Why I dislike it is because it is patently dishonest. It is selling the brand of the collective universities without the service.
Under the original agreement (and it may have changed since) the courses were designed by Thomson Education, without any direct input from the faculty of member universities (they may have occasionally hired faculty from member universities, but there was no requirement in the agreement to do so, and their work was approved or rejected by Thomson, not their own university.) Thomson were happy to do this because they anticipated that they could make their books required reading for the courses. Courses were ‘approved’ for marketing not by the VP Academics of the institutions, but by a special U21 committee set up consisting mainly of the VPs International, whose main mandate is to increase revenues. In other words the courses did not go through the peer review process that such courses would go through if they were offered to their own students.
Similarly, Pedagogica 21, the quality assurance part, is again a sub-division of Universitas 21. Program approval then is pretty automatic once the ‘marketing’ committee has approved the courses. As Ryan and Steadman (2002) said in their report on The Business of Borderless Education, and I quote:
‘…the issues raised by the U21 global venture are potentially of serious concern to publicly-supported higher education systems. It is unclear how U21pedagogica, the accrediting body of the U21 universities, can call on sufficiently wide expertise to validate proposed programs without the deep expertise that a comprehensive university uses in its usual accrediting procedures, through the various academic bodies of the university.’
As far as I know, none of the U21 courses or programs has been through the UBC peer review process for program approval. Instead, a catch-all motion was forced through the Senate in 1998 enabling all programs from Universitas 21 to carry the UBC logo. It may be different at Birmingham University, but unless every program has been peer reviewed by the relevant academic faculty in your university, it is my view that the university seal should not be used.
Let me be clear. I am not against international consortia or partnerships or against for-profit courses being offered internationally. Indeed I was the instigator behind a for-profit Masters of Educational Technology between UBC and Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, and I was active in promoting open access to university courses in my province through the Open University of BC consortium of universities and the Open Learning Agency.
However, I am against international programs that lack academic integrity and don’t offer to foreign students what they offer to their own, and which operate purely for profit reasons.
reference: Ryan, Y. and Steadman, L. (2002) The Business of Borderless Education: 2001 update Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.