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Monday, May 15, 2006

Global Commoditization Of Higher Education :Creative Differentiation Not Competitive Confrontation

Micheal Scrage writes that it may not be the case that high technology and higher education are supposed to be the west's magic elixir for perpetual growth.The educational quality of indian and chinese universities are becoming comparable far faster than anyone predicted and they roll oout 1 mn engg graduates every year. Higher education is becoming as much a high-tech commodity as circuit boards and mobile phones. Roughly 170,000 graduates come out of the universities in the US and Europe. Even if one (arrogantly) presumes that only the top 10 per cent of Indian and Chinese students are as talented as the top half of Americans and Europeans, the two Asian giants now graduate more quality engineers than the west. Western students clever enough to succeed in science or engineering are clever enough to know they will compete against growing global armies of educated rivals trained to work hard for less. He points out that high-bandwidth networks further amplify corporate capacity more easily to outsource their science and engineering processes. Innovative companies will chase "cheap smarts" as relentlessly as today's cost-conscious multinationals pursue cheaper manufacturing and call-centre capacity. Pointing out there is no premium wage as a post-doctorate in that marketplace, he adds,Knowledge is not power; it is on sale.
This he thinks leads to a scenario where there is more likely a glut of technically sophisticated human capital. For the US and Europe, increasing the numbers of science and engineering graduates seems a policy prescription for economic despair. Creative differentiation - not competitive confrontation - is the real human capital challenge.Of course, a wealth of scientists and engineers is not the wealth of nations
. University dropouts such as Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs persuasively demonstrate that global technology leadership does not require top degrees. He is right when he points out that technical education is a necessary - but insufficient - condition for continuing growth. While rising tides of cheaper technical talent create greater innovation opportunities, transforming educational capacity into sustainable economic prosperity is difficult.Without the institutional courage and cleverness to differentiate themselves, he adds, tomorrow's Harvard, Imperial, or École Polytechnique may confront a comparable fate to today's General Motors and Ford.I still beleive that entrepreneurism and dynamic readjustements would help the US to be a very competitive nation in future as well. I do not think that it needs to be seen as one-or-zero situation. As I wrote earlier, the US is the economic engine of the world – lets hope that it continues to innovate faster, better and emerge stronger. Collaboration in innovation is always a workable solution. Together with the Asia let more innovation blossom and let the world prosper a lot more - innovation and prosperity are closely related.

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