Posts published on May 15, 2011

Higher Education Hub In SF Bay Area Is Envisioned

In a new paper, UC Berkeley¬† researchers¬†John Aubrey Douglass, Richard Edelstein, and Cecile Hoareau outline a proposal for a San Francisco/Bay Area Higher Education Hub. During the 2009-10 academic year, they note, international students in the US brought more than $18.8 billion in net income into the national economy.¬† “We suggest a strategy for the San Francisco/Bay Area, which, if applied to the rest of the country, would make revenues grow to more than $37 billion – making it one of the fastest-growing ‘exports’ in the national economy, and with many other economic benefits to support innovation and new start-ups.”

“The US retains a huge market advantage for attracting foreign students,” the authors explain. “Within the US, the San Francisco/Bay Area is particularly attractive and could prevail as an extraordinary global talent magnet, if only policymakers and higher education leaders better understood this and formulated strategies to tap the global demand for higher education.”

“Ultimately, all globalism is local. We propose that the San Francisco/Bay Area, a region with a group of stellar universities and colleges, should re-imagine itself as a Knowledge Hub — part of an effort to meet national and regional economic needs, as well as the thirst of a growing world population for high-quality tertiary education.”

Other parts of the world have already developed their version of the higher education hub idea, as it is explained in the paper. “The major difference in our proposed Californian version is that foreign competitors seek to largely attract foreign universities to help build enrollment and program capacity at home, and are funded almost solely by significant government subsidies; our model builds capacity, but is focused on attracting the world’s talent and generating additional income to our existing public and private colleges and universities.”

The authors project that the Bay Area could double its current international enrollment from 30,000 to 60,000 students in ten years or less, generating a total direct economic impact of over $1.8 billion, and more in indirect economic activity, along with a positive impact on local labor markets and start-ups. But this will also require expanding regional enrollment capacity as part of a strategy to ensure access to native students, and as part of a scheme to attract a new generation of faculty and researchers to the Bay Area and California. International students would need to pay for the full cost of their education, helping to subsidize domestic students and college and university programs.

The result would be a San Francisco/Bay Area Higher Education Hub – a self-reinforcing knowledge ecosystem that is internationally attractive, socially beneficial and economically viable. “In developing the idea of our regional version of the hub idea, we offer a path for analyzing its feasibility, including a recipe that requires higher education institutions to work with an engaged private sector and local government to help create enrollment capacity, programs, a financial model, marketing, and possibly shared facilities.”

This bottom-up initiative will require most Bay Area colleges and universities, including UC Berkeley and Stanford University, to cooperate. “These two institutions will provide an anchor of legitimacy and help in developing the branding of the hub concept. Berkeley and Stanford would have an incentive to cooperate because of the direct and indirect economic returns of the SF/Bay Area higher education hub – income leveraged from the increased international attractiveness of the region, use of shared facilities, reputational impact of taking on a leadership role in the region, etc.”

“It is about the money,” they conclude. “But it is also about establishing closer ties with the surrounding business, economic, and cultural community, enhancing the quality and reputation of our universities and colleges, building enrollment capacity for native students, integrating international perspectives into the activities and learning of students and faculty, and broadening the opportunity for international collaborations. It is about solidifying the Bay Area as a global talent magnet, one that is even more culturally diverse, even more innovative, that continues to attract talent from throughout the world. ”

For access to the study, see: