Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

Working with foreign universities to build capacity

This policy brief, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), examines different models of "cross-border higher education" and outlines the benefits and risks associated with each.

The authors discuss two approaches widely used in South-East Asia — sending students abroad to study, and inviting foreign institutions to run courses locally.

Although sending students abroad is widely recognised as a way of accessing new knowledge and research methods, the approach runs the risk of increasing brain drain, warn the authors.

The benefits of inviting in foreign institutions are less obvious but can help expand higher education systems and build capacity. In Malaysia, for example, foreign providers accounted for 34 per cent of bachelor and postgraduate programmes in the private education sector in 2006.

Making it work requires a suitable regulatory framework for foreign institutes that considers issues of accreditation, quality assurance, recognition of foreign qualifications and access to public funds.

The authors identify commercial education as a threat to least developed countries, arguing that cross-border education could become an export industry for some donor nations — at the expense of development assistance.

Signing up to international trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services, could help countries attract foreign investment in higher education.

Link to full article from OECD[214kB]

This policy brief was prepared by the OECD Public Affairs and Communications Directorate.