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

December 25, 2013

Looking back at international higher eduction in 2013: The year of funding constraints, regulatory pressures and learning innovations

At the beginning of 2013, I projected that the three mega-trends influencing global higher education will be related to university budgets/funding, regulatory environment and technological innovations. I concluded that 2013 will be a year in which the higher education sector, will be under increasing pressure to justify its value, not only from financial and regulatory side pressures but due to emergence of competing technology-enabled learning models like MOOCs.

By the end of 2013, there have been several developments aligning with the  mega-trends forecast. Here are some of the key stories from 2013.

- Funding and university budgets: Given that higher education is tightly coupled with the economy, a sense of recovery is also reflecting a slight turnaround in university budgets in the US. However, optimism is not reflected in self-sufficiency through tuition revenue as the college enrollment in the US declines. In a recent survey,  about four in 10 public universities report that tuition revenue is not keeping pace with inflation and found negative trends including -- inability to raise prices, declining enrollments and heightened regulatory and political pressure to keep down tuition. Likewise, private institutions are facing cost pressures and declining demand from traditional college going population. In the UK, the decline in funding from government council is compensated by significant growth in fee income from home and EU students. HEFCE funding for teaching will decline by £891 million in 2013-14 as compared to fee income from full-time home and EU undergraduates to increase by £1.4 billion. In Europe, the discourse of "efficient funding" is already picking momentum.

- Accreditation and quality assurance: Financial pressures and technological innovations are also changing the expectations for regulatory bodies and its relationship with funding. A recent report calls for reform and laments current system of regional accreditation in the US and recommends separating eligibility for federal education funding from the accreditation process and use of transparent performance metrics. Likewise, how accreditation agencies should adapt and respond to emerging models of learning remains a challenge. For example, the case of Ivy Bridge College raises questions about accreditation. Accrediting bodies also advised to let market forces decide innovations in online learning and MOOCs. In the UK, the policy direction supports universities to go abroad and engage "glocal students" through transnational education as compared to recruiting more students for the UK campuses. This in turn is raising the challenges and needs for quality assurance in transnational education.

- Technology-enabled learning innovations: In November 2012, The New York Times story "The Year of the MOOC" asked what does a student want to get from MOOCs experience. A year later, the question remains to be answered. MOOCs are still evolving, growing and adapting to make the "marketplace take-off". Coursera added nearly 3 million students in one year and is now innovating to build a global network in partnership with US State Department. Although the barriers to the recognition of MOOCs as transferable academic credits still lingers, Europe is hoping to make credit transfers possible sooner than the US. At the same time, long standing institutions offering open and distance education are facing the competitive heat and responding by collaborating, competing or innovating. In this context, competency-based education seems to be higher education’s 'next big thing' which in turn can blend with MOOCs innovation to shaping the future of online higher education.

Overall, looking back at developments related to international higher education in 2013 indicate that the year was marked by funding constraints for universities, increasing regulatory pressures and technology-enabled learning innovations.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 21, 2013

Adaptive, flexible and competency-based learning offers potential for international students, says Excelsior's Vice President

The confluence of  two megatrends--cost pressures on institutions (and students) as a result of global financial recession and  increasing sophistication of technology-enabled learning models--is fostering innovation in long existing models of learning including distance education and competency-based learning.  Competency-based education is defined "as one that focuses on what students know and can do rather than how they learned it or how long it took to learn it." A recent article from Inside Higher Ed notes that "Competency-based education appears to be higher education’s 'next big thing'." In this context, long standing institutions including those offering open and distance education have to respond to a changing environment. For example, The Open University, UK responded to competition from MOOCs by offering its own version--FutureLearn. Likewise, one of the pioneers of open education and competency-based learning in the US, Excelsior College has to adapt to a changing environment. Here is an interview with Dr. Steve Ernst on changing landscape of online higher education which offers increasing opportunities for glocal students (I define glocals as students staying in their home country (region) while gaining a foreign education). - Rahul Choudaha

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December 13, 2013

Future of MOOCs is about proving sustainable and scalable business models, says Udemy President

In November 2012, The New York Times, ran a story "The Year of the MOOC" and asked what does a student want to get from MOOCs experience--"Most important, what do you get for your effort? Do you earn a certificate? A job interview? Or just the happy feeling of learning something?" A year later, the landscape of MOOCs is still dynamic and optimistic as the "marketplace takes-off". However, future also looks challenging and uncertain as there is increasing competition and higher expectations for finding sustainable models. And of course, there are academic naysayers who believe "MOOCs are just the latest incarnation of bringing watered-down versions of culture, knowledge, and learning to a mass audience." In the context of the barriers of recognition of MOOCs learning as transferable academic credits, non-academic professional development/corporate training based model is gaining traction. Here is interview with Dennis Yang, President and Chief Operating Officer, Udemy sharing Udemy's differentiation and priorities. - Rahul

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December 07, 2013

International student mobility is driven by destination country income, not university rankings

Increasing mobility of international students is a known trend. However, determinants of mobility differ by source and destination countries resulting in different patterns of enrollment. Income of destination countries has a much bigger influence than the quality of its institutions in determining where students want to study, according to a recent research. It highlights steep increase in the absolute number of international students originating in developing countries. Between 1999 and 2009, share of developing countries in globally mobile students increased from 54.8% to 69%.

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November 28, 2013

Campus President of Monash South Africa shares his views on transnational education in Africa

In last couple of years, Africa has been gaining traction in terms of transnational education. It includes a diverse range of models from traditional branch campuses to emerging blended-learning models. Monash University South Africa had been one of the early movers in Africa and established the branch campus in 2001. More recently, Laureate International Universities partnered with Monash South Africa as a part of its strategy to invest in emerging markets. Here is a brief interview with Ron Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus President of Monash South Africa who shares his experiences in institution building and offers recommendations to universities interested in engaging with Africa.-Rahul

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November 23, 2013

Financial contributions of international students: Contrasting approach of Louisiana & Ohio

International students contributed $17.7 billion in tuition and fee to the U.S. universities and colleges in fall 2012, resulting in an increase of $5.4 billion in tuition contribution between fall 2008 to fall 2012. Post-recession public higher education systems went through sharp budget cuts. For example, educational appropriations per FTE (full time enrollment) decreased by 23% in five years between 2007-2012. In this scenario, international students have been becoming integral to financial well-being of many institutions, as they can charge high out-of state tuition fee. This out-of-state tuition fee had been increasing at a faster pace than average growth in international student enrollment (blue line), as shown by the steeper slope of increase in Economic Benefit (green shaded area), which includes contributions in the form of tuition and fee.  
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November 16, 2013

Three international student enrollment growth trends in the US higher education institutions

The enrollment of international student at the US universities and colleges has reached a record high of nearly 820,000 in the 2012-13 academic year, according to the latest IIE Open Doors report (Open Door 2013 reports fall 2012 enrollment by all levels, as compared to CGS which reports fall 2013 graduate enrollment). However, which type of students are driving the growth? Which type of institutions attracting most international students? Are all higher education institutions witnessing similar growth?

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November 07, 2013

What institutional drivers explain different enrollment trend of Indian and Chinese graduate students in the US?

Indian and Chinese graduate students are showing contrasting enrollment patterns at US universities, according to a recent report released by the Council of Graduate Schools. For India, first-time enrollment increased by 40% after two years of flat growth. In contrast, first-time enrollment of Chinese grew by measly 5% as compared to over 20% growth in previous two years. What explains this different trends?

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October 20, 2013

Branch Campuses in Africa: New Transnational Education Market to Serve Demand from Glocals?

In last couple of years, Africa has been gaining traction in terms of transnational education. It includes a diverse range of models from traditional branch campuses with Webster to blended-learning models with Kepler. Likewise, in terms of home countries, universities from Australia, the UK and the US are engaging with Africa. Here are some of the recent developments with transnational education in Africa:

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October 13, 2013

EAIE recognition for advancing research on international student segments and recruitment strategies

Higher education institutions are increasingly interested in not only expanding the number of international students on their campuses, but also diversifying the countries they come from. However, international student recruitment strategies have a major limitation: over-reliance on anecdotal evidences and hunches to formulate strategies.

Many institutions are missing the cornerstone of successful strategies--international students differ in their needs and preferences and treating all international students as same in terms recruitment strategies is inefficient and ineffective. These strategies are often grounded in a pre-social media era, which continues to transform student decision-making processes.

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October 05, 2013

Can Laureate Change the Landscape of Global Higher Education?

Earlier this year, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, announced an investment of $150 million in common stock of Laureate Education, Inc., representing IFC’s largest education investment. This was a landmark development in the world of international higher education, as it validated the model of Laureate with a significant investment. What made Laureate so successful?

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October 02, 2013

How to engage foreign universities in India?

The Foreign universities bill 2010 has attracted lot of curiosity and interest from media and universities to assess its potency and implications.  The bill is still pending after three years and it is pretty much written off. However, the recent executive order by the University Grants Commission allowing foreign universities to enter India has reignited the curiosity. In my commentary article "How to Engage Foreign Universities in India" published in Business Standard, I argue that the optimism is unfounded and it will again be a non-starter. The proposed order is not aligned with the reality of global higher education and the needs of Indian higher education. Here is the excerpt.

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September 20, 2013

Edwin van Rest of StudyPortals shares his entrepreneurial journey

Edwin van Rest, founder, StudyPortals

Edwin van Rest is the founder of StudyPortals – the international Study Choice Platform – helping students worldwide to find and compare the fast-growing international education opportunities. Edwin has always been a true believer in the value of international experience: while studying a Master’s in Industrial Engineering and Management Science at the Eindhoven University of Technology he spent a year at Osaka University. He did internships at the Olympic Games: both in Athens and in Turin. Furthermore he was very active in the world of international study associations – where StudyPortals’ foundations lie. Edwin’s expertise mainly lies in understanding student orientation needs, online technology and result-based recruitment for HEIs. StudyPortals has brought innovation to university promotion by offering an online, result based and cost-effective solution for universities to present themselves worldwide. Over 1,300 universities from 43 countries participate and StudyPortals was awarded the most promising social start-up in the Netherlands 2009. Edwin was granted the EAIE ‘Rising Star’ award in 2013, for his notable contribution to international higher education despite his only short career to date.

Rahul- Tell us about the key services your organization provides? How would you describe your target customer and the unmet needs you are serving?

Edwin- Our first priority is to help students get an overview of their education options internationally, and compare them on the basis of structured, comprehensive information on each programme and institute. We have by far the most information on on-campus education offers in Europe and online studies worldwide – this works: we have almost 3 million student visits per month. Secondly, we help higher education institutions promote their offer worldwide, through one channel, with a focus on results, reaching a better time and cost effectiveness than alternative channels and transparent. This works too: over 1,300 universities participate in our platform from 42 countries.

Rahul- How did the business idea originate? What was the turning point that made you take the plunge?

Edwin- When I came back from my studies in Japan I was full of great stories, many of my friends said ‘I wish that I had known about those opportunities’. At the same time, the Bachelor/Master (Bologna) system was introduced in continental Europe, resulting in a new decision moment for students if and where to study their master’s, and tens of thousands new Master’s programmes being offered all over Europe. We were frustrated as there was no way to find and compare all those programmes. We were active in an international study association’s committee on study-choice information ad expected the EU or a big publishing company to fill this gap but as nothing happened, we decided to fill it ourselves, focused to solve our own problem: was born! At the same time I was working at my University’s international office, in marketing to international students as the tuition fee had just been increased 8 fold for non-EU students. I found that we had to use expensive and labour-intensive marketing tools of which the effects were either low or not measurable.

Rahul- What were couple of key hurdles in building the organization? How did you overcome them?

Edwin- We need the institutes to participate with us to provide a good overview to students. There are a lot of ‘advertising options’ out there contacting universities and it’s difficult for them to determine the value of each. In the beginning we first focused on Europe’s top 100 universities, after 1 year of passionate convincing, trying to make them see the student problem, we had 70 universities that participated. We then reached critical mass with many student visitors and also received the support of the European Commission. From that moment on we started to receive registration requests from new universities on a weekly basis.

Rahul- How do you see your organization evolving next three-five years in the context of customer and sector trends?

Edwin- We currently have a team of 42 people and we project this will be 100 people in three years’ time. For our student community we will make study choice more interactive with information sharing, more user-based content, chat and webinars. Also we are constantly expanding our information, as our ultimate dream is to make education choice transparent, worldwide. In that context, we are now rapidly expanding our DistanceLearningPortal. This is a tailored platform to help people who are considering to study an online programme. We developed the platform recently and grows very fast, here we first started to cover the whole world of options. We are now in a project with ICDE and UNESCO to publish on the world developments in both the offer as the student interest in distance learning. For universities we will expand on our marketing to reach even more students. We will dedicate most of our cooperation time to help tracking and calculating the success of (all) their marketing activities, really helping universities to reach their objectives.

Rahul- Based on your experiences, what are two lessons you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of international education?

Edwin- Focus on value rather than money. The whole HE ‘industry’ is and should be focused on providing a greater good to students and society. Only a small part of that value flows back to the industry. If you focus on the long-term value you create in making our world a little better, it’s a greatly rewarding environment to work in. Of course you need profit at some point to be sustainable, but if you focus on the monetary gains, you will become unhappy and probably fail. Something I learnt in Japan: improve your product, your team and yourself continuously. I believe we managed to make such a popular platform because we were the target audience ourselves and knew exactly what we needed. We are in continuous touch with our visitors and our clients and highly appreciate their feedback. We launch an improved release of our websites every Wednesday.
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September 10, 2013

Emerging Markets for International Graduate Admissions: Insights from GRE Data

In the previous post, I mentioned that India and China are large markets with different growth patterns. India is a price-sensitive market which is showing signs of stronger growth for last couple of years, while China had been a consistent growth market which is witnessing slower pace of growth. Given the over-reliance on these two markets, it is important to cultivate next set of emerging markets. Based on GRE test-takers data, here are the emerging markets watch, sorted by % change between 2008-2011:

Which emerging markets for recruiting international graduate students? GRE data

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September 05, 2013

Strategic Choices for B-Schools: GMAC Book on Change in Management Education

Disrupt or Be Disrupted: A Blueprint for Change in Management Education is a recent publication from GMAC which takes "an evidence-based approach to improving the practice of graduate management education." The book is very timely, given the increasing challenges of optimizing cost and quality for many business-schools. For example, the strategic choice of Thunderbird, a reputed B-school, partnering with Laureate, an aggressive for-profit network, to give a boost to its financials and reach. Or UCLA to go independent from public funding to have more autonomy and pricing power. These strategic choices are becoming integral to the success of business schools. The book had two very interesting and insightful chapters on this topic. First, is Framing and Making Strategic Choices by Michael Hay and other is Managing Aspirations, Resources, and Cost Structures in Differentiating Constraints by Authors: Jikyeong Kang, Andrew Stark. I asked these authors about their chapters and what future they foresee for business schools. Erich C. Dierdorff, Co-editor of Disrupt or Be Disrupted answered the questions on behalf of Michael Hay.

