“In Disney-Pixar’s just-released animated feature “Cars 2,” which is set in several international locations, “there was originally a Russian villain, but there was concern about that . . . The bad-guy car character was changed to a monocle-wearing German.” (Source: LA Times)
But taking a school “global” via online education is no small feat. There are few precedents to mimic. Open University in the UK is in 107 different nations, but its been working on this since its origins in the 1970s. Most institutions will discover that online higher education – like the campus variety – is still rooted to its location – despite its “anytime, anywhere” sheen.
- Brand familiarity. A minority of institutions in North America are well-known outside of their immediate region to prospective students. This is why, for example, education service companies, like 2U and Compass-Embanet – which provide marketing and investment to institutions to build and deliver online programs – tend to seek out partnerships with institutions that are nationally recognized. It’s difficult and expensive to attract students if they aren’t already familiar with the institution. For-profit colleges and universities – which don’t have strong brands – spend a whopping 20-25% of their budgets on marketing.
- The configuration of public grants to institutions. Government funding formulas that dictate how much institutions receive for each enrolled student are not always designed in such a way as to make it financially beneficial to the institution to recruit non-local students. One jurisdiction I’ve worked in requires that the institution reimburse the government for every international student enrolled.
- The need to serve “our” students first. Institutions that receive direct public support are often expected to treat students from that jurisdiction as a priority. While institutions base their value to a certain degree on their ability to bring together a diverse student body, and these practices are thought to support the region’s broader immigration objectives, no institution wants to be seen as turning its back on the children of its tax-base/constituency.
- The value of credentials. On the “demand side” of the equation, credentials offered by institutions don’t always hold their value in other settings.