at work? Or in other terms, who is flying pre-paid business class to the Boston of the East, and the Boston of the Middle East?

Concluding comments

The globalization of higher education is continuing apace, and metaphors are being produced, projected, and consumed; they reflect, guide and construct our economic and higher ed imaginaries. And there is no sign we can do without them.

But if the “world needs a multitude of new metaphors leading us to a better future” though “metaphor, like life, is full of risks” (Miller, 2006: 65), are we happy with the existing metaphors that exist in relationship to these globalizing knowledge spaces? If metaphors have to work, perhaps we should also be doing more work on the metaphors too, for they are important dimensions of this fascinating development process.

References

Barnes, T. (1996) Logics of Dislocation: Models, Metaphors, and Meanings of Economic Space, New York: Guilford.

Cornelissen, J.P., Oswick, C., Christensen, L.T., Phillips, N. (2008 ) ‘Metaphors in organizational research: context, modalities, and implications for research – introduction’, Organization Studies, 29(7): 7-22.

Czarniawska-Joerges, B., and Joerges, B. (1988 ) ‘How to control things with words. On organizational talk and organizational control’, Management Communication Quarterly, 2(2): 170-193.

Kelly, P.F. (2001) ‘Metaphors of meltdown: political representations of economic space in the Asian financial crisis’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 19(6): 719-742.

Miller, D. (2006) ‘The politics of metaphor’, Theory, Culture and Society, 23(2-3): 63-65.

Smith, N and C.Katz (1993) ‘Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics’, in M. Keith and S. Pile (eds.) Place and the Politics of Identity, London: Routledge.

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

    Foreign university campuses and linkage schemes: opportunities and challenges in early 2008

    The establishment of overseas/branch/foreign campuses, and substantial international university linkage schemes, continues to generate news announcements and debate.

    Over the last two months, for example, Queen Margaret University in Scotland announced that it would be Singapore’s first foreign campus set up by a UK university (a fact that received little media coverage in Singapore).

    The University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) announced that their Singapore-based campus would be doubling in size by 2009 (a fact that received much media coverage in Singapore), while the University of Chicago’s Financial Mathematics Department announced it would establish a graduate program in Singapore, likely in association with Chicago’s Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics. Further details are available here.

    Finally, on the Singapore front, MIT and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) jointly announced the establishment of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre (SMART), a “complex of research centres set up by world-class research universities and corporations working collaboratively with Singapore’s research community”. As MIT describes it:

    SMART is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) largest international research endeavor and the first research center of its kind located outside Cambridge, Mass. It will offer laboratories and computational facilities for research in several areas, including biomedical science, water resources and the environment, and possible additional research thrusts that encompass such topics as interactive digital media, energy, and scientific and engineering computation.

    Besides serving as an intellectual hub for robust interactions between MIT and global researchers in Singapore, the SMART Centre will also provide MIT and Singapore new and unique opportunities to perform interdisciplinary experimental, computational and translational research that takes advantage of MIT’s long-standing collaborations in Singapore.

    The joint press release can be downloaded here. Needless to say this was also a high profile media item in Singapore.

    Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the Chicago and MIT initiatives in Singapore involve regular (versus contract) base campus faculty and researchers, reflecting core principles guiding their respective internationalization agendas. This is clearly enabled by direct and indirect Government of Singapore support, and relatively high tuition fees.

    Meanwhile, in the Middle East and East Asia, the University of Calgary-Qatar (a joint venture between the University of Calgary and the Hamad Medical Corporation), and the University of Nottingham Ningbo, have both been busy searching out faculty (contract/contingent/secondment/visiting only, it seems) for their respective campuses.

    nottningboroom.jpgEmployment sites always provide insights into how these types of ventures are represented, and how the transnational staffing dimension is handled, so check out what is on offer at Calgary-Qatar and Nottingham-Ningbo. I must admit, however, that the sterile curtained room on offer to three year-long contract faculty in Ningbo (photo to the left) does not exactly look appealing, exciting though China (and Ningbo) are. Perhaps they just hired a bad photographer:)

    Over in Saudi Arabia the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which we have written about before, is filling media outlets like the Economist with full page advertisements for senior and mid-level administrative staff. The largesse available to KAUST, and the Singaporean influence on its development model, was also evident when it announced, incrementally in globally circulated press releases, that it was moving forward on substantial collaborative ventures, at an institutional scale, with the American University in Cairo, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Imperial College London, Institut Français du Pétrole, National University of Singapore, Stanford University, Technische Universität München, University of California, Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. These are substantial and lucrative linkages, according to Changing Higher Education, with Berkeley’s Mechanical Engineering Department (the lead linkage unit at Berkeley), for example, receiving US $28 million to participate in this scheme between 2008 and 2013.

