OBHE discusses importance of private education

11, December, 2014

The increase in partnerships between private and public educational organisations in emerging markets, the blurred distinction between private and public institutions in the UK and the pursuit of common good in higher education were some of the topics discussed at last week’s event held by The Observatory of Borderless Higher Education in London, UK, titled The Future of Public-Private Partnerships in Higher Education.  

Parthenon Group explained that economic growth is directly linked to tertiary enrolments at the OBHE s conference on public-private partnerships.

William Lawton, Director of OBHE, opened the event by noting that while there is still a degree of scepticism surrounding whether for-profit providers are best placed to deliver the public good of international education, the debate is now more sophisticated with people increasingly recognising that private capital shifts the burden of pain caused by a lack of state funding. Dr JoAnn McCarthy, Nafsa Senior Fellow for Internationalisation and Academic Director of Into University Partnerships concurred, stating, “Doing more with less may have reached its limits – we have to work smarter.”

McCarthy explained that while public-private partnerships (PPPs) are not new in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia are market leaders in this field with the fear factor still at play to a greater extent in the US. Highlighting “rising public costs and diminished public support for HE” in the country, she said, “Data shows partnerships work.” She cited the University of Oregon’s partnership with Into, which led to a rise from 950-to-4,000 international students from 2008-to-present, while explaining that challenges include developing transparency and trust as well as responsiveness to challenges.

In many emerging markets, Karan Khemka, Managing Director of International Education Practice at The Parthenon Group Singapore, explained that private HE is growing faster than real GDP, for example in the UAE (6.6 times faster), Saudi Arabia (six times faster) and South Africa (3.4 times faster). He said that internationalisation encourages PPPs and that national governments sometimes sponsor private branch campuses, citing the Saudi College of Excellence Programme which awards private providers contracts in the aim of enrolling 450,000 students by 2020.

Meanwhile PPP providers themselves revealed some interesting trends. At Kaplan, Linda Cowan, Senior Vice President of Pathways (UK, Middle East and Africa) said that the organisation brings 20,000 students to the UK each year and many more elsewhere, adding, “There is a greater need within this sector to support students’ transition from the pathway course to university and to manage expectations.” John Wood, CEO of University Programmes at Navitas, added that in Canada, the PPP model has been too successful and some institutions think there are now too many international students on campus.

In a session titled Delivering public-good outcomes through PPPs, Professor Pamela Gilles at Glasgow Caledonian University in the UK, revealed that a partnership with Into in 2008 “shifted the culture on campus forever”. She said that staff and students find the internationals to be a breath of fresh air, bringing new ideas and perspectives, and added that the partnership led to other initiatives, such as a new college in Bangladesh launched to address nursing shortages.

Regarding the future of private education, Professor Roger King, Visiting Professor at the University of Bath in the UK, said that depending on the results of the next general election, public universities with a charitable status could request to have this status removed. This would mean that private equity investment would be permitted, blurring the distinction between public and private universities further. Meanwhile, Wood recognised a growing demand for pre-masters pathway programmes, while James Pitman, Managing Director of Higher Education UK and Europe at Study Group said there is a need to develop online delivery models of pathway programmes.

We report on further developments within the private education sector in the February 2015 issue of Study Travel Magazine.




Print This Page Close Window Archive