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

June 24, 2012

Could MOOCs revolutionize international student recruitment and transnational education?

MOOCs--Massive Open and Online Courses, have been in news for their potential to be "revolutionary" in learning space. Tom Friedman says that "Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary."

With innovative, adaptive, high-quality learning opportunity offered at a low-cost, perhaps, MOOCs are at the cusp of making a big breakthrough. It is not only going to increase competitive pressure on for-profit online education sector but also traditional not-for-profit universities and colleges. Both of them have to justify their cost-structures and value of credential in times of increasing competition and decreasing resources.

In the world of international higher education, I believe that MOOCs offer two unintentional influences:

1. International Student Recruitment:
Given that international student recruitment is a costly and complex affair which is becoming even more challenging with the limitations of using recruitment agents, MOOCs offers an innovative model of engaging prospective students through content and cultivating a pipeline without losing control of process.

When you buy a car, you take a test drive, wouldn't it be a great value for prospective students to take a test course before they apply?

There is already an evidence of significant interest for MOOCs from abroad. In fact, for Coursera, nearly three-fourth of the course-takers are from outside the US.

One of the companies "Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students....Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout."

2. Transnational Education: 
At another level, MOOCs will propel the growth of transnational education and glocal students. I define glocals students as having global aspirations with local experiences. Glocals represent the segment of students who typically seek transnational education (TNE) including international branch campuses, twinning arrangements and online education.

For example, more than 113,000 students studied wholly overseas for a UK qualification through "Distance, flexible or distributed learning" in 2010-11. Likewise, more than 28,000 international students were enrolled in Australian offshore programs through distance learning in 2010.

Now, American institutions could enter transnational education market in an innovative way through MOOCs.

Currently MOOCs courses are not credit bearing, however, as pathways for translating "prior-learning" from MOOCs into credentials emerge, more glocal students will start pursuing MOOCs.
Tina Grant, director of the National College Credit Recommendation Service notes "Credit recommendations for MOOCs could serve as a 'bridge' between the nontraditional and traditional college settings by helping those students who want to take advantage of MOOCs and still earn a college degree."


Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 17, 2012

Latest Statistics on Indian Higher Education

University Grants Commission (UGC) released a report "Higher education in India at a glance" summarizing key datapoints of relevance for policymakers and administrators. Here are three charts from the report:

1. Massive expansion in supply of colleges: 
India added nearly 20,000 colleges in a decade (increased from 12,806 in 2000-01 to 33,023 in 2010-11) which translate into a growth of more than 150%. Number of degree granting universities more than doubled from 256 to 564, primarily due to deemed-universities and private universities. India has a complex affiliation system where a universities can have hundreds of public and private teaching colleges affiliated to it.

2. Lesser growth in student enrollment:
Although number of students enrolled in higher education doubled from nearly 8.4 million to 17 million in a decade, it grew a slower pace than number of colleges which grew 2.5 times in the same period, creating a paradoxical situation of excess capacity in a country where gross enrollment ratio is less than 20%.

3. Three-year degree and engineering:
Student continue to be sorted into two tiers--engineering and three-year degrees of Arts, Science and Commerce. Every sixth student in India is enrolled in engineering/technology program and more than 2/3rd of Indian students are enrolled in three-year undergraduate degrees.

Related readings:
Growth Statistics on Engineering and Management Institutions in India
Indian University Admissions: The Crisis of Confidence in Quality
Engineering Pipeline: Disproportionate and Disconnected

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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June 05, 2012

Foreign University Collaborations in India: Will Top-Ranked Institutions be Interested?

"A comprehensive legislation will be introduced in Parliament shortly to regulate entry of foreign universities and educational institutions in the country" according to Times of India. Can you guess the year in which this line was written? No, not 2010, its 2002. That's right it had been nearly a decade in history of Indian politics and the rhetoric has not changed. So, we should not be very disappointed if Foreign Universities Bill along with several other important bills have not yet seen the light of approval in last two years.

In this context, my first impression of the recent announcement by UGC to allow joint-degrees and twinning collaborations between Indian and foreign institutions was of continued skepticism which later changed to cautious optimism.

