The Effects of Private Higher Education Worldwide

Funder: SSHRC

Years: 2018-2022

Over the past three decades, there has been an exponential growth in the number of private higher education institutions worldwide; today, roughly one-third of all students are enrolled in private higher education.

International development experts argue that private higher education is necessary for countries to expand access to higher education and maintain its quality. But little cross-national research has empirically investigated the extent to which private HE has actually expanded access to HE overall, or whether it has exacerbated inequalities in access to HE cross-nationally. Moreover, given its rapid global growth, in many countries the debate over whether or not a country should expand private HE is moot: the sector has grown even in countries committed to Communist principles (e.g., China) and those with constitutional commitments to free public HE (e.g., Morocco). The more pressing questions for policymakers and HE officials are: how can private HE contribute to broader national goals, such as innovation, inclusive development, social mobility, and global understanding? And What government policies and institutional practices can help ensure that private HEIs support these goals?

To answer these questions, this four-year project is creating a unique cross-national longitudinal dataset spanning 1960–2015, to empirically examine the link between private HE expansion, access to HE, and wealth-based inequalities in HE enrollment rates. We will also examine various models of new private HEIs to understand how private HEIs can support, rather than undermine, the goal of inclusive development, through a comparative case study of the role of new private HEIs in four distinct national contexts: Canada, China, Morocco, and the UAE.

Specifically, we will explore the following questions:

1. To what extent does private HE expand access to HE and to what extent does the expansion of private HE affect disparities in access to HE?

2. What nation-level factors moderate the relationship between private HE expansion and access?

3. What national and sub-national government policies and institutional practices, encourage the development of private HEIs that support, rather than undermine, the goal of inclusive development?

Internationalization Discourse in Comparative Perspective


Now more than ever, higher education is being tasked with educating future generations for an increasingly globalized world. Given the magnitude of current global challenges and the recent rise in nationalism occurring around the world, one of the most important questions for higher education institutions in Canada is how to educate future leaders and citizens for global interconnectedness and complexity. Internationalization of higher education has been one of the primary ways the university has responded to this call. Internationalization, which includes attracting international students and faculty, promoting faculty exchange and research collaborations, establishing branch campuses, and integrating international or intercultural knowledge into the curriculum, among other activities, has rapidly become an institutional priority for colleges and universities around the world. With a team of graduate students, I am compiling a set of institutional and national strategies for internationalization, and then code them to better understand:

  1. What are institutions’ priority activities?

  2. How do institutions frame and justify internationalization?

  3. What factors are associated with variation?