Continuing dilemmas for higher education in 2018

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Political influences are impacting higher education internationalisation and they are likely to intensify in years to come. At present, the largest host country – United States, is experiencing an observed drop in international student numbers. Political factors in the United States have been said to not be the sole reason for the decline in international student numbers. The end of Brazil’s extensive overseas scholarship programme, decrease in Saudi Arabia’s scholarship programme, restrictions on visa particularly for Muslim-majority countries, hostility from some government and society have also contributed to the downturn.

Brexit has also resulted in much unpredictability, particularly for students from the European Union, and is likely to have an extended negative influence on EU members. Simultaneously, other host countries relatively unaffected by the xenophobic outlook, particularly Canada, has witnessed a surge in international student numbers among its prominent universities.

Revival of the free tuition debate

In recent years, the issue on free tuition to post-secondary education has been a much-discussed topic in a few countries. This is in spite of the disagreement from most experts who pointed out that free tuition is neither affordable as higher education gets increasingly accessible or is it a good public policy as it grants nonessential subsidies who are able to afford.

South African President, Jacob Zuma responded to the South African #FeesMustFall student movement by going against the advice of the commission to announce disclose that the African National Congress-led government would implement a fully subsidised free higher education for underprivileged students from 2018. Similarly, in Germany, in a reversal of policy, the entire nation is now receives free tuition despite the recent introduction of tuition charges by certain states.

A continuing fiscal decline

The higher education sector is confronted with financial difficulties despite the seemingly robust economic growth. A recent report from the European University Association, for instance, revealed that 19 out of 34 higher education systems have witnessed a cut in funding.

Although most countries worldwide have mutually agreed on the importance of higher education to meet the needs of a global knowledge economy and the economic sustainability of individuals and society, there is a general lack of funding. In many countries, the insufficient public funding for top research that pushes international competitiveness, rankings and for the overall system led private higher education to progressively have the upperhand and expanding inequality in almost all higher education systems; with low chance of reversal.

In conclusion, it is unlikely that 2018 will be a particularly robust year for higher education. In spite of the global economic growth and a recognition of the importance of higher education, the political headwinds of nationalism, economic limits and other disagreements do not bode well for higher education.

Source: University World News

Join us in the upcoming QS WORLDWIDE 2018 from 22-23 May 2018 in Moscow, Russia, as we discuss the topic on “In Search of University Excellence: Perspectives from Russia and Central Asia”.