Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsInternational relations and exchanges in the realm of higher education form an important part of cultural diplomacy. During the second half of the 20th century, the global number of students underwent a major increase, going from 6 million in 1950 to 132 million in 2004. This raised the importance of student exchanges as part of the foreign policy agenda of countries. During the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union tried to attract students from Allied countries in order to spread their values. But this logic changed along with the reforms in higher education initiated in the US and the UK in the 1980s, which gave rise to a global higher education market.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 secondsIn the US, the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act encouraged universities to generate more revenues from the valorization of intellectual property and projects. In 1985, higher education reforms were adopted in the UK on the basis of the recommendation of the Jarrat Commission that promoted the introduction of a managerial approach in competition logics. This rationale spread progressively throughout the world and led to a global competition to attract students. New players emerged in the higher education global landscape. Universities of former third world countries entered the global competition, like the Indian Institute of Technology or the Tsinghua University in Beijing. While universities always took part in international exchanges in order to advance knowledge, a new rationale emerged.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsUniversities started to view internationalisation as a factor of prestige, to rise in the hierarchy of global rankings, and to generate revenues through student fees. Small countries in the Persian Gulf and in East Asia also took part in this trend by investing massively to position themselves as higher education hubs, partnering with prestigious Western universities to attract regional students who would view them as an alternative to studying in far away campuses. Singapore is a good example of this type of strategy. Beginning in the 1990s, in this southeast Asian city-state, the higher education landscape underwent great transformations. At that time, Singapore had two universities, the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technical University. In the 2000s, four new universities were created.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 secondsIn 2002, the government launched the Global Schoolhouse Initiative, which aimed at attracting 150,000 international students to Singapore. The plan consisted in reforming the local education institutions and providing foreign universities with incentives to launch programmes in Singapore. The city-state managed to attract numerous prestigious universities, like MIT, INSEAD, the Eindhoven University of Technology, and John Hopkins University. In the meantime, local universities progressed in international rankings and developed strategic partnerships. The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, for example, developed agreements with universities like Columbia, Yale, and LSE. Singapore strategy to rise as a higher education hub quickly yielded concrete results with the nearly two-fold increase of international students in Singapore.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 secondsThat went from 50,000 in 2002 to 97,000 in 2008. But in 2014, this number dropped to 75,000. And some foreign universities left Singapore, like the University of New South Wales and the New York University's Tisch School for the Arts. These setbacks led the Global Schoolhouse Initiative to adjust its strategy, which had underwent resistance from Singaporean citizens due to the advantages given to attract foreign students. As a result, the government adopted a Singaporeans First Policy and increased the number of seats for local students in national universities. In conclusion, the case of Singapore is emblematic of the rise of a global higher education market and its impact on the practises of cultural diplomacy.

Franchising higher education

This video explores the rise of private logics in the conduct of international cultural relations, with a focus on the transformation of the global higher education system.

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Cultural Diplomacy

European University Institute (EUI)

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