Rahul- The chapter by Michael Hay, "Framing and Making Strategic Choices," highlighted the importance of clarifying strategic positioning of the school and concluded that "...schools that seek to copy the dominant design may be doomed to failure, especially if they attempt to design their strategies to improve their rankings by displacing schools currently ranked above them." Are you suggesting that business schools with specializations and niches as their positioning are more likely to succeed? What do you foresee as the impact of new technology-enabled delivery of programs and shorter duration master's programs on the future positioning of traditional business schools offering two-year MBA programs?

Erich C. Dierdorff- The main point Michael Hay is making in his chapter is that now more than ever, schools must develop a strategy and business model that fits who they are and who they want to be. This is especially the case for schools that do not have the luxury of substantial endowments or strong reputations. Put simply, there is no singular way to be a successful business school.

What makes this difficult for many schools is that figuring out one’s own unique value proposition is a significant departure from what schools have done in the past. Further adding to this difficulty is the rampant practice of casual benchmarking; where schools simply look to copy the strategies and practices of other “top-ranked” institutions without asking, “will this work for us?” Casual benchmarking is the exact opposite of a strategically driven approach.

In a bit of irony, thinking strategically requires precisely what business schools currently teach their students in strategy courses – concepts that include differentiation, value creation, and competitive advantage. Yet these concepts must not just be preached, but also practiced by today’s schools of business.

So where does a school begin? Hay describes several critical questions to be addressed in this process. Questions that range from a deeper understanding of the school’s mission and unique characteristics to highly practical concerns about whom does the school serve, how and where are programs offered, and how is the school funded.

It is true that being more strategically oriented could lead to increased specialization and niche positioning. And, this indeed holds the potential for promoting success. However, as with any strategy, there are trade-offs. At the most basic level, for example, schools must also decide whom they will not serve.

One trend toward niche differentiation has been the substantial growth and variety in degree program offerings (e.g., MS degrees, executive degrees, compressed formats, etc.). Such programs could indeed create uniqueness for a school in the broader education market. Yet, from a long-term strategic standpoint, critical questions remain to be answered. How new or unique are such programs? Do they really offer fresh curricular content, or are they simply repackaged, preexisting coursework? What is the personal competency cost for students in programs of shorter duration? Do employers understand the differences across various degrees? Again, thinking strategically requires asking the tough questions.

Another way schools might differentiate is through learning technologies. Such technology can profoundly influence the accessibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of education. At the same time, however, technology only deals with how learning is delivered, not what is delivered. Simply investing in better technology will not alone guarantee future value for a given institution. In fact, business schools should be asking a more pertinent question when it comes to technology – where and how business schools can add value beyond technology-based delivery mechanisms? Otherwise, why pursue university-based education?

The imperative is this – for any management education program to provide sustainable and unique value, business schools must first understand whom they serve before deciding how best to serve them.  This task is not only difficult, but also quite rare in business schools. This fact alone makes pursuing a strategically oriented approach both a challenging and a high-impact proposition.

Rahul- In your chapter "Managing Aspiration, Resources, and Cost Structures" you highlighted the research is an expensive positioning which influences the economics of running a business school.  Is it fair to conclude that existing business schools with research positioning are going to become even more expensive as they will have higher pricing power and less competition from new entrants? What do you foresee as the impact of new technology-enabled delivery of programs and shorter duration master's programs on the future positioning of traditional business schools offering two-year MBA programs?

Jikyeong Kang, Andrew Stark-  We believe that tuition fees for programmes such as MBA programmes are close to the ceiling, especially in the United States and at existing research-extensive business schools.  Non-US schools aspiring to achieve research reputation have some scope to raise fees but will still be constrained by the limitation on tuition fee increases by US schools. But, our overall conclusion is that tuition fees are not going to get more expensive; instead, we expect to see some or all of the following measures: (1) increased quest for additional sources of teaching revenues; (2) increased use of adjunct professors; (3) increased exploration of ways of reducing per student cost; (4) increased pursuit of executive education opportunities; and (5) increased pursuit of endowment funding. 

At this stage, we do not expect to observe any significant slowing down of the rate of increase in faculty salaries at research-extensive business schools or those which are aspiring to be such schools.  This is because we do not expect the imbalance between the supply of and demand for excellent researchers in business and management disciplines to be rectified in near future.  Indeed, as more and more schools aspire to acquire research-extensive status, there will be more pressure on salaries as more and more schools compete for a limited talent pool.

As mentioned above, some schools, in the absence of other opportunities, to fill funding gaps might well seek additional sources of teaching revenues to either supplement or substitute for revenues from the traditional MBA programmes.  We think that such actions are particularly likely to be observed at all but the very top-ranked business schools. Our view, however, is that the new technology-enabled delivery of programmes does not come cheaply, if educational standards and programme reputations are to be maintained, and/or if it is being exploited as a way to gain competitive advantage. 

We also observe that specialist masters programmes are increasingly being introduced at US business schools and, in any event, have long been a common feature in many business schools outside the US. We would still expect, for the foreseeable future, that full-time MBA programs will be the main reputation driver for most business schools, even if their full-time MBA student numbers decrease. Nonetheless, we expect that, over time, rankings of specialist masters programmes will become increasingly important to the reputation of business schools engaging in them.
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September 01, 2013

GRE data on China and India: trends and implications for international graduate admissions pipeline

Ten-year data of GRE examinees for international markets is an excellent source of insights to understand changing trends in demand and how sensitive are different markets to external environment.
Consider the case of top-two sources of international graduate students in the world, China and India. A sharp change in numbers from either of these markets can significantly influence the enrollment statistics at several institutions. (Here is a related blog post comparing GRE and GMAT test-takers)
Above chart suggests:
1. Growth: Number of GRE test takers from India have increased by 38% in 2011 as compared to 24% for China. Even with this growth, India is still lower than its peak volume of 70,000 pre-recession and almost same as its volume in 2002. In contrast, China touched its all time high of nearly 61,000 test-takers in 2011, which is almost 45% higher than 2002 volume. India still has higher growth potential as compared to China.
2. Sensitivity: India is a price-sensitive market which responds more in terms of changes in the external environment. For example, number of test-takers declined sharply during the 2008 global financial crisis. India also recovered faster last year, surpassing China. In contrast, China had been a consistent growth market, indicating a higher purchasing power and lesser sensitivity to financial concerns.
These trends should be interpreted in the perspective of the launch of revised GRE in 2011, which expanded the pool of people who used GRE for business school admissions.
Future trends
China is already showing signs of maturing in terms of interest for graduate education in the US. According to recent report from Council of Graduate Studies, final number of applications from China declined by 3% for fall 2013, after three consecutive years of nearly 20% growth. In contrast, India is showing signs of recovery with growth of 22% as compared to single digit growth in previous three years. 
Going forward, graduate school deans and admissions officers are becoming increasingly curious about future trends. They want to know--Is China growth story for graduate schools over? What will be the impact of steep devaluation of Indian currency and its implication on affordability for Indian students?
What are your thoughts/comments?
Dr. Rahul Choudaha (copyright)

