Education Within Borders From Beyond Borders
The ever-expanding demand for higher education poses a special challenge for small states. Historically many of their citizens have studied at traditional universities overseas but the increasing foreign exchange costs to individuals and governments precludes sending people abroad as a core strategy for achieving mass higher education. Small states now want to offer more postsecondary education on their territories, not just to save money but also to reduce brain drain and to enhance the cultural, economic, and social benefits associated with local higher education.// However, countries with populations of less than a quarter of a million people do not have the critical mass to create national institutions in the image of those traditional universities at which their elites studied overseas. The Commonwealth of Learning is helping small states to invent new types of postsecondary institutions that achieve the goal of providing local education at reasonable cost. This means combining several approaches: expanding local conventional provision; structuring partnerships with overseas institutions; expanding the use of distance learning, both synchronous and asynchronous; and adapting global intellectual resources to local needs.// The paper explores an important new phenomenon that recasts the old debates about balancing nationalism and regionalism in a new light. This is the rapid deepening of a global pool of Open Educational Resources (OERs) of high quality. These allow institutions to offer authentically local curricula developed to world standards of quality. The Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth is a first step in exploiting this new trend.