Elephants in the room, and all that: more ‘reactions’ to the Bologna Process Leuven Communiqué

Editor’s Note: As those of you following GlobalHigherEd well know, the big news story of April on the higher education calender was the release of the Leuven Communiqué following the the 6th Bologna  Ministerial Conference held in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve,  28-29th April, 2009.

46 Bologna countries gathered together to review progress toward realizing the objectives of the Bologna Process by 2010, and to establish the priorities for the European Higher Education Area.  Prior to the meeting there was quite literally an avalanche of stocktaking reports, surveys, analyzes and other kinds of commentary, all fascinating reading (see this blog entry for a listing of materials).

With the Communiqué released, and the ambition to take the Bologna Process into the next decade under the banner – ‘The Bologna Process 2010’, GlobalHigherEd has invited leading European actors and commentators to ‘react’ to the Communiqué.

leuven 1

Last week  we posted some initial ‘reactions:  Pavel Zgaga’s Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? and Peter Jones’ Was there a student voice in Leuven? In this entry, we add more. We invited Per Nyborg, Roger Dale, Pauline Ravinet and Anne Corbett to comment briefly on one aspect they felt warranted highlighting.

Per Nyborg was Head, Bologna Process Secretariat (2003-2005). Roger Dale, Professor of Sociology of Education, University of Bristol, UK, has written extensively on the governance of the European Higher Education Area and the role of Bologna Process in that. He recently published a co-edited volume on Globalisation and Europeanisation in Education (2009, Symposium Books). Pauline Ravinet is a post doctoral researcher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. She completed her doctoral research at Sciences Po, Paris, and has published extensively on the Bologna Process.  Anne Corbett is Visiting Fellow, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Dr. Corbett is author of Universities and the Europe of Knowledge Ideas, Institutions and Policy Entrepreneurship in European Union Higher Education 1955-2005 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Susan Robertson

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“Bologna Toward 2010” – Per Nyborg

In 2005, halfway toward 2010, Ministers declared that they wished to establish a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on the principles of quality and transparency and our rich heritage and cultural diversity. They committed themselves to the principle of public responsibility for higher education. They saw the social dimension as a constituent part of the EHEA.

The three cycles were established, each level for preparing students for the labor market, for further competence building and for active citizenship. The overarching framework for qualifications, the agreed set of European standards and guidelines for quality assurance, and the recognition of degrees and periods of study, were seen as key characteristics of the structure of the EHEA.

What has been added four years later? Ministers have called upon European higher education institutions to further internationalize their activities and to engage in global collaboration for sustainable development. Competition on a global scale will be complemented by enhanced policy dialogue and cooperation based on partnership with other regions of the world. Global cooperation and global competition may have taken priority over solidarity between the 46 partner countries. But Bologna partners outside the European Economic Area region must not be left behind!  leuven 2

A clear and concise description of the EHEA and the obligations of the participating countries is what we should expect from the 2010 ministerial conference – at least if it shall be seen as the founding conference for the EHEA, not only a Bologna anniversary on the way to 2020.

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“Elephants in the Room, and All That”   Roger Dale

Reading the Leuven Communiqué, we can’t help but be impressed by the continuing emphasis on the public nature of and public responsibility for higher education that has characterized BFUG’s statements over the years. Indeed, the word ‘public’ appears 9 times.

However, at the same time we can’t help wondering about some other  words and connotations that don’t appear.

The nature of the ‘fast evolving society’ to which the EHEA is to respond implied by the Communiqué, seems rather different from that implied in some of these elephants in the room.

Quite apart from ‘private’ (which as Marek Kwiek has constantly reminded us is indispensable to the understanding of HE in many of the newer member states), we may cite the following:

  • First and foremost, ‘Lisbon’, with its dominant focus on Productivity and Growth;
  • Second, ‘European Commission’, the home and driver of Lisbon, and the indispensable paymaster and facilitator of the Bologna Process.
  • Third, the ‘European Research Area’; surely a report on European Universities/ERA would paint a rather different picture of the Universities over the next decade from that presented here.

It is difficult to see how complete and accurate a picture of Bologna, as it goes into its second phase, this ‘more of the same’ Communiqué provides. Perhaps the most pregnant phrase in the document is “Liaise with experts in other fields, such as research, immigration, social security and employment”,  a very mixed and interesting quartet, whose different demands may pose real problems of harmonization.

