British universities and colleges are poorly organised to take advantage of the globalisation of higher education. So warns a discussion paper on higher education in the 21st century prepared by Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, and presented to a meeting of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals last week.
The paper identifies issues facing the higher education sector, the key one being globalisation: "Higher education is not immune to the forces of globalisation so apparent in the world of business and commerce."
Research-led universities have long competed at the international level. However, institutions that attract local students could also be forced to compete globally. "In the future, why should a mature, part-time student enrol on a mediocre MBA at the University of Poppleton when they could take an MBA from Harvard or MIT over the internet?" Preparing to compete globally will cost money but it is unlikely that the state will provide this investment. Institutions will have to raise the money themselves, either from students or through developing private sector partnerships.
The CVCP has commissioned a study on the threat of overseas institutions offering courses via the internet and is looking at creating a task group to examine the challenges highlighted in the paper.