Tuition fees, widening participation and the debate over research funding have turned the UK into a laboratory for overseas professionals to learn about managing higher education.
Four experienced university managers from the US, Japan, Switzerland and Ireland are travelling to London to take a two-year part-time MBA in higher education that focuses on how to run UK institutions.
The course at the Institute of Education, University of London, has been running for the past three years, but this year's intake is the first to include international students, including a manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Paul Temple, programme manager of the MBA, said the international students saw the UK as a test-bed for higher education reform. He added: "In the past we've done a kind of anti-marketing when it comes to overseas students. When we get calls, we've pointed out it's a UK programme, dealing with UK problems aimed at UK higher education managers. Of course, it's important to have an international perspective; we certainly don't want to be insular, and there is a lot to learn from the approach of organisations overseas.
"But the purpose of the programme is not to discuss higher education internationally, it's to deal with the problems that managers in the UK have."
The course covers higher education strategy, financial management, managing teaching and research, corporate governance and marketing. It has attracted students from different aspects of university life - from librarians to estate managers.
But each student on the programme has at least four years' experience of higher education management.
Dr Temple said: "It has been tough for our overseas people with the other students leaping straight into discussions about Hefce, QAA, TQA and so on.
But they make interesting observations about how UK practice compares with their own system."