    KAUST is also attempting to leapfrog in the development process by buying in individual scientific support via their Global Research Partnership (GRP) Investigator competition. This scheme, which will initially support 12 “high caliber researchers” from the “world’s leading research universities”, allows KAUST greater flexibility to target individual researchers in fields or universities that might not be enabled via institutional linkage schemes like the ones mentioned above.

    kaustcampus.jpgInterestingly KAUST’s graphic design consultants have worked very hard to create a sunny high tech image for the campus, which is still being developed, though they actually have less to work with (on the ground) than does Nottingham in Ningbo, not to mention significant security concerns to plan for when foreigners (especially US citizens) are involved. It just goes to show you how much work good or bad graphics (still & video, including the fascinating five minute long campus profile below) can do in creating distinctive representations of campuses such that they might appeal to mobile faculty and researchers living outside of the host country.

    And on the analytical news front, Inside Higher Ed, and the New York-based Social Science Research Council’s new Knowledge Rules blog, both posted critical articles on the overseas campus institutional development model by Andrew Ross, a professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University (NYU), a university we profiled with respect to institutional strategic issues last autumn. Finally, Inside Higher Ed provided coverage of one initiative that had California Polytechnic State University, working with Jubail University College in Saudi Arabia, to develop approximately $6 million worth of programs for Jubail’s male only student population. But, as Inside Higher Ed notes, moving forward on this initiative might rub against (in a dejure or defacto way) core elements of Cal Poly’s internal code of conduct, and the national legal system it is embedded within (in this case U.S. equal employment laws that bar discrimination). The issue was put this way:

    Faculty skeptical of the project — and by some accounts there’s plenty of skepticism on campus — wonder: Will opportunities truly be equally available to all Cal Poly faculty? Would women feel they can apply for an on-site director position in a country where they, unlike their male colleagues, would be barred from driving? What about homosexual faculty? Would they see good professional options in a country where sodomy is punishable by death? What about Jewish faculty in an Islamic country without religious freedoms?

    The administration says that the bulk of the work to develop the programs would likely happen on the California campus. But site visits and long-term director positions abroad would be available. And there aren’t just opportunities, but also money, at stake here: The proposed base annual salary for a senior faculty member working on the project is $180,000.

    Transnational complications, indeed.

    Entangling institutional infrastructures from different countries cannot help but generate some inter-cultural and institutional conflict: indeed this is sometimes the rationale for supporting the concept of overseas campuses. But the Ross articles, the Cal Poly-Saudi debate, and Amy Newhall’s entry in GlobalHigherEd last autumn (‘Liberal education venturing abroad?: American universities in the Middle East‘), are but a few reminders that much more thinking is required about the underlying forces facilitating the development of such ventures, the nature of the deliberative processes on campuses that are considering such ventures (which has been, to date, driven in a top down fashion, for good and for bad, by what I would deem administrative entrepreneurs), and the nature of the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) and legal agreements that lock in such linkage schemes (usually for a five year period, in the first instance).

    The evidence, to date, suggests that there is incredible diversity in drafting overseas campus and linkage arrangements, ranging from the unsophisticated and opaque to the sophisticated and transparent. It is perhaps time for some systematic rules and guidelines to be developed by international organizations like UNESCO and the OECD (extending the UNESCO/OECD guidelines on “Quality provision in cross-border higher education”). It is also worth pondering why publicly supported institutions are not active, and indeed sometimes hostile to, the public release of relevant MoUs and legal agreements. Public release clauses could, after all, even be built into the MoUs and agreements in the first place; a “non-negotiable” item in the terms of participants at a recent American Council of Education Leadership Network on International Education meeting. One of many unfinished debates about this emerging global higher ed phenomenon…

    Kris Olds

    GATS, TRIPS and higher education: projects, politics and prospects

    The World Trade Organization (WTO) and two of its agreements, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Trade Related Intellectual Property Services (TRIPS), have emerged as important features of the global higher education landscape.

