Handbook of Distance Education

By Michael Grahame Moore; William G. Anderson | Go to book overview

50
Global Education: Out of the
Ivory Tower
Robin Mason
The British Open University
r.d.mason@open.ac.uk

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Every day there are announcements of new companies being formed to market online and distance courses, or new partnerships among existing institutions to broker courses and programs both nationally and internationally. Just like airline companies, universities around the world are partnering up. The World Education Market held in Vancouver in May 2000 was a timely sign: The fair was expressly organized to help universities, training providers, software companies, and representatives from countries with large education needs to meet and form alliances, and it attracted participants from over 60 countries. As the race to form global alliances gathers momentum, a number of academics and commentators on the higher education scene have begun to investigate the reality behind the globalization fever. A number of research studies have already appeared that analyze current trends, applications, and emerging models.

Until this globalizing trend began to take hold, most people viewed education as a charitable activity, which required large inputs of cash from governments and large inputs of thought from academics locked away from the harsh realities of life. The advent of a consumer approach to higher education threatens to abandon the undoubted benefits of the old order in the haste to topple its ivory tower unreality. It is now quite common to hear education policymakers and senior university faculty talking about “market share, ” and in some cases, making profits or more alarmingly, staying in business.

What exactly does the term globalization mean in relation to higher education? Not surprisingly, the concept is used differently by different constituents and other words such as borderless education, and virtual, online, distributed, and international education all have somewhat similar designation. Within this family of concepts, at least some of the following

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