The Big Business of Global Higher Education

Singapore – If you like to follow the money, there's the the Dow Jones, the NASDAQ, the Nikkie, and plenty of other financial indexes to let you know where the best investments are. But there's one big growth industry that isn't listed on any of those. The expansion of higher education into global markets has exploded over the last few years. It is a multi-billion dollar business.

Experts say there is no end in sight to either the demand from students, or to the providers willing to set up shop oversees to serve them.

In our continuing series, WBFO's Joyce Kryszak takes a look at the big business of globalized higher education.

Singapore's gleaming skyscrapers are the perfect backdrop for an economy that is also soaring. Nearly every multi-national corporation imaginable is here. And so are the movers and shakers who are orchestrating much of the world's cross border commerce.

Jose Kasijo plans to be one of them. The perfectly groomed young man wears a crisp light blue shirt with a tightly knotted tie. And he carries a newly minted degree from UB's Singapore undergraduate program. His international background certainly qualifies him for the global playing field. He was born in France, lives in Singapore and attends an American program at the Singapore Institute of Management. With his communication degree, Kasijo plans to trains those working in Singapore's multi-national business world.

In many ways, Kasijo is a metaphor of everything global education aims to be - polished, accessible and ready to serve. And there are higher education bridges being built everywhere by dozens of schools.

The Institute of International Education tracks data on international education. It's an estimated $35 billion global business. And that doesn't even include off-shore campuses. The institute says there are at least 100 of those. Half are American. Allan Goodman is president for the institute. He said the growth is so exponential, that it is hard to measure.

And the competition for this new business is fierce. International students bring in big dollars in aid to public universities. In New York it is double. And the payback to local economies is also big. Western New York raked in nearly $80 million last year alone from foreign students living here.

There are universities in countries all over the globe going after this lucrative student market.

This fall, UB recruiters will make three dozen stops throughout India, Asia and the Middle East. And that happens twice a year. Stephen Dunnett is Vice Provost for International Education at UB. He said the competing schools have actually worked out a system to make recruiting more efficient for all of them.

And they are biting. Just in America, there are about 600,000 foreign students coming to study. It didn't take long for schools to realize there were other students out there who might want a foreign education without having to travel so far. That is when off-shore campuses sprang up.

Singapore alone has dozens of off shore campuses run by schools from sixteen different countries. But Singapore wants them all. It is all part of the country's highly funded plan to become a global school house. John Conceicao is director for educational services with Singapore's tourism board. He said the board provides the marketing expertise and resources to help attract to students to Singapore's universities, as well as the foreign programs offered in Singapore.

Private schools have also stepped in. The Singapore Institute of Management provides the bricks and mortar for a half dozen foreign programs. Kwok Cheong Lee is the CEO of SIM. He says it makes good business sense.

And it is cost beneficial. For example, even after covering all of UB's direct and indirect expenses, SIM is still able to return to UB and to itself a return investment. Neither institution would say how much. They say the real benefits are the intangibles. The so-called soft-diplomacy and global awareness of internationally educated students.

Future human resource consultant Jose Kasijo agrees. He said students want their place on the global stage.

Next week, we'll examine more closely what kind of education the little red global school house is delivering.

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