Higher Education As An International Public Good And GATS: A Paradox?
The reform of higher education in Europe in the wake of the Bologna Declaration can on the one hand be seen as an effort by the European political world to construct some kind of regional public good in this field. On the other hand the United States and its allies such as Australia and New Zealand are, in the talks of the Millennium Round, trying to bring (higher) education under the rules of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). This effort reflects the conviction that higher education must be seen as a private good. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the nature of higher education in terms of the discussion on public good vs private good. Higher education clearly has public as well as private ingredients. A number of questions can be deducted from this fact. This paper will try to give the beginning of an answer to these questions. The structure of the paper is as follows. In the first paragraph a definition is given of international public goods. Higher education is then analysed from the perspective of this definition. The second paragraph considers the European policy towards creating a higher education system in Europe in the framework of a regional public goods approach. Consideration is given to those public and private aspects of higher education which follow from the analysis in paragraph 1. In the third paragraph higher education is set in the framework of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The fourth paragraph tries to make some concluding remarks about the paradox which is the core issue of this paper.