Exporting American Higher Education Around the World

Globalization of Higher Education Conference—Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 2

While the first day of the conference focused largely on the disruptive technologies that are transforming higher education, the second day concentrated on the exporting of online learning to better serve students around the world.

U.S. colleges and universities are far younger than many European universities—including conference co-sponsor, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, which was founded in 1448. Yet, the U.S. higher education system and its many brands have established themselves as the gold standard for delivering exceptional education worldwide.

In his remarks, Dr. Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and TIME magazine editor-at-large, echoed this idea by recounting his own experience of being a young boy in India in the 1970s determined to attend college in the U.S. While many like Zakaria have the opportunity to come to America to participate in the U.S. higher education system, there are millions more who lack access.

Higher Education Drives Economic Growth

Former President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe discussed how the path to education, or lack thereof, affects young students seeking advanced degrees. In Colombia, however, the challenge extends beyond getting a degree. “It’s very common to see lawyers as taxi drivers and medical doctors working in hotels,” Uribe said. “We need to tackle this problem.”

Today’s noted leaders from academia, business, and government emphasized that it is the middle class that helps drive economic growth and education is the gateway to open doors to better opportunities.

Robert Zoellick, former president of The World Bank, spoke of the way this connection (or the lack thereof) impacts the middle class, and in turn, influences a country’s economic growth. “Tertiary education leads to higher employment rates and earnings,” explained Zoellick. “Social mobility is enhanced, and the children of these graduates have better prospects, too.”

New Models of Learning

Online learning has become a viable path to educating the middle class, whether that is extending skills and training in specific areas or in attaining educational degrees. According to a panel of higher education leaders, the world turns to U.S. universities for creating these models of learning.

Moderated by Inside Higher Ed Founder and Editor Scott Jaschik, the panelists included David Leebron, president of Rice University; Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of the University of California at Berkley; and James Ryan, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The world is looking to the U.S. for the game-changing technologies that have emerged in the digital information space. According to Leebron, however, U.S. universities must also be prepared to look beyond the technological changes to also address the cultural, institutional, and organizational changes as well.

Looking ahead, international partnerships will continue to be the catalyst in fostering cross-border education, noted speakers Sir John Daniel and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić. Sir John is the former CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning and is a world-renowned expert on distance learning, while Uvalić-Trumbić is the former chief of higher education at UNESCO.

“Partnerships are right in principle and effective in practice,” said Sir John. “The combination of an international brand and a credible local partner is very powerful.”