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“The Bologna Process  – a New Institution? ” Pauline Ravinet

I have been particularly interested in my own research on early phases and subsequent institutionalization of the Bologna Process. In this work I have tried to recompose and analyze what happened between 1998–the year when the process began with unexpected Sorbonne declaration–and now, where the Bologna process has become the central governance arena for higher education in Europe. This did not happen in one day and was rather a progressive invention of a unique European structure for the coordination of national higher education policies.

Reading the Leuven Communiqué with the institutionalization question in mind is extremely interesting. Presenting the achievements of the 2000s and defining the priorities for the decade to come, this text states more explicitly than any Bologna document before, that the process has gone much further than a ten-year provisory arrangement for the attainment of common objectives.

The Bologna process is becoming an institution. It is first an institution in its most formal meaning: the Bologna process designates an original organizational structure, functioning according to specific rules, and equipped with innovating coordination tools which will not perish but on the contrary enter a new life cycle in 2010. The Bologna Policy Forum, which met on the 29th April, will be the formal group that engages with the globalization of Bologna. This represents a further new expression of the institutionalization of Bologna.  leuven bologna policy forum

But it is also an institution in a more sociological sense. The Bologna arena has acquired value and legitimacy beyond the performance of specific tasks, it embeds and diffuses a policy vision which frames the representations and strategies of higher education actors of all over Europe, and catches the interest of students, academia, and HE experts world wide.

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“Fit For Purpose? ”  Anne Corbett

The European Higher Education Area is the New Decade, has European Ministers responsible for higher education, declaring (para 24) that

[t]he present organisational structure of the Bologna Process is endorsed as being fit for purpose’.

You may think this to be a boring detail. However as a political scientist, I’d argue that this is the most theoretically and politically interesting phrase in the Communiqué. In policy making terms, the Bologna decade has been about framing issues, negotiating agendas, developing policies and testing out modes of cooperation which can be accepted throughout a Europe re-united for the first time for 50 years.

These are the sorts of activities typically carried out by experts and officials who are somewhat shielded from the political process. For a time they enjoy a policy monopoly (Baumgartner and Jones 1993 – see reference below).

In terms of policy effectiveness this is all to the good. The people who devote time and thought to these issues have to build up relations of trust and respect. They don’t need politicians to harry them over half-thought out ideas.

The Bologna Follow-up Group, which devises and delivers on a work programme which corresponds to the wishes of ministers, have produced an unprecedented degree of voluntary cooperation on instruments as well as aims (European Standards and Guidelines in Quality Assurance, Qualifications Frameworks, and Stocktaking or national benchmarking), thanks to working groups which recruit quite widely, seminars etc. Almost every minister at the Leuven conference started his/her 90 second speech with tributes to the BFUG.

But there comes a time in every successful policy process when political buy-in is needed. The EHEA-to-be does not have that. Institutionally Bologna is run by ministers and their administrations, technocrats and lobbyists. Finance (never ever mentioned in any communiqué) is provided by the EU Commission, EU presidencies and the host countries of ministerial conferences (up to now EU). Records of the Bologna Process remain the property of the ministries providing the secretariat in a particular policy cycle. “It works, don’t disturb it,” is the universal message of those insiders who genuinely want advance.

Students in the streets (as opposed, as Peter Jones’ entry reminds us, to those in the Brussels-based European Student Union) are a sign that a comfortably informal process has its limits once an implementation stage is reached. It is such a well known political phenomenon that it is astonishing that sophisticated figures in the BFUG are not preparing to open the door to the idea that an EHEA needs arenas at national and European level where ministers are answerable to the broad spectrum of political opinion. Parliamentarians could be in the front line here. Will either of the European assembles or any of the 46 national parliaments take up the challenge?

Baumgartner, F. and B. Jones (1993). Agendas and instability in American politics. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

‘Passing judgment’: the role of credit rating agencies in the global governance of UK universities

This week, one of the two major credit rating agencies in the world, Standard & Poor’s (Moody’s is the other), issued their annual ‘Report Card’ on UK universities. This year’s version is titled UK Universities Enjoy Higher Revenues but Still Face Spending Pressures and it has received a fair bit of attention in media outlets (e.g., the Financial Times and The Guardian). Our thanks to Standard and Poor’s for sending us a copy of the report.