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August 25, 2013

Statistics on Indian Higher Education 2012-2013

What are the different types of degree-granting institutions (universities/colleges) in India?
What is the enrollment of Indian students by level of education?
What are the top fields of study for Indian Students?
These are some of the frequently asked questions about data and statistics related to the size and scale of Indian higher education system. Given below is the latest information available from University Grants Commission of India.

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August 16, 2013

EAIE Marketing & Recruitment Plenary on "International Recruitment Strategy: What Works, What Doesn’t?"

I will be chairing the Marketing & Recruitment Opening Event (plenary) at European Association for International Education (EAIE) Annual Conference in Istanbul on Wednesday, September 11. The session entitled "International recruitment strategy: what works, what doesn’t?" focuses on the importance of informed strategic choices in achieving goals of international student recruitment.

Some of the tough strategic choices in international student recruitment are--which markets to prioritize (traditional large volume or smaller but growing markets)? Which segment of students to recruit (balancing academic preparedness and financial resources)? Which recruitment channels (social media, agents or fairs) to invest in?

The presenters are experienced professionals with deep expertise in the field of international student recruitment. They will present a comparative persepctive on some of the tough choices they made and what were the results:
  • Carmel Murphy, Executive Director, Office of Admissions and Director International, The University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA. Carmel will highlight the strategic choices she had to make as a result of the University's curriculum reform (Melbourne Model) and investment in offshore human resources.
  • Andrew P. Disbury, Director of the International Office, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, ENGLAND. Andrew will share his choice of building China market and as payoffs from the "market presenteeism"--its costs, benefits and future directions.
  • Joseph Hindrawan, Associate Vice Provost and  Director, International Enrollment Management, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, USA. Joe will share strategic decision on investing in building iternal capacity and not employing any recruitment agents. 
The purpose of this interactive session is to help create informed strategies that move from following three ineffective strategies to "Do the Right Thing." As Michael Porter rightly said "Strategy renders choices about what not to do as important as choices about what to do."

You are invited to engage on LinkedIn or Twitter with #EAIE2013 for the conference and #MRstrategy for this Marketing & Recruiting Session. Engage now by:
  • Sharing what worked for you with #MRstraetgy
  • Sharing what has NOT worked for you with #MRstraetgy
  • Asking a question with #MRstrategy
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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August 10, 2013

Why US and Australia should pay attention to UK strategy on transnational education?

UK released its International education strategy that articulates a strategic intent towards the expansion of offshore activities of British Universities through a range of initiatives including transnational education and MOOCs. [I will be delivering a keynote at a conference discussing trends, practices and developments related to Transnational education in the context of this strategy. The conference to be held on October 22d in London is jointly organized by UCAS, Universities UK and the UK HE International Unit.]

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August 02, 2013

Mitch Gordon of Go Overseas shares his entrepreneurial journey

Mitch Gordon, Co-founder & CEO, Go Overseas
Twitter LinkedIn

Mitch Gordon is from upstate NY and lived in Taipei, Taiwan for four years before moving to San Francisco, where he currently resides. Mitch is an entrepreneur, starting a number of companies in the field of travel & education. His most recent company, Go Overseas, has quickly become the most trusted resource on the internet for researching study, teach and volunteer abroad programs around the world. Mitch is also currently the Entrepreneur in Residence at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business/ SkyDeck Incubator. When he’s not working you can find him playing sports, hiking, traveling or reading.

Rahul- What are the key services your organization provides? How would you describe your target customer and the unmet needs you are serving?
Mitch- Go Overseas is a review and community site for programs abroad. We’re the Yelp/ Airbnb for programs abroad. We list every study, volunteer, teach, internship & Gap Year program in the world with ratings, reviews, alumni interviews and other helpful information. Our mission is to help people make more informed and educated decisions when choosing a program. As anyone who has ever searched for a program can tell you, there’s a ton of different information out there. It’s really hard to tell the reputable, honest organizations from the fly-by-night programs. We bring transparency to the research process and help people find a program that’s right for them. Because people who use Go Overseas feel more comfortable and confident in choosing a program, we encourage a lot more people to spend meaningful time abroad. That’s a really important part of our mission statement and something we believe passionately in. If everyone spent meaningful time abroad, the world would be a better, more understanding place. Not to say that there is anything wrong with a beach vacation. There’s room for that too, but cultural exchange can be life changing. That’s our mission: For everyone in the world to spend significant time abroad on a meaningful program. We have ambitious goals here!

Rahul- How did the business idea originate? What was the turning point that made you take the plunge?
Mitch- I think the best business ideas come from trying to solve a problem in your own life. Go Overseas solved a problem for me. When I graduated, I wanted to teach abroad. It was nearly impossible to be sure if I would end up at a good, caring school. It took a huge leap of faith. For that exact reason many, many people decide not to go on a program. That feeling of uncertainty stayed with me for a long time. I had a great year teaching English and studying Chinese in Taiwan. But I thought there must be a better way. Go Overseas was borne out of my spending a lot of time thinking about this problem!
As for taking the plunge: Making the decision to start your own business is an incredibly stressful feeling. For me, I had a lot of support from friends. And my co-founders have been with me every step of the way. I’m a huge believer in starting a business with a co-founder. If the chemistry is right, you’ll get a lot farther as a team than you would individually. I’m also lucky in the sense that Go Overseas isn’t my first company. It does get easier, mostly because I was prepared for the uncertainty and risk involved. Starting a business is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I always encourage others to take the leap. It’s worth it, even if the business doesn’t work. You’ll learn an incredible amount from the journey and that knowledge will help in whatever you do, for the rest of your life.

Rahul- What were a couple of key hurdles in building the organization? How did you overcome them?
Mitch- More important than anything else: You have to bring on the right people. I got lucky. My co-founders, Andrew Dunkle & Tucker Hutchinson are amazing people who challenge me every day. Our skill sets really compliment each other. The rest of our staff is also amazing, I learn from them all the time. Another key is patience. Businesses never turn out exactly the way you envisioned them the day you launched. You will change and pivot often along the way. Flexibility is absolutely vital. The best entrepreneurs focus on solving the problem and are continuously flexible in how they do so. We made a lot of mistakes, but we were never afraid to take a step back and make hard decisions. We’ve built a very flat hierarchical organizational structure. Everyone’s thoughts count equally and we focus on data whenever possible, rather than on emotion or opinions. I’d like to think we have a company culture that encourages creativity and personal ownership. When you give staff the opportunity to learn and grow, the company will always benefit.

