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Argument: Greater international competition between schools improves educational quality

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Supporting quotes from the Economist Online Debate Series

  • Frances Cairncross. Economist Online Debate Series. Proposition Opening Statement. December 7th, 2007 - "Such competition may encourage universities everywhere to think of those they teach as customers, and to pay more attention to the quality of service they receive. If clever young people from China or India – or Britain – can get a better education in America, then sooner or later, universities in their home countries will raise their game. That is what competition has done in many other industries with global reach, from investment banking to engineering. The young, with their easy familiarity with the internet, can readily discover where the best courses – and scholarships – are to be found. They are more mobile than older folk, and so more likely to move to find the best.
The universities that compete successfully gain both financially and academically. The Paris-based OECD reckons that 14% of the revenues of New Zealand universities and 15% (sometimes over 20%) of those of Australia come from overseas students. Many a department of chemistry or of engineering in Britain and Australia survives mainly because of the Asian students who want to study in it. But money is not everything. Most university academics want to teach the cleverest youngsters they can find – that is why they are in the job."
  • olle a, commenter. Online Debate Series. Education 2. December 14, 2007 04:39 - "Considering the world's need for more and more knowledge it seems rational to use scarce (peopel) resources of universities primarily to educate the best students, irrespective of the place where they were born. In countries where HE is considered mainly a part of regional development policy it's all very easy to look just at the next-door domestic university for competition, which will not encourage institutions to do its best in a broader perspective of knowledge development. It may be unrealistic to get every HE institution in the world compete with all its educational programme on the international market but still even the smallest local university college, defining its main task to serve its near homeland, should try to develop at least one or two world-class branches of education and research. On the whole, the academic community is the most positive and hopeful among international forces and, paradoxically, increasing competition between institutions in various countries would probably just establish that position."
  • Culzean, commenter. December 13, 2007 09:25 - "From a UK perspective, opening up our educational institutions to the brightest and the best from around the world should help maintain standards in the face of the rampant grade inflation that has swept through British education in the last decade and help prevent further dumbing down in order to meet government targets. Vote YES."
  • UScanuck, commenter. December 11, 2007 08:12 - "I believe this issue boils down to one of competitiveness. As pointed out by Frances Cairncross, restricting foreign enrollment in our schools is tantamount to protectionism. There is compelling evidence about the damage to industries caused by the promised "shield" of protectionism. The sorry state of the US auto industry is but one example. Imagine how much more robust the industry would be if the US hadn't provided a profit sanctuary for pickup trucks (with high tariffs on imports) that caused efficient car capabilities and share to head elsewhere. The impact of global freer trade is indisputable. Similarly, free trade in the global education system would benefit from the clearer signals about quality and value provided by more open markets. Any government concerned about their weakly performing education system would be free to increase investment to make it more competitive."
  • alfie62, commenter. Economist Online Debate Series. December 11, 2007 14:29 - "Universities in the English-speaking countries don't need to compete since they are winning the competition. Universities elsewhere would gain by admitting even a limited number of foreign students in order to compare the competence of foreign and domestic students, which can be quite a national disappointment since foreigners often know more when they arrive, do better afterward and work harder (observations from Stockholm University). This sort of thing functions like an outside evaluation of university quality. It not only shakes domestic students and departmental megalomaniacs out of their complacency and superiority complexes, but spurs them to take steps to raise their domestic aspiration levels and teaching/studying. It provides a test of how well a domestic university/department really is by international standards. It is well worth mentioning that to compete with the winners, this requires universities in non-English-speaking countries to provide instruction in English, thus exposing their (in-)competence in education to the world - and shaking up chauvinists at home. In short, attracting foreign students helps us to improve ourselves -- all altruistic motives aside."
  • Besantos, commenter. Economist Online Debate Series. December 12, 2007 08:18 - "Free market has broght wealth, peace and development to all its practitioners. Why would it be different for education institutions to embrace such a logic and try to compete freely to increase the quality and quantity of its most important resource: brain-power. For the most capable in performing this task, it is not preposterous to imagine a whole class of graduates as future laureates."
  • aae1972, commenter. Economist Online Debate Series. December 12, 2007 15:31 - "With the advent of globalisation, there is no reason why this should not take place. The market principle should also apply to the field of education. The real winner will be increased knowledge available to the World when high quality students interact with unviversities that can best develop their abilities. The invisible hand of competition will ensure that students will more than likely go to the university most suited for their needs."


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