Dr Rahul Choudaha writes about the franchising trends of the British, Australian and American Higher Education on his blog. This presents two interesting pieces of statistics: First, the British HE classroom is far more global than the American (15% international students in the system compared to USA's 3%,), and the second, a fact which is becoming apparent now, that more international students study for a British Higher Education degree outside Britain than inside it. In fact, this is a recent trend: In 2010, for the first time, the number of offshore students exceeded the number of students studying for British Higher Education degrees in Britain. However, the number is large: Out of a total 814, 495 international students studying for a British qualification, 408,685 was offshore, which is about half the number (slightly higher). Australia, despite a higher proportion of international students in country (21% as opposed to Britain's 15% mentioned earlier), has less students studying offshore (31% of total international students compared to Britain's 50%+).
The success in British degrees delivered offshore has come with the opening of international campuses, first in Malaysia and Hong Kong, then China, and now spreading into other countries like Sri Lanka and India. Much of this expansion has come through franchising, where a local partner puts up the money and infrastructure, and the British university allows them to deliver their degree through validation or franchising (a distinction I shall return to soon), though some of the Malaysian campuses have been funded by the universities themselves. However, this successful commercial model raised many concerns, primarily from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which seems to have grown a dislike of the validated programmes, first admonishing University of Wales (UoW) and then Leeds Metropolitan University over the last summer, for their activities in Thailand and India respectively. Dr Choudaha also points to an article by Phiip Altbach, where he talked about 'McDonaldization' of Higher Education, primarily referring to the franchise model so favoured by British universities.
Dr Altbach has been an astute observer of the global growth of Higher Education, and indeed, of its fastest growing phenomenon, the For Profit sector. His observations are right on the money: The franchise model, which will only grow further as getting a student visa to Britain becomes more difficult (the Home Office reported a 13% drop in 2011, and a more dramatic drop is surely on its way as the visa regime further tightens in April 2012). His observation that while taking out a McDonald's franchise (and for that matter, any good brand name franchise) cost a significant amount of money, in terms of infrastructure and franchise fees (hovering around $1 Million), the university franchising is very cheap, requiring only some rented space and some fees and expenses paid to the university.
Here, an important distinction must be made to the two formats of franchising the British universities have done so far. One model is franchising, where a degree, offered by the university, is also delivered by the franchise partner in an offshore location. The university sets the curriculum and the term dates (though there may be some flexibility subject to discussion), oversees the delivery of the programme through 'link tutors' (members of the faculty who do the academic coordination) and sets or approves the assessments. The university also sets the admission criteria, though these are usually accompanied with a catch-all 'widening participation' clause, which allows the partner to take in people who may otherwise be left out. In most cases, the university sets a minimum number per course, but more often than not, they forget to put any maximum.
There are indeed some inherent limitations of this franchising model. This is what Dr Altbach primarily refers to in his McDonaldization essay: This model is about literally delivering courses what the university delivers in their home country. One could argue that this is the essence of the offering, that offshore students want to do a British degree. However, questions can be raised how much value a degree set in local context of Britain (with its attendant readings and assessments) offer to the students studying at an offshore location, often in a surrounding much unlike the university and taught by people steeped in a different cultural environment.
Some of these issues are addressed by the other model of validation, which has found favours with some universities. With this model, university assumes the role of quality assurance and oversight of the programme, but the curriculum is written by the partner, often contextualised to their local environment and built with inputs from local tutoring team. The partner sets the term dates and admission criteria in discussion with the university, and can propose various Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) arrangements. The university has oversight of the delivery, but are more closely involved in assessments, whereby any assessment carrying more than a certain weight is approved by university appointed external examiners and overseen by a moderator. All award boards are also attended by external examiners and moderator, and decisions and reviews are made through Joint Study Boards (JBS).
In many a sense, this is what Dr Altbach alludes to in his essay, as a model akin to Intercontinental Hotels. This has worked very well for many partners and universities, and the University of Wales (UoW) made millions out of this model (despite pricing themselves wrongly) before it all came tumbling down as they lost control over the channel. The problem is, while validation is possibly a better model for international expansion, with various scandals, QAA has taken a deep dislike of this: With UoW suddenly admitting guilt and overturning the validation model in favour of franchising (which will come in play in September 2013), and Leeds Met getting lambasted for their validation activities by QAA, the universities are expected to move away from this model altogether. So, despite this being a more potent form of arrangement, we are likely to see a greater growth of franchising, and faster McDonaldization, than there should have been.
This is problematic, because the universities tend to be quite bad at franchising in the first place. Apart from their inability to set the qualifying criteria for the partners right and failure to protect their brands when a partner fails to do their part (For example, the TASMAC failure, which I wrote about before), they are quite bad at setting the prices and adapting to a risk-based, shared revenue model. Usually run by respective faculties and their staff members, the franchising operations of the universities are unable to navigate the business realities of the franchised operations, have very little ideas or concerns about the partner's commercial model and financial exposure, and very little resources are dedicated in monitoring the partner's activity or to support the partner with training or information. Finally, most British universities, despite their student mix, are surprisingly outdated in their world view, and view most of the other countries with a sort of colonialist's perception, which leads them to overlook important trends and opportunities.
So, what we get in the end is an inefficient model, but with all the problems that a successful 'McDonaldization' will mean. George Ritzer's four aspects of McDonaldization of society mar the McDonaldization of education, too: Efficiency, defined in a very specific sense at the expense of everything else, gets defined as student completion, resulting in the creation of a degree sausage machine; Calculability comes in the form of the invoice that the university sends out, the more the merrier even if there is no space to sit in the classrooms; Predictability takes away the joys of learning and exploration, so much a core proposition to undergraduate student experience, and is delivered in terms of standard, but out of context, readings and assessments; and finally, control is exercised by the University and its representatives, often a faculty member not fit to teach on the University's home programmes and who loves his/her curry and yearly shopping trips to exotic locations, to ensure that 'heathens' are following the rules. Quality and the experience are bandied about, but are conveniently kept vague.
It is a strange success. We need more transnational partnerships in education, not less. We need opening of the minds and building of the bridges. But this needs to be a two way process, not one. We need a radically different approach than McDonaldization: Not a standard model implanted elsewhere where people will pay for it, but an eclectic adaptation of the best things of British education for the culture and context of the host country. It makes interesting reading to see how the Founding fathers of the first American colleges, Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Princeton, followed the Oxbridge model in their architecture, but rejected the faculty-run model and built a strong central administrative control and a powerful Presidency. They contextualized model and created the foundations of a Higher Education system which will become the best in the world. Indeed, this needs to start with the recipients, with a debate in host countries what kind of education they need. The British HE has much to offer to the rest of the world; the McDonaldization is only undermining its value.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.