The Ivy Clique

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ed­u­ca­tion is un­doubt­edly a crit­i­cal driver of eco­nomic growth and so­cial mo­bil­ity. But ef­forts to ex­pand ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion have typ­i­cally fo­cused on the pri­mary level, while ne­glect­ing ter­tiary school­ing. And ini­tia­tives that have em­pha­sised post-sec­ondary learn­ing have placed rel­a­tively lit­tle em­pha­sis on ed­u­ca­tional qual­ity. This has to change.

The in­flu­ence of higher ed­u­ca­tion on so­cial mo­bil­ity is par­tic­u­larly pro­nounced in low­in­come coun­tries, where the scarcity of skilled hu­man cap­i­tal gives ter­tiary-ed­u­cated work­ers a sig­nif­i­cant wage pre­mium. The prob­lem is that many of these coun­tries lack high-qual­ity in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion, leav­ing even univer­sity grad­u­ates at a dis­ad­van­tage within an in­creas­ingly in­ter­con­nected global econ­omy.

This is where study abroad pro­grammes can help. Send­ing stu­dents to high-qual­ity for­eign in­sti­tu­tions can help to ad­vance a coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional in­te­gra­tion, in­clud­ing into global knowl­edge net­works, as it has for many coun­tries in Asia and the Mid­dle East.

The ad­van­tages be­come even greater at the world’s elite uni­ver­si­ties. In the United States, roughly 54% of cor­po­rate lead­ers and 42% of govern­ment of­fi­cials are grad­u­ates of just 12 in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing Yale, Har­vard, Prince­ton, and Stan­ford – mean­ing that the friend­ships and as­so­ci­a­tions formed at such uni­ver­si­ties ul­ti­mately shape the global econ­omy, the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, and pub­lic opin­ion.

For low-in­come coun­tries, how­ever, these elite net­works re­main largely in­ac­ces­si­ble. While coun­tries like the US and the United King­dom have been work­ing to pro­vide dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties with greater ac­cess to their elite in­sti­tu­tions, such ef­forts typ­i­cally do not ex­tend be­yond na­tional borders. With even their most highly ed­u­cated pro­fes­sion­als marginalised in­ter­na­tion­ally, it is no won­der that low-in­come coun­tries strug­gle to in­te­grate into global sys­tems.

High-qual­ity in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion are largely con­cen­trated in a few coun­tries in Europe, North Amer­ica, and Ja­pan – the very coun­tries that of­fer the most study-abroad op­por­tu­ni­ties. In 2009, 72% of for­eign stu­dents in the Euro­pean Union came from other EU coun­tries.

While many de­vel­op­ing-coun­try cit­i­zens re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing abroad – 53% of all in­ter­na­tional stu­dents are Asian and 12% are African – only a small mi­nor­ity end up at elite uni­ver­si­ties. And the lower a coun­try’s in­come, the fewer the op­por­tu­ni­ties. Nigeria and Pak­istan each send twice as many stu­dents to study in OECD coun­tries as Bu­rundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Malawi com­bined.

A re­cent World Eco­nomic Fo­rum book (a chap­ter of which I co-au­thored) iden­ti­fies more equal ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion as one of the prin­ci­pal chal­lenges fac­ing pol­i­cy­mak­ers, ow­ing largely to the ed­u­ca­tional, fi­nan­cial, and so­cial ad­van­tages that make rich-coun­try stu­dents bet­ter equipped for – and more ap­peal­ing to – elite uni­ver­si­ties. Ef­forts to equalise ac­cess of­ten en­tail shift­ing re­sources from one group to an­other, thereby spawn­ing new im­bal­ances.

Lower-in­come coun­tries need new fi­nanc­ing mod­els for sup­port­ing ed­u­ca­tion that ac­count for so­cial-cap­i­tal gains, which amount to an added re­turn on in­vest­ment. For ex­am­ple, re­cent re­search from Chile has shown that grad­u­ates of elite uni­ver­si­ties tend to marry one an­other, and univer­sity grad­u­ates – es­pe­cially women – are more likely to marry part­ners of sim­i­lar or higher so­cial sta­tus. Of­ten, they also so­cialise with other grad­u­ates of elite uni­ver­si­ties within exclusive clubs and as­so­ci­a­tions.

The ex­act im­pact that im­proved ac­cess to elite uni­ver­si­ties would have on low-in­come coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties re­mains un­known, ow­ing largely to how few of their stu­dents study abroad. Of course, many mid­dle- and high-in­come coun­tries – in­clud­ing China, In­dia, South Korea, and Le­banon – have ben­e­fited tremen­dously from send­ing their stu­dents to top uni­ver­si­ties in Europe and the US. But they owe much to their sub­stan­tial di­as­pora pop­u­la­tions in the West, as well as to their elites’ in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions.

What is needed is a fund­ing mech­a­nism – sup­ported by the pri­vate sec­tor, as part of its cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ac­tiv­i­ties – to boost the num­ber of stu­dents from low­in­come coun­tries en­rolling in the world’s elite uni­ver­si­ties. Such a mech­a­nism could, for ex­am­ple, fi­nance the es­tab­lish­ment of spe­cial schools and train­ing pro­grammes to help stu­dents meet such uni­ver­si­ties’ ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments.

More­over, to en­able stu­dents to cover tu­ition fees, while en­cour­ag­ing them to re­turn to their home coun­tries once they have com­pleted their stud­ies, they could be of­fered loans with in­ter­est rates that fluc­tu­ate in line with how long they re­main abroad af­ter grad­u­a­tion. Stu­dents who re­turn af­ter a year or two would pay nom­i­nal rates, whereas those who re­main out­side of their home coun­try for pro­longed pe­ri­ods could face very high – even pro­hib­i­tive – rates.

The re­la­tion­ships that are formed at high­qual­ity in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion are among the most in­flu­en­tial in the world. As long as low-in­come coun­tries are ex­cluded from these world-shap­ing so­cial cir­cles, they will re­main un­able to at­tract the re­sources they need to im­prove their in­ter­na­tional po­si­tion and en­hance their con­tri­bu­tion to the global econ­omy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.