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May 23, 2013

Inherently Global: Higher Education and Economic Impact

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Image. Stars and planes across the Toronto skyline

A blog post by Dr Joanna Newman, Director, UK Higher Education International Unit

A world-class higher education system is essential for growth and competitiveness in a global knowledge economy. An excellent modern higher education system demands internationalisation in staff, students, partners and outlook. Many UK universities are already leading global enterprises in their own right. With fierce and growing global competition in higher education, and no fat to cut in the highly productive UK system, the need to collaborate with international partners is greater than ever.

As institutions rooted in their communities, they draw visitors, businesses and investment to their cities and regions and act as anchors for skills and enterprise. A high-tech cluster is a rare phenomenon, but every ten international university students in the UK support six local jobs.

Higher education alone is one of the UK’s largest export earners, at over £8 billion a year, and has the potential to more than double in value by 2025. Research and innovation, the key drivers of long term productivity, are already inherently global. Universities are central to attracting and retaining globally mobile investment (and 23 per cent of UK R&D is from abroad, more than any large economy). Just as importantly, they attract and network global talent. Students considering their prospects in an increasingly globalised labour market are realising that future employers will expect the cultural agility to communicate and work with members of a cosmopolitan team, so offering outbound international experience will be important to attracting domestic students and creating global employable graduates.

The UK higher education sector’s leading position, second in the world as a study destination and for research quality, is an asset for one country that brings economic benefits around the world; improving employment rates and wages for returning graduates, assisting international development and building the capacity of emerging powers. Sharing a home with international universities gives business access to talent and new knowledge, the capacity to absorb innovation from elsewhere and the contacts to trade. The government scholarship schemes launched by fast-growing nations show that higher education mobility is an investment priority of the innovation economies of the future.

Universities’ links with other academics, industry or policy makers are often the leading edge of wider international collaboration. Indeed, the World Wide Web itself had its origins in improving international research collaboration. Links between universities and business are vital, growing and global, but the largest and most transformative economic impacts from higher education come precisely because the core mission of universities is to create and impart knowledge. This essential mission creates relationships of trust that can endure short-term market fluctuations, and innovate far ahead of a market application.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Stars and Planes. Source: (Flickr).

Image. Dr Joanna NewmanDr Joanna Newman represents the International Unit on the International Education Advisory Forum, is a board member of the School of Advanced Studies and regularly represents the sector on national and international platforms. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Southampton and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

May 16, 2013

Filling The TNE Black Hole

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Illustration: black hole on white background

A blog post by Michael Peak, Research Manager, Education and Society
the British Council

Transnational education (TNE) is increasingly seen as a growth area in international higher education (HE). ‘The shape of things to come’ forecast that international student mobility would slow over the years to 2020 but that overseas delivery of HE programmes (either through teaching partnerships with local providers or through international branch campuses) would grow in terms of the number of institutions participating, the variety of programmes on offer and the volume of students enrolling.

But little has been done to assess the impact of this form of education delivery on the host countries.

At Going Global, we presented our assessment of the evolution of TNE and the elements necessary to form an environment conducive to creating TNE opportunities. The main objectives and rationales for embracing TNE appear to have been met in the countries studied, and it is crucial that the ‘foreign’ institution is aware of the local cultural context and priorities for partnerships to have truly mutual and sustainable benefits.

Conducting this research was exploring ‘the TNE black hole’. For many host countries there is a lack of a clear strategic TNE policy, and related to this, there is a distinct lack of data at a national level on the institutions involved, and individuals enrolled, on TNE programmes.

Furthermore, it is incredible to consider that for an industry which is embraced by many nations, which reaches hundreds of thousands of students (in excess of 500,000 are enrolled on UK courses alone) there is very little in the way of an impact assessment.

TNE in its various forms can impact on individuals, institutions and nations in many areas:

  • Skills impact: TNE can help to fill skills gaps in host countries. The opportunities for skill development offered by TNE programmes making courses attractive to individual students and make TNE graduates attractive to potential employers and increase capacity.

