Publish at August 20 2013 Updated September 22 2022

Commoditization of higher education: key issues

The internationalization of education creates challenges, as detailed here by an international expert

The democratization of higher education in recent years is undeniable. Revolutionary even, one might say. But while some may rejoice at the many learning opportunities that have resulted from the popularization of E-learning, the emergence of MOOCs, and cross-border mobilities (both for students and faculty as well as for the institutions and study programs themselves), it is important not to give in to blissful optimism, for as the saying goes, "all medals have a reverse side."

Not always obvious how to find the connection between the service trade as a whole and education (higher education in this case). And yet. In Marketing higher education: the impact of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) published in 2012 by UNESCO, Professor Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, a specialist in issues related to the economics of education, delivers an analysis of the commodification of services related to education, formalized in a way by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which aims eventually to extend to the market sphere, all services, including education.

Through seven chapters, the author of this 172-page book delivers the keys to a better understanding of the various changes that higher education has been undergoing in recent years, changes stemming from globalization and the internationalization of education (higher education in particular), not without mentioning the consequences (political ones at that) of these on the future of higher education. For, as mentioned in the preface, higher education plays a "driving role in improving productivity, enhancing economic growth, and leveraging innovation and technological capabilities. The development of this sector is considered a necessary condition for the growth and expansion of the global economy." Hence the increasingly stated interest of Western countries (led by the United States and Europe) to liberalize this sector (as most states are no longer able to fully assume the costs associated with this rapidly expanding sector) and to consider knowledge as a full-fledged good that can generate a certain economy: the knowledge economy.

Available in free download, the book also offers an analysis of the different modes of commercialization of education evoked in the GATS (which considers education as a "tradable commodity"), its different aspects in relation to higher education, without forgetting however to recall that the internationalization of education is not a new phenomenon and that it concerns both countries of the North and the South.

A lucid analysis of the business of education and of the various aspects of what is today akin to a kind of great market of knowledge and training in which developed countries (led by the United States) seem to lead the way at the expense of developing countries, which seem to suffer more from the disadvantages of this phenomenon of internationalization of education.

A tool that is particularly aimed at policymakers and all those involved in educational planning at the level of their countries, researchers, and to some extent teachers and other students, all of whom are also concerned with this issue.

The 7 chapters:


1. Globalization and internationalization of education: concepts

2. Higher education: a changing sector

3. Free trade and education: what is GATS and how does it work for education

3.1 What is GATS?

3.2 How does GATS work?

4. Including education in education in GATS: pros and cons

4.1 The case for GATS in education

4.2 The arguments against GATS in education

5. Internationalization of higher education: the current situation

6. The case of a developing country: India

7. Policy implications for higher education development and future prospects

Marketing higher education: the impact of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Pr Jandhyala B.G; UNESCO, Paris 2012.

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