Fascinating article in the Sunday New York Times, kicking off a series on globalization and higher education. Did you know, for instance, in Doha, Qatar, you can get a Cornell, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth, or Texas A&M degree?
American universities – even public higher education institutions – are trying to create a global brand for themselves, despite the difficulties of meeting local requirements and transitioning faculty and staff, in the hopes of attracting new funding opportunities and more students globally.
There are plenty of downsides and upsides to mull over when we're talking about public and private American institutions establishing comprehensive higher education campuses in far flung locales, but one thing is clear. As universities from the United States, Australia, England and other countries seek to market their global brand, higher education will increasingly be approached as a profit-making business instead of as a public good. This is particularly worrisome when we consider that higher education is one of the "service sectors" that the United States is considering offering under WTO GATS jurisdiction.
Given the perils of permanently binding important, regulated services to WTO rules, offering higher education would be a mistake – if not so obviously now, then certainly in the future. The lines between "public" and "private" are blurry in higher education, and locking our education policies to a set of trade rules would unnecessarily constrain our policy space and further undermine public education down the road.