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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Question and Answer with Rt Hon David Willetts MP, 12 Dec 2013

Questions asked to Rt Hon David Willetts MP and note of responses.

Q: What is the role for the Private Sector ?

A: Private Sector engagement is essential. Mr Willetts loves the UK’s public sector university traditions with their fine campus settings and charitable status. But they are not suited to delivering education to 250,000 Indonesians annually. Needs a different scale of financing and management. The scale of investment required for delivering borderless education is different. Futurelearn – we have discovered that it is high cost for partners to get a course on to the platform. There will be a role in the future for private partners to help to meet these costs.

Q: When will extend UK financial aid to overseas-based students studying for UK degrees ?

A: this is an interesting issue. We are looking into it. I was talking about it with David Greenaway during the recent Shanghai missions.

Q: Is there a colonialist dimension in your vision of British satellites beaming down British content and services into African classrooms ?

A: Fair point. The days of nationalism in Education are gone. It will be increasingly a competitive challenge between institutions to supply the best into each market.

After his speech on MOOCs and internationalisation of education, David Willetts took questions. This is my live blog of it. Apologies I have not given names of questioners - but please comment if you want me to add them.

Q: Language is a barrier. Could US and UK deliver content in other languages ? – it would create a huge opportunity, is this feasible.

A. The MOOC movement faster moving in STEM disciplines than Humanities, may be because of ready made international language. It is a genuine concern which Mr. Willetts often hears from Emerging nation ministers. They don’t want their cultures eviscerated by arrival of a bland universal globalized education. Must be a respect of national traditions. This includes languages.

Q: Which African countries will be receiving most UK-based educational services ?

A: My view is Africa is the next big thing. The big opportunities for British HE are in Uganda Nigeria, South Africa. There may also be countries where mobile coverage is weaker which will pick up in importance, as satellite coverage spreads.

Q: What is the potential impact of MOOCs for university administrators, bursars, registrars.

A – We are seeing how much supervision and management is required in the new forms of education. Khan Academy has now processed 50 million students, with staff at 50. The ratio is very different to conventional education. There are peer review opportunities from education analytics. Also, the comments of 5 students aggregate to an assessment as reliable as one experienced academic. Role for conventional staff in HEI is not clear. This is a journey. We don’t know the end. Book industry 10 years ago would not have predicted Amazon and Kindle. MOOC is a force for good and I hope Britain and our HEIs will play learning role with other partners.

DAVID WILLETTS MP, UK Minister for Higher Education, on MOOCs. LIVE BLOG

Live Blog on Rt Hon David Willetts MP's speech on 12 Dec 2013 to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education conference: "The International Higher Education Revolution".

David Willett's talk is entitled: "The importance of MOOCs and their impact on international students, qualifications and partnerships"

Speech started approx 09.30 am

UK is ccelebrating the 50th anniversary of the Robbins report. There remains, even after 50 years, unsatisfied suppressed demand for Higher Education. The UK’s moment of reflection is a microcosm of a larger surge in Developing Economies worldwide. Ministers from emerging nations express to Mr Willetts that massive investment in HE extension is the crucial step to escaping the middle income trap. This is an opportunity for Britain as a global HE leader. What are the ways to respond ?

Students studying in Britain is one way forward. 435,000 foreign students are in Britain today for courses. There are no limits on the number of legitimate students. There will be no limits. But flying people into Heathrow, however great the capacity of runways or universities, doesn’t give a solution that will match the demand of, for example, Indonesia’s additional quarter of a million of students’ yearly.

Setting up foreign campus is a solution that has been developed by several UK HEIs. In China: Liverpool, Nottingham, whose chancellors were with Mr Willetts on the recent Cameron mission to China. Many foreign Governments he has met have strategy of hosting foreign Universities as a way to stimulate these kinds of arrangements. Malaysia a good example.

Third option is: study at distance, from abroad, for a British qualification, like Nelson Mandela at University of London. The total number abroad studying for British qualifications is 570,000.

MOOCs by happy coincidence have arrived as the technology advance that enables HEIs to reach more students, further afield, with better education.

What is underestimated in MOOCs debate, is that while there are poor quality MOOCs, which are merely lectures, there is also a huge advance by MOOC leaders through the use in education analytics. Keystroke studies, seeing patterns of learning, allow educators to see where students are learning best. The educational resource from this is massive and is only just beginning to be harvested. Interactive textbooks and peer group allow better learning. More and more MOOCs will live up this standard.

Implication of MOOCs for the conference theme. Education disintermediation is an opportunity for existing providers. Indian universities are possibly too dependent on Agents – now they can offer direct experience by allowing students to contact them through MOOC sampling. MOOCs will be test of how much Universities are willing to expand and recruit.

Qualifications issue: how credentialise MOOCs. These will use intelligent technologies like iris recognition to offer a compelling evidence of achievement with integrity.

Futurelearn. This is not a winner takes all market (Amazon style) – Futurelearn is not too late into the market. Mr Willetts attended launch of Futurelearn and launch of Inmarsat Alpha a UK satellite aimed at African market to deliver broadband to uncovered territories. African countries are desperate for education content and the satellite can potentially beam learning content of British educational services beamed direct to African classrooms is Mr Willett vision of the future of borderless education.

Report of questions and discussion in next post.