Rahul- How do you see your organization evolving next three-five years in the context of customer and sector trends?
Mitch- We’ve grown so much in the last year. We’re now the clear leader in our field, in terms of overall traffic, reviews, etc. With that comes responsibility to both our users & clients. We take that very seriously. With that in mind, we have some great projects on the way. For example, we’re very much focused on increasing the level of transparency across our field. I think that’s absolutely critical, and the students & volunteer, etc. deserve that level of transparency.
We’ll be launching the High School Abroad section of our site by September 2013 and more resources will soon follow. There are also a number of fun projects we’re working on. As I mentioned earlier, we have an important mission: To encourage everyone in the world to spend meaningful time abroad. We’re very far from accomplishing that at the moment. Plenty to do, which is exciting for us!

Rahul- Based on your experiences, what are two lessons you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of international education?
Mitch- First, the most important step is to just jump off the cliff and get started. Once you’re in it, you’ll figure things out. Surround yourself with mentors and advisors who can support you through the ups and downs. If possible, find mentors/advisors who have experience in the world of international education.
Second, have patience. Actually, let me phrase that differently: Have absolutely no patience with getting things done. However, have a lot of patience when it comes to how you measure “success”. It always takes longer than you think. Most businesses aren’t profitable until after year 3. The exceptions to this only prove the rule. Too many businesses throw in the towel after year 1 or 2. If you’re seeing positive momentum, stick with it. 
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July 27, 2013

Does Thunderbird-Laureate partnership indicate the future of higher education?

In March 2013, Thunderbird School of Global Management announced "strategic alliance" with Laureate Education Inc. The school had been under fiscal strains, as the number of applications to Thunderbird's two-year, full-time M.B.A. have declined by nearly 75% in the past 15 years and the school ended 2012 with $4 million loss, according to the Wall Street Journal. It adds "Thunderbird's woes reflect the existential crises that many business schools now face as demand softens for full-time, two-year M.B.A.s."

Despite the "existential crisis", the announcement of strategic alliance did not go well with the school's alumni. They interpreted it to be a sellout of the brand to the for-profit world with concerns of potential brand dilution. However, the perspectives seemed to be more emotional than rational.

Compelled by the barrage of questions from media and alumni, the Thunderbird leadership came forward to explain the nature of the partnership in a more transparent manner. Here is a video of alumni webcast explaining nature of the joint venture, financial and non-financial benefits and campus sale-leaseback.

At the core of the strategic alliance is a model of "joint service provider" which provides Laureate with access to the Thunderbird's brand in exchange for offering pipeline of international student enrollment to Thunderbird. Over ten years, jointly owned service provider will generate over $100 million in operating surplus for Thunderbird.

With Thunderbird as a "center of excellence", Laureate can launch new management programs and improve the quality of its existing programs. This will help in further enhancing the ability to attract students. At the same time, Laureate will offer pathways to their 4,800 students who have top credentials to join Thunderbird's program.

Thunderbird is an independent b-school (not a part of a university structure) and hence missed on some of the economies of scales that come with centralized, larger service structures. To fill gap, Thunderbird reached out to the network of Laureate.

In a contrasting move, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management liberated itself from the dependency on state funding for its full-time MBA program. Dean Judy Olian of Anderson, proposed the plan with the rationale that the cutting off the program’s state funding will offer more flexibility and ability to generate resources through tuition and gifts, reports BusinessWeek.

Overall, business schools are already feeling a pressure to justify the value of investing over $100,000  in two-year MBA degrees. While some see autonomy as a strategy (UCLA) to get more resources while other see synergies through partnerships (Thunderbird). The key is that pressure of cost and competition is becoming stronger and stronger, which is compelling b-schools to innovate and adapt. Don't be surprised if this trend cascades to rest of the higher education in search of operational efficiencies. As TIME magazine already sums up in an article "Cash-Strapped Universities Turn to Corporate-Style Consolidation."
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July 19, 2013

Chris Boehner of Vericant shares his entrepreneurial journey

Chris Boehner, Executive Director, Vericant
Twitter  LinkedIn
After graduating from the College of Charleston with a degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications, Chris decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and move to China. During his seven years in China, Chris’s background can best be described as eclectic.  He was a corporate trainer for Microsoft, then decided to cycle across Asia and Africa working as a translator (you wouldn’t believe how useful Mandarin is in Sudan). Afterward, he managed Omega’s transportation logistics during the Beijing Olympics then spent two years intensively studying Mandarin. His proudest achievement is being a founding member of Beijing’s first bluegrass band–The Redbucks. During Chris’s ever-dwindling free time, you can find him in Beijing’s historic hutongs, playing mandolin or practicing Mandarin.

Rahul- What are the key services your organization provides? How would you describe your target customer and the unmet needs you are serving?
Chris- Vericant helps schools make more informed decisions about Chinese applicants. We meet Chinese applicants in country to record a face-to-face interview, proctor a writing sample and conduct a Spoken English Evaluation (SEE) for each applicant.  The verified interview, writing sample and SEE score are served to our member schools via an Online Portal. Our clients range from boarding schools and undergraduate institutions to graduate programs in the US and Canada.
Our target customers are institutions enrolling Chinese applicants that prefer to have a more complete evaluation of the applicant's abilities.

Rahul- How did the business idea originate? What was the turning point that made you take the plunge? 
Chris- Several years ago, I tried to be an education consultant in Beijing.  As I met with families, many assumed my job was to write the entire application for the applicant, including teacher recommendations, personal statements and adjusting transcripts.  After refusing to polish (how parents refer to falsification) their applications, I visited the US and spoke to schools about this issue. 

Schools were aware of inconsistencies of application materials coming from China, but short of visiting each applicant in China, they didn't have a solution. With this information, I returned to Beijing and assembled a team to explore the situation in more detail.  We boiled down the problem to the fundamental differences between the US and Chinese education systems. Put quite simply, falsification was no fault of the applicants or the schools they are applying to. Teacher recommendations don't exist in China, Chinese standardized testing means class grades are not academic indicators and Chinese schools do not teach creative essay writing.

After testing different solutions, we determined there was no substitute for meeting each applicant. We created a face-to-face video interview experience plus a proctored writing sample to assess off-the-cuff ability.  Our member schools rely on our video interviews and our SEE score to see exactly how a student thinks and acts while interacting with a native English speaker.  By meeting in person, we can verify identification and through conversation and our interviewers are able to elicit an incredible amount of information about English proficiency and the applicant's soft skills.

Rahul- What were couple of key hurdles in building the organization? How did you overcome them?
Chris- 1) Getting our first client. 
This was a very new concept when we began pitching it to schools three years ago.  My task was to find admission officers willing to take a risk to solve a big problem. To do this, I visited over 50 schools over 35 days and racked up a good 3000 miles on my Prius rental. When I returned the car, Hertz looked at the odometer and said "Woah!".

2) Staying focused
When visiting schools, nearly every person had a idea, suggestion or another problem we could help with.  There were so many good ideas, it was tough to remain focused on our core service while we were figuring out if it would work. Thanks to excellent advisors and mentors, "Focus, focus, focus!" is still a mantra in our office.