Five UK universities were in the spotlight after having their creditworthiness rated by Standard & Poor’s (S&P’s). In total, S&P’s assesses 20 universities in the UK (5 are made public, the rest are confidential), with 90% of this survey considered by the rating agency to be of high investment grade quality (of A- or above).

Universities in the UK, it would appear from S&P’s Report Card, have had a relatively good year from ‘a credit perspective’. This pronouncement is surely something to celebrate in a year when the word ‘credit crunch’ has become the new metaphor for economic meltdown, and when higher education institutions are likely to be worried about the affects of the sub-prime mortgage lending crisis on loans to students and institutions more generally.

But to the average lay person (or even the average university professor), with a generally low level of financial literacy, what does this all mean? Global ratings agencies passing judgments on UK universities, or policies to drive the sector more generally, or, finally, individual institutional governance decisions?

Three years ago, when one of us (Susan) was delivering an Inaugural Professorial Address at Bristol, S&P’s 2005 report on Bristol (AA/Stable/–) was flashed up, much to the amusement of the audience though to the bemusement of the Chair, a senior university leader. The mild embarrassment of the Chair was largely a consequence of the fact that he was unaware of this judgment on Bristol by a credit rating agency headquartered in New York.

Now the reason for showing S&P’s judgment on the University of Bristol was neither to amuse the audience nor to embarrass the Chair. The point at the time was to sketch out the changing landscape of globalizing education systems within the wider global political economy, to introduce some of the newer (and more private) players who increasingly wield policymaking/shaping power on the sector, to reflect on how these agencies work, and to delineate some of the emerging effects of such developments on the sector.

Our view is that current analyses of globalizing higher education have neglected the role of credit rating agencies in the governance of the higher education sector—as specialized forms of intelligence gathering, shaping and judgment determination on universities. Yet, credit rating agencies are, in many ways, at the heart of contemporary global governance. Witness, for example, the huge debates going on now about establishing a European register for ratings agencies.

The release, then, this week of the S&P’s UK Universities 2008 Report Card, is an opportunity for GlobalHigherEd to sketch out to interested readers a basic understanding of global rating agencies and their relationship to the global governance of higher education.

Rating agencies – origins

Timothy Sinclair, a University of Warwick academic, has been writing for more than a decade on rating agencies and their roles in what he calls the New Global Finance (NGF) (Sinclair, 2000). His various articles and books (see, for example, Sinclair 1994; 2000; 2003; 2005)—some of which are listed below—are worth reading for those of you who want to pursue the topic in greater depth.

Sinclair outlines the early development and subsequent growing importance of credit rating agencies—the masters of capital and second superpowers—arguing that there have been a number of distinct phases in their development.

The first phase dates back to the 1850s, when compendiums of information were produced for American financial markets about large industrial infrastructure developments, such as railroads and canals. However, it was not until the 1907 financial crisis that these early compendiums of information were then used to make judgements about the creditworthiness of debtors (Sinclair, 2003: 148).

‘Rating’ then entered a period of rapid growth from the mid-1930s onwards, as a result of state governments in the US incorporating rating standards into their prudential rules for investment by pension funds.

A third phase began in the 1980s, when new financial innovations (particularly low-rated or junk bonds) were developed, and cheaper offshore non-national money markets were created (that is, places where funds are raised by selling debt obligations and equity outside of the current constraints of government regulation).

However this process, of what Sinclair (1994: 136) calls the ‘disintermediation’ of financing (meaning state regulatory bodies are side-stepped), creates information problems for those wishing to lend money and those wishing to borrow it.

The current phase is now characterized by, on the one hand, greater internationalization of finance, and on the other hand hand, increased significance of capital markets that challenge the role of Banks, as intermediaries.

Credit rating agencies have, as a result, become more important as suppliers of the information with which to make credit-worthiness judgments.

New York-based rating agencies have grown rapidly since then, responding to innovations in financial instruments, on the one hand, and the need for information, on the other. Demand for information has also generated competition within the industry, with some firms operating niche specializations – for instance, as we see with Standards & Poor’s and the higher education sector, itself a subsidiary of publishers McGraw Hill,

Credit rating is big, big business. As Sinclair (2005) notes, the two major credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standards & Poor’s, pass judgments on around a $30 trillion worth of securities each year. Ratings also affect rates or costs of borrowing, so that the higher the rating, the less risk of default on repayment to the lender and therefore the lower the cost to the borrower.

