Sunday, February 10, 2008
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America's foreign direct investment in higher education
Tamar Levin has a front-pager in the New York Times on the latest trend in the American academy -- setting up satellite campuses overseas:
In a kind of educational gold rush, American universities are competing to set up outposts in countries with limited higher education opportunities. American universities — not to mention Australian and British ones, which also offer instruction in English, the lingua franca of academia — are starting, or expanding, hundreds of programs and partnerships in booming markets like China, India and Singapore.I'm seeing a lot of proposals like this being floated the Fletcher School, so it's not just engineering schools. Pretty much every professional school in the United States worth its salt is contemplating about these options
Is this good for the academy? Levin gets at this in a series of rhetorical questions:
Will the programs reflect American values and culture, or the host country’s? Will American taxpayers end up footing part of the bill for overseas students? What happens if relations between the United States and the host country deteriorate? And will foreign branches that spread American know-how hurt American competitiveness?My answers, in order:
1) The classroom culture and teaching style will likely reflect American values -- but there's no question that opening up an American-style university in Qatar is not the same thing as having these students attend an American-style university in America. On the other hand, it's not clear that this is an actual trade-off. More likely, the students attending these institutions would not have necessarily traveled to the U.S. under any circumstances.UPDATE: The Times runs the second part of Levin's reportage today -- and, if anything, it's more positive on points (1) and (2) than I am. posted by Dan on 02.10.08 at 04:16 PM
It's all good news, though one is left wondering if the current visa situation for students traveling to the US & working thereafter has had an influence, maybe it's just accelerated the demand vs being a major factor.posted by: Ngel on 02.10.08 at 04:16 PM [permalink]
The visa situation is an issue, no doubt. I wonder, though, if the decline of the dollar will slow this trend -- the US is not nearly as expensive as it used to be for many overseas students. At the current exchange rates, many institutions might do better attracting students here than expanding in relatively expensive overseas locations.posted by: mr punch on 02.10.08 at 04:16 PM [permalink]
Universities have every right to act like corporations... so long as they are taxed like them.
It is difficult to see how these activities are consistent with the non-profit missions of these universities that allow for tax-free status.
This should be reconsidered for at least ex-US operations, if not for the private university system as a whole.
Rampant cost increases, bloated endowments, off-shore facilities... the time is coming soon for major reform.posted by: anon on 02.10.08 at 04:16 PM [permalink]
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