3) Cross-Border Alignment 
Timezones are an underestimated foe in any international initiative. When your team of 12 is sometimes split across five timezones, it is a real challenge for productivity, alignment and efficiency.  At our Beijing HQ, we have daily alignment meetings for China and weekly RoW (rest of world) full team calls to update on progress and any speed bumps in partnerships, marketing, IT, operations etc. While our system is not perfect, it works and is constantly improving.  Another China specific problem is internet connectivity issues, but hey, that's another reason why schools prefer to use us for interviews intend of Skype.

Rahul- How do you see your organization evolving next three-five years in the context of customer and sector trends?
Chris- Our vision is to have interviews regain prominence in the admissions process. For many admission offices, interviews were likely cut because they were too resource intensive. Technology can solve this issue and allow admission officers to see beyond numbers and an application. For us this means continual innovation to make video interviewing efficient and an effective evaluation tool for both applicants and schools.

Rahul- Based on your experiences, what are two lessons you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of international education?
Chris- 1) Persistance
As an entrepreneur, the education sector is probably the most difficult sector you could choose. Institutions are slow to change, which makes the sales cycle very long. You must completely believe in your solution and keep at it. If you are looking for the glamorous Tech Crunch start-up life, good luck finding it in education. The education sector it is relationship intensive and not a quick flip.  We've been at it for 3 years and are still very much in our infancy.
2) Show up
There's a great Woody Allen quote one of our first partner schools shared with me: "Eighty percent of success is showing up".  We go to every conference we can, we visit our partner schools and our prospective partner schools.  If I have to make a choice between driving 3 hours to a remote school or having a phone call with them, I make the drive. Always.

Like our video interviews, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. Not only is it a ton of fun (admission conferences are ALWAYS a blast), but you will make great contacts and lifelong friends.
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July 12, 2013

international education as a pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs

While the immigration reform in the US is overcast with uncertainty, I came across a very interesting blog in the New York Times by Catherine Rampell asking "is it true that immigrants are unusually entrepreneurial?" And the data suggests, yes. The highlights are:
  • Business ownership rate is higher for immigrants than the native-born. In 2010, 10.5 percent of the immigrant work force owned a business compared with 9.3 percent of the native-born work force.
  • Immigrants are also more likely to start a business in any given month. In 2010, 620 out of every 100,000 non-business-owning immigrants started a business each month as compared to 280 for nonimmigrants. 
  • "Immigrants’ entrepreneurship rates are especially high in the engineering and technology sector. About a quarter of engineering and technology companies founded between 2006 and 2012 had at least one founder who was born abroad, according to a 2012 Kauffman Foundation study. In Silicon Valley, the share was 43.9 percent."
  • "More than half of the foreign-born founders of U.S. technology and engineering businesses initially came to the United States to study."
Although the Kauffman Foundation report is a bit dated, it suggests a strong relationship between international students in STEM fields and prospects for entrepreneurship.

Due to the effect of recession, many American college students are heading towards "career-ready" majors like healthcare and business. As a result, share of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as a percentage of all bachelor’s degrees have been consistently declining over the years.  While there is demand for STEM majors by the employers, "not all college students have the interest or ability to major in a STEM field." Consequently, there is a short-supply of American students in STEM related graduate programs.

This supply gap in the American graduate programs in STEM fields meets the demand for these programs from international students. Nearly 2/3rd of all graduate students in electrical engineering and computer science in the US are international students, according to NFAP. For some countries like India, this skew towards STEM related graduate programs is very high. Nearly 2/3rd of all Indian students are enrolled in master's program in STEM related fields. No surprise, this is also the group most dominant in the immigrant found ventures related to engineering and technology, according to Kauffman report.

A recent report entitled "American Made 2.0: How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Continue to Contribute to the U.S. Economy " by the National Venture Capital Association highlights the pathways, contributions and challenges of immigrant entrepreneurs. It encourages reforms that can enable innovation in the economy by facilitating global talent retention.

I hope this not so obvious connection between entrepreneurial innovation, especially in STEM related fields and international students is considered in the immigration reform.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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July 01, 2013

Making community colleges work in India: Building a community of change to fuel aspirations

What would it take for workforce development programs and vocational education to grow in India? A recent white paper released by Institute of International Education (IIE) and sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in India highlights the potential of learning from and applying the U.S. community college model in India.

The paper includes pieces from several experts. Mary Beth Hartenstine of Community Colleges for International Development in her chapter suggests that "When looking at larger scale, transformative projects, such as those expected to take place in India, U.S. colleges should look to partner through a consortium to alleviate some of the possible burdens of these global development projects." B. S. Panwar of M.S. Panwar Community College asserts that "While the government has taken note of the need for a community college system in India, there is no clear implementation plan. An autonomous agency is needed to act as a link between the government and the community to propagate and implement the community college scheme."

Murli Nagasundaram and Duleep Deosthale of Manipal Global Education Services recommend that "The first step is to establish a task force, consisting of eminent academicians, industrialists, social scientists and advisers from select community colleges in the U.S. and some Indian educators who can look beyond the politics of education, in order to frame a policy and develop an initial plan."  Edward Valeau of The ELS Group, emphasized the role of standards, data-driven strategic planning, learnings from with other countries beyond the US and strengthened governance and leadership structures.

I contributed a chapter entitled "Making Community Colleges Work in India: Providing Access, Fueling Aspirations" where I argue that the reform initiatives need a much stronger structural change to reshape the sociocultural expectations of a vocational education. There is an aspirational barrier among students and families who do not consider vocational education as an economically rewarding or socially recognizable career path.

In addition to policy changes and enhanced public-private partnerships, there are additional areas that need reform. First, there must be more research to understand the students who are most likely to be attracted to the community college. Second, successful exemplars of community colleges need to be established and supported, especially through partnerships with American community colleges, to substantially improve the caliber, capacity and competitiveness of vocational education in India. Finally, an aggressive and transformational marketing campaign that clearly explains the differences and benefits of community colleges should be co-developed with industrial leaders.
As Malcolm Gladwell notes in The Tipping Point, “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”  

Community colleges’ growth and success in India can reach a tipping point by establishing a community of change that brings stakeholders from industry, academia and policymakers, establishes models of success and makes students aspire to be part of this community.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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June 16, 2013

Using recruitment agents: Transparency to move from a dirty little secret to an open-book?

NACAC report on the use of agents for international student recruitment left most of us wanting more. At the same time, it has something for everyone to cite and justify their arguments. Overall, I am pleased with the outcomes of the report and here are my top two reasons:

1. Recognizes diversity: The report rightly recognizes that just because agents are used in other countries does not justifies its use in the US context. There are a diverse set of institutional and student needs. Any kind of ban or no ban situation would have been impractical and unhealthy. There is a wide spectrum of quality of agents which serve needs of a specific segment of students and institutions (see more on segments of international students).

Arguing that agent model works for all institutions and students is an hyperbole. Dan Zaretsky and I have a strikingly similar point of view mentioned in the Chronicle and the PIE News that some will never use agents, some will definitely use agents and perhaps the fence-sitters will become more wary as the Commission recommends that the use of incentive compensation based on number of students is not a "best practice."

