Transnational Education
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Thoughts, research, current events, and instructional models -- for accredited degree programs delivered internationally

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Exporting Higher Education: Introduction

"It would probably surprise most college admissions officials to learn that when accepting a foreign student for study in the U.S., she or he is committing an export,"

Robert Vastine, president of the
U.S. Coalition of Service Industries,
OECD/US Forum on Trade in Educational Services.

It is somewhat counterintuitive to think of the economic impact of foreign nationals studying in the US as a US export. It is a service delivered domestically, but it creates an in-flow of funds from abroad. Most exports are delivered to the purchaser. In the case of Higher Education, the purchasers tend to come and pick it up, which can take years.

This dynamic puts US colleges and universities in an enviable position. There are very few products or services for which consumers will leave their country of origin in order to pay premium rates and do hard work over a long period of time. Since the late 1990s, about 1.5 million students have made this choice every year, with approximately one-third them opting for American campuses, the most popular destination in the world higher education market. As a result, Higher Education is the fifth largest service sector export in the American economy, with a $76B international surplus as recently as 2000.

In fact, almost all information on the internationalization of higher education is derived from this slightly strange and limited view of exported services – studying in a foreign country. Referred to as "Consumption Abroad" in the basic GATS taxonomy of services, it represents just one of the four major categories. However, it has the advantage of good data, collected by UNESCO and many national organizations. Activities such as the "Cross Border Supply" of higher educational services are difficult to track and international data is almost nonexistent, particularly for the US. Researchers such as Larsen (2002) have concluded that "it is sometimes impossible to identify trade in educational services using standard statistics on services trade." Thus, economic estimates of US higher education's international position almost never include any of the different formats through which distance education services are delivered.

One might think that universities would want to address this data deficiency and perhaps give themselves even more stature as a service exporter, but there is no interest in doing so. Higher Education in the US continues to be preoccupied with campus-based services. The absolute focus on bringing overseas students to America as the export strategy reflects this narrow view of internationalization.

posted by Dr. Nickel at 7:00 AM | Link | Comments

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Tom Nickel
TNE Lead Blogger
Guangzhou, PRC
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