Exploring Overseas Higher Ed Enrollment Opportunities
As higher ed institutions seek new markets to offset shrinking populations of traditional students, some have opted to partner with overseas colleges and universities. We talked with William Carroll, president of Hunter Global Education, LLC, to learn more about what’s needed to forge this type of partnership.
Carroll has spent nearly two decades building and nurturing partnerships between American and Asian higher ed institutions. He first ventured into this realm while president of Benedictine University, a role he held for 20 years. During his tenure, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Benedictine was the “fastest-growing private nonprofit university in the country” from 2002 through 2012.
Carroll left the university with “class sites in China, Vietnam, Arizona and throughout Illinois...and nearly 10,000 students worldwide,” according to the Benedictine University Newsroom.
In his current role at Hunter Global Education, Carroll continues to serve as a “bridge” between American and Asian institutions and is a champion of distance learning. He took some time to answer a few questions about working with higher ed opportunities from overseas, and we’ve got his answers here:
How did you get started in working with international education partnerships?
I knew nothing about it. I just took a leap. But, I knew that demographic changes were going to impact higher ed enrollment. I thought there might be opportunity with international students. I also knew that the landscape of international education was changing, and I wanted Benedictine to be part of that change. I firmly believed (and still do) that no institution can be good at every country. I wanted to focus on one country and get deeply involved such that Benedictine would be known for its expertise and relationships in that country. For some inexplicable reason, I chose China.
As I built relationships, doors opened. There was a hunger for access to American colleges and universities there. Within three years of [Benedictine] going to China, Vietnamese institutions wanted similar relationships with Benedictine.
What are some of the countries that are working with American institutions?
There is worldwide interest in participating in the American education system. American higher ed is still known as being best-in-class for all types of programs. My focus is primarily in Asia, and I especially see interest among students and institutions in China, Vietnam, Japan, India, and South Korea.
So, the students are primarily native residents of China, or other Asian countries?
Correct. While there may be some American students living abroad enrolled in courses like this, for the most part the students are native to the host country. Our student population in Asia runs the gamut of student ages – from traditional-aged students to adult students. The evolving online market in Asia will only increase the number of students desiring an American education experience.
What types of degree levels are these students interested in?
Really, all types. There is interest in all levels, including certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s, bachelor’s/master’s combined programs, graduate programs, and short-term workshops (on multiple topics).
And program types?
For a while, MBAs were in high demand, but the governments of these host countries now say their markets have been saturated with international MBA programs. What’s attracting enrollment now are degrees in nursing, education, public health, human resource management, engineering, and cyber security. All areas of business are still attractive.
How are these programs administratered?
There are a number of approaches American colleges can take. They may partner with an Asian institution, for example, such that the Asian student may take part of his/her course work at the home Asian institution, then come to the U.S. for a residential program on the American college’s campus to complete the degree. In other situations, an American college may choose to offer a full program on the ground in Asia. As mentioned earlier, distance/online learning is also gaining traction. The online format will only grow in popularity in the coming years. As was the case in the U.S., it will take some time for potential students to get used to the idea of online education and realize its credibility.
What about language barrier?
Any student who enrolls in programs like these is subject to the American institution’s Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) requirement or other English certification modalities.
Actually, when I work on partnerships between American and overseas institutions, I spend a lot of time on cultural differences. For instance, there can be a huge miss if American instructors expect Chinese students to ask questions in class. That goes against deeply held beliefs in China regarding how one shows respect for an instructor. So, in order to prepare both sides for success, I try to ensure that cultural differences are called out early so that both the instructors and students are prepared.