    A possible flip side of this is that TNE could be seen to exacerbate brain drain, although through hosting TNEprogrammes some countries are positioning themselves as HE Hubs and indeed attract international students, and faculty, and retain local students.
  • Economic impact: TNE allows students to study (and gain international qualifications) whilst remaining in employment – having positive consequences for labour market efficiency and economic output.
  • Academic impact: Host country institutions can benefit from TNE partnerships with foreign providers through capacity building but TNE partnerships are most successful when structured for mutual benefit. By working in partnership they (could) effectively become more efficient, achieve more with the resources they have and provide opportunities to more students.
  • Socio-cultural impact: TNE can provide students and staff from both the host and the partner country with opportunities to gain an increased understanding of other cultures. A risk also has to be considered that the TNE activity could conflict with other host country higher education institutions (HEIs) and communities; and that ‘Western-centric’ approaches could be seen to be imposed on local HE systems.

The British Council is in a position to conduct some research into gauging the impact that TNE can have on the host nations, host institutions and individual students. But agencies and stakeholders must work together to increase the systematic collection of data and to improve the evidence base in this area.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Illustration of a black hole. Source (Flickr).


Michael Peak British CouncilMichael Peak is Research Manager, Education and Society, at the British Council. Since 2005, he has been researching international higher education for the Council and has developed and and managed research projects covering different aspects of international education including investigating student motivations, forecasting international student mobility patterns and researching global higher education policy.

April 29, 2013

The collegiate community of students: an interview with Professor Lawrence Young

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Photo of students using the Orchard computer suite at the University of Warwick. The Orchard is stocked with Apple computers.
Students in the Interactive Computation Learning Suite in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick. The suite is nicknamed 'The Orchard' as it is filled with 120 Apple iMac computers.

Alex Miles speaks to Professor Lawrence Young, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Life Sciences and Medicine) and Capital Development at the University of Warwick.

AM: Last week saw the announcement of another MOOC (massive open online course), in this case the ‘pan-European’ OpenupEd platform. What might the transformative impact of the 'MOOC movement' be on the experiential side of global higher education? Will students demand more from their investment in ‘place’? What might the physical consequences be of a move to predominantly online content provision?

LY: That’s a tricky question. I think part of the student experience has to be wrapped up in what the students gain from actually being here, physically in a ‘place’. I think we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that whilst all digital technology is rapidly developing and providing exciting opportunities to be innovative about the way we deliver, there is something about the collegiate community of students and how that translates into the experience not only in relation to a specific discipline, but also in relation to the overall experience that students gain, and that we all gained when we went to university, over the three or four year period. I think it is really exciting that there are new approaches; I don’t think they will ever replace the actual experience of being on a campus. That doesn’t mean that we do not need to explore more innovative digital approaches in the ways we deliver our curriculum, but for me I think there is something about the core experience of being a student on a campus.

With my capital brief that means we have to look at not only, how we are effectively and efficiently using existing space but also, how we can innovative in the way that we provide space in relation to the learning and teaching experience we give our students. Partly that means being really cutting edge in terms of delivering, in terms of the use of digital media and mobile devices. It also means that we have to accept that whilst things are changing we will always need lectures. Lectures are a really important way of engaging, it’s particularly important in our environment where we are a research imbedded institution. Our belief is that research influences and informs the way that we deliver teaching. One key facet to that is that our students are exposed to the best researchers in the world and by being exposed I think that means direct contact in a either small group context or a lecture hall, and I don’t think we can get around that. So whilst MOOCs are really exciting and whilst there are clear challenges in how universities benefit and are sustainable financially in that environment (those issues need to be considered) I don’t think that replaces the campus experience.

AM: ‘Eds and Meds’ has often been held up by writers such as Will Hutton and David Willetts as the future of western economic growth – acting almost as an indicator of prosperity in some cases. Given your background in the medical sciences – what might the role of universities be in combining ‘eds and meds’ to support the UK’s economic prospects in the short-term?