    However, despite the importance of the WTO and its Agreements, many of us working in the sector have either very little, or at best very sketchy, knowledge about GATS and TRIPS as projects, their politics and what might be the likely prospects for the future. Even our sketchy knowledge tends to be shaped by media images largely around the biennial Ministerial Meetings for the WTO; from clashes with riot police in Seattle in 1999 (see below) to more recent arrests in Hong Kong in 2005.

    GlobalHigherEd will carry a series of feature pieces on the WTO’s GATS and TRIPS Agreements, beginning here with a brief outline of the World Trade Organization and the emergence of the GATS and TRIPS Agreements in 1995.

    Although the WTO is a new international organization, its origins are rooted in the General Agreement of Trade and Tariffs (GATT) of 1947. In the Uruguay Round of the GATT (1986-1994), it was decided that the international trade rules should pay more attention to the trade of “invisibles”, such as intellectual property, services and knowledge. These elements were more and more important for the world economy and were not covered by the GATT’47. To manage these new complexities, a single trade agreement was not enough. So, it was necessary to create an international organization, the WTO, which contemplated new trade agreements to fill the GATT gap: the TRIPS and the GATS. Currently, the WTO has 151 member countries. These countries have committed themselves to respect the norms and disciplines of the WTO agreements, as well as to promote progressive trade liberalization in the areas covered by the agreements. wto-logo.jpg

    In addition to the scope, another important difference between the GATT and the WTO is related to the dispute settlement procedure. The dispute settlement system of the WTO is regarded as much more efficient than the old system because of new procedural innovations. This also makes the WTO more powerful in enforcing trade agreements and consequently obliges member countries to be careful about respecting the content of the trade agreements.

    Finally, another important difference between the GATT and the WTO can be found in its political character. In the framework of the WTO, the liberalization principle is stronger than in the original GATT. This Agreement, created in the post-WWII context, instituted a commercial regime of Keynesian embedded liberalism. But the WTO, created in a moment of neoliberal climax, clearly breaks the balance between the global liberalization objective and the capacity of states to deliver their legitimate social purpose. The fact that the WTO covers public services, such as health and education, as well as other public goods such as knowledge, significantly increases the social implications of this political shift in the international trade regime and one that GlobalHigherEd will be exploring in detail.

    Both the presence and the politics of the WTO and its embrace of education–including higher education–as a new tradeable services sector is not only far reaching, but has important implications for academics’ everyday work and for how the sector is constructed and regulated. For these reasons, those working in the sector should have at least a working knowledge of the GATS and TRIPS processes so that they can either mediate or intervene in debates. We hope this series  will help you contribute to this debate.

    Susan Robertson and Antoni Verger

    Overseas campuses: American views and photographs

    cmumap.jpgThe Sunday New York Times published a general overview (‘Universities rush to set up outposts abroad’) today regarding the phenomenon of overseas campuses. This article (the first of a series this week – see the bottom of this entry for links to all of the articles when they have been published) focuses on US campuses in the Middle East, especially universities that have ‘home’ bases in New York (it is the New York Times after all!), Pittsburgh and Washington DC, though reference is made to developments in other parts of the world. An explicit US-centric view is developed in the article.

    The article is particularly worth perusing for the accompanying slideshow of campuses including Carnegie Mellon in Qatar, New York Institute of Technology Abu Dhabi, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and George Mason University – Ras Al Khaimah Campus, as well as the teaching rooms of the University of Washington’s certificate programs in Abu Dhabi.

    klec.jpgThis story, on top of news last week that Royal Holloway, University of London, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC) to establish the University of London’s first overseas campus by 2011, is a reminder that venturing abroad is an internationalization option more and more universities are deliberating about.

    With opportunity comes confusion, this said. Some universities are simply overwhelmed with options, as the University of Washington (in Seattle) outlined in the article:

    The demand from overseas is huge. At the University of Washington, the administrator in charge of overseas programs said she received about a proposal a week. “It’s almost like spam,” said the official, Susan Jeffords, whose position as vice provost for global affairs was created just two years ago.

    And yet the article implies, as does the American Council on Education’s report Venturing Abroad: Delivering US Degrees Through Overseas Campuses and Programs (2007), that the opportunity/risk/implication calculus is only in the early stages of a sophisticated conceptualisation. Indeed our own research leads us to believe that the calculus is remarkably unsystematic with universities incrementally ad-hocing it through the deliberative process. Little systematic information is available regarding how to plan the planning process, optional models for overseas campuses, legal innovations (e.g., regarding the protection of academic freedom), best and worse cases, and so on.

    Some universities have also not recognized the importance of closely relating core principles and objectives to the idea of accepting or rejecting an overture to open an overseas campus. Interestingly, one university that has is the University of Pennsylvania, and their stance on overseas campuses is an unequivocal no. In the New York Times article Amy Gutmann, president of Penn, is quoted as saying “the downside is lower than the upside is high” especially because the:

    risk is that we couldn’t deliver the same quality education that we do here, and that it would mean diluting our faculty strength at home.

    New York University (NYU), also the focus of some attention in the article, is clear that their network university model simply requires campuses in other countries; an issue we discussed in some detail in our entry on NYU Abu Dhabi.

    Interestingly, both NYU and Penn are active in Singapore. NYU has developed one independent arts school (the Tisch School of the Arts Asia), while Penn is present via intellectual engagement (and some associated secondment activities) with key Singapore-based actors shaping the development of a new university (Singapore Management University) . Thus Penn’s clear principle is to deeply internationalize (including by bringing Penn’s intellectual power to the development of new campuses in countries like India and Singapore), but in a manner than strengthens their one and only campus while concurrently reducing financial and brand name risk.

    The outcomes that we read about in such articles, and that we see in such photographs, are dependent upon a suitable mesh between the principles guiding universities as they seek to internationalize, and the territorially-specific development objectives of host governments. One of these territorial objectives is capacity building, an issue we will explore in some detail over the next several months. Now back to those Sunday papers…

    Kris Olds

    ~~~~~~

    11 February Update:

    Charles Thorpe, dean of Carnegie Mellon in Qatar responded to a selection of 57 questions submitted by New York Times readers at this site. His responses were posted here.

    The second article in the series (‘In Oil-Rich Mideast, Shades of the Ivy League’) was published in the New York Times. This article focuses on the student experience in overseas campuses in the Middle East. Readers of the article have been submitting questions here.

    “New Zealand Educated”: rebranding New Zealand to attract foreign students

    nzbrand.jpgIn June 2007 Education New Zealand, the peak industry body for institutions involved in the sale of education to foreign students in New Zealand, launched a new national brand. The New Zealand Educated brand (from which the images in this entry are sourced) is designed to represent and to lead a new phase of development in the sale of educational products to foreign students. The Brand is far more than simply a logo or a coherent message for developing promotional materials. It is based upon and expresses the strategic logic of industry development generated at a national level under the auspices of Education New Zealand over the last three years. Similarly, whilst much of such material is directed at foreign students studying in New Zealand, the new brand represents an imaginary of a far wider and more expansive international education industry. Narrowly, the brand will be used in all offshore promotional and marketing collateral designed to attract students to New Zealand to study. More widely it is the front end of a strategic reassessment of offshore trade shows and other commercial events promoted by Education New Zealand, its domestic public relations, its website, and its relationships with both the New Zealand government and off-shore institutional partners in education programmes.

    Three points may be of particular interest to readers of GlobalHigherEd. First, the national branding of international education activities by New Zealand operators is a feature of the New Zealand case. Education New Zealand has in the last decade been transformed into an efficient and professional peak body. Now funded by a marketing levy against all operators, it has taken advantage of the crisis prompted by the slump in sales to Chinese students and subsequent rationalisation and reprofessionalisation of activities among its members to emphasise and accentuate their mutual interests in Brand New Zealand. By working strategically in changing conditions Education New Zealand has sought to marginalise sectoral differences among its members and build a more coherent and integrated national product. It has now branded that product.

    nzparis.jpgIn this rebranding, Education New Zealand has placed international education firmly within the family of product/industry specific ‘Brand New Zealand’ so creatively symbolised by the erection of a giant rugby-ball-shaped trade stand in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower for 18 days during the recent Rugby World Cup in France (photo courtesy of Kris Olds). Although somewhat deflated by New Zealand’s early exit from a contest that it was expected to win, the ball, labelled ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, reveals the extent of national branding and the political project of economic nationalism that underpins it. As one of New Zealand’s leading export earners and with powerful messages of youth, tourism and knowledge economy to sell Brand New Zealand international education featured prominently in the imaginary of the ball.

    Second, in the design of the new brand, the brand makers have made a careful assessment of the tag-lines, messages and advantages of competitors as well as national strengths. That they chose to do so and the imaging that they discovered in doing so reveals the increasing deployment of brand expertise and logics in many places, and the increasing presence of nation branding. It is suggests a new moment in far more professionalised inter-national competition.

    The third interest lies in precisely what new brand values are being attached to Brand New Zealand International Education. The new ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand rebrands international education in New Zealand. It displaces one half of the old logo ‘The New World Class: New Zealand Educated’, as well as the multiple and wordy tag lines of ‘warm and welcoming environments’, ‘world class institutions’, ‘high quality living conditions’, ‘world leading courses and degrees’, ‘association with fresh thinkers’, ‘recreation in paradise’, and ‘British based education system’. These messages, somewhat cumbersome and highly defensive, were targeted at a bulk market largely out of Asia that was undifferentiated and knew little about New Zealand. The target was imagined as much to be parents as students and the place of information gathering and purchase was imagined to be the trade fair.nzbrandterms.jpg

    A new set of taglines, again a family of seven, pushes similar messages about a modern, friendly, British-based, out-doors, and green New Zealand, but one that is far more vibrant, globally connected, youthful, and exciting. Crucially it appears to imagine students as savvy, active agents, with subjectivities already located in the new global class elite and seeking an international education that will allow them to perform their lives within this elite – as leisure/experience consumers as well as actual or prospective creative entrepreneurs and knowledge workers. Hence, the seven tag lines are now ‘connected’, ‘inventive’, trusted’, ‘personal’, ‘adventurous’, ‘lively’, and ‘welcoming’. The photographic images are of self-confident, sophisticated students. The expectation now appears to be that the market place is on-line and the purchaser the savvy student. The text behind the tag lines presumes and more subtly restates New Zealand’s global credentials.

    nzbrand2.jpg

    The ‘New World Class’ was designed to secure a high volume supply chain in a emerging market for international students where New Zealand was positioned as a high-reputation, third-tier provider. In this market imaginary, the product was largely English language acquisition. New Zealand enjoyed certain key advantages from its safety, environmental reputation, national organisation, and British colonial history. The ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand recognises a much more sophisticated and competitive market place, but again one in which New Zealand enjoys similar advantages. However, these must be repackaged for a new local industry trajectory, a far more sophisticated and intermediated marketplace in which the expertise of branding is now being brought to bear, and new consumers.

    Nick Lewis

    Freefall in the Australian higher education market?

    Today’s report by Geoff Maslen for the University World News (9th December) – on whether the Australia’s A$11 billion a year education export market is facing a potentially catastrophic fall – must have Australian politicians and university managers shaking in their boots. The figures, it seems, are in something of a free-fall….and any spinning out of control is likely to leave a pretty large hole in the economy. As Maslen notes:

    Foreign students now contribute $2.4 billion a year to university coffers. Yet the flow of new students arriving in Australia to undertake university courses has plummeted from double digit increases in the early 2000s to low single-digit increases.

    In the first years to 2007, the number of overseas students undertaking university award courses on campuses in Australia jumped by more than 50% to hit 175,000 for the first time. But, over that period, annual enrolment growth fell successively from 17% to 12% to 8% and this year it is down to less than 4%.

    Maslen goes on to suggest that a major reason contributing to the fall is the change in the visa processes tied to the skilled migration program. Large numbers of students come to Australia from India and China with the express purpose of gaining permanent residency once they have completed their studies. However, it seems that employers have been complaining about the poor levels of English competence amongst these students, making them unsuitable for much more than casual work. As a result, students who apply to stay on will face stricter tests of their English language competence following completion of their studies and as part of their application for permanent residence.

    Maslen may well be right here. However, GlobalHigherEd can’t help but think that this isn’t  the major reason, especially as it is referring to students applying to stay on once they have completed studies, rather than those who are planning to come in the first place and who may at this point feel a lot more confident about their ability to learn and use English.

    What surely must also be an important factor in this mix is the growing levels of competitiveness from those who were once smaller players in the education export business – countries like France and Germany – for example, who are now regarded as potentially desirable destinations given a move toward English language instruction at the graduate level and with lower fees and moderate living costs and who are wooing Chinese students.

