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Competing higher education futures in a Globalising World

by Paul Lefrere
European Journal of Education ()
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Globalisation, together with readier access to capability-enhancing technologies and to technological insights once restricted to a few leading economies, are resulting in greater competition within Europe, and more widely within the developed world, for influence of all kinds (not just influence over the choices that foreign students make about the Higher Education courses on offer to them from Europe, but also influence of a more overtly imperialist kind, extending to the policies, incomes and futures of others). This article looks at trends in one important market for European Higher Education, the Middle East (particularly the GCC countries), which has many providers from North America and Australia. As observed by the late Edward Said, the USA is particularly forceful in the Middle East. Its technological superiority is accompanied by fervour to introduce American methods and curricula, and strong belief in their merit, reminiscent of the belief of the old French empire that 'France had a "mission civilisatrice", to civilize the natives". The danger, highlighted in a recent UNESCO report 'New Ignorances, New Literacies', is that the natives will not be listened to. Is Europe listening more or less than the USA, and is it being listened to? Despite attention-gaining initiatives such as the proposed European Institute of Technology, EIT, and the commitment of EU governments to the Lisbon goals on competitiveness, there are indications of a drop in the influence of European Higher Education institutions in the Middle East. This paper explores the kinds of issues that may be at work, and the implications for European Higher Education policy.

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