Building Capacity through Cross-Border University Training

Education is an essential foundation for personal, social and economic success in a globalised economy. But how can developing countries offer enough education, particularly quality tertiary education, to their citizens to enable them to play a full part in creating and enjoying such success? A policy brief, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), examines different models of "cross-border higher education" and outlines the benefits and risks associated with each. The authors discuss two approaches widely used in South-East Asia — sending students abroad to study, and inviting foreign institutions to run courses locally. Although sending students abroad is widely recognised as a way of accessing new knowledge and research methods, the approach runs the risk of increasing brain drain, warn the authors. The benefits of inviting in foreign institutions are less obvious but can help expand higher education systems and build capacity. In Malaysia, for example, foreign providers accounted for 34 per cent of bachelor and postgraduate programmes in the private education sector in 2006. Making it work requires a suitable regulatory framework for foreign institutes that considers issues of accreditation, quality assurance, recognition of foreign qualifications and access to public funds. The authors identify commercial education as a threat to least developed countries, arguing that cross-border education could become an export industry for some donor nations — at the expense of development assistance. Signing up to international trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services, could help countries attract foreign investment in higher education. Mobility of students, academics, educational programmes and institutions in both directions should be considered in every country’s strategy for building a better-educated citizenry. This is especially true for the developing world where countries are often unable to meet domestic demand for tertiary education, but it is also true for OECD countries when it comes to improving the quality of higher education. This “capacity-building” approach to cross-border higher education aims to bridge the gap between supply and demand in developing countries, as well as to build these countries’ domestic capacity to provide good quality higher education.

The policy brief can be accessed from OECD: