1,300 universities, one shared fear: the commodification of education

IAU study identifies threats and opportunities of internationalisation

April 5, 2014

Universities across the world fear the “commodification and commercialisation of education”, according to a new survey.

The International Association of Universities has polled 1,336 institutions across 131 countries to gauge their views on the internationalisation of higher education – through placements abroad, research collaboration and overseas students.

“They express concern about equal access to international opportunities for all students and about the commodification and commercialisation of education,” the IAU’s report says.

Universities “are also preoccupied that more competition among higher education institutions will arise as a result of internationalization,” it adds.

Concerns were also raised about “gaps in quality and/or prestige among institutions in a given country.”

Just over half of the respondents said that their university had a policy or strategy for internationalisation, and another 22 per cent said they were preparing one.

Yet fewer than one in six universities said that internationalisation “forms part of the overall institutional strategy”.

The growth of international dual, double or joint degrees, “may be losing momentum”, according to the report Internationalization of Higher Education: Growing expectations, fundamental values.

The results also show that universities in different regions hope to gain different things from international engagement.

In the Asia Pacific region and North America the top ranked benefit was increasing students’ international awareness, while in Europe and the Middle East, institutions hoped to improve the quality of their teaching and learning.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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