Global Classrooms in the Desert

Both the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times bring an article by Tamar Lewin on universities rushing to set up outposts abroad. It presents an illustrative overview of the risks, benefits and the viability of institutional globalisation in higher education. If, after reading the article, you are left with any pressing questions, the NYT gives you the opportunity to pose them dirteclty to Charles E. Thorpe, the dean of Carnegie Mellon in Qatar (ht: globalhighered). To get you started, here are some interesting quotes that provide food for thought:

Howard Rollins, the former director of international programs at Georgia Tech, which has degree programs in France, Singapore, Italy, South Africa and China, and plans for India:

“Where universities are heading now is toward becoming global universities. We’ll have more and more universities competing internationally for resources, faculty and the best students.”

Susan Jeffords, vice provost for global affairs of the University of Washington, about the increase in demand for higher education from overseas students:

“It’s almost like spam”

Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania:

“I still think the downside is lower than the upside is high. The risk is that we couldn’t deliver the same quality education that we do here, and that it would mean diluting our faculty strength at home.”

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who has criticized the rush overseas:

“A lot of these educators are trying to present themselves as benevolent and altruistic, when in reality, their programs are aimed at making money.

I’m someone who believes that Americans should watch out for Americans first. It’s one thing for universities here to send professors overseas and do exchange programs, which do make sense, but it’s another thing to have us running educational programs overseas.”

David J. Skorton, the president of Cornell, explaining that the global drive benefits the United States:

“Higher education is the most important diplomatic asset we have. I believe these programs can actually reduce friction between countries and cultures.”

Edward Guiliano, President of the New York Institute of Technology, with programs in Bahrain, Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Brazil and China:

“We’re leveraging what we’ve got, which is the New York in our first name and the Technology in our last name. I believe that in the 21st century, there will be a new class of truly global universities. There isn’t one yet, but we’re as close as anybody.”

Clearly, institutional globalisation provides many opportunities, not just for making extra bucks, but also for creating academic, cultural and political ties for the future and for meeting the demand in countries that cannot meet the rising demand themselves. At the same time, recent history has shown that the commercial viability of such ventures are at least doubtful…

UPDATE: it appears to be a hot item in the US. The NY Times had a follow up article on the issue and Inside HigherEd has an article on US branch campuses in China.

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