Photograph of students using the Orchard computer suite at the University of Warwick. The suite got its nickname as its filled with Apple computers.LY: It’s quite clearly an issue about medicine, about bio-medical science and its’ teaching, and about research and how that informs our understanding of the various opportunities there. Clearly there is an on-going need for us to maintain our national position, our UK position in life sciences. One way to achieve that is continue on the enormous strength we have both in research and how that research informs the development of teaching. The issue for me, in terms of what this means for UK science is quite a fundamental. There was a very important report from BIS about a year ago on life sciences and the capacity to grow that area and the interesting interface between innovation in healthcare, not only in the NHS but in world-wide healthcare and the way that we teach our students. Those connections are essential. We need to be creative in the way we provide undergraduate and postgraduate training; there is a massive need within the healthcare system in this country for continued professional development (CPD). I think we are only scratching the surface with things like the reorganisation of the NHS; we need to think about this not only in the context of hard-core biological science but with relevance to social and psychological sciences. As well as the opportunity to interact more effectively with big firms like GE healthcare, who are considering all types of opportunities with digital healthcare, etc. There is a really important position for a university such as ours which is so research intense and has enormous multi-disciplinary strength in health altogether; it’s not just about medicine or biomedicine.

AM: The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit later this summer, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. This year the G8 is focussing on free trade - thinking about that topic, and also thinking about what the G8 traditionally does. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders related to higher education that would benefit the sector, what would that be?

LY: I can’t help but be influenced by my own background. I was in New York recently with the Vice Chancellor at a UN sponsored summit looking at global health and the implications for the post 2015 millennium developments goals. I’d like to see some interaction between those millennium development goals and the G8 summit. Partly considering my medical background, it would be looking at how we can improve health globally and the responsibility that big universities have not only in the way we educate, but in how we disseminate and diffuse and support healthcare systems and biomedical training in developing countries. I’d like to think in terms of economic growth that we can’t take our eye of the fact that we have a responsibility in the west, where we have very developed healthcare systems to think about what that means for countries like sub-Saharan Africa, India or Pakistan. I’d like to see something that acknowledges the primacy of university and of higher education in supporting that interface between the G8 and the development cause.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.


Photograph of Pro-Vice_Chancellor Lawrence Young University of WarwickProfessor Young was appointed to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor post this year. He is responsible for the University’s Life Sciences and Medicine research strategy, including the development of research opportunities both nationally and internationally and the raising of research income, publications and citation scores for the School of Life Sciences and the Warwick Medical School. Lawrence leads on the University’s capital development and space management programmes working closely with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost. He also works closely with the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer in developing and implementing the University’s environment and carbon management strategy.

He has, along with the other Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, and the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, responsibility for supporting the Vice-Chancellor and President in developing the University’s international profile with a particular focus on relationships with China. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors also chair committees to hear complaints, appeals and disciplinary issues.

April 23, 2013

An avalanche is coming – higher education and the revolution ahead

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Photo of a snow covered mountain in British Columbia.
In the path of an avalanche: Columbia-Shuswap, British Columbia, CA
Image c/o DCZwick

Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Strategist for Pearson, discusses his vision for twenty-first century education.

The twenty-first century is presenting unprecedented challenges at a global scale. The threat of climate change is deepening, the income gap is widening, tensions in international relations are rising and weapons of mass destruction are ubiquitous.

Meanwhile, economic activity is moving rapidly eastward and existing global leadership is being called into question. While many debate whether this will be an ‘Asian’ or ‘Pacific’ century, I take this as a point of departure. After 350 years of Atlantic leadership of the global economy, we will see the Pacific rise. At the very least, Asia will share in global leadership.

This shift in power is inevitable, but it is not yet fully realized. Today, Western powers are lagging and growth remains slow, but the Asian countries have not yet emerged as true global leaders. In other words, we have a world with immense problems without clear global leadership.

This leaves a number of critical open questions: What kind of leadership will the twenty-first century require? To what extent is the Pacific region ready to provide this leadership? What are the implications of the answers to these questions for public policy in Pacific Asia and for education systems in particular? And what are the implications for the G8 education leaders represented here?

My answer to these questions emphasises the importance of innovation. Innovation drives economic influence; economic influence underpins global leadership; and global leadership requires innovation to solve the many problems facing humanity in the next half century. If this is correct, and innovation is the key, then even the best education systems in the world need to radically rethink what they offer every student. This is true regardless of geography.

This philosophy of everyone as an entrepreneur and innovator is not what underpins education anywhere in the world today. Any country that wants to provide global leadership needs to undertake a radical transformation of their education systems. Innovation needs to be at the heart of any successful secondary or higher education system.

Although this is a substantial challenge, the responsibility of our education systems and institutions is to prepare present and future generations to seize the opportunities of the twenty-first century and overcome its many challenges. The accelerating pace of change suggests that with clear leadership there could be an ever better future ahead.

My belief is that deep, radical and urgent transformation is required in higher education as much as it is in school systems. My fear is that, perhaps as a result of complacency, caution or anxiety, or a combination of all three, the pace of change is too slow and the nature of change too incremental.

I agree with David Puttnam who argued, in a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in June 2012, that:

"[I]t’s ... tragic because, by my reading, should we fail to radically change our approach to education, the same cohort we’re attempting to 'protect' could find that their entire future is scuttled by our timidity."

We need – as the London 2012 Olympics promised – an inspired generation, all of whom are well-educated and some of whom are able to provide the bold, sophisticated leadership that the twenty-first century demands. We need citizens ready to take personal responsibility both for themselves and for the world around them: citizens who have, and seize, the opportunity to learn and relearn throughout their lives. We need citizens who are ready and able to take their knowledge of the best that has been thought and said and done and apply it to the problems of the present and the future.

This surely should be the mission of universities. However, traditional twentieth universities are not meeting this high bar. Simultaneously, the ubiquity of information, the rising value placed on practical learning, and the increased willingness to consider alternative certifications has begun to weaken university walls. When faced with the rising cost of a university education and the decreasing value one is forced to ask: What is the future role of the university?

This poses a real threat to institutions that don’t change radically, as well as huge opportunities to those that choose to respond rapidly. I liken this to an avalanche. The one certainty for anyone in the path of an avalanche is that standing still is not an option. Indeed, it is a classic error of strategy to calculate the risks of action but fail to calculate the (often greater) risks of doing nothing.

There is by no means one certain way forward from here. Instead, what we will probably see is a diverse range of experiments, some of which will work and some of which won’t. I can imagine some universities succeeding by attracting only elite students, such as Harvard today, while others radically rethink their approach and open education to the masses, perhaps through a platform like Coursera. The central message to leaders of universities and those who shape and regulate education is, in the words of the old hymn, to ‘ponder anew’.

The certainties of the past are no longer certainties. The models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the twentieth century are insufficient for the future. Just as globalisation and technology have transformed other huge sectors of the economy in the past 20 years, in the next 20 years universities face transformation. In An Avalanche is Coming my colleagues and I aim to provoke creative dialogue and challenge complacency.

There is an abundance of innovation in education. We are on the brink of a brave new world of learning. I hope to encourage all those responsible for universities to consider their options creatively.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.


Photograph of Sir Michael Barber PearsonsSir Michael Barber is a leading authority on education systems and education reform. Over the past two decades his research and advisory work has focused on school improvement, standards and performance; system-wide reform; effective implementation; access, success and funding in higher education; and access and quality in schools in developing countries.

Prior to Pearson, he was a Partner at McKinsey & Company and Head of McKinsey’s global education practice. He co-authored two major McKinsey education reports: How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better (2010) and How the world’s best-performing schools come out on top (2007). He is also Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter.

He previously served the UK government as Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (from 2001-2005) and as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards (from 1997-2001). Before joining government he was a professor at the Institute of Education at the University of London. He is the author of several books including Instruction to Deliver; The Learning Game: Arguments for an Education Revolution and How to do the Impossible: a Guide for Politicians with a Passion for Education.

[Source: Pearson]

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