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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