Daniel. J. (2011) The Role of For-Profit Higher Education Commonwealth of Learning, April 7
Sir John Daniel, the President of the Commonwealth of Learning, reports on a meeting on Exploring the Future of International For-Profit Higher Education and Quality Assurance organized by UNESCO and the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
John Daniel comments:
Many developing countries will not be able to respond to the burgeoning demand for higher education without recourse to the private sector, so the question is not whether to recognise private institutions but how to position them in higher education systems in ways that optimise their contribution to the public good…..
The discussion showed that the for-profit sector can deliver education in the public interest. Accreditation and quality assurance are important services to the public and are helping to make governments more comfortable with a variety of business models in higher education. It is important to pursue the dialogue about for-profit education within the academy as well as with governments. This will help to build bridges and increase trust.
I agree that for developing countries, both private and public systems have important roles to play in enabling the development of learning and education. Nevertheless I would add two important caveats.
First, the primary goal should be to develop a high quality public education system that is open to all, irrespective of income, race or caste. Private education may be a useful intermediary step for those able to afford it until the state can provide universal good quality education, but by definition private education cannot provide for all potential learners, and if it becomes too strong it can undermine a state system.
Second, US-based for-profit organizations continue to struggle exporting their model to other countries. This is not because they are for-profit (or US-based), but because education has strong cultural and local roots and hence is difficult (but not impossible) to transfer successfully between countries.
Education needs to be adapted to the local needs of developing countries if it is to succeed. This usually means locally produced content, and the development of a professionally strong local teaching force. International collaboration and partnership may provide valuable assistance to this process, but the development of a strong, autonomous indigenous educational system should be the ultimate goal, not the marketing of Western-based teaching content (whether open source or commercial).
Lastly, the advertisement below from the HSBC Bank serves a welcome reminder that the internationalization of education is not just one way. Indian instructors are playing an important role in educating US students: