Expanding Tertiary Education in Small States in an Economic Crisis: the Role of Collaboration
WORLD CONFERENCE ON HIGHER EDUCATION UNESCO July 5-8, 2009, Theme: Internationalisation, Regionalisation and Globalisation, Session: Globalisation and Higher Education in Small States: Opportunities and Threats, Sir John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning // Small states face unique challenges in the era of globalisation. In higher education they have always been internationally oriented, because many of their citizens have traditionally gone for higher education overseas, often with state support. As progressively larger proportions of their young people seek higher education at a time when foreign exchange is in short supply because of deteriorations in terms of trade, this practice is unsustainable. Small states are now trying to provide more extensive higher education at home, which is a challenge when the population base is small. The first part of the paper explores the challenge of creating a university institution in a small state, looking particularly at those with populations of around 100,000. // Since small states make up two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s 53-nation membership they are a priority in its programmes. In 2000 the Minister of Education of these 32 small states asked for the assistance of the Commonwealth of Learning in setting up a Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC). This is not a new tertiary institution but a collaborative network through which countries and institutions work together to develop skills-related courses in eLearning formats – for use both in classrooms and by distance learning – and to build capacity in ICT skills for online collaboration. The VUSSC is the focus of the second part of the paper. // Nine years on the VUSSC is developing well, with strong ownership by the states themselves. Although the member states belong to four regions (Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific) the VUSSC is global in nature. To facilitate international usage of the courses it has been successful in developing a Transnational Qualifications Framework managed by the states. The presentation highlights the lessons for internationalisation, regionalisation and globalisation from the VUSSC initiative.