How to take over the world

A handy guide to global domination

KPMG have produced a useful guide to universities looking to expand their international activities. Its Guiding Principles for Global Expansion offers some sensible advice for universities looking to develop their global operations and highlights a range of motivations for doing so:

Higher education institutions around the world are responding to the increasingly compelling drivers for the continued globalisation of their market, but, when planning transnational expansion, institutions do not always take the critical steps necessary to either maximize the opportunities or to manage the associated risks, according to ‘Extending the Campus,’ a new report from KPMG International.

The professional services firm asserts that transnational growth is driven by a host of factors:

  • Emerging markets with a growing middle-class aiming to enhance their economic development by attracting foreign institutions as well as investing in their own local education capabilities.
  • Institutions in mature markets, especially those impacted by austerity measures, responding to pressure on domestic enrolment and revenues by pursuing growth outside their immediate geographies.
  • A drive for global brand enhancement (and protection) to attract the highest calibre academics and researchers.
  • Increased demand by employers and students for global skills and experience. OECD data shows that growth in the number of students opting for an international higher education was at an annual rate of seven percent between 2000 and 2010.
  • Increasing global collaboration on research activities.

An essential part of the answer is, of course, to hire some capable advisors if you’re in this game.

The full report is available here. it does contain some sensible advice and any university looking to establish a significant international footprint will undoubtedly look to follow this path in some form or other as those in the case studies in the report have done. One of the key points stressed in the report is that international partnership activity is a long game and the timescales for engagement need to go way beyond the life of the next strategic plan. It’s a well-made argument.

From National to Global Universities

A nice piece from David Wheeler in the Chronicle of Higher Education on some of the challenges for universities in going global:

Universities, like companies, may need to make the transformation from being a national brand to being a global one. Siemens, once thought of as a German company, now says that it is “a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, operating in the industry, energy, and health-care sectors.”

Global brands can be adapted to various local markets, while still staying globally integrated. I just gave away a collection of international Coke cans, consisting of many different shapes and bearing Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish words, among others. But they were all instantly identifiable as Coke cans.

As some universities seek to be global, they often emphasize that a degree in one country will be exactly identical to a degree in another. I’m left wondering if a little more flexibility might be in order.

Human-resources departments may need to rise in importance as universities seek to become more global. The complexities of managing different people in different places are high, and human-resources departments, which are often simply the servants of academic departments at many universities, need to acquire and share their expertise on how to manage a mix of expatriates and local workers in a variety of countries.

I think this flexibility point is well made. Institutions do have to adapt to the environment in which they are operating. Education cannot be entirely context independent. Academic standards do, of course, have to be consistent. So, whilst term dates may be different and the timetable may look a little unusual, the curriculum, learning outcomes, assessment and examinations, admission requirements and academic staff qualifications, to name but a few components, do have to be directly comparable to ensure that the standards of awards and the quality of the student learning experience are maintained. These are fundamental to sustaining the institutional brand.

An earlier post noted the continued growth in branch campus developments by universities. All of the issues faced by global corporations, from maintaining the brand to developing HR operations, are shared by universities looking to grow a presence overseas. But it is very difficult to do this alone:

Lastly, I think that universities can learn from corporations about how to better manage partnerships. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say it: Universities approaching partners need to think of programs that would benefit both parties. Approaching a computer company and asking for money or machines to take back to the university doesn’t work for the company, without some benefit being offered. Companies have their own problems to solve.

The issue of partnerships is crucial. Any institution looking to establish a genuine global presence is not going to be able to do it alone and will in all likelihood require government backing as well as other partners to help with infrastructure development and navigating through a different policy and legal environment. None of this is straightforward but can be done and does bring rewards. In the long run.

There is an interesting link here to the recent story about the UK Universities Minister’s discussions with Goldman Sachs about ways to support offshoring opportunities for British HEIs. Branch campuses are not the solution to domestic economic travails but they are a serious option for universities looking to establish a global brand. Although there are many challenges associated with such developments, the benefits are significant.

Global Graduation Ceremonies

Graduation – anytime, anywhere

It is, in the UK at least, near the end of the season for graduation ceremonies. But as Nigel Thrift observed in a recent piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education there are likely to be ceremonies taking place across the globe, year round.

Graduates are getting younger every year...

Thrift notes that

the globalization of higher education means that it can no longer be assumed that all graduation ceremonies take place in one place. Making ceremonies in places which were not designed for the purpose can be a real challenge and simply having robes to hand does not work.

Probably, at some point during the year, somewhere in the world, there is a graduation ceremony taking place. At one time, it looked like these events might become a thing of the past but the apparatus of gowns, music, certificates, photographs, and films now just seems to keep on expanding. One for the anthropologists to explain.

It is perhaps strange how the traditions of the graduation ceremony have survived and indeed flourished across the world. However, as noted above, globalisation means that a lot of universities are now organising ceremonies in different parts of the globe. Wherever in the world the ceremonies are though they remain a major logistical exercise and a lot more effort than simply having the robes to hand (although that in itself can have a major impact on travelling staff luggage allowances).

At the University of Nottingham we have summer and winter ceremonies out our UK, China and Malaysia campuses (I think nearly 40 a year in total) and, despite all following the same rubric, they each have a distinctive character. And it is fair to say that the dress code in both China and Malaysia, where it tends to be a little bit warmer at this time of year, is generally rather more relaxed than in the UK. Perhaps a bit too relaxed at times – I do think we should draw the line at flip flops.

An alternative global ranking of universities?

European project launched to develop a new international league table

Global Higher Ed has a report on the decision by the European Commission to award a million euro tender to develop and test a global ranking of universities to a consortium of institutions:

globe-europe

The successful bid – the CHERPA network (or the Consortium for Higher Education and Research Performance Assessment), is charged with developing a ranking system to overcome what is regarded by the European Commission as the limitations of the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS-Times Higher Education schemes. The final product is to be launched in 2011.

CHERPA is comprised of a consortium of leading institutions in the field within Europe; all have been developing and offering rather different approaches to ranking over the past few years.

But will it fly as an alternative?

IREG, the International Observatory on Rankings, reports the details:

The European ranking system will be independent, “robust” and measure higher education’s core functions of research, teaching and outreach, says the tender’s terms of reference. It will cover all types of higher education institutions in and outside Europe – particularly in North America, Asia and Australia – and will enable comparisons and benchmarking of similar institutions at the institutional and field levels.

The basic approach underlying the project is to compare only institutions which are similar and comparable in terms of their missions and structures. Therefore the project is closely linked to the idea of a European classification (“mapping”) of higher education institutions developed by CHEPS. The feasibility study will include focused rankings on particular aspects of higher education at the institutional level (e.g., internationalization and regional engagement) on the one hand, and two field-based rankings for business and engineering programmes on the other hand.

The project will help institutions better position themselves and improve their development strategies, quality and performance. It will enable stakeholders, especially students, to make informed choices between institutions and programmes – which existing rankings do not do because they focus only on research and entire institutions.

The field-based rankings will each focus on a particular type of institution and will develop and test a set of indicators appropriate to these institutions. The rankings will be multi-dimensional and will – like the CHE ranking – use a grouping approach rather than simplistic league tables. In contrast to existing global rankings, the design will compare not only the research performance of institutions but will include teaching & learning as well as other aspects of university performance.

Will be interesting to see the outputs of this work but it will be a huge challenge for the new model to become a credible alternative to SJTU and THE world rankings.