Universities with different credit ratings will, therefore, be differently placed to borrow – so that the adage of ‘the more you have the more you get’ becomes a major theme.

The rating process

If we look at the detail of the ‘issuer credit rating’ and ‘comments’ in the Report Card of, for instance, the University of Bristol, or King’s College London, we can see that detail is gathered on the financial rating of the issuer; on the industry, competitors, and economy; on legal advice related to the specific issue; on management, policy, business outlook, accounting practices and so on; and on the competitive position, quality of management, long term industry prospects, and wider economic environment. As Sinclair (2003: 150) notes:

The rating agencies are most interested in data on cash flow relative to debt service obligations. They want to know how liquid the company is, and where there will be timely problems likely to hinder repayment. Other information may include five-year financial projections, including income statements and balance sheets, analysis of capital spending plans, financing alternatives, and contingency plans. This information which may not be publicly known is supplemented by agency research into the value of current outstanding obligations, stock valuations and other publicly available data that allows for an inference…

The rating that follows – an opinion on creditworthiness—is generated by an analytical team, a report is prepared with the rating and rationale, this is put to the rating committee made up of senior officials, and a final determination is made in private. The decision is subject to appeal by the issuer. Issuer credit ratings can be either long or short term. S&P use the following nomenclature for long term issue credit ratings (see Bankers Almanac, 2008: 1- 3):

  • AAA – (highest/ extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments
  • AA – very strong capacity to meet financial commitments
  • A – strong capacity to meet financial commitments, but susceptible to adverse affects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions
  • BBB – adequate capacity to meet financial commitments
  • BB – less vulnerable in the near term than other lower rated obligators, but faces major ongoing uncertainties
  • B – more vulnerable than BB – but adverse business, financial or economic conditions will likely impair obligator’s capacity to meet its financial commitments

Rating higher education institutions

In light of the above discussion, we can now look more closely at the kinds of judgments passed on those universities included in a typical Report Card on the sector by Standards & Poor’s (see 2008: 7).

The 2008 Report Card itself is short; a 9 page document which offers a ‘credit perspective’ on the sector more generally, and on 5 universities. We are told “the UK higher education sector has made positive strides over the past few years, but faces increasing risks in the medium-to-long term” (p. 2).

The Report goes on to note a trebling of tuition fees in the UK, the growth the overseas student market and associated income, an increase in research income for research intensive universities – so that of the 5 universities rated, 1 has been upgraded, another has had its outlook revised to ‘positive’, and no ratings were adjusted for the other three.

The Report also notes (p. 2) that the universities publicly rated by S&P’s are among the leading universities in the UK. To support this claim they refer to another ranking mechanism that is now providing information in the global marketplace – The Times Higher QS World Universities Rankings 2007, which is, as we have noted in a recent entry (‘Euro angsts‘), receiving considerable critical attention in Europe.

However, the Report Card also notes pressures within the system: higher wage demands linked to tuition increases, the search for new researchers to be counted as part of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), global competition for international students, and the heightened expectations of students for better infrastructure as a result of higher fees.

Longer term risks include the fact that by 2020, there will be 16% fewer 18 year olds coming through the system, according to forecasts by Universities UK – with the biggest impact being on the newer universities (in the UK these so-called ‘newer universities’ are previous polytechnics who were given university status in 1992).

Of the 20 UK universities rated in this S&P’s Report, 4 universities are rated AAA; 8 are rated AA; 6 are rated A, and 2 are rated BBB. The University of Bristol, as we can see from the analysts’ rating and comments which we have reproduced below, is given a relatively favorable rating. We have also quoted this rating at length to give you a sense of the kind of commentary made and how this relates to the judgment passed.


Credit rating agencies, as instruments of the global governance of higher education

Credit rating agencies are particularly powerful because both markets and governments see them as authoritative sources of judgment, with the result that they are major actors in controlling access to capital markets. And despite the evident importance of credit rating agencies on the governance of universities in the UK and elsewhere, there is a remarkable lack of attention to this phenomenon. We think there are important questions that need to be researched and the results discussed more widely. For example:

  • How widely spread is the practice?
  • Why are some universities rated whilst others are not?
  • Why are some universities’ ratings considered confidential whilst others are not (keeping in mind that they are all, in the above UK case, public taxpayer supported universities)?
  • Have any universities contested their credit rating, and if so, through what process, and with what outcome?
  • How do university’s management systems respond to these credit ratings, and in what ways might they influence ongoing policy decisions within the university and within the sector?
  • How robust are particular kinds of reputational or status ‘information’, such as World University Rankings, especially if we are looking at creditworthiness?

