The author explains his book on international education

Richard J. Joseph’s new book, Bridging the Gap Between America’s Abundance of Talent in Higher Education and Huge Foreign Demand: The Great Chasm in Global Education (Oxford University Press) is not your standard book on international education. Joseph bases his arguments on “the world of finance,” although he thinks this focus will produce other desirable results. Joseph was formerly President of Babson Global, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Babson College that works primarily with educational institutions around the world to design programs and improve the capacity to deliver educational services that extend Babson College’s reach. He was also provost of Bryant University and Hult International Business School.

Joseph answered questions about his new book via email.

Q: What is the “great chasm” and how do you propose to fill it?

A: The gap between the abundance of American talent in higher education and the immense foreign demand is the great chasm in global education… The abundance of talent stems from the slowing growth of the American higher education sector during the new millennium. Stagnant enrollment, unfavorable demographic trends, US visa restrictions, and heightened competition are contributing to the slowdown. Huge foreign demand has been fueled by the expansion of the global economy over the past few decades. It was shaped by the pressing need in emerging markets to develop an educated workforce.

American colleges and universities can bridge the chasm by partnering with other academic institutions and multinational corporations, foreign governments, and/or private investors to provide higher education services to members of the international community. These services go beyond course offerings and study abroad. They include program design and development, academic advisory services, project development, management, and technology transfer.

Closing the great chasm, however, is no easy task for most American colleges and universities. It is complicated by an institutional culture resistant to commercialization, an operationally slow organizational structure and a system of governance that often leads to indecision, conflict and paralysis…

Q: You write that your arguments come from the world of finance, not from philosophy. Why?

A: Because in higher education, the “world of finance” supports the “world of ideas”. Not to diminish the importance of philosophy, in my book I take a materialistic approach to the challenges facing American colleges and universities in the changing landscape of higher education. I argue that only a strong economic infrastructure (i.e. the world of finance) can allow the ideological superstructure (i.e. the world of ideas) of American higher education to thrive. Indeed, a solid infrastructure makes possible the proliferation of educational, professional and academic opportunities for teachers, scholars, researchers and students.

Further, I argue that if, in this changing landscape, the economic substructure of the American higher education sector is not strengthened, its ideological superstructure, which encompasses teaching, learning, research, scholarship, the creation of knowledge and the search for truth, will lose its momentum – not for the elite of American colleges and universities, but rather for the vast majority (the emphasis is on the “vast majority”, because the elite few are relatively better off than the 4,000 mid- to lower-level establishments, some of which operate at the fringe). Closing the gap between the abundance of American talent in higher education and the immense foreign demand is a way to strengthen the economic understructure of American higher education, to improve the financial situation of the vast majority of colleges and American universities; strengthen the vibrancy of teaching, learning, scholarship, and knowledge creation in the United States; and promote the spread of liberal and democratic ideals globally.

Q: What should colleges do beyond recruiting international students?

A: First, to support their activities in the world of ideas, they must seek alternative sources of income. Tuition fees are only one source. Its overall level was negatively impacted by unfavorable demographic trends and tightening visa restrictions in the United States. (In light of the current political climate in the country, these restrictions are unlikely to ease significantly anytime soon.) The current malaise in the higher education sector in the United States is indicative of stagnating enrollment, the escalation of discount rates, the decrease in margins, the drop in profitability per establishment. and diminishing returns per employee (all discussed in my book). These trends risk eroding the economic foundation of the sector, which underpins the entire ideological superstructure of American higher education.

Second, they should consider exporting their services overseas on the basis that if due to tighter US visa restrictions the whole world cannot come to America for higher education, then colleges and American universities should extend American higher education to the whole world. Indeed, if incoming student mobility has been restricted, outgoing institutional mobility should be facilitated. International expansion promises to create a pathway out of the impasses that American colleges and universities currently face in a slow-growing, crowded, and highly competitive domestic market. This path leads to emerging higher education markets in East, South and Southeast Asia; the Arab world ; and Latin America, currently valued at over $1.7 billion.

Third, they need to look closely at their traditional business model(s) for delivering higher education. As mentioned, the prototypical model is characterized by an institutional culture opposed to commercialization, an operationally slow organizational structure and a governance system that often leads to conflict, indecision and paralysis. These characteristics constitute obstacles to international expansion.

That’s not to say that all American colleges and universities should “go global.” Each institution must decide for itself, depending on its particular situation. Nor is it to imply that entry into one or more foreign markets is the only option available to US colleges and universities, or even the best option in all situations. Certainly, there are other options, such as launching new programs, discontinuing unprofitable ones, adopting new modes of delivery, expanding ancillary services, and tapping into new segments. of the internal market. Rather, it is to offer an international option to improve the financial situation of American colleges and universities and present it as a general proposal…

Q: You talk about ethical issues in international higher education. Do you favor American campuses in China? Do you support American universities cutting ties with Russia?

A: Your questions raise an ethical dilemma that I address squarely in my book: the propriety of providing higher education in countries whose policies or practices conflict with American liberal values.

Opinions differ. Some say this is tantamount to endorsing or condoning improper conduct. Some might go further and argue that it makes an academic institution complicit in what are essentially criminal acts. For many in this camp, the “right” course of action is to boycott the country. This would send a powerful message to the repressive regime, forcing it to rethink its unacceptable practices and policies.

Others argue that the primary duty of any college or university is to fulfill its mission. This mission is to educate and enlighten, not to engage in foreign policy. Besides, they might point out, most of the citizens of the foreign country had nothing to do with the deplorable acts of their government. Indeed, they could well be the victims. So, in a sense, to educate and enlighten them is to empower them, to equip them with the ideological weapons necessary to fight government repression.

In the final analysis, American colleges and universities must decide for themselves, based on their own mission, purpose, values, and needs. And all of their stakeholders should be comfortable with that decision.

Q: Some may look at the world today, with the war in Ukraine and global inflation, and think that maybe now is the time to focus on their home country. Why should some institutions go global?

A: For three reasons:

First, globalization could improve their financial situation in the context of an almost static and slowly growing domestic market. Faced with the intensification of competition on this market, the alternatives available to them at home are becoming increasingly rare.

Second, arguably, they have an altruistic calling – a moral imperative, if you will – to educate and enlighten others in the global community. Internationally, American colleges and universities are at the forefront of teaching, research, and scholarship. In light of their preeminent position, as well as this moral imperative, they can and should play an even greater role in spreading American higher education around the world.

Third, by strengthening the economic substructure of the American higher education sector, the globalization of American colleges and universities could reinforce America’s critical role in knowledge creation, intellectual advancement, and the pursuit of truth. This is especially crucial at present, in light of a shifting international balance of power, the rise of alternative ideological systems, and threats to a liberal world order. Like higher education in other Western societies, American higher education is steeped in the ideals of a democratic society. Spreading these ideals throughout the world is not only noble but also vital to the future of this order.

This does not mean that American colleges and universities should strive to impose the American way of life on the rest of the world, which amounts to cultural imperialism. Rather, it is to say that they must strive to strengthen a liberal world order in which men and women can seek the truth freely, without fear and on the basis of their own cultural values.

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