Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

September 28, 2010

Interviewed on NPR on international students trends

I was interviewed by National Public Radio- NPR's Tell Me More show by Michel Martin. NPR reaches 27million listeners every week. The interview focused on international students enrollment trends in the US universities.

Listen to the interview.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 26, 2010

India: Time to focus on quality

September had been quite an eventful month for India. It made news for embarrassing, funny and disappointing reasons.

Funny: One thing which India has done well both in reality and fantasy is--outsourcing. Indian outsourcing industry have grown at a fast pace and also maintained quality. NBC's new series Outsourced also managed to do well. However, good jokes and "outsourcing" success could not  help overcome embarrassment and disappointment in other spheres.

Embarrassing: Inefficiencies in preparations for the Commonwealth Games proved that there is a long way to go before India could gather infrastructure both soft and hard to manage global events. It manifested that corruption is deep seated and compromise on quality is rampant.

Disappointing: Not a single Indian institution figured in the latest Times Higher Education ranking. In contrast, Mainland China had 6 and Turkey had 2 universities listed in top-200. Of course, easy way to defend is to attack the methodology of the ranking, however, when put in the context of other institutions, claims of having world-class institutions in India seem hollow.

Its time that in India, quality orientation starts taking precedence over quantity. Specifically, for Indian higher education, in the immediate short term, the priority both at the institutional and policy level should be competitiveness and quality and not expansion (my earlier posting on credential inflation). If the system is inefficient and one continues to expand it without focus on quality the result would be an expanded inefficient system. If more than 1/4th of the graduates remain unemployed, why increase the sheer volume of unemployed? Why not focus on making them skilled and employable?

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 22, 2010

Yale-NUS Collaboration

Recently, Yale and National University of Singapore signed a MoU to collaborate for establishing a new liberal arts college. It's an important landmark in the area of international institutional collaborations in general and US-Asia partnerships in specific. It is important for at least three reasons which have implications for future collaborations:

1. Deriving value: Institutions need to build partnerships which create mutual value. To derive the value they have to invest in partnership but the key is that investment does not always have to monetary from both parties. Here it is important to evaluate what each party is investing and what each is deriving. In this MoU, Yale is making absolutely no direct financial investment and hence NUS and Singapore government are making financial investments. On the other hand, Yale is investing intellectual capital and brand equity which is much higher than NUS but at the same time it is gaining access to Asian market in a way it could not do by going solo.

2. Engaging stakeholders: Building a world-class partnership requires engagement and participation of stakeholders. There is always a risk that wider engagement may derail the processes and priorities. However, this is where it is important to understand the unique nature of educational leadership especially at research universities, which requires consensus building. As Prof. Warren Bennis notes "So, unlike autocratic CEOs of yore, the would-be Larry Summerses of today's academic world face the near-impossible task of forming and managing coalitions. That's no easy feat when you consider the often warring factions within individual constituencies." Here, the Yale-NUS prospectus did a good job of clearly addressing the faculty issues including curriculum, research and academic freedom.

3. Transparent communication: When the leading brands like Yale are involved in the collaboration it is bound to create news, however, the challenge is that speculation and misinterpretations also float at a rapid pace. Thus, a clear and transparent communication becomes very important. Yale has posted details about the nature and scope of the collaboration on its website and has addressed some of the key issues including that Yale will not award the degree or make any financial investment.

The prospectus states that "There is no urgency for Yale to venture abroad with a new campus now, but we do believe it is inevitable that the world's leading universities by the middle of this century will have international campuses." This is an encouraging sign which shows that internationalization of higher education will get much deeper and wider role in future.

Also see my earlier posting on international collaboration and world-class universities.

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 05, 2010

Credential Inflation: Raise the Quality Bar

"Credential inflation refers to the devaluation of educational or academic credentials over time and a corresponding decrease in the expected advantage given a degree holder in the job market." Wikipedia

According to Randall Collins "The process of credential inflation is largely self-driven; it feeds on itself. A given level of education at one time gave access to elite jobs. As educational attainment has expanded, the social distinctiveness of that degree and its value on the occupational marketplace have declined; this in turn has expanded demand for still higher levels of education."

Both China and India have been on the expansion spree and are heading towards a grim situation of underemployment and unemployment among educated youth. Unless, quality and university-industry relationships start taking an important place in policy and practice.

Recent BusinessWeek story highlighted that 1 in 4 of this year's 6.3 million Chinese college graduates are unemployed. It adds that "The problem of graduate unemployment and underemployment has been building for years, due to rising university enrollments and a mismatch between what students learn and the skills companies need."

The options for these unemployed or underemployed graduates is primarily further education either in China or abroad. This is further resulting in the growth of programs at the graduate level and also enrollments abroad.

India is also in a similar state where number of engineering colleges have doubled to 3,000 colleges in 5 years (AICTE). While the skills, quality and employability issues have not been addressed both at the policy and institutional levels. A TISS report confirmed increasing unemployment among educated youth in India. This is paradoxical as only 12% of the addressable population (18-24 years) is enrolled in higher education.

Expansion of higher education without quality is like building a car with square wheels. Many students are graduating with credentials which have limited value to themselves or to the society. It's high time that credential inflation is checked and quality starts gaining prominence. As Collins puts it "The issue boils down to whether we want to manage credential inflation, manipulating policy to smooth out peaks and valleys, or let it take its own bumpy course."

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 01, 2010

Failure of foreign campuses: Recognize the importance of student-decision making

Published an article entitled "Foreign Campuses: Tried and Tested" in EDU on failure of foreign campuses and need of understanding student-decision making.

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