Between global market and international and regional cooperation

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Parallel to the market orientation coming from the new providers, there exist -in the non central countries- traditional market dynamics, being the most important, “consumption abroad”. In this modality, the institutions in the developed countries have obtained large economical benefits. Higher education world market surpasses in over 3% of the totality of all the commercial services; and, in several countries, the educational services are situated within the first 5 rankings in the exportations sector. (OECD, 2002).

The most benefited country is the United States, receiving foreign students during the year 2000 rendering an income that amounts to 10.29 billion dollars, a largely superior amount budgeted for the totality of the public higher education in all of Latin America. According to the OECD (2002), the market for higher education in countries that are members of this organism is approximately 30 billion dollars per year.
The non-advanced countries have had a consumer’s role in the world marketplace during the past decades with a great deal of asymmetries. For example, in the case of Latin America, none of their countries figure today in the list of the 23 countries that attract a large number of foreign students. The countries placed in the first places are: the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Australia.17 The countries that have had a major growth in this concept, for specific internationalization policies, are Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand. (OECD-CERI, 2002).
Nonetheless, and independently from the internationalization processes that are being carried out through different formulas, negotiations are being held with regard to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) within the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only worldwide international body that deals with the rules on commerce among nations.18 This agreement, providing the conditions under subject, would favour the higher education market in the world.
In turn, Latin America -parallel to the GATS outlines- is framing up, since 1994, negotiations in reference to the Acuerdo de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA) (America Free Trade Agreement).19 The agreements presented by the ALCA are related with the GATS, due to the fact that the negotiation with the ALCA follow the procedures convened at GATS. The trade form, that follow the lines both coming from GATS or from ALCA, more commonly called in the agreement as “forms of supplies” are the following: Cross-border supply, consumption abroad; commercial presence; presence of natural persons.
Up to the year 2002, 32 countries had subscribed compromises with the higher educational sector of GATS, among them, the majority of OCDE members (25 countries out of 30). In this membership, 12 are from the European Union. In Latin America, the only countries that have concentrated their compromises with higher education are: Mexico and Panama. Each country can determine their rights for foreign providers to access the marketplace, For example, Mexico has determined for the Commercial Presence that foreign investments only reach a 49% of the capital registered by the enterprises, aside the fact that they need previous authorization coming from the Ministry of Education.
If the commercial tendencies prevail as well as the implacable market agenda, the scenario for the non-advanced countries would be one of great uncertainty due to the fact that all trade agreements treat the different countries as equals, not taking into account the vulnerability of many of them. It wouldn’t be difficult to presume that -in the case of most of the non-developed countries- the disadvantages would excessively surpass the advantages of these trade tendencies.

The Relevance of Internationalization

The general tendency is to believe that the university has always been international, which is not quite true. In its first stage, at the times of the creation of the university, in the Middle Age, there existed a period of fluid exchange of students and professors among the different universities settled in different geographical sites; nonetheless, they were not separated by border lines of the nations for, in those days, the figure of State-nation hadn’t emerged. Therefore, the mobilization of the students and professors, at the time, could rather be considered as “Inter-territorial” and not as “Inter-national”.20 The territories occupied by the existing universities in those days were: Bologna, Paris, Oxford, Salamanca, to mention some of them; and they were considered as a single body belonging to the same community linked by the religion, Christianity; aside the fact that the students of the different universities talked the same language, Latin. The academic programs and the examinations systems were pretty consistent and therefore there were no major problems with the recognition of their studies, allowing the itinerating students go from one university to the other, at will, and in accordance to their needs.

During the 15th century, the inter-territorial circulation of students was lowering, whereas the movements were limited to the elite society. On the other hand, the Reform and Counter Reform had its effect in the universities, for they were being used as instruments to ensure orthodoxy or to set up frontiers between opposing interpretations. One of the formal proofs of a recently proclaimed sovereignty was the rights that local governments had to establish (new) universities. (Neave, 2001).
As time flowed towards the 17th century, some European countries commenced to impose some requirements from the students applying to follow careers inherent to the public administration. The rights to hold offices related to public functions were reserved to those that had been educated within the country.
As of the creation of a Modern State, up to the 20th century, the inter-territorial dynamics were becoming more and more scarce as, in turn, the new universities already held the mandate to respond to the national problems. Furthermore, the international dynamics associated to those centuries had to do with the exporting of European universities to the rest of the world.
During the first half of the 20th century, there had been mobilization of professors -especially from Europe to the United States- due to the two world wars effects. It wasn’t until the second half of that century that internationalization started to vividly express itself within the context of the paradigm of Development, showing great cross-border movements of students coming from non-developed countries towards the more advanced ones (from south to north). In this same context, new institutional cooperation agreements emerge but in an inverted way.
The last decade of the 20th century is characterized by the flow of integrating dynamics with a regional and sub-regional character,21 besides those agreements reached among the institutions. Parallel to these dynamics, globalization emerges with great impetus with regards to knowledge,22 with a trend to turn towards internationalization, evidencing the lucrative aspect of such dynamics. In this sense, the crescent impact in globalization, during the last years, has a greater relevant incidence deriving from internationalization, as the latter happens to be a key element with which the academic institution must respond to the impact of globalization.23
Therefore, internationalization is moving from the periphery to the center of attention in the academic institutes. And, as it gains importance, it turns more and more into being an enterprise, interwoven with market processes (Knight 2004). To oppose these “lucrative” internationalization tendencies, it is essential to favour those options that lead to regional and international cooperation.

