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Looking Ahead: 4 International Trends for 2014

Crystal_ball_(1)It’s a new year, and we’re dusting off the crystal ball to make new prognostications about the future of global higher education. But first, let’s evaluate the predictions we made last year to find out what we got right (and wrong) in 2013.

We correctly predicted that there would be greater pushback against foreign branch campuses and other international programs set up by American universities. At the beginning of 2013, we already knew that John Sexton, president of New York University, was facing faculty criticism in part because of his agenda to expand the university overseas. But we also saw other examples of pushback, such as when faculty members at Canada’s Algonquin College raised concerns about having a campus in Saudi Arabia. And then Syracuse and Brandeis Universities cut ties with Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem because of the perception it did not respond aggressively enough against anti-Israeli protests on campus.

We also suggested that countries eager to import branch campuses from the United States and elsewhere would focus more on the quality of the institutions being recruited, rather than on the quantity of education providers. While there was a growing conversation about the quality of cross-border higher education in 2013, we have not yet seen the shift away from new branch-campus development that we thought would occur.

Last year we predicted some upheaval in the marketplace for foreign campuses. That was largely true. India set rules to open its borders to foreign campuses, but they were too stringent to garner real interest. Over the past year, we also saw several campuses pull out of Singapore; Hong Kong lured more foreign-education providers; and Pakistan has announced its intent to build a “Knowledge City.”

And we have definitely seen a growing diversity of programs being offered. One of the biggest changes of the year was China expanding as an exporter of branch campuses, with Chinese institutions setting up in Laos, Malaysia, Italy, and Singapore. Now, at least 14 countries outside of Europe, North America, and Australia have exported a total of 38 branch campuses, with at least six more campuses in development.

And there is no doubt that the economic-development emphasis continues to grow. Countries like Malaysia and South Korea are focused on placing universities in Economic Free Zones, and foreign investment in education is seen as part of the innovation agenda in nearly every place we look.

Over all, our predictions held strong. But what does this year hold for cross-border higher education?

Continued growth in branch campuses. A year ago, we thought that expansion was going to slow, but current trends suggest that it is increasing. According to our data, there are at least 14 branch campuses reported to be in development. Texas A&M, which already has a campus in Qatar, has announced it is opening a new campus in Israel. The State University of New York, the University of Utah, and George Mason University have opened or are about to open campuses in South Korea. We have also identified at least 14 new branch campuses in the planning stages.

More government involvement. Hong Kong underwrote the University of Chicago business school’s move from Singapore to its borders. The head of the Punjab government in Pakistan is investing land and money into its new Education City. China is exerting its authority at both the national and provincial levels, with new approval rules in place and potential restrictions on foreign quality-assurance agencies. In China, in fact, the term “educational sovereignty” is being used to frame these new government controls. In general, it seems that countries are realizing that a laissez faire attitude toward cross-border higher education (both importing and exporting) is not in the national interest.

Africa as a new hot spot. It’s unclear whether many universities will choose to invest in African branch campuses, but there are signs of interest. Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa (here and here) all have branch campuses now operating or under development. But we expect partnerships and collaborations with existing institutions to form the bulk of the activity over the short term, much of which could be financed by local governments and nongovernmental organizations, such as Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Rwanda, which has received support from the Rwanda government and the African Development Bank.

Focus on academic values overseas. A commitment to scholarly values is becoming more central to the conversation around branch campuses and other international partnerships. American colleges and others are evaluating whom they form partnerships with and how they act, determining whether the partner is a good match on a range of performance measures, including compatible academic climate. We are thinking here of the growing salience of issues of academic freedom abroad, and ability to work across very different cultures while maintaining core values of the home campus. Gone are the days when an administrator-led delegation could establish partnerships without significant faculty involvement.

So, there are our predictions for the 2014. We’d love to hear in the comments what others think the new year will bring for cross-border higher education.

[Wikimedia image by Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff and originally uploaded by Beralpo]

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