Global Experience and the Multinational UniversityMaurits van Rooijen | Chief Academic Officer, Global University Systems
Higher education is not immune to globalization. That basic observation led thirteen years ago to a short publication for the European Association for International Education (EAIE) with the provocative title; The Multinational University. In the publication, I introduced the following two new types of institutions emerging in higher education: the Global University and the Multinational University.
I argued, or rather predicted, that the global university would operate at a truly international level without a recognizable tie to one particular country. It would aim to be seen as an international chain of local universities. By contrast the multinational university, though sharing this aim of having a worldwide presence, would place emphasis on the geographical base of its headquarters.
Just under a decade later, the entrepreneur Aaron Etingen offered me the opportunity to put theory into practice by helping to build the world’s first truly global university system. We formally launched Global University Systems (GUS) in 2012/13 to be this truly global institution and it now includes over ten universities and colleges plus a range of associate institutions (partners), reaching from Vancouver to Singapore and, of course, online. GUS was not created as a random acquisition of educational institutions worldwide. Instead, it uniquely brings together a variety of universities and colleges to cover an ever-increasing range of locations, types of institutions, disciplines and modes of educational delivery.
We do this not just through acquisitions, but through partnership agreements with various state-funded, not-for-profit and for-profit providers. GUS uses its extensive shared services—including a truly global, sector-leading recruitment operation—to strengthen the global operations of those partners in the context of the rapidly expanding university system.
Yet even more important than the macro story (the impact of globalization on higher education) is the micro dimension: the interest of the individual student. There is growing evidence, especially in a European context, that a successful career is closely related to mobility. Understanding the world and its various cultures by experiencing them first hand creates a strong foundation for professional success in later life. Unsurprisingly, in business education this link has been recognized for some time, and there is quite a wide range of programs that offer mobility, either through a study abroad option or in a structured curriculum with fixed international study blocks.
One of GUS’s member schools, the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), recently launched a Global Experience program to take this international education even further. It puts the student in charge of the structure of his or her own study. As such, the master’s degree program will meet the personal needs, interests and practicalities of its students. It offers blocks of twelve weeks at the very center of New York City, London, Singapore (though, no doubt, over time other locations will be added in response to demand) and, importantly, online. The student determines how much of their education is done through the online modality, how much is studied face-to-face, and on which continent. Using the infrastructure offered by being a part of the global system (GUS), the program is fully aligned with the academic philosophy of LSBF: thinking entirely from the student’s perspective.
Returning to the global and multinational university definitions as introduced in the publication of 2003, GUS clearly is a global provider of higher education. LSBF is a multinational provider, though interestingly with this Global Experience program, it also might evolve into a global education provider over time. Demand, more than central planning, will determine the outcome.