Describe The Flow Of Economic Activity In A Market Economy Globalization: An Opportunity for Higher Education?

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Globalization: An Opportunity for Higher Education?

Globalization is a hot topic in the media and business these days. The Levin Institute of the State University of New York defines globalization as “the process of interaction and integration of people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.” [1]. The Internet was one of the innovations in information technology that ushered in a new era of international communication and commerce. It has enabled call centers in India, for example, to make customer service calls from anywhere in the world at competitive rates. Globalization has redefined entire industries, and the web has led to revolutions in many cases.

Now consider what the Internet has done for higher education. Today, it is possible for someone to complete an entire degree program from practically anywhere on the planet as long as there is access to a computer and internet connection. Whether you’re a busy professional or a stay-at-home mom, there’s no reason you can’t get a solid college education. This isn’t surprising unless you’ve lived in technological isolation. Why does this warrant another look? The cost of education is growing at an unsustainable pace. This inflationary pressure has given rise to many reasons for pause and reflection, leading some to drop out of college altogether. This is particularly problematic for a knowledge economy that depends on a highly educated workforce.

According to the College Board, in the United States for the 2011-12 academic year, the average state tuition fee for a four-year public university is $8,244 USD, or a 7.0% increase over the previous year. Based on this estimate, assuming one graduate in 4 years, the total cost of college education would be $32,976 USD (or $41,220 USD over 5 years). Tuition has grown an average of 5.6% per year more than general inflation in the United States over the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down. [2]. The global recession has forced governments everywhere to implement austerity measures to compensate for lost tax revenue; Higher education has fallen victim to these cuts. It happens more, even in Europe where admission is based on merit and requires the student to pay little, if any, fees. The UK has recently seen the introduction of premiums. The costs of maintaining these institutions of higher education are passed on to students in the form of higher education and student loans, which will stifle future economic growth. Traditionally, brick and mortar institutions have been limited to classroom space to ensure access to the best and the best, access standards have been enforced. But stricter access requirements translate into reduced access. In contrast, the Internet has changed this dynamic enabling almost unlimited access and the possibility of exploiting economies of scale.

Let’s take a look at a few online programs offered by institutions around the world and their estimated cost in US dollars (USD) It should not be meant to be a complete list or even a comparison of degree programs. Its purpose is to get one thinking about the possibility of online programs in an international rather than a regional context.

Western States University (USA)

  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Estimated Total Cost: $18,210 USD ($3,035 USD per term for 6 terms)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Estimated Total Cost: $25,500 USD ($4,250 USD per term for 6 terms)

Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh Business School) (Scotland, United Kingdom)

  • Master of Business Administration (General) – 9 Courses – Estimated Total Cost: $13,005 USD ($1,445 USD x 9 Courses)
  • Master of Business Administration (specializing in Marketing, Human Resources, Strategic Planning or Finance) – 11 Courses – Estimated Total Cost: $15,895 USD ($1,445 USD x 11 courses)

Central Queensland University (Australia)

  • Bachelor of Accounting – Estimated Total Cost: $10,275 USD

University of South Africa (UNISA) (South Africa)

  • International Marketing Certificate – Approximate Total Cost: $1,100 USD
  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Financial Management – Estimated Total Cost: $10,000 USD

As you can see from this short list, there is a variety of donations available in all hemispheres. If you simply start searching, you will surely find many reputable and affordable colleges and universities all available online.

Ignoring national boundaries for the sake of higher education may not be the answer to all the ills of the international higher education system. A multisite curriculum cannot be easily transferred to an online program; especially for subjects that require time in laboratories such as Chemistry or Medicine. There is such a thing as face-to-face contact in the classroom, too. The value of talking to friends is immeasurable. However, the possibility of offering online academic programs has not yet been fully realized. As learning management systems and online collaboration methods evolve, the ability to interact with peers in real time will become more popular, making the world our classroom. If we think and act globally, shouldn’t we also learn from the world?

When faced with budget cuts, colleges and universities have no choice but to cut costs or raise new revenue. The need for competition makes replacing (or augmenting) income a better option. Some universities have succeeded in commercializing their research by licensing intellectual property, publishing it and developing curricula for executive education programs. As many brick and mortar institutions have brought their curriculum online, it has not resulted in reduced tuition because the delivery system remains strong and the revenue model has not changed to focus on profit. The Universities of the Western Provinces, the University of South Africa and Heriot-Watt University all have different curriculum delivery methods and income models that merit further study.

Heriot-Watt University, for example, offers some of its courses in an asynchronous learning model that significantly reduces labor costs. Their distance learning program at Edinburgh Business School and the satellite campus in Dubai (another center is planned in Malaysia) generate revenues that go back to the home campus in Edinburgh. Capital improvements in infrastructure (new student housing, classroom space, curriculum placement and translation, etc.) and reinvestment in the community make students the beneficiaries of this benefit. Their distance learning system has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of students around the world. This scale takes advantage of economies of scale which enhances the profitability of the institution. At the same time, it offers wide access, flexibility and teaching at very competitive rates. [3]

If it is assumed that consumers are ready to participate in this global education market, the problem then becomes the criteria for evaluating the programs of colleges and universities on an international level. The quality of the materials, accreditation, popular students, peer interaction and, most importantly, the integrity of the assessment are all factors that must be considered. The quality of the material can be assessed by ensuring that the authors are recognized experts in their field. Accreditation by a government agency and/or an internationally recognized accreditation body is important to ensure continuity and sustainability. For example, Heriot-Watt University is accredited by a Royal Charter issued by the British government, and the University of the Western Region is regionally accredited by the North West Commission on Colleges and Universities, an accredited accrediting body in US Department of Education. Distinguished graduates can also be an indicator of the quality and rigor of an international university. Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are both graduates of the University of South Africa. Being able to interact with your peers can be a lifesaver when it comes to learning things you don’t know. This is one of the disadvantages of distance learning, but if it is possible to communicate with colleagues, then it is possible to get the answers you need. Perhaps one of the most important considerations is the integrity of the assessment. It should never be possible to refer to notes or get help during the investigation, or this should be an immediate cause for concern. The integrity of the testing centers is very important to the accuracy of the certificate. If the assessment is administered without control, it is not possible to ensure that one has managed the materials well. Heriot-Watt University and University of South Africa exams are held at exam centers around the world. These are often the same testing facilities that administer the GMAT, GRE and other standardized entrance exams that require a high level of security.

The foundation of higher education is to compete internally and externally to create an efficient market. Education cannot continue to grow at this rate without serious economic consequences in the future. Globalization represents an opportunity for higher education to expand into new markets and generate new revenue; enabling it to weather bad budgets, stabilize education costs and stimulate reinvestment in the environment. It also represents an opportunity to expand access to students and reduce the burden of student debt that creates cash flow to stimulate economic activity. A side benefit will be increased awareness and appreciation of international issues.


[1] Levin Institute, Globalization Defined:

[2] College Board, US 2011-12 college cost trends

[3] The story of Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School as told by Dr. Keith Lumsden:

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