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Region heading for HE ‘powerhouse’ status

Yojana Sharma
20 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 359

Many Asian countries have been setting ambitious goals to expand and improve their higher education sectors and are on the way to catching up with and even overtaking the best higher education systems of the West, according to a new book. Many Asian countries have been setting ambitious goals to expand and improve their higher education sectors to respond to their growing aspirational middle class and as a result are on the way to catching up with and even overtaking the best higher education systems of the West.

Their collective efforts are setting Asia on a path to becoming, if not a ‘higher education superpower’, at least an education powerhouse on a par with Western powerhouses, according to a new book published this month by the Institute of International Education, or IIE, and the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation.

Asia has already overtaken both North America and Europe in the total number of universities and university graduates, according to the book, Asia: The next higher education superpower?

“Sheer numbers indicate that progress in Asia is likely to profoundly impact global higher education,” said Allan Goodman, IIE President and CEO.

But also in terms of the regional and global standing of its higher education, “Asia can stand on its own. It has been positioning itself as an education hub and developing connections between higher education and business,” said Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s deputy vice-president, Research and Evaluation and co-editor of the book.

“There are institutions rising to a level where they are competing,” she said. “It is an interesting time in Asia where power structures are being renegotiated,” Bhandari told University World News.

Now Asian universities need only to improve quality in order to fully catch up with the West, she said.


Already “many governments in Asia have been facing strong pressures politically and from their populations obliging them to upgrade higher education very quickly”, said Alessia Lefébure, adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and a co-editor of the book.

There has also been a significant mind-shift in Asia that reflects the confidence of those countries and the rise of higher education systems, so that students in Asia no longer see top institutions in Asia as less prestigious.

“Young people are no longer raised with the idea that there is a dominant West,” said Lefébure.

“A global system of multiple poles of attraction is emerging where higher education will not be dominated by the Ivy League,” Lefébure believes.

“National systems are having to reform much faster than in the West – they are having to be more creative and more aggressive in their marketing,” she said. These include setting up collaborations, dual degrees, joint PhDs, and so on.

In particular, said Lefébure, Asian countries are not simply imitating Western higher education systems, but they are setting themselves up as an alternative to Western systems. “Even if they look similar to European and American universities, most of the time funding is much higher in Asia,” she adds.

“Many Asian countries have significantly stepped up their national budgetary allocations for both higher education and research and development in science and technology,” said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, or NUS, and Tan Eng Chye, NUS deputy president of academic affairs, in a chapter in the book.

“Hence, at a time when the publicly funded universities in both North America and Europe face budgetary challenges in obtaining funding from shrinking state budgets, many Asian public universities are benefiting from increased funding.”

Rankings rise

Huge growth and improvements in Asia’s higher education have been partly reflected in global rankings, where their rise has been a “slow and gradual process”, notes Miguel Lim of Aarhus University, Denmark, in a chapter in the book. But in rankings terms Asia is not yet a higher education superpower.

There is a strong pattern of well-ranked universities in Asia doing better at reputational surveys, which then feed into the next period’s rankings, Lim said.

“This means that institutions that do well in one period gain more recognition and are likely to be judged as more reputable by respondents in the next period’s survey,” said Lim.

“On the whole, Asian universities may be beginning to make their mark, although this is not yet visible at the very top.”

He adds that the strong western-dominated hierarchy at the top of the rankings “is a considerable obstacle to Asia’s (or any other region’s) quest to become a higher education superpower”.

Even though some Asian universities are rising in these ranking tables, improvement has not been equal across different countries. “Only a small number of Asian countries has begun to climb the world-class ladder,” says Lim, adding that the absence of institutions from other parts of Asia is another sign that the region is a long way off from establishing itself as a superpower.

Most of the leading Asian universities are found in the most advanced Asian economies such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and China.

Even where they have made progress, there is concern over the cost involved in producing the research papers and student-to-staff ratios, Lim says.

Attracting talent

More importantly, some Asian countries have been seeking not only to reverse the historic brain drain, but also to compete with Western universities in attracting international students and excellent academics, to increase their academic productivity, develop regional hubs, and to create their own world-class universities, according to Futao Huang of Hiroshima University, Japan.

