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

October 18, 2011

Higher Education Collaborations: Investing In Capability Building

Recently held U.S.-India Higher Education Summit in Washington, DC was successful in creating the excitement among the higher education community about the prospects and possibilities in forging collaborations. However, the constraint remains in translating this symbolic event into sustainable partnerships (My earlier article Foreign Universities in India: Who's and Why).

Here, Indian government and institutions have a much bigger role to play in inspiring confidence among the foreign institutions. India does not has to sell the huge potential it offers to foreign institutions in terms of its importance and growth prospects, however it has to communicate that capabilities of Indian policy framework and institutional practices have matured to understand the diversity and complexity of global higher education system.

Some institutions have taken the big leap, while many other remain skeptical and unsure of how to engage with India. Various models of collaborations have been emerging between Indian and foreign institutions. Here is article on examples of US-India collaborations and a more recent article on emerging models of Indian-European higher education collaborations.

During the U.S.-India Summit, I was in Mexico presenting at CONAHEC annual conference (I co-presented a session on North American Student Mobility and a workshop on Quality Assurance in US Higher Education). This was my first time in Mexico and I had an opportunity to visit some of the university campuses (UPAEP, UDLAP and CCU-BUAP). I must admit that campuses were impressive and exceeded my expectations. The experience strengthened my confidence in the institutions and their potential and ability to execute foreign partnerships.

Building global collaborations requires investing in capacity and capability building. An HBR article highlights the need to develop collaboration capabilities as a success factor. It requires "...experimenting to learn what processes and practices work best or by selecting a new partner in order to tap its broader experience of cooperating with others....this willingness to invest in improving partnering capabilities is one of the factors that help successful companies develop collaboration as a new and important source of competitive advantage."

Related articles:
Call for a internationalisation policy on higher education, EDU, August 2011
Finding the perfect international partner, EDU, May 2010
Advantage foreign universities?, EDU, April 2010
Realising the vision of world-class varsities, EDU, March 2010

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 09, 2011

Challenges of Quality Assurance in Cross-border Education

Deficiencies in assessing and enforcing quality was a recurring theme at the University of Wales, according to BBC investigation which began last year. More recently BBC also discovered a scam "in which overseas students are helped to cheat their way to University of Wales-validated degrees and visas is being investigated by the UK Border Agency."  (see the video in the link). In other words, University's model of validating cross-border degrees has turned out to be more business, less quality.

TASMAC London which used to offer University of Wales' validated degrees has shut it's shop leaving 500 students stranded. Now even the future of the University of Wales is being questioned.

Here is another incisive video from last year's investigation

University of Wales example also supports my earlier assertion related to agent debate--any process of "validating" student recruitment agents will be futile. When quality assurance agencies and governments have not been able to vet colleges in their own home turf, imagine the impossible task of validating agents based across the world with pure profit motives and incentive-systems which encourage shoddy practices, biased advice and document frauds.

Earlier, I had also posted about the challenges of quality assurance in cross-border education, especially when profit motive is explicit. The issue here is not with the profit motive as much as the ability to manage risks which comes with it.

Quality assurance systems need to step-up to this changing environment of financial exigencies, entrepreneurial opportunities and technological innovations, to enable growth of cross-border education, while managing the risks it poses to students, education systems and nations. The solution to quality assurance problem is not to "systematize problems" rather offer solutions which encourage highest standards of transparency, enforcement and deterrence.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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October 03, 2011

International Student Mobility Trends

My article The Future of International Student Mobility was published in UniversityWorldNews.

International student mobility in the first decade of the 21st century has been transformed by two major external events, 9/11 and the recession of 2008. Today the rationale for international student recruitment has shifted from attracting talent to make the student body more diverse, to seeking an additional source of revenue.

Recruitment practices have been evolving and responding to this new competitive landscape, as can be seen in the increasing number of commercial entities offering recruitment services ranging from agents to websites.

How is this transformation going to shape the future of student mobility?

The US was an undisputed leader in global higher education until 9/11, which forced it to tighten visa requirements for students. Australia and the UK cashed in on this opportunity and were successful in absorbing most of the growth in international students.

Growth in international student enrollment in Australia and the UK would have continued, but the recession of 2008 changed things. It exposed two important issues for international student enrollment in the two countries - the high proportion of international students compared to home students and issues of quality raised by the use of aggressive recruitment practices.

In 2009, international students represented 21.5% and 15.3% of higher education enrollment in Australia and the UK, compared to less than 4% in the US, according to the OECD. This clearly shows that Australia and the UK were over-dependent on international students. This situation of overdependence was the result of aggressive recruitment practices using agents who paid little attention to quality assurance.

There were multiple incidents where fraudulent documents were used by people who were more keen on immigration than education (In the same issue of UWN, Simon Marginson, professor of higher education in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne acknowledged existence of "...migration-related education sector 'scams' involving education agents and students from South Asia. There was a blowout of migration-oriented international students in certain vocational programmes, and instances of corrupt practices and dubious educational provision. This triggered a belated crackdown by the federal government in 2010").

The number of internationally mobile students grew by 1.6 million between 2000 and 2009, according to the OECD. This trend will continue to be driven by the increasing ability of prospective students in countries like China and India to afford foreign higher education. At the same time, their local higher education systems are expanding at a fast rate, but at the expense of quality. This will result in a large number of quality-hungry students who have an ability to pay for their higher education.

However, a complex interplay of variables will make it difficult to predict where this growth will go.

As we have seen, the influence of unpredictable events like 9/11 and the recession on student mobility is far-reaching and global. In addition, government policies related to visa requirements, specifically those concerning financial requirements and post-education work opportunities. Institutions and nations that can adapt to the changing environment will be best placed to make the most of the opportunities and uncertainties involved. Click here to read full article.
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October 01, 2011

University leadership: Finding the right balance between academic and business expertise

The nature of higher education leadership is undergoing change in the US. Demographics of university leaders is graying and a wave of change at the top is expected. According to the American Council on Education survey, the percentage of presidents age 61 and over increased from 14 percent in 1986 to nearly half in 2006 and the average age of presidents increased from 52 years in 1986 to 60 years in 2006. Here is a chart indicating likely retirement of presidents at leading universities in the US. At another level, the changes in the external environment with increasing competition for resources, ability to raise resources. To build a competitive advantage, this may require a stronger set of business skills ranging from operational efficiency to strategic development. Thus, emphasis on business skills may increase in American institutions.

However, in the Indian context, institutions are facing another leaderships crisis and it relates to lack of professionalism and academic values among leaders. The poor quality of Indian higher education and wide-spread corruption at all levels reflects the values of institutional leaders. Higher education leadership crisis is at two extremes--public institutions are entangled with bureaucracy while private institutions are all about bottom-line. In these extremes the core mission of institution and focus on quality is lost. Of course, there are exceptions with some high quality institutions both in public and private sector, however they are less than 1% in a system with more than 30,000 colleges.

The need is to find a balance where academic leadership brings deep understanding of the higher education domain and at the same time has an orientation towards speed and efficiency of business world. Here is my article entitle Academic Leadership: Beyond Bottom-line published in EDU magazine.

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