Exporting Higher Education: Moving Off-Campus?
With rare exceptions, American Universities have never been organized to deliver services off-campus. Some universities, particularly land grants, operate huge outreach programs within their home state. But structurally, university extension divisions tend to be appendages, attached to the main academic body, rather than an inherent part of it. This relationship reflects a deep misgiving about any form of accredited higher education which does not involve non-mediated contact between a credentialed and qualified instructor and the students. Homage is paid to the need reach out and serve more people, even though the prevailing belief is that non-classroom instruction must be second rate.
While this view may be widely shared among American educators, practices are quite different outside the US, where educational opportunity is not sustained for so many years at such a high level. Of necessity, other nations have developed different models of higher education, in which non-residential, non-campus formats are more than a mere appendage. The Open University movement in general and the British Open University (BOU) in particular feature a wide range of instructional techniques developed specifically for off-campus delivery. In the case of the BOU, these techniques are used domestically – and also to deliver services internationally; that is, to export higher education services through methods other than Consumption Abroad.
Many Australian institutions of Higher Education have also focused on other export categories. While Consumption Abroad of higher education represents 12% of Australia's service exports, the highest in the world, universities there are actively engaged in service delivery to Asia. In one of the few studies ever conducted on Cross Border Supply of Higher Education services, the Australian Vice-Chancellor's Committee found almost 32,000 Australian University students in off-shore programs in 1999, approximately one-third of the total foreign students studying in Australia. Off-shore programs often involve commercial arrangements with foreign organizations and are considered a third mode of service delivery – Commercial Presence.
Both the Cross-Border Supply and Commercial Presence modes are fertile areas for growth – and thus, for instructional technology. American universities might need to look beyond Consumption Abroad and consider these other approaches for several reasons:
(1) Although Consumption Abroad as a US educational export category grew rapidly in the 1980s and early 1990s, since the mid-1990s, the growth rate has slowed down significantly, (BP p5). The majority of the earlier growth came from Asia, paralleling the growth of many Asian economies during that period. The forces that propelled the growth can no longer be counted on to support thousands of young Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais, and Koreans on US campuses.
(2) Major barriers have emerged in the US to the entry of foreign students. As a part of the American response to the events of September 11, 2001, student visa delays and denials have increased dramatically. In addition, the SEVIS tracking system, to be implemented by September, 2003, puts a major burden on international students and US colleges and universities. Administrative obstacles and reporting requirements may make the US a less attractive destination than it it has been for the past several decades.
(3) Universities within the European Union (EU) are organizing themselves to attract international students to the campuses of EU member nations. Known as the Bologna Process, after the Bologna Declaration of 1999, Ministries of Education throughout Europe are creating a European Higher Education Zone, featuring a European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The ECTS will be a powerful recruitment mechanism and an excellent example of market-focused educational policymaking.