International race for students is heating up: Donald Johnston
The following is an excerpt from a speech given by the Hon. Donald J. Johnston, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on Oct. 20. The address was part of a symposium at Concordia on the internationalization of education surrounding the installation of the new president.
In the future, countries might continue to have very different higher education systems in terms of access, funding, quality assurance and management.
Many anglophone countries, plus a few emerging economies (such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Singapore), will continue to be the main players in the international market for higher education, which might become a service industry.
Perhaps individual national systems of quality assurance and recognition of qualifications will be established and play an important role in regulating the international mobility of students and highly skilled personnel. Recognition of the foreign qualifications of students and workers in most fields might remain a complicated process, without any genuinely common international standard for assessing higher education qualifications.
Another possibility is that the competition for attracting full-fee-paying foreign students will grow considerably, and anglophone countries will lose market share to other OECD countries in the international higher education market.
Under this scenario, we could see increased coordination of quality assessment criteria and procedures and the recognition of qualifications. In some cases, supra-national agencies or professional bodies might gain the authority to recognize higher education qualifications at a supra-national level, especially in the regulated professions.
“India may become the main provider of cross-border higher education in the world.”
Yet another possibility is that former emerging economies will have established their own competitive higher education systems, both in terms of quality and price.
The provision of foreign providers would have been adjusted to the needs of the emerging economies, both in terms of meeting the demand for highly skilled workers and to reflect the social and cultural customs of each country.
As a result, the quality of higher education will have improved dramatically in these countries, and the brain drain of students and highly skilled personnel might decline, as many of their nationals would remain after completion of their studies. In this scenario, India might become the main provider of cross-border higher education in the world.
This seems to be happening already in medicine, where a number of emerging economies, including Saudi Arabia, are receiving foreigners for various treatments and surgery at very competitive prices.
Why would the same phenomenon not be seen in education? Higher education institutions in traditional OECD countries would lose financial resources from international students, putting pressure for more government funding to fill the gap.
What would be best for the world? What would be best for Concordia and other higher education institutions in Canada and in the OECD area? And how could we make our best scenario happen?
Answering these questions will keep us busy in the coming years, especially you educators.