In part this is apparent in the various forms of education hubs despite sharp differences in economic development, infrastructure and research capacity.

According to the IIE’s Bhandari, the evolution of the education hub phenomenon in the region in recent years has been quite unique, propelling a number of countries – including Malaysia and South Korea – into a more dominant position in higher education regionally and globally than would otherwise have been the case.


But despite so much progress, there are obstacles and challenges which could scupper the emergence of Asia as a higher education ‘superpower’, the book’s editors note. “It is not there yet,” Bhandari says.

“Quality is going to be a real issue for countries moving forward,” says Bhandari, as well as the need to balance the needs of domestic populations and development with external pressures to rise in rankings.

“Asia is off the starting blocks and more than that,” according to the IIE’s Lefébure, but hurdles that could stop Asia in its tracks include a hypothetical prolonged economic crisis such as was seen in the West in the past decade.

Complacency could be another important obstacle. Although Asian countries are investing huge amounts in higher education at a time when Western higher education institutions have been affected by the financial crisis, as Lim points out, the European Commission in Brussels has just launched its Horizon 2020 project – representing a significant increase in its research budget to close to €80 billion (US$85.5 billion) from 2014 until 2020.

“The message for Asia or any other aspirant higher education superpower is that other countries and regions are not standing still. Given the developed regions’ other advantages, [Asia] clearly still has some way to go before it can achieve superpower status,” Lim said.

And ensuring their higher education systems respond well to their own changing economies and produce the right kind of graduates and researchers is another issue.

“Despite the many positive trends in the field of higher education in Asia, there remain many serious challenges to overcome. It would be a mistake for Asian governments to continue on a steady course of expansion and massive investments in the higher education sphere without paying attention to the changing education landscape,” said Singapore’s Mahbubani and Chye.

Related Links
Need to upgrade universities and research as R&D heads East
Can Asia lead the future global knowledge economy?
Rise of postgraduate education fuels Asia’s economies – UNESCO
Student-led migration is part of global talent contest
Asian Tiger universities grow research collaboration
Internationally mobile students head for Asia
Asian higher education revolution a long way off
Far East aims high for international student numbers
Universities must better prepare young people for labour market

University World News

Keep Students, Earn More

March 19, 2015

Salary compression is a familiar dilemma to faculty members and administrators. Most campuses conduct regular analyses to measure salary discrepancies across academic departments, across generations of faculty members and between their own professors and those at other institutions.

Few colleges, though, have found a sustainable solution to relieve compressed salaries, especially in a period of budget cuts, shrinking state investment and rising tuition.

Administrators at Coastal Carolina University, a 10,000-student public university in South Carolina, think they have done so through what they call profit sharing. If the university is successful -- in this case, at increasing student retention -- then faculty members are rewarded with a pool of money that is divvied up to help alleviate compression.

On "This Week," Pay and Retention
We'll discuss the Coastal Carolina system on "This Week @ Inside Higher Ed," our weekly news podcast. Click here to receive an e-mail alert when the podcast is published.

In the first two years of the program, the university has paid almost $2.5 million to qualifying employees, after consecutive increases to the retention rate. Equal amounts of money are set aside for both faculty members and staff who go through performance reviews.

This year, there is $400,000 on the line each for faculty and staff salary decompression and $150,000 for merit bonuses. To spend the money, the university’s annual retention rate has to increase from 67 to 68 percent.

If the retention rate hits 69 percent, then the money increases to $500,000 for decompression and $200,000 for merit pay.

“The bottom line in all this is that if the university does well, it’s the administration’s and the board’s belief that we need to share with those who play a role in making the institution successful,” President David DeCenzo said.

The program was designed by faculty members, who had been tracking salary compression each year.

In general, compression happens when faculty members’ pay is limited by year-to-year increases that don’t keep up with market rates. Salary inversion happens when new hires make more than senior-level employees because they’re negotiating at market rates.

Coastal Carolina faculty realized that if they wanted the university to pay for a decompression effort, they’d need to find revenue that wasn’t already budgeted for something else, said an associate statistics professor, Keshav Jagannathan. Jagannathan, as Faculty Senate chair, helped devise the program a few years ago with an associate math professor, Thomas Hoffman, who led Senate efforts on faculty welfare and development at the time.

They figured that if the retention rate went up, so would revenue from tuition money, part of which could be redirected to faculty salaries. “We’re not looking for that money in lean years when the university is struggling,” Jagannathan said. “We’re just looking for something in terms of meeting our goals.”

In the years leading up to the program's development, about 50 percent of faculty members had compressed salaries, and fixing those inequities would have cost, in total, between $1 million and $2 million, Hoffman said. Those figures come from a model based on comparing Coastal Carolina salaries to corresponding positions in a national sample of universities.

In the two years since, the program has been successful at decreasing the amount of compression at the university, though it’s hard to quantify by how much, since different positions are compressed at different levels. Plus, compression will grow each year if full cost-of-living adjustments or raises aren't in step with the national average.

Brian Bunton, for example, was hired in 2007, right before the economic downturn. He didn’t get even a cost-of-living adjustment for the first five years he worked there. During the first year of the compression relief program, his salary was increased 10 percent. Bunton is president of the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and he said most faculty members support the program.

The money is given to faculty members who meet the qualifications for being competitive and meritorious in performance reviews. But the program was designed to reach as many faculty members as possible. If there’s only enough money to relieve 80 percent of the institution’s compression, then all qualifying faculty members will get that portion of the amount their salary is compressed.

Student retention has benefited, as well. Projections show the university hitting a retention rate of 74 percent in the next three years, though administrators would like to surpass that.

Retention is obviously an important factor in student success and graduation rates, but it also affects the university’s cash flow. Prior to the Great Recession, Coastal Carolina’s retention rate hovered in the mid-60's. Then it dropped to 59 percent in 2009.

In efforts to improve the rate, the university has put money into student resources, by beefing up advising capabilities, encouraging faculty to take on more mentoring roles and improving tutoring services and other academic resources.

DeCenzo said this program is a way to get the faculty to buy in to the university's retention goal. Hoffman said that, anecdotally, it does seem that professors are participating in more activities and practices aimed at retention, such as taking attendance in all freshman courses and calculating grades in the middle of the term to identify struggling students.

Nationally, the average retention for first-time, full-time students at public four-year colleges was 79 percent in 2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Faculty interaction with students outside of the class settings is important for student success, and so anything colleges can do to encourage faculty to increase involvement with students is good for retention, said Alan Seidman, director of the Center for the Study of College Student Retention.

But Seidman worried about the possibility of grade inflation if faculty stand to benefit financially from improved student retention rates. He recommended collecting data to see if there's a difference in grade distribution before and after the program.

Administrators also stress that the faculty salary adjustments haven’t come on the backs of tuition increases. While tuition increased about 3 percent last year, it was flat for in-state students during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 years. Administrators are anticipating a modest increase next year.

The agreement for the compression program was for a three-year period, and administrators said after this year, they plan to turn it back to the faculty to see how faculty members want to move forward. Part of the program’s success has no doubt been because it rose out of faculty suggestions, they said.

“It’s also important to present it to your board of trustees in a way that demonstrates that it’s good for the overall university,” DeCenzo said.

Hoffman, one of the math professors who helped created the program, said the compression model needs to continue to be run annually, but he's more flexible on other details of the program. Right now, the money is tied to retention, because that's what the university is focusing on, but that could change in the future.

Coastal Carolina isn’t the only university where the intersection of student retention and faculty pay has served professors well. Siena College in New York announced this week it will not pursue cuts to faculty pension contributions in light of an especially strong fall-to-spring retention this year.

Siena College, with about 3,000 students, has a consistently high retention rate, usually above 95 percent. This year, though, the college retained an additional 44 students it hadn't budgeted for, said Brother Ed Coughlin, president of the college.

The college had been anticipating a $900,000 budget deficit. Now, with additional tuition and room and board money from those 44 students, the deficit is projected at about $200,000. As a result, the university's won't carry through with a plan to reduce by 3 percent contributions to faculty retirement plans, which would have saved about $500,000.

Coughlin attributed the college's high retention rate to an early-warning retention team that monitors students' academic performance, flexible access to advisers and a first-year seminar that fosters relationships between faculty and students. The college also has started a training program for resident assistants so they can recognize signs that students may be at risk of leaving and refer them to the proper resources.