Our reports on these global rankings show that there are major problems with such measures. As we have profiled, and as has University Ranking Watch and the Beerkens’ Blog, there are clearly unresolved debates and major problems with global ranking schemes.

Clearly market liberalism, of the kind that has characterized this current period of globalization, requires new kinds of intermediaries to provide information for both buyer and seller. And it cannot hurt to have ‘outside’ assessments of the fiscal health of institutions (in this case universities) that are complex, often opaque, and taxpayer supported. However, to experts like Timothy Sinclair (2003), credit rating agencies privatize policymaking, and they can narrow the sphere of government intervention.

For EU Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, the credit ratings agencies like Moody’s and S&P’s contributed to the current financial market turmoil because they underestimated the risks related to their structured credit products. As the Commissioner commented in EurActiv in June.: “No supervisor appears to have got as much as a sniff of the rot at the heart of the structured finance rating process before it all blew up.”

In other words, credit rating agencies lack political accountability and enjoy an ‘accountability gap’. And while efforts are now under way by regulators to close that gap by developing new regulatory frameworks and rules, analysts worry that these private actors will now find new ways around the rules, and in turn facilitate the creation of a riskier financial architecture (as happened with global mortgage markets).

As universities become more financialized, as well as ranked, indexed and barometered in the ways we have been mapping on GlobalHigherEd, such ‘information’ on the sector will also likely be deployed to pass judgment and generate ratings and rankings of ‘creditworthiness’ for universities. The net effect may well be to exaggerate the differences between institutions, to generate greater levels of uneven development within and across the sector, and to increase rather then decrease the opacity and therefore accountability of the sector.

In sum, there is little doubt credit rating agencies, in passing judgments, play a key and increasingly important role in the global governance of higher education. It is also clear from these developments that we need to pay much closer attention to what might be thought of as mundane entities – credit rating agencies – and their role in the global governance of higher education. And we are also hopeful that credit ratings agencies will outline their views on this important dimension of the small g governance of higher education institutions.

Selected References

Bankers Almanac (2008) Standards and Poor’s Definitions, last accessed 5 August 2008.

King, M. and Sinclair, T. (2003) Private actors and public policy: a requiem for the new Basel Capital Accord, International Political Science Review, 24 (3), pp. 345-62.

Sinclair, T. (1994) Passing judgement: credit rating processes as regulatory mechanisms of governance in the emerging world order, Review of International Political Economy, 1 (1), pp. 133-159.

Sinclair, T. (2000) Reinventing authority: embedded knowledge networks and the new global finance, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, August 18 (4), pp. 487-502.

Sinclair, T. (2003) Global monitor: bond rating agencies, New Political Economy, 8 (1), pp. 147-161.

Sinclair, T. (2005) The New Masters of Capital: American Bond Rating Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness, New York: Cornell University Press.

Standard & Poor’s (2008) Report Card: UK Universities Enjoy Higher Revenues But Still Face Spending Pressures, London: Standards & Poor’s.

Susan Robertson and Kris Olds

Globalizing research: forces, patterns, and collaborative practices

The de-nationalization of research, and the creation of bi-lateral, interregional, and global frameworks for research cooperation, is increasingly becoming an object of desire, discussion, debate, and study.

The overall drive to encourage the de-nationalization of research, and create novel outward-oriented frameworks, has many underlying motives, some framed by scientific logics, and some framed by broader agendas.

Scientific logics include a sense that collaboration across borders generates more innovative research outcomes, higher citation impacts (see, for example, the Evidence Ltd., report below), and enhanced capacity to address ‘global challenges’.

Broader agenda logics include a desire to forge linkages with sites of relatively stronger research capacity and/or funding resources, to create and ideally repatriate expatriate researchers, to boost knowledge economies, to elevate status on the global research landscape, and to engage in scientific diplomacy. On this latter point, and with reference to our 16 June entry ‘Surveying US dominance in science and technology for the Secretary of Defense‘), see last week’s EurActiv profile of the new US Center for Science Diplomacy.

