Education International
Education International

USA: college groups issue GATS warning

published 24 April 2007 updated 24 April 2007

Two dozen groups representing American colleges are urging the United States and other member countries of the WTO not to make GATS concessions that would threaten higher education institutions.

In the current GATS talks, US officials have indicated that higher education is one area that they want to make more accessible to foreign competitors.

While the proposal is supported by many for-profit higher education institutions and in the United States that are looking to expand overseas, groups representing the country's public colleges are worried.

In a letter sent to US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab, the American Council on Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation say the American proposals could undermine state regulations governing higher education institutions. The letter was signed by twenty-one other groups also signed the letter, including the Association of American Universities and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

"A US commitment in the higher-education-services sector could ultimately undermine all of our institutions’ time-honoured autonomy with respect to important prerogatives, including the approval of transfer credits," the letter said.

The letter from the college groups echoes concerns raised by the governors of Iowa, Maine, and Michigan who last year publicly requested that the trade negotiators not make any commitments in higher education and other vital public services.

In a joint statement, the governors said that higher education "is simply too important to subject to broad and poorly worded GATS rules which are subject to various