Governance issues are holding the country back

Ranjit Goswami 06 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 357

A recent controversy over the renewal of Professor Amartya Sen’s period at the helm of Nalanda University shows that India needs to address governance issues that are preventing progress in higher education. A lot has been said about quality, or rather the lack of it, in India’s education system. With nearly 25 million births a year, and more than a million people entering the workforce every month, the country’s future social stability, from the sustainability of its economic growth to its global economic competitiveness, is largely dependent on a single factor – the education and skills the nation’s youth possess.

Acknowledging the huge challenge – in terms of the number of schools, colleges and universities in a country with less than US$2,000 per capita income in nominal terms – surely we must say that a lot has been achieved over the last two decades.

Capacity building, at each local school and at colleges and universities, takes a huge amount of time, as do building the quality or reputation of each of the many institutions.

But what has been missing is the progressive and supportive governance necessary at the highest level, even though capacity building at that level is less difficult than in each institution.

Two critical aspects are at fault: One is the role of the regulators; the second is the interface between local governance of each institution with that of its promoter. For public institutions, the promoter is invariably either the state or the central government, because they are ultimately funded by taxpayers’ money; whereas for private institutions, the promoter is the non-profit private entity.

The role of the regulators is said to be directly responsible for various deficiencies in education but much less is said about the deficits in the second critical aspect of governance.

Nalanda University

The recent controversy about Nalanda University exposes just the tip of the iceberg of this issue and its impact on India’s higher education system. In only 10 years since it was conceived and five years since it opened, Nalanda has found itself in an unnecessary quagmire.

The early signs do not bode well when set against Nalanda’s centuries-old gloried past, which the new-founded university wants to replicate.

It was a large Buddhist monastery founded in the fifth century and attained widespread regional recognition from the sixth to the ninth centuries as a learning centre in diverse areas such as the fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and even the art of war – going beyond its core of Buddhist studies. Its eventual decline lasted until the 13th century when it closed.

The present controversy started when the university’s famous chancellor, Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen, said he would not seek a second term in spite of a prior willingness and board approval.

The reason, as Sen stated in various TV interviews and reported in news articles, was the delay in the Nalanda University Visitor’s (President of India) approval of a unanimous board recommendation to offer a second term to Sen. According to Sen, the President should have respected the board’s decision in a timely manner or have indicated otherwise.

Apparently there was no response for more than a month. Nalanda, unlike most other Indian universities, was created by a unique Nalanda University Act of 2010. In India, a delay or unresponsive communication of one month from the government, which Sen was referring to, is seldom considered to be a delay by other Indian institutes which regularly face similar timescales.

Even the Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, which were created by an IIT Act of 1961, routinely face longer delays dealing with more critical decisions and have remained without a permanent head for months or even years as a result.

Given this context, one might wonder why Sen jumped to his conclusion prematurely. As Sen stated, had there been prior shortcomings in the formation or functioning of the board (as some reports suggested), these should have been dealt with then and there in an appropriate and transparent manner.


Sen has worked extensively in the field of higher education in India, the UK and in the US with public and private institutes of repute. In the absence of clear communications from the promoter of Nalanda University – the government – he deserves understanding rather than criticism.

Regular day-to-day decisions need to be made, more so for a new university like Nalanda which is launching new academic programmes; and the decision-making process should be nurtured over the years.

India has rarely witnessed any head of an institute publicly speaking out against such business-as-usual delays. As there are, and should be, performance matrices for heads and faculty members of an institute, there should also be performance matrices on the promoters’ side.

Unfortunately, promoters of institutes in India, whether public or private, mostly believe that providing financial support alone gives them carte blanche to act with impunity and no accountability.

Private entities in education still operate in a disorganised manner, in spite of the sector’s huge growth, because there are so many of them. Most of these private players lack expertise in governance interface.

The controversy at Nalanda University should be a learning point and be acted upon. Building world-class universities takes time, resources and a supportive ecosystem and accountability should not be a difficult problem.

Controversies of this nature also exacerbate other ongoing challenges – ranging from attracting back the diaspora of Indian-origin academics from overseas and luring foreign academics to take up assignments in India, to making India an attractive destination for international students, which lies at the foundation of Nalanda University.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often talked about the need for speed, transparency and accountability, and a ‘more governance, less government’ spirit.

Acknowledging that the government does not have the capacity to micro-manage and that a delayed response does not serve the needs of speed or transparency and is no substitute for making hard decisions when necessary, Nalanda’s struggle could act as a catalyst to transform academic governance in India – if only we actually want to learn from it.

Professor Ranjit Goswami is dean (academics) at the Institute of Management Technology, or IMT, Nagpur, in India.

University World News

Reaching students in a snap

Abi Mandelbaum
06 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 357

Colleges and universities across the country are increasingly turning to the popular social media platform Snapchat to attract and engage students. Recently, Snapchat – a photo and video social media platform – surpassed Instagram and Tumblr as the fastest growing social media app for smartphones, with an estimated 200 million Snapchat users, the vast majority of whom are aged 25 or younger, and with 77% of US college students reportedly using Snapchat on a daily basis.

Does this mean that colleges and universities should consider using Snapchat as part of their communication and marketing efforts? Some already do.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that US colleges and universities are using Snapchat to interact with three primary audiences: current students; prospective student-athletes; and prospective students. Of these three groups, it appears the majority of universities use Snapchat to interact and connect with current students.

Tyler Thomas, a social media specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, or UNL, said his school uses Snapchat to promote campus events, world events, contests, giveaways and to build one-on-one relationships.

“We have seen great growth in our Snapchat community and expect that Snapchat will become more of a priority in the months ahead,” he said.

Thomas said Snapchat was an effective tool because it allowed for quick bursts of content that could be shared in a number of ways, including drawings, graphics and videos.

The University of Houston has also adopted Snapchat, although like UNL, Houston’s primary audience is current students. Jessica Brand, the university’s social media manager, said Houston adopted the app because its user-base was in line with the school’s key demographics.

“We continued to read articles about the growing popularity of the app, and eventually decided we should have a presence there as the university continues to find new ways to engage with our audience,” she said.

High school students

Brand said Houston did not exclusively use Snapchat to reach prospective students, but that did not mean high school students were not benefiting from the university’s efforts.

“We have not done direct recruiting via Snapchat, but we do tend to share first-hand footage of campus events, which gives prospective students a taste of what it might look like to be here, to be a student, and to be involved,” she said.

Kyle Bruce, assistant director of communication for Eastern Washington University Athletics, said his school decided to use Snapchat after it analysed data on their other social media platforms and realised they were lacking in awareness.

“We decided the best thing for our brand was to create a Snapchat account that would cater specifically to student promotions and awareness around athletic events,” he said.

In addition to drumming up awareness for events, he said the app was growing among athletic programmes: “Snapchat is becoming more and more of a recruiting tool in athletics – different sport programmes are using it to communicate with prospective student-athletes,” Bruce said.

“Our account isn’t geared to this primarily, but we showcase what the game day atmosphere is like, which may help attract prospective student-athletes and students in general.”


A few universities are already actively using Snapchat to reach prospective students. Among these are Tennessee Wesleyan College and the University of Michigan. Tennessee was an early adopter of Snapchat and among the school’s first acts was to create a scavenger hunt for prospective students attending an orientation day in which the school showed its followers images of its mascot.

At the time, the school told USA Today it used the app because it connected with students in a way that was different from other communication mediums.

“Snapchat is immediate, personal and reaches the student where you can find them most: on their phone,” said Brittany Shope, the school’s web coordinator, who has since left the college. “To reach out via a smartphone application like Snapchat as opposed to students’ e-mails makes the student feel like the college has taken extra steps to get in touch with them.”

Bridgett Raper, director of marketing and communications at Tennessee Wesleyan College, said her school’s Snapchat campaign was short-lived, but that they were planning to investigate potential opportunities.

Michigan launched its Snapchat in February last year as a result of both campus research and professional statistical analysis. Nikki Sunstrum, director of social media, said the university found that 77% of its core student population was using the app regularly, and that about 70% were interested in engaging with known brands in the environment.

She said the bulk of activity on Snapchat was to engage current students, but that occasionally it triggers inquiries from prospective students.

