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

July 27, 2015

Economic climate and its impact on international mobility of Chinese students

My recent article "The end of the China growth story?" published in the University World News analyzes the trend with the global mobility of Chinese student in the context of economic uncertainties. Given below is the excerpt.

Prior to the recession, a majority of Chinese students in the US were concentrated in graduate-level programmes. In 2006-2007, only 15% of a total of 67,723 students from China were enrolled in undergraduate programmes. By 2013-2014, undergraduates formed 40% of the 274,439 Chinese students, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors data.

Looking at Chinese students from the framework of international student segmentation, the increase in students at the undergraduate level was primarily driven by the growth of ‘Explorers’, those with high financial resources and low academic preparedness. This expanding segment is funded by financially well-off families who want to invest in the experiences and future of a single child. This segment is relatively immune from financial uncertainty and continues to have a strong demand for studying abroad.

In contrast, ‘Strivers’, those with low financial resources and high academic preparedness, are more likely to be graduate-level students. This traditional segment is typically motivated by career advancement and job opportunities.

Given the size and scale of the wealthy class in China, the demand for undergraduate and high school education abroad will continue to be strong. However, self-funded graduate education at both the masters and doctoral levels will face challenges for the next couple of years.

Given that more and more Chinese are studying abroad at a younger age and continuing to study longer as “professional students” – starting at high school and continuing to masters degree and beyond – institutions cannot ignore recruiting in their own backyard. The next opportunity for recruiting Chinese students is not necessarily from China, but instead from a local institution or from a third country.

In sum, the overall demand for foreign education among Chinese students will continue to be robust. However, there will be a shift in student segments and their decision-making processes. Proactive institutions will adapt to this changing environment by deepening their understanding of different segments and preparing for the future.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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July 20, 2015

Shai Reshef on his mission to scale a sustainable model of non-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online academic institution

higher education innovative leader interviewShai Reshef is President & Founder of University of the People – the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, accredited, online University dedicated to opening access to higher education. An educational entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in the international education market, President Reshef has been widely recognized for his work with UoPeople, including being named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business; joined UN-GAID as a High-level Adviser; granted membership in the Clinton Global Initiative; selected by The Huffington Post as the Ultimate Game Changer in Education; nominated as one of Wired Magazine’s 50 People Changing the World; and selected as a Top Global Thinker by Foreign Policy Magazine. His TED Talk: “An Ultra-Low-Cost College Degree” has been viewed by almost 2 million people in the last year.

Rahul - At University of People, you have created a large volunteer operation with over 3,000 volunteering professors, academic leaders and built a range of partnerships. What are your two most important lessons in successfully working with volunteers and partners?

Shai - I knew that there were good people out there – I just didn’t know how many. This was my biggest lesson!
  • People are willing to give of themselves and give to the world.
  • If you have a great idea, you will find great people who are willing to make it happen.
  • When you give you always get back more than you have given – (true for me and for them)
  • When you start a business you know some times are harder than you expected. Just reach out for assistance.
  • Be happy with whatever you can get. Remember that volunteers are not your employees. Set up fair expectations and be grateful for the support.
Rahul - In last six years, University of the People has emerged as the "world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online academic institution". Based on your unique leadership perspectives in institution building, what are couple of things you would have done differently to further enhance the impact of the University?

Shai -
  • To have more budget allocated toward spreading the word.
  • UNESCO stated that in 2025, 100 million students will be deprived from higher education simply because there will not be enough seats to accommodate them, to meet the demand. Our main challenge is how to make the 100 million aware of us.
  • Due to our accelerated growth, for the first time in our history we are running out of scholarships. The mission of the University is that nobody will be turned away and no one will be left behind due to financial constraints. We have to continually dedicate more and more effort toward raising more scholarships in order to meet the growing demand.
Rahul - What are couple of strategic goals/initiatives you are looking forward to achieving in next three years?

Shai -
  • Sustainability: We will reach sustainability once we have 4,000 students; $2.5 million; and we expect this to happen in 2016. From that point on, we expect to continue our accelerated growth, to service the millions that need us and to build a model for others. In addition, we are on track to doubling the student number with every year.
  • We are currently in the process of developing 2 new programs – an MBA and a Bachelor of Health Science – to address the capacity-shortage problems that exist at traditional universities as well as addressing the requests of our students.  
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July 06, 2015

Partnering to build an ecosystem of highered innovation

Here is the excerpt from my recent blog "Building an Ecosystem of Higher Education Innovation" published in Huffington Post.

The confluence of cost and funding pressures, technology-enabled learning innovations and new paradigms of quality and teaching will continue to force higher education institutions to redefine their value.

higher education ecosystem of collaboration edtech
However, higher education institutions are unwilling to embrace new definitions of value and quality "as valid, even when they can see that customers increasingly prefer the new value offerings," notes a report from TIAA-CREF Institute.

The Presidential Innovation series hosted by the American Council on Education sums up with a tough question--"Are our current business models stale and too tradition-bound to serve us effectively in this new era for higher education?"

Innovation is taking place at a much faster rate at the fringes of the higher education system than at its core. It is getting accelerated by the energy of entrepreneurs, employers, investors and most importantly, new types of learners who are open to experiment.

The opportunity for higher education institutions and systems is to embrace these "outsiders" as an important part of the innovation ecosystem. Higher education institutions will face increasing pressure to counter the public perception that "too many degrees are a waste of money."

This shift will require the expansion of the ecosystem of higher education innovation through partnerships with and the inclusion of new stakeholders.

Share an example of an institution or initiative at the forefront of innovation--tweet @DrEducationBlog or email

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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