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Ford Grant Assists Levy in Studying Global Growth

Distinguished Professor Daniel Levy (Department of Educational Administration and Policy) has received a $300,000 award from the Ford Foundation to extend work begun with a previous $230,000 award from Ford. “Understanding Private Higher Education: Global Roles and Patterns” explores the explosive international growth of private higher education.

Long associated mostly with just the U.S., private higher education has in recent decades emerged or significantly grown on almost every continent. Whereas the private share of total U.S. enrollments hovers just over 20 percent, private sectors account for the majority of enrollment in several Asian and Latin American countries, led by Japan and Brazil, respectively. Countries like China have jumped quickly from zero to more than 10 percent, with further private gains projected.

The recent sharp private growth, combined with a view that new institutions are not ‘real universities,’ helps explain the lack of serious study to date. Yet most of the vital dimensions of contemporary higher education change (heightened access, rising tuition, institutional differentiation, marketization, news forms of accountability) cannot be understood without reference to the private sector. Additionally, private higher education is intimately tied to wider privatizing trends in the broad political economy (a revamped and often trimmed state, globalization and increased competition). In both higher education and beyond, the relative size of the public sector shrinks while the nonprofit private sector expands and, amid controversy, so does the for-profit sector.

Levy is the director of the Program for Research on Private Higher Education (PROPHE). The program collaborates with CIEPP (Comparative & International Education Policy Program), also housed in EAPS and recipient of a separate $250,000 Ford Foundation grant. CIEPP’s principal concerns are privatization and accountability. Many activities jointly engage both PROPHE and CIEPP, to the benefit of graduate students and others.

PROPHE aims to expand and improve the human resource base in research. It includes 14 collaborative scholars and affiliates from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. Its first regional center, in Eastern Europe, has an additional 15 members. PROPHE Partner Centers are located at Peking University, South Africa’s University of the Western Cape, the World Bank, and other institutions.

Almost all PROPHE members are junior. Mentoring is a major part of PROPHE’s rationale, as is the expansion of scholarly networks particularly in the developing world.

Three UAlbany doctoral students have received their assistantships through PROPHE while several other UA students have also participated in research and funding. Additional doctoral students are part of PROPHE’s global network. Levy expects at least five dissertations to emerge at Albany through PROPHE. PROPHE-related dissertations are under way in other countries as well.

Conferences at PROPHE have already hosted visiting scholars or lecturers from Brazil, Chile, China, India, Japan, Russia, and Uruguay. Levy’s recent lecturing and policy advice includes Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Hungary, and South Africa

PROPHE now accounts for leadership in scholarly production, ideas, and related policy advice about private higher education. Accelerated production for 2004-2007 will result from the training and data building accomplished under the first grant. Many working papers are expected by 2007. Provocative “discussion papers” are also in the works and PROPHE has a regular column in the newsletter International Higher Education. Books are in progress and PROPHE is soon co-publishing the first international bibliography on private higher education.

PROPHE’s scholarship mission overlaps its policy mission of improving the informational base for policymakers and concerned citizenry. PROPHE will continue gathering systematic and cross-nationally comparable data. It will do likewise with laws, as policymakers in much of the world face choices in how and how extensively to develop a legal framework for private higher education. Under the new grant, PROPHE will retain its principles of objective research yet will also venture a bit more boldly toward policy debate. Stereotypes abound on the anti-private and pro-private sides and PROPHE will be keen to disseminate evidence that contrasts to any unwarranted stereotype.

For more on PROPHE, see