Sunstrum said that this year the university planned to collaborate with entities across its campus, including promotion and storytelling for individual schools and organisations and event coverage.

Codes of conduct

Given Snapchat’s increased prominence in the social media landscape, colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to reach and engage current and prospective students.

But there are dangers to consider when evaluating the platform, such as the potential that students will interact with the account in ways that are inappropriate or go against universities’ codes of conduct.

A recent USA Today article covers this threat in detail, noting that Snapchat had its own community guidelines and frequently shuts down contact based on violations of its standards.

However, with proper measures in place, the opportunity may prove to be a fruitful step forward for colleges seeking to be more connected to current and future student bodies – and it might disappear in a “snap” if they don’t act soon.

Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and chief executive officer of YouVisit, a technology company that develops virtual tours and virtual reality content for a variety of industries, including education, hospitality, real estate, travel and leisure and many others.

University World News

Foreign students to pay full fees for higher education?

Jane Marshall 06 March 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 357

Most foreign students from outside the European Union should pay full tuition fees, and these resources – estimated at €850 million (US$940 million) – should be invested to ensure France adapts to the new challenges of internationalising higher education while offering a fair, high-quality, attractive system, says a new report. Most foreign students from outside the European Union should pay full tuition fees, and these resources – estimated at €850 million (US$940 million) – should be invested to ensure France can adapt to the new challenges of internationalising higher education while offering a fair, high-quality, attractive system, says a new report.

The report, Investir dans l’Internationalisation de l’Enseignement SupérieurInvesting in the Internationalisation of Higher Education – is by Nicolas Charles and Quentin Delpech of France Stratégie, a strategic and consultative unit attached to the Prime Minister’s office.

Charles and Delpech say that France must overcome problems, including inadequate resources, to maintain its market share in an increasingly competitive global environment. That includes a continuing rise in the number of students studying abroad and the evolving internationalisation of higher education with more cross-border programmes and institutions, new curricula and technologies, and international research collaboration.

At present, all university students whether French, from the EU or from other countries, pay the same low registration fees in France. These are currently €184 (US$203) a year for the three-year licence (bachelor degree equivalent) course, €256 for a masters and €391 for a doctorate.

According to UNESCO, France was the third most popular host country for international students in 2012, after the US and the UK. France was then catering for 271,000 foreign students, which is 6.8% of mobile students, those studying in a country other than their own.

In the report’s foreword, Jean Pisani-Ferry, commissioner-general of France Stratégie, notes that the number of internationally mobile students has doubled from two million in 2000 to four million today, and could double again in the next 10 years.

There were fewer than 500 MOOCs – massive open online courses – in spring 2013 but more than 3,000 by the summer of 2014.

This “double transformation marked an upsurge in the process of internationalisation, and therefore of competition in a sector long organised on a practically exclusively national basis and, in France, mostly as a public service”, Pisani-Ferry says.

He sees the evolution as providing opportunities such as more international students from emerging countries, an advantage for France which has retained its scientific tradition. But there are also problems, such as increased competition from higher education ‘hubs’ in the Middle East and Asia, and the French public service ethos which means lack of resources.

Global trends

The report examines three global trends affecting higher education. These are:

Transnationalisation: Marked by the decreasing monopoly of developed countries in research and innovation, such as France and Britain, and increasing participation of emerging countries such as China and South Korea.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of higher education students rose from about 100 million to 196 million, with nearly half of the growth in the four ‘BRIC’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. By 2025 the number studying abroad is likely to exceed 7.5 million. Meanwhile, the revolution in information and communication technologies offers new knowledge-sharing opportunities beyond borders.

Multipolarisation: Currently, the knowledge economy’s centre of gravity remains in the north, but while a quarter of articles published in scientific journals between 1996 and 2010 were written in the US, and more than half of international students choose Western Europe and North America for their studies abroad, a process of decentralisation is gaining ground with competitive higher education provision in Asia and the Middle East.

During the past decade, the growth in market share of international students by the BRICS countries has been double that of the traditional host countries – the US, UK, France, Germany and Australia.

Diversification: Major economic and demographic changes in both emerging and developed countries mean demand for knowledge is increasing and becoming more complex.