Regional Cooperation

One of the ways some countries are organizing themselves to face lucrative internationalization is by means of “regionalization”. Some authors consider this focus is actually a co-sharing of globalization, in the sense that regionalization is in fact trans-nationalization at a sub-global scale of the social arrangements within adjacent areas. (Beerkens, 2004). The central issue of this debate would be to guarantee that regional integration be held upon the basis of plural articulations based on national interest, where the parts and institutions, even if they are operating under the national states’ mandates, they could acquire grade levels of autonomy and behave as independent actors. In this respect, in Europe, two simultaneous processes are taking place, on one side, the globalization of knowledge, including the signature of the GATS that had already been subscribed by 12 members of the European Union, and on the other hand, there is the regional cooperation process through the Convention of Lisbon and the Bologna Agreement, addressed to create a European Area for Higher Education for the year 2010.24

Regionalization could be a strategy among others to legitimize instances that favour the development of articulations, alliances, and agreements, that would benefit internationalization with cooperation. Regional integration could be a way to gain power and count with more strength within the academic globalization processes. In Latin America, the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group (Asociación de Universidades del Grupo Montevideo) (AUGM) integrates the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile. This sub-regional agreement covers the study of their common problems in priority areas regarding social development, health, environment, and production of culture.
The regional integration could also enhance inter-region agreements, as Common Space for the European Union in Higher Education - Latin American (UEALC); programs such as ALFA (European Union Programme of High Level Scholarships for Latin America).25

Cooperation and Internationalization

How is it possible to capture the positive aspect of globalization of knowledge so as it may benefit the interaction without jeopardizing any pertinent competition? Internationalization cooperation may prevail over the lucrative internationalization; giving emphasis on sustainable and harmonious development, where “the regulations are not subdued to the marketplace, but to society.”

In order to overcome the strong market tendencies –with its strong competitive character- it will be necessary to stress international cooperation, and interactive globalization, with regulations oriented to educational agreements.
Academic cooperation has been the most antique and most important form of relation between the institutions as well as amongst the academics themselves as individuals. It is important this cooperation prevails, along with a healthy competition so that the institutions may enhance their efforts to elevate their quality, all in the benefit for the users and for the countries.26
In this scenario of cooperation, the harmonization between public and private sectors are needed. It is necessary to take into account that many of the conceptualizations that had been useful in the former contexts are no longer nowadays. It should be understood that the dichotomies are not resulting beneficial to understand the complexity of the new unedited realities. To overcome rigid dichotomies such as “public-private”, “free of cost-with cost”, “transnational-national”, it must be analyzed with new analytical concepts, since we face more complex realities. In this paper it has been observed that the articulations between national and foreign institutes are sometimes mixed ones. That is, the agreements can be cooperative or market oriented, independently that the profile of the providing institution be private or public, national or transnational. In fact, an example is the MIT project, which sets up their line of courses free of charge. Then, there is a space for an agenda wherein public goods could be shared with private providers.
Higher Education must be considered as a public good, addressed to achieve a sustainable development, with greater equity among the countries and within them. An education oriented to have responsible citizens, locally and globally.
This is the most desirable scenario for both, the non-advanced and advanced countries. In the non-advanced countries, academic institutes would be participating in the globalization of knowledge in an interactive way, absorbing knowledge but also producing knowledge relevant for their societies, which in turn would allow for interaction with universal knowledge. For the advanced countries it would be also the best scenario, knowing that, when cultures exclude, they lose; but if the cultures include, they win.
The international systems of accreditation should be done with a criteria of cooperation, taking into account the different cultures and traditions of the countries.27 Within the frame of a sustainable international politics, that would be oriented towards an adequate management of the transnational providers, conciliating the public and private sector of higher education, and the interests and needs of the educational communities. It could be done through accredited transnational instances, guaranteeing the quality of the education, as well as the interests of the countries with less competitive institutions.
At an international level, it is necessary to insist upon continuing to develop an intelligible inclusive globalization agenda with goals oriented to a global democracy. Higher Education as a global public good must be a priority in the construction of global and local citizenship. The values of the global public good of higher education must be above the current market tendencies, and not otherwise. This should be done hastily as there is the risk to let the undesirable options impose themselves.

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