Borderless higher education?

University-based migration has become a significant feature of global demographics. Staff and students regularly take part in inter-institutional exchanges, and students will not infrequently choose a a higher education institution for their studies that is not in their own country of origin or residence. Universities that welcome international students often emphasise the benefits of educational globalisation, pointing to the impact of an international campus on intercultural awareness and global networking.

However, the key driver of international higher education these days is an economic one: students from other countries typically bring with them revenues for the host university and economic activity for the region. This makes international recruitment highly desirable for the institutions. But it is likely that students will also increasingly develop an economic perspective on studying abroad, and one illustration of this is a possible trend, identified by the Financial Times newspaper, of English students avoiding higher tuition fees by seeking to study in the branch campuses of British universities overseas (which will charge fees, but often lower fees than are now likely to apply in England).

Higher education has become an import-export business. State agencies are often charged with selling educational products abroad as a way of generating a favourable balance of trade.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with international higher education, not even when it is driven by commercial or economic considerations. But it becomes wrong when it is not designed and planned in such a way as to maximise the educational experience and intercultural benefits. Issues that need to be taken into account are the services and facilities made available to international students, the appropriate mix of domestic and international students within the institution and on individual programmes, and the provision of proper monitoring and training to ensure that students are properly versed in the language of instruction.

A globalised system of higher education is there to stay; but it needs to be one in which quality and principles of pedagogy take the lead over the quest for revenue.

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2 Comments on “Borderless higher education?”

  1. Fred Says:

    “A globalised system of higher education is there to stay; but it needs to be one in which quality and principles of pedagogy take the lead over the quest for revenue” I agree.

    The international campuses of UK universities are probably the exception and not the rule. A lot of “international” programes are offered through colaborations between a (say) UK university and another institution in another (overseas ?)country. Most of these agreements are a franchising type where the uk institution awards the degree and offers typically the curicullum of the program of study. The problem for what I have see, is that while the course of study is typicaly and theoritically equivalent the actual student experience and the actual standards are frequently much-much lower and of course there is a lack of any international experience.


  2. As a new entrepreneur in the field of education and as a witness to Indian students’ enthusiasm for a foreign education, I totally agree with the points raised in this article. It has been my observation that rather than approach recruitment from the student’s perspective, often the needs of the Institution/ country form the basis for the marketing strategy. World-class quality and a holistic approach to student needs (esp in a climate of intense competition) is more than likely to be the standard student expectation and in the long run will have a huge impact on student recruitment to a certain destination or institution.
    Offering random fee waivers and treating both education and students as economic commodities can only be counter-productive. Rather than limiting interactions to fairs and marketing initiatives through the medium of agents, educational institutions should endeavour to engage with students early and continually. Besides the quality of education, career prospects and economic viability/profitability of investing in the course should also be taken into consideration while framing policy both by educational institutions and Governing bodies.


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