Mobility flows, student and programme exchanges, offshore campuses, and new education hubs harnessing regional demand are developments affecting southern countries. In developed countries, institutions are aiming to add a more international dimension to their courses.

In addition, mobility is no longer limited to individuals but extended to programmes and institutions themselves – the number of offshore campuses is expected to rise from 200 in 2011 to 280 by 2020; and knowledge is becoming more portable thanks to digital education, including MOOCs.

The French exception

France’s approach to the internationalisation of higher education has traditionally been based on influence and cooperation, says the report. It is characterised by a high proportion of foreign students from outside Europe – four-fifths of the total – and especially those of African origin who represented 43% in 2011, compared with less than 10% in other major host countries.

Another feature is its extensive non-tertiary education network throughout the world; more than half of the 320,000 pupils attending its primary and secondary schools are not French nationals, and thus spread French influence abroad.

While only 88 of 3,000 MOOCs are of French origin, 220 million people – 3% of the world’s population – speak French daily, representing a large market, says the report.

On the global downside, French higher education institutions do badly in international rankings, and its split system of universities-grandes écoles and universities- public research organisations are a source of fragmentation. There is a lack of trained staff and strategy within institutions to deal with internationalisation, says the report.

Aims for the future

Charles and Delpech say France must adopt an ambitious strategic approach based on clarifying and prioritising its aims for the internationalisation of higher education. Rather than focusing on numbers of foreign students, this should define the reasons why France wants to attract them.

The authors compare systems in other countries including Australia, the UK and Germany, and present four potential, sometimes overlapping objectives for France. These are:


  • To attract talented students and researchers to boost a qualified workforce;
  • To improve the quality of higher education;
  • To provide a source of export revenue for the economy and self-finance for higher education institutions; and
  • To be a strategic instrument for influence and cooperation in the developing world.

They conclude that France must combine educational quality with fairness: “France’s ambition would be to use internationalisation as a lever to improve the quality of higher education and research.

“However, the specific characteristics of the French system – the geographical integration of the incoming mobility flows, principally from Africa; its position as an outsider in the global market because of its language – speak in favour of combining quality with fairness.”

No decrease in public funding

The report says that promoting internationalisation is expensive and, in a tight budgetary situation, charging foreign students is often seen as a way to increase funding for higher education institutions because there is at present no differentiation in university fees no matter where students are from.

But while the writers support the principle of charging non-EU students with the full cost of their studies, except doctoral students who would be exempt, it specifies the fees “must be targeted and serve an ambitious investment plan for the quality of higher education and research”.

They estimate their proposed reform could raise about €850 million (US$940 million), calculated on 102,000 students paying an average €11,101 in annual tuition fees. But they stress that the extra finance should not lead to a cut in public funding.

“This pricing principle must not mean a corresponding decrease in public spending, but must serve one purpose: development of an inclusive internationalisation to enhance the quality of French higher education.”

This investment is crucial to countering the negative effects of introducing the charges, expected to lead to a fall in the present high proportion of non-EU students in the short and medium term, says the report.

Five year plan

The report puts forward a five-year reform plan to ensure fairness and quality, and to reinforce the attractiveness of France’s higher education under a full-fees system.

Measures for fairness entail a “significant readjustment of scholarship policies” in favour of disadvantaged students. The report suggests 30,000 additional grants could be provided in the form of tuition fee exemptions, targeting the French-speaking world, particularly Africa. The estimated cost would be about €440 million a year.

Because international students paying fees would have higher expectations, other services would need developing such as digital education and transnational education. The report estimates at least €1,000 for each international student would need to be allocated to implement such initiatives as French language classes and advice services for accommodation and employment. Such a system would cost about €280 million annually.

Three measures would be introduced to ensure attractiveness. The first would be a €50 million annual allocation to export French programmes and institutions abroad, together with a special unit to promote French transnational education with a €2.5 million budget.

Second would be development of digital education for the French-speaking world, with new funding of about €70 million a year. Third would be a policy to attract and recruit new foreign students, aimed at targeted countries, with the objective of France remaining the leading non-English language destination for international students. Funding for this would amount to €7.5 million a year.

An English-language summary of the report is given in the France Stratégie La Note d’Analyse No 23.

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