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The most successful efforts at going global have begun as government sponsored projects or donor-supported strategic initiatives or piggybacked on a research agenda.

The military has for decades provided its personnel with access to American universities abroad and many of them have accomplished a great deal with it.  The University of Maryland University College, which is today’s America’s largest State university, with 90,000 students and one of the best strategic actors in higher education in the nation, began marketing to military personnel early and these military students supported the university’s expansion into Europe and Asia. Their involvement with the military goes beyond finding a new market; it extends into the academics of the university with prominent programs in Military Sociology and Social Psychology, supporting their work.

Major gifts to colleges and universities targeted to international programs have subsidized higher education ventures abroad for many years and these have helped universities establish collaborations and contacts abroad, which in some cases have resulted in self-sustaining ventures. Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York and Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri are two examples.

A research agenda, such as Georgia State University’s, carried out with collaboration from scientists abroad, have resulted in the enrollment of graduate students from the host country and this enrollment has led to research and teaching campuses abroad.

Universities like to sign agreements with foreign partners but these, in and of themselves, seldom produce results. I once worked at a university, which had over 300 agreements with foreign universities and ninety-nine percent of them were inactive. The benefit to both universities from such agreements is a ceremony, which is recorded and published for the benefit of the institutions’ prestige and this is usually all that executives on both campuses are seeking. If it happens that the agreement turns into programs; that is also good.

If you are a unique institution, rare in your own field, narrow rather than broad in curriculum and appeal, going abroad will be simpler. If you were a Julliard School for example, your pre-eminence and specialized curriculum would find you partners in foreign governments and institutions.

Or you could go to a place with a very large and increasing demand for higher education and an insufficient supply. If you have faculty with language skills in Portuguese, enough to field a team, you might want to explore Brazil. The more prestigious public universities cannot enroll all who qualify and a greater percentage qualifies every year. In Brazil private institutions are doing very well even though they are, for the most part, not considered prestigious. An American brand will do well in this climate, with the caveat that language skills and cultural awareness are two sine qua non.

Global strategies are long-term strategies and the most successful evolve rather than are planted whole. New York University is entering the Emirates with a new very expensive building, a stellar world-class faculty, research facilities and support (last week they announced the first $20 million in internal grants) and the goal of attracting similarly stellar world-class students, which would help it become “The World’s Honors College.”

In order to do that NYU and the Emirates will have to spend well over $100 million. Amy Gibson commenting on my Global Strategies Part I blog pointed out that NYU is coming into the Emirates at the same time that George Mason is leaving, unable to attract enough students and weary of government intrusion. I don’t know NYU’s business plan or how deep their pockets are, but the outlines of their ambitious plan suggest that they will be operating at a financial loss for a decade or more. That’s not what I meant by a long-term strategy.                                                                      Last in the Global Strategies series

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