    The USA, too, has had time to reflect on its own position, and is now reporting an increase in overseas student numbers following the post Sept 11 period when things were definitely heading in the wrong direction. US higher education institutions have invested in people and new processes in an attempt to turn around the decline in numbers and it seems that, at least for some institutions, this is paying off.

    Finally, relative currency exchange trends are clearly not moving in Australia’s favour in comparison to the country’s competitors, especially the US.

    What is clear is that, once in the game, there is absolutely no room for complacency – or the outcomes are potentially catastrophic, not only for the economy but for the institutions most directly affected.

    Susan Robertson

    Creating and enhancing risk in the UK higher education system

    If higher education is becoming a global ‘industry’ then it is inevitable risks and rewards will be differentially dispersed, and subject to the turbulence generated by broader structural forces, including global financial machinations. The most tangible of these forces relate to currency exchange rate differentials given that overseas students often pay high fees, and that key market players have come to depend upon these fees to compensate for declining state support (with Australia and the UK apt examples).

    Further to my 11 October entry titled ‘Will shifting currency exchange rate differentials (2005-2007) redirect flows of foreign students?’, which appears to be relatively interesting for some viewers of this blog judging on the basis of hit counts, today’s Financial Times has inspired me to revisit this issue. The FT’s article, titled ‘Drop in foreign students may hit universities’, quotes University College London’s provost (Malcolm Grant) as saying the strength of the sterling might damage (in financial terms) his institution (which depends upon 20% of its students to generate overseas fees of between £11,000 and £22,000 per annum). Let’s look at a few relevant numbers in the following graphics.

    First, here are the currency exchange rates (1 January 2002 to yesterday via the Pacific Exchange Rate Service) with reference to a British Pound-based indicator, with the UK’s main competitor (the US) noted, as well as the two main sources of foreign (and non-EU) students to the UK’s higher education system.

    fxrates.jpg

    Now let’s look at the relative dependency of the UK on foreign students in general, and from specific countries. These three graphics are from the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2007 report that we also profiled in September 2007.

    uk-dependency.jpg

    oecdpercent.jpg

     

    oecdstudents.jpg

    As these three graphics note UK universities are heavily dependent upon foreign students, especially from China and India (and Asia more generally).

    Finally here is a graphic from a report we profiled on 18 September that is from a new British Council and Education UK report that attempts to identify the “value of educational exports” (using trade in services parlance) to the UK economy.

    britishcouncil.jpg

    So dependency upon foreign students in the UK is clear, as is a fast rising and troublesome (for foreign students) British Pound. And given the patterns in this table (that admittedly only focus on England) are likely to be at work today, what we are seeing in Malcolm Grant’s expressed concern is one geographically- and institutionally-specific view on this broader structural dynamic.

    As today’s FT article ‘Drop in foreign students may hit universities’ notes:

    But if demand stalls at the prestigious London institution, which attracts large numbers of foreign students, other British universities are likely to be affected in the same way.

    If he is right, the British economy will be hit. Foreign students provide millions of pounds in invisible exports. Prof Grant said they were also “a major engine for economic growth” because many stayed on and found a job after finishing their studies, contributing to the economy as highly skilled workers.

    International undergraduates – defined by British universities as students from outside the EU – also play an important role in boosting the revenues of several of Britain’s elite universities. These include University College, London, ranked the world’s ninth best university in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s league table.

    Thus segments of the UK higher education system, and select parts of the country (mainly the Southeast and London), are now creating the noteworthy aggregate figures that the OECD has identified. If so is it not incredibly risky to engender such dependencies given the broad array of roles such universities (and regions) play in society and economy? Compete UK universities feel they must, but on the backs of ever so many fee paying foreign students? The UK’s competitor and model – the USA – is dependent upon foreign students too, though more on a sector- and profession-basis versus such a system-wide basis. And even when leading US universities (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, USC), depend upon relatively large proportions of foreign students they are at much less risk for most are institutions that are also sitting on top of vast reserves in the form of multi-billion dollar endowments as discussed here and here (not to mention being well resourced via external research funding). Does the UK really want to create and enhance such a high level of risk in such a critically important pillar (the publicly-funded higher education system) of society and economy? Or can branding, the perception (and reality, in most cases) of a high quality education, and the persistence of socio-economic networks that funnel students to the UK, mediate the currency effects?

    Kris Olds

    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