Over the next several months we intend on profiling various aspects of this topic in GlobalHigherEd. The early autumn will see, for example, the emergence of a formal Communication (in EU parlance) that outlines a strategic framework on the “coordination of international science and technology cooperation”. This Communication, and some associated reports, are currently being put together by officials at the Directorate-General for Research (DG Research) in Brussels. Meanwhile, down in Paris, the OECD’s Global Science Forum is sponsoring a variety of initiatives (and associated publications) that seek to “identify and maximise opportunities for international co-operation in basic scientific research” in OECD member countries.

Today’s entry is a very basic one: it simply provides links to some of the most recent reports that outline the nature and/or impact of international cooperation in research and development (R&D).

If any of you have recommendations for additional reports, especially those focused on non US and UK contexts, or fields (especially the humanities and social sciences) often absent from such reports, please let me know <kolds@wisc.edu> and I will add them to the list.

It is worth noting that some reports focus on academic R&D, while others focus on other producers of R&D (primarily the private sector). Both foci are included as focused reports often include broad relevant data, because of the emerging global agenda to bring together universities and the private sector (via the foment of university-industry linkages, for good and for bad), and because we recognize that the proportion of R&D conducted by academics versus the private sector or non-profit labs varies across time and space (e.g., see one proxy measure – academic versus total national output of patents from 2003-2007 within 10+ countries – here).

I/we are very wary that this is but a start in compiling a comprehensive list. The geographies of these reports is hardly global, as well. This said, the globalizing aspects of these uneven research geographies are undoubtedly fascinating, and full of implications for the evolution of research agendas and practices in the future.

2008 Reports

CREST (2008) Facing the Challenges of Globalisation: Approaches to a Proactive International Policy in S&T, Summary Report, Brussels, January.

Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (2008) International Research Collaboration in UK Higher Education Institutions, DIUS Research Report 08 08, London.

European Commission (2008) Opening to the World: International Cooperation in Science and Technology, Report of the ERA Expert Group, Brussels, July.

Committee on International Collaborations in Social and Behavioral Sciences Research, U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Psychological Science, National Research Council (2008) International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research:  Report of a Workshop, Washington, DC: National Academies.

National Science Board (2008) International Science and Engineering Partnerships: A Priority for U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Nation’s Innovation Enterprise, Washington, DC, February.

National Science Board (2008) Research and Development: Essential Foundation for U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Economy, Arlington, VA (NSB 08-03), January.

National Science Board (2008) National Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, Arlington, VA (NSB 08-01; NSB 08-01A), January

OECD (2008) The Internationalisation of Business R&D: Evidence, Impacts and Implications, Paris: OECD.

Universities UK (2008) International Research Collaboration: Opportunities for the UK Higher Education Sector, Research Report, London, May.

2007 and Earlier Reports

CREST Working Group (2007) Policy Approaches towards S&T Cooperation with Third Countries, Analytical Report, Brussels, December.

European Commission (2007) Europe in the Global Research Landscape, Brussels: European Commission.

Evidence, Ltd. (2007), Patterns of International Collaboration for the UK and Leading Partners, Summary Report, A report commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation, London, June.

OECD (2007) OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2007: Innovation and Performance in the Global Economy, Paris: OECD.

UNCTAD (2005) World Investment Report 2005: Transnational Corporations and the Internationalization of R&D, New York and Geneva: United Nations.

Kris Olds

Note: Thanks to Jonathan Adams (Evidence, Ltd.), Mary Kavanagh (European Commission), and Kathryn Sullivan (National Science Foundation) for their advice.

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

First Latin American ad/venture for ‘for-profit’ globalising university, Apollo Global Inc.

Last week the recently launched Apollo Global Inc., a subsidiary of the Apollo Group and private equity firm The Carlyle Group (specializing in buyouts, venture and growth capital, leveraging finance around the globe), announced that it had agreed to acquire Universidad de Artes, Ciencas y Communication (UNIACC), an accredited, private arts and communications university in Chile, as well as it related entities.

This is the first ad/venture for Apollo Global Inc. since it was created in 2007 – to drive forward global investment in higher education in those countries are seen to have attractive demographics, good levels of economic growth and a regulatory environment that does not inhibit FDI in the education sector. The country region to be given to ‘thumbs up’ by Apollo Global Inc. is Chile.