Elizabeth Redden of InsideHigherEd quoted me in a story covering the development. My reason for cautious optimism is that "given the dual requirements regarding accreditation and ranking many of the predatory institutions, who are interested in profits at the expense of quality and students, would be filtered out."

Most foreign institutions which are currently engaged with collaborations in India follow an approach similar to traffic rules in India--ignoring them is easier and faster, but not safer or better. So, foreign institutions which are truly interested in collaborations should be cautiously optimistic about this new announcement from the UGC--they should not ignore it but remain cautious to re-evaluate their engagement approach with India. 

Consider the requirement of NAAC which filters out many predatory institutions. For example, in Maharashtra--state with largest number of colleges--only 360 out of more than 4,500 colleges are NAAC accredited. This eliminates many private players who voluntarily would not pursue any quality assurance or NAAC accreditation.

Likewise, on foreign institution side, rankings may eliminate several institutions who are seeking to enter India for enrollment numbers (revenue/profit-seeking institutions) alone. Of course, the downside is that many other well-meaning institutions which do not figure in the rankings will also get filtered out. However, given the vulnerability of quality assurance in India, this filter is still relevant in current context.

One positive aspect of this announcement in contrast to Foreign university bill is that it does not create an unrealistic financial barrier like corpus fund of nearly $10 million, instead it creates a qualitative barrier in the form of accreditation or ranking.

Another unintended consequence is that NAAC accreditation will gain value and weightage among private players in the hope of building attractiveness for foreign collaborations. This would increase the number of institutions pursuing a quality assurance framework and hence it may help in raising the overall quality at the systemic level.

The challenge remains in implementation, as NAAC requirement creates a subset of institutions which are more likely to be publicly funded and hence less inclined in foreign engagements. Likewise, top-500 ranked foreign institutions will continue to feel jitters about lack of consistent, comprehensive and enforceable policy framework.

Although, this announcement may not address the issue of several unaccredited and unrecognized foreign collaborations already in operation, nor does it offers a framework for establishing a full-fledged branch campus, it does provide a low-intensity, high-relevance pathway for institutions who are truly interested in building collaborative academic engagements in India. It may offer more welcoming approach to "prestigious" and "prestige-seeking" segments of foreign institutions.

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 02, 2012

Deciphering Student Mobility and Recruitment Trends

International student mobility is a complex phenomena influenced by variables at multiple levels including country, institution and individual. In addition, financial well-being of many institutions is becoming increasingly dependent on international students. Given the complexity and centrality of international student mobility, there is an increasing interest in gaining a deeper understanding of reasons, rationales and trends.

Here are some recent resources and media mentions on student mobility:

  • The Guardian Online Chat

I participated in an online chat session hosted by the Guardian on the topic "What is the Future of International Student Mobility?"  The panel discussed "...the importance of international student mobility, the current provision and best practice from around the world, and what the future might hold for the development of global graduates." The comments from the chat are available at the bottom of the article. Click here to see the chat.

  • Boston College's International Higher Education Article

My article on "Mobility of Chinese and Indian Undergraduate Students" was published in the recent issue of IHE. I estimate that beginning in 2015, growth directions of the undergraduate market for China and India will experience a reversal in trends. This is the time when India would surface as a major growth country for undergraduate student recruitment, while China would start losing its growth momentum. However, in terms of absolute numbers of undergraduate enrollment, China will continue to outpace India. An estimate for reversal of the trend is based on four interrelated factor--demographic shifts, self-financed students, education reforms and campus concerns. Click here to read the article.

  • Interview with The PIE News

Sara Custer of the PIE News interviewed me on mobility trends, concept of "glocals" and recruitment. I mentioned that the approaches to recruit students are still set in pre-Internet era. Student decision-making processes have completely changed in the last five years. For example, the use of social media has picked up at a very fast pace – faster than the ability of institutions to adapt to their behaviour. A lot of time universities are ignoring what has changed, which puts them at a great disadvantage. Click here to read the interview.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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