“Globalization is not a monolithic force but an evolving set of consequences-some good, some bad and some unintended. It is the new reality”. – John B. Larson

The Faculty of Humanities and Education, School of Education had its Third Biennial Errol Miller Lecture last Thursday, September 14, 2017 at the UWI Regional Headquarters. A number of luminaries in the fields of education, politics and religion and well-wishers braved the inclement weather to attend the address to honour the work of scholar and educator, Professor Errol Miller. Miller is perhaps best known for his research on Men at Risk and Marginalization of the Black Male. Miller, who is a former president of the Jamaica Teachers Association, is often described as a trail-blazer in the field of education. He is the first graduate of both the University of the West Indies Masters and PhD in Education programme as well as the first Chancellor of the Mico University College. Miller’s work and research has taken him to the Caribbean where he was instrumentally in projects, such as, Pillars of Partnership and Progress, for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the USAID-funded Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Teacher Training (CCETT).

In an informative and thought-provoking speech, guest lecturer Ambassador, Dr. Richard Bernal, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs, UWI, Mona, spoke on the topic of “Globalization of Higher Education”. The discourse surrounding the origin of globalization has sparked numerous debates over the years. The World Bank identifies three ‘waves’ of globalization. The first began in 1870 and ended at the beginning of World War 1 in 1914. This phase was characterized by a reduction in trade barriers and has improvements in transportation technologies, which spurred global migration of approximately ten per cent of the world’s population. The second phase of globalization occurred from 1950-1980 during which numerous trade agreements occurred. This period of world trade agreements was facilitated by the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The final and current wave of globalization began in 1980 and is defined by the removal of trade barriers.

Features of Globalization

According to Dr. Bernal, there are seven features of globalization. These he outlined as, an increase in connectivity which has resulted in how people learn and or educated.

Secondly, the dominance of the market, in this area marketing and branding of firms are critical components in an attempt to control as much of the market share as possible. The third feature of globalization according to Bernal sees an intensification of competition whereby companies now operate on a global scale instead of being restricted by geographical borders and boundaries. The fourth feature of globalization is that of tremendous growth in services sector, Bernal made mentioned of tourism and added that higher education should also be viewed as service sector. The fifth feature is that of Economies of Scale, which is really a reduction in cost per unit, resulting from increased production, realized through operational efficiencies.

The sixth feature of globalization is that of Technology, new technologies have increased exponentially over the years due to the demands of globalization and this has change how people view the world and communicate with each other.

Finally, globalization requires a global mentality or approach. There is no way of escaping the impact and effect of globalization unless your mental capacity is tuned into what is happening.

Proliferation of Higher Education Institutions

According to Bernal there is a huge unmet demand for higher education. He stated that there are some 150 universities and colleges operating in the Caribbean, of which there are 70 medical schools. Offshore medical schools have proliferated over the years in the region. For example, there is the St. Georges Medical School in Grenada and the Ross Medical School in Dominica.

Historically, higher education in Jamaica was confined to Teacher Training Colleges such as Mico, Shortwood, St. Joseph’s, the theological seminaries and the University of the West Indies. However, the 21st century learner due to globalization now has a wider choice regarding where to access tertiary level education. The modes of delivery of education have also changed over the years. The rapid rise of the internet and social media platforms have seen a shift from face to face interaction to an infusion of new technologies. Dr. Bernal informed the audience that there are now 66 universities offering online courses in the Caribbean. It comes as no surprise then that tertiary level students are now demanding and require much more from their experience at college. It has become commonplace for most universities to offer students an option of studying at another university for a semester or two to enrich their education experience.

In his presentation, Bernal mentioned that the global market for higher education continues to see growth and that by 2020 this will be US$20 billion dollars industry. Interestingly, he said, there are some 300 million university students who are seeking higher education which some 20,000 universities to choose from.

According to research done by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and published in the 2016 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica, gross enrolment at the tertiary level is at 27.6 per cent. Prior to 1986, the University of the West Indies was the only degree granting higher education institution in Jamaica. However, with an increase in private higher education the percentage of Jamaicans who now have access to higher education continues to increase. The flexibility of tuition payments, as well as, the timetabling of courses has added greater appeal of private higher education institutions. A significant number of the students who seek higher education are employed full-time and therefore institutions must consider this fact in catering to their needs. Additionally, there is a widely held view by many that higher education provides for better paying jobs and career opportunities. The Jamaican employee must be mindful that he or she faces competition from qualified non-nationals for local jobs more so in this third wave of globalization.

The World University Rankings 2018

According to Times Higher Education (THE) the top universities in the world are based in the United Kingdom. In 2016, the University of Oxford became the first university outside the United States of American to top the Times Higher Education World University rankings since they began in 2003. The top universities are University of Oxford (UK), University of Cambridge (UK), rounding off the top five are California Institute of Technology and Stanford University both tied at number three and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Interestingly, the top Asian universities continue to rise. Asia’s best university, the University of Singapore has a ranking of 22nd. The universities of Peking and Tsinghua are ranked 27th and 30th respectively. It is noteworthy that the rankings are based on assessments across teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. A greater emphasis on research is needed at both our public and private education institutions in Jamaica if it is our higher education institutions tend to place prominently on the ranking of colleges and universities.

As the demand for higher education increases we must ensure that our students are not swindled out of their hard earned money. Students also must make certain that the degrees they pursue are accredited by the University Council of Jamaica. Our students must also arm themselves with the necessary information to safeguard their interest as they pursue higher education. The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC) is a regulatory and supervisory body for the tertiary sector and provides a critical service for tertiary level students. The Commission is mandated to investigate complaints and queries regarding tertiary institutions, their programmes and operation, as well as, maintaining an-up-to date register of local and international institutions operating in the Jamaican space.

The Caribbean is relatively small, however, and undoubtedly the reason that Dr. Bernal, has called for a Trans Caribbean Cluster regarding higher education to reduce cost and increase productivity as the way forward. This idea of clusters regarding higher education is not new and has worked successfully in other regions, such as in the European Union. However, there are some who will argue how viable such a cluster will be given our cultural nuances in the Caribbean. It bares thought that if as a region we are unable to implement The Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), or work towards regional integration what guarantees there are that a Caribbean cluster of higher education will work. It is left to be seen whether the Caribbean region will take on Bernal’s suggestion.

In the words of Charles B. Rangel, “Encouragement of higher education for our youth is critical to the success of our collective future”.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.