How to liberate higher education

Yet many of those students are unable to physically attend college here, due to a number of factors including tight restrictions on visas in the U.S. In addition to online coursework, nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Germany have stepped into that void, offering a Western-style educational experience at brick-and-mortar institutions and attracting many of these international students.

Just as online education can break down barriers relating to access, transnational education can help universities fulfill their mission of creating globally-educated students. It can also help reduce friction between nations by breeding familiarity and can in some cases enhance the financial viability of the institution by reaching new student markets.

In fact, the second largest set of MOOC users after the United States are in India. Indian MOOC users are skewed more towards 18-24 age group than users in the United States and spend more time on MOOC websites than users in the U.S. Several American higher education institutions that previously had no visibility in the emerging world can now use MOOCs and other technology to build their brands and engage students globally.

We continue to believe that education can be the great American export of the 21st century. However, U.S.-based institutions must rise to meet the increasing demand as online coursework continues to proliferate, and more international students seek a university education. If such institutions are to remain the vanguard of higher education, it’s time to stop asking if and start asking when.

Robert Lytle and Karan Khemka are Co-Heads and Partners in the Education Practice at The Parthenon Group

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