Policy Documents

Liberalizing Cross-Border Trade in Higher Education: The Coming Revolution of Online Universities

Simon Lester –
February 5, 2013
In this Policy Analysis for the Cato Institute, Simon Lester argues that recent developments in higher ed suggest that online education is going to be of increasing importance. It only makes sense since the music and book industries have moved to a more electronic, or technical, delivery service. These new business models in higher ed are noteworthy of a period of much experimentation that is upon us in our colleges and universities. Those colleges that, for whatever reason, do not meet the new market challenges will likely ask the government for protection, especially since movement to online education is a borderless proposition. The author contends that we should promote free trade in education. One way to do that is with international trade agreements. Through these agreements, governments can make commitments not to discriminate against foreign online higher education programs. The past few decades have seen great progress in bringing down tariffs and other protectionist trade barriers through trade agreements. In order to bring the benefits of international competition to an important sector of the global economy, we should apply that same model to trade in higher education services.