2. Emphasizes transparency: To me, this is one of the most important elements which can help settle the debate. During an update meeting at NACAC in October last year, I asserted that "the Commission has rightfully acknowledged the importance of transparency, however, what is Commission's approach for enforcing transparency on institutions and then institutions in turn enforcing it on agents? For example, can we imagine a scenario where institutions will explicitly state on their websites if they work with agent and what commissions they pay, and would this information be available to students?" This emphasis on transparency will bridge the information asymmetry between institutions, agents and students and establish that using agents is not a dirty little secret but an open-book.

For example, Vincenzo Raimo in his blog post shares the example of the University of Nottingham. There are several models of transparency available in the education sector. For example, Law School Transparency project which aims "to the reform [legal education] by holding other stakeholders accountable, by making relevant data and information easy to consume....Reform starts with transparency and will end with a total reimagination of the modern law school." Likewise, the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency has been working to provide "information for students, parents, and policymakers about college costs at America’s colleges and universities."

While I am overall pleased with the outcome of the report, I would have liked to see more concrete steps on how mandatory practices related to institutional accountability, transparency and integrity will be enforced. In specific, the alternatives to incentive payments remained untouched as "the Commission was unable to achieve unanimous consensus" (p. 7).

The reality is that many are engaged in a worldwide industry of agency networks. This means that stakes are high. Forward looking agencies and institutions need to work harder and set the standards by making the practices and outcomes more transparent through voluntary disclosure of data and information with students. I will be anxiously looking forward to model of institutional and agency best practices in using agents that encourage transparency to move beyond a secretive practices of information asymmetry.

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June 10, 2013

How MOOCs and competency-based learning shaping the future of online higher education?

Two models of higher education--competency-based learning and MOOCs--are offering alternatives to conventional higher education and shaping the future of online higher education. Given below are recent developments which highlight this trend:
  • Southern New Hampshire University, a private university in New Hampshire, "is poised to launch a $5,000 online, competency-based associate degree that would be the first to blow up the credit hour--the connection between college credit and the time students spend learning." In addition, it had been in gaining attention for its aggressive growth in online programs as a non-profit. It enrolled 2,750 undergraduates in its campus and another 25,000 in its online programs. The revenue for this "Little College That's a Giant Online" is forecasted to reach $200 million in the next academic year—four times what it took in for 2010-11.

  • Western Governors University founded by the governors of 19 U.S. states in 1995, is an online university offering competency-based degree programs to more than 38,000 students. "Western Governors University, also a nonprofit, has gotten by far the most attention in the competency-based space. A federal law, passed in 2005, was designed to clear the way for Western Governors to participate in federal aid programs while directly assessing student learning. The university, however, did not pursue that authority, partially because of worries about whether employers and accreditors would accept competency-based degrees. So Western Governors, like all other institutions, connects student competencies to the credit hour." 

To sum up, in times of increasing costs and doubts about the ROI of degree, higher education is facing tough challenge from new models of learning like MOOCs and competency-based learning. In fact, the new models are going to not only challenge learning but the whole philosophy and practice. For example,  SNHU hired the former CEO of an online customer-relationship company as director of online programs, to retool SNHU’s operations in the style of Zappos and Amazon. She says that "We have to pick up the phone, treat our students as customers, respect their opinions."

Is higher education willing and able to "serve the customers" and meet their changing needs?
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June 05, 2013

What are the future mobility trends and recruitment prospects for Indian students?

Some experts have predicted that expanded capacity of higher education institutions in India will slow the mobility students going abroad. However, I have taken a contrarian view that in the medium to long term mobility of Indian students will increase.

This is primarily because capacity has not kept up pace with quality of institutions and aspirations of individuals. Increasing affordability for foreign education among upper-middle class coupled with attractiveness for the US for STEM OPT and now green card prospects will continue to fuel demand for graduate education.

In the immediate term, data for graduate applications and visa applications are already reflecting growth in number of students from India for fall 2013.

According to the Council of Graduate Studies, number of application from India increased by 20% as comapared to decline of 5% for China, based on a survey of over 275 institutions which conferred about 2/3rd of the graduate degrees in the US.

Likewise, according to the Times of India, US consulate issued 5,600 student visas between October 2012-February 2013 marking a 50% increase since last year.

While undergraduate pipeline will take couple of more years to see substantial jump, it is inevitable due to the expanding upper-middle class which wants to invest in foreign education of their children (Gen-Q).

To sum up, here are some forecasts for mobility of Indian students in next 3-5 years:
  • US will continue to be the most preferred destination not only due to sociocultural prestige associated but also due to 29-months post-work opportunity (OPT) for STEM-related fields and immigration prospects. 
  • Master's level programs in STEM related fields will witness a significant interest from self-financed Indian students. This is in contrast with traditional segment of Indian students who were highly dependent on graduate assistantships. Similar trend is already taking place with large number of Chinese students in accounting and specialized business programs. Students segment for self-financed master's degree also fueled demand for British degrees few years back, however, now facing a decline due to stricter immigration rules.
  • Further down the line, this ability to afford global education will also trickle down to undergraduate level when children of upper-middle class parents who benefited from new liberalized economy in 90's and IT boom will start to seek undergraduate education abroad in larger numbers.

Overall, prospects for recruiting students from India are improving, especially for institutions interested in recruiting self-financed students. However, the last mile problem remains--how and where to find them?


Dr. Rahul Choudaha (copyright)
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May 31, 2013

Chris Rudd, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham on Transnational Education

Professor Chris D Rudd, BSc PhD DSc CEng FIMechE FIM
Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Nottingham

Chris Rudd began his career as a sea-going engineer with the P&O Steam Navigation Company. He has been a faculty member at Nottingham since 1989 and is well known for his work on lightweight structures and fibre technology. He is a former Dean of Engineering and has held the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Vice President) since 2008. His responsibilities include External Engagement – business partnerships, commercialisation and philanthropic fundraising. Much of his recent work has focused on Asia where he has led many trade visits and developed a string of R&D partnerships with the corporate sector. He is a director of the China-Britain Business Council and a regular commentator on University-led innovation and east-west technology exchange.

Rahul - University of Nottingham has been an exemplar for many institutions seeking to internationalize. What are the top two priorities of the University for next three years in continuing the internationalization agenda? What role do you and your office play in meeting the priorities?

Chris - The last decade has been incredibly exciting as UoN has gone from tentative startup mode to being a confident leader in the roll-out of global education programmes. Have observed that journey first as a faculty member and secondly as one of UoN’s Vice-Presidents I would go so far as to say that TNE has, to a large extent, redefined the institution self-image. The watershed came, I think, when Nottingham’s overseas campuses became embedded in the community as an integral part of “whom we are” rather seen as a whim of senior management. There is no easy win here, but a need for persistent engagement and frequent staff and student exchange to promote the quality of our Asian operations, the excellence of the students and the impact we are having in those host communities.

If faculty and students are going to embrace overseas campuses as part of the family then they need to be able recognize the defining features of the parent. A research intensive parent needs to have research intensive branch campuses. Business engagement, knowledge exchange, CSR and philanthropy programmes – these are all part of the package and key components of our diversification strategy as our communities bed in to new surroundings.

It has been a privilege to help develop UoN’s agendas in Malaysia and China. Very soon after the first graduates appeared from in-country delivery I was asked to explore the wider benefits that could be leveraged from an Asian footprint. Here we have benefited greatly from first mover advantage and secured some fantastic local partners in the state and private sectors. Access to overseas technology and internationally trained talent is, for the time being, a key attraction for partners. Being close to the market and recognized as a long term investor in both regions delivers profound opportunities – both for UoN and for our existing western business partners.

Rahul - How do you see the business and technology shaping the future of transnational education, especially for infrastructure-intensive branch campuses?

Chris - Although we support research and education links on a worldwide basis Asia has become our USP over the past decade. As we increasingly embed ourselves in that region our network of contacts and market intelligence brings many opportunities. Local presence means that the critical process of relationship management is much smoother than when the partners are separated by 5,000 miles, even with the benefits of communications technology.

Business to business partnerships are not simply desirable for western HEIs entering Asia – they are mission-critical in the medium term. Business links help to demonstrate the value-add to graduates from a relatively expensive overseas qualification, they provide resource to support research and they demonstrate to host governments the economic impact of admitting foreign HE providers. They form one component of a holistic branch campus operation. Naturally there are challenges; staff turnover tends to be higher than it is in the west and the ratio of junior faculty to senior professors is also somewhat higher. However, these are growing pains and compensated by the exclusivity that goes with being an early mover as well as the talent and energy of our students and junior faculty.

We’re often asked about our response to an implied competitive threat from other foreign startups, from MOOCs or from Asian institutions moving west. These are all healthy consequences of an increasingly diversified, global market. The HE sector is heterogeneous and different forms of delivery work more or less well for different styles of institution. UoN has set a benchmark for campus delivery and it is likely that we will pursue that in the medium term, focusing on quality of experience, breadth of activity and networking our global assets.
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May 25, 2013

St. Louis: Hosting NAFSA Annual Conference and Attracting Immigrant Talent

St. Louis, Missouri, a city with a population of nearly 315,000 will see an influx of 10,000 international education professionals from across the world in the last week of May. The event is annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. It brings together professionals working with universities and related organizations and offers them networking and educational opportunities under several tracks including International Education Leadership, International Enrollment Management, International Student & Scholar Services, Teaching Learning and Scholarship and Education Abroad.

I will be attending the conference and chairing two sessions on Wednesday the 29th. Here are the details:

1. Transnational Education: Models and Measures of Success
This session offers compare perspectives from the US, the UK, and Australia on models of delivering transnational education and how they define and measure success. Co-presenters are :
  • Joe Chicharo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), University of Wollongong
  • Christopher Hill, Director of Research Training and Academic Development Knowledge Without Borders Network, Convenor Academic Director PGCHE University of Nottingham, Malaysia
  • Grant Chapman, AVP Academic Affairs/Director of International Programs, Webster University (again headquartered in St. Louis) 
2. International Recruitment: Strategic Choices for Delivering Results
This session compares international student recruitment from Australia, Germany, the UK, and the US on making those tough strategic choices that deliver results within constraints. Co-presenters are :
  • Martin Bickl, Director of the International Office, Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Andrew Disbury, Director of the International Office, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Sharyn Maskell, Director, International & Marketing Services at Queensland University of Technology
St. Louis is also in news for another reason related to international education--Immigration and Innovation Initiative which aims to "Significantly growing our population of foreign-born residents is an economic imperative for the St. Louis." A recent report  entitled “The Economic Impact of Immigration on St. Louis” highlighted following facts:
  • "The region’s relative scarcity of immigrants largely explains our poor economic growth, and the St. Louis metro’s fall from the 10th largest MSA in 1970 in the U.S. to 18 in population and 20 in economic output in 2010.  
  • If St. Louis had experienced inflows of immigrants similar to other large metros, income growth would have been 4-7% greater, and the region’s income would be 7-11% larger. 
  • Encouraging an inflow of foreign-born to match other large metros would increase job growth 4-5%; thus, the region’s lack of immigration explains in large part its poor job creation engine.  
  • Immigrants are 60% more likely to be entrepreneurs in the region, and therefore, the relative lack of immigrants is a major factor in explaining the region’s shortage of new business startups."
A related article in the Wall Street Journal noted that the Rust Belt, a region historically strong in manufacturing which was also a leading destination for immigrants a century ago is "betting that attracting foreign-born residents can spur business creation and revive neighborhoods."  It adds that "Between 2000 and 2011, the Rust Belt...was home to 18 of the 25 fastest-shrinking cities in the U.S. Their proportion of foreign-born residents, moreover, lagged well behind the national average of about 13%, with less than 5% in some cities."

The developments in the Rust Belt in general and the St. Louis in particular align with the debate on the comprehensive immigration reform in the US,  which also plans to encourage high skill migration by attracting, retaining and integrating global talent.

Next week will surely be exciting for St. Louis with NAFSA conference, however, it would also be interesting to see if city's Immigrant & Innovation Initiative can make it a model for other states in the US. 
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May 21, 2013

how is the mobility of international doctoral students likely to shift?

University World News published a special issue on development and trends with doctoral education and student mobility across the world. I contributed a piece entitled "The future of international doctoral mobility" for this special issue. Here is an edited excerpt of the article.

In ”The Disposable Academic”, The Economist argued that "doing a PhD” was often a waste of time. However, this pessimism does not reflect the experience of all students, as evidenced by increasing numbers of doctoral students from the global South heading to the advanced economies of the North in the past 20 years.

Two primary factors influence mobility and stay rates of international doctoral students: the comparative access to opportunities for doctoral training and professional advancement between their host and home countries.

How is the mobility of international students at doctoral level likely to shift in the next 20 years? It will be shaped by the collision of two counter-trends enabling and limiting mobility.

The expansion of undergraduate-level higher education in developing countries is increasing the supply of students who qualify for and aspire to a doctoral education. This will continue to fuel the mobility of foreign students seeking doctoral education abroad.

Concurrently, as the quality of the higher education system in the source countries improves, outward mobility may become more limited, as the differences in quality between domestic universities and foreign ones narrow.

Likewise, in terms of stay rate, two counter-trends will be at work. Students who go abroad to earn doctoral degrees may not stay to work because of the improving opportunities for economic reward and professional advancement in their home countries.

Simultaneously, the proactive immigration policies of host countries, devised to encourage talent retention, may effectively implore international students to remain.

Overall, this complex interplay of counter-trends will shape the future mobility of international students seeking doctoral education.

Based on the limited success of developing countries in instigating meaningful reforms in their higher education sectors, it is safe to predict that doctoral talent mobility will continue to be strong with high stay rates, especially in STEM-related fields.

Key source countries have to work harder and smarter to retain talent and provide competitive opportunities for developing and engaging talent, as Brazil does with Science Without Borders or Chile does with Becas.

Doctoral talent mobility will continue to reflect the reality of an interconnected, globalised world where individuals and nations try to maximise their growth and competitiveness.

The key is not to frame global talent mobility as a zero-sum game and that applies to doctoral talent too. After all, the academic is not yet disposable, not least the globally mobile ones of tomorrow.

Read full article here.
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