According to Apollo Global Inc. Chairman, Greg Cappelli:

We have been working diligently to identify opportunities that will create value for Apollo shareholders, and we believe UNIACC, coupled with Chile’s table economic environment, strong student enrollment trends, and openness to foreign investment, is an excellent fit.

What makes Chile a particularly attractive country to invest in, according to Apollo Global Inc., is that growth in the private higher education sector outpaces that of the public sector. This view is shared by industry analysts (see, for example, the excellent Observatory for Higher Education’s report in 2007 on Latin America by Sylvie Didou Aupetit and Lisa Jokivirta), who argue that is the massive growth in student enrolments in higher education systems in Latin America that has promoted the surge in the number and diversification of foreign providers operating in the region since the early 1990s.

In the main, language has been regarded as the main barrier to widening out the range of players in the field, beyond those that reflected old colonial histories – Spain and Portugal. However, it is also evident that the strong commitment to the idea of education as a public good in many Latin American countries has created a less than welcoming environment for foreign investors – particularly for-profit firms.

However that said, the 2008 foreign education landscape in Latin America, and Apollo Global Inc. first venture into Chile suggests that there are significant changes taking place. A range of European universities (aside from Spain), including those from Germany (U of Heidelberg), Italy (U of Bologna), France, Belgium, Canada and the USA have all made major investments in the Latin American region.

On the for-profit front, Apollo Global’s first big investment takes it into a geo-economic and political sphere that has, so far, been dominated by Laureate Education Inc. (previously Sylvan Learning System). Laureate’s Latin American operations are located in Central and South America. It first entered the Latin American market when in 2000 it acquired both the Universidada de las Americas (UDLA) in Chile (established in 1988 ) and one of Mexico’s largest and more prestigious universities founded in 1960, the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM). Since then Laureate has rapidly advanced its commercial interests in Latin America, acquiring not only more universities in Chile, but developing a presence in a range of other Latin American countries, including in Ecuador (2000), Costa Rica (2003), Peru (2004), and Panama (2004), Honduras (2005) and Brazil (2005).

So why should Apollo Global Inc. acquire UNIACC? For one thing, it is one of the leading arts and communications universities in Latin America. It was also, in 2004, the first Chilean university to teach a fully on-line undergraduate program. Since then, new on-line programs have been added.

The value for Apollo Global Inc. in buying up UNIACC, is to not only to secure the ‘local brand value’ of UNIACC (and hence keeping off the agenda for Apollo Global charges of imperialism and neo-colonialism), but also because UNIACCs recent capability to deliver on-line programs, potentially positions Apollo Global Inc. as a supplier of cross border services within the region.

Let’s see whether Apollo Global also learnt a lesson from one of its parent companies, who were recently charged with aggressive recruiting practices in the US.

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.

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    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

    University viewpoint: the University of Warwick on ‘The challenge of global education and research’

    Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of ‘viewpoints’ from university leaders on issues related to the globalization of higher education, and university strategy vis a vis the changing global higher education landscape. Today’s entry is by Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, UK. The University recently launched its Vision 2015 strategy, and Professor Thrift was also interviewed about related issues in the Guardian and the Independent. Finally, please note that this guest entry should be seen in the context of GlobalHigherEd‘s role in co-organizing the October 2007 Global Public University Forum (with Stephen Toope, President, University of British Columbia), and our recent entries on Duke University and international consortia of universities.

    The challenge of global education and research

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    As the readers of this blog are well aware, universities across the world are facing up to the challenge of globalising trends in student demand and research funding by internationalising their operations – both at home and abroad. The challenges are easier to meet ‘at home’ where well-established modes of mobility and diversity can quickly be accelerated. This important work – opening our institutional cultures to worlds beyond the local and national cultures in which universities as institutional presences are suspended – is both a challenging and long-term endeavour. But domestic policies on internationalisation, safely judged within local confines, is the relatively easy bit: ‘internationalisation light’, in other words, or diversity very much on our own terms.

    Abroad, the challenges are altogether of a different magnitude and are much more compelling. Research-intensive universities have a crucial role to play in the knowledge economies of the global era – driving innovation, creating sustainable change, educating global citizens, and tackling in collaborative endeavours the problems that bedevil our planet. Yet today very few universities can claim either a global presence or possess the sets of relationships internationally that allow them – their staff and students – to be as effective as we will need universities to be in coming decades. Collaborative higher education provision is delivered in many ways: branch campuses set up by universities in other countries – often in other continents; distance and e-learning; franchising and validation. Some enterprising universities are developing branch campuses overseas or contributing resource to the emergence of conglomerated research centres. Yet others are clubbing together in consortia or networks, gingerly engaging in benchmarking exercises and, it should be admitted, the promise of some genuinely joint provision.

    These developments surely herald a new era of international activity – but none of us should underestimate the obstacles that impede trans-national collaboration. The simple truth is that, to date, universities have not become great by collaborating with each other. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yet in order to establish and maintain the greatest contribution to society in future years, universities now need to take a lead from what a small cadre of leading academics have been doing for a few decades now: establishing networks of deep and lasting collaborations across national boundaries, sharing resources and knowledge, to tackle the issues and problems of the new global age.

    If institutions are to position themselves to enable more trans-national research we need a model that doesn’t just reproduce a ‘home’ institution on foreign soil.

    Before I arrived at Warwick in the summer of 2006, the University had definitively rejected in 2005 the development of an overseas campus (in Singapore) and today we are thinking about ways in which we can collaborate internationally – but on more level terms. There must be equal partnerships, sharing the creation of knowledge rather than imposing a hierarchical framework. We must envisage a model of inter-university co-operation very different from those which by now might be described as ‘traditional’, consisting of the informal networks that leading academics must of necessity maintain to remain relevant and cutting-edge.

    We are addressing this at Warwick as part of our recently announced strategy outlining a vision for Warwick between now and 2015. As part of that vision we intend to set up an international quarter on the Warwick campus, consisting of several overseas research universities. Rather than seeking a single international partner for this endeavour our international quarter will offer a number of universities from all the continents of the world a genuine physical base at the University. It will allow Warwick to interact on a day-to-day basis with not just one but several other research and teaching cultures from around the globe. This will enable us to build up genuine joint research, while offering extended opportunities to both staff and students. This is a radical move for a UK university, opening up new possibilities for international collaboration.

    And yet, this too, does not go quite far enough – we need a new global knowledge infrastructure to encourage research, development and education. Global education isn’t just about where students go to learn and the methods by which we teach them: it’s about what they learn and how equipped they are at the end of their degrees to enter the marketplace. Academic knowledge is no longer enough. We need to think seriously about developing our students’ employability, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed – and which their countries need to flourish – for the world of work.

    For too long, I think, universities have operated only as national servants to national ambitions. Today, however, it is only by ‘going global’ and opening their doors to genuinely deep and lasting collaborations that universities can meet the challenges of globalisation and tackle the big issues such as energy, global security and the global environment. This requires collaboration and partnerships, especially in research. This is simply practical commonsense – this kind of vital research infrastructure cannot be set up in one university or even in one country. Indeed a failure to go global will in itself fail to deliver on national ambitions. A cluster of globally focused universities will be vital to any nation wishing to compete globally.

    Research in universities is, and should be, very different in nature from that pursued elsewhere – in corporate organisations, for example. Universities work at the limits of predictability; the unforeseeable discovery, genuine invention rather than mere innovation, the structured risk-taking that is essential to good science and good business. Universities work at the highest level, for the global public good. And this sort of work is essentially co-operative. Often, researchers work more with colleagues in other universities than with those in their own university, often in complex networks stretching across the globe. To protect and invigorate the co-operative intellectual atmosphere we must work towards enhanced and innovative forms of co-operation between universities.

    We at Warwick have already launched one initiative to build such co-operative international research networks. This year we created a “Warwick Commission”, led by the Hon. Pierre Pettigrew the former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs PC,. The Commission brings together a team of researchers from around the world, led by the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, to examine the global trading system and make recommendations about its future shape and direction. The Commission is taking evidence from a wide range of experts from around the globe including: politicians, pressure groups, practitioners, academics, lawyers and others. The Commission’s final report will be presented in Geneva in December 2007. This will be the first in a series of commissions hosted by Warwick.

    The challenge facing us all is to step outside of our national boundaries, and the established intellectual framework of regions and statehood, to see that the common good can best be served when we collaborate as equal partners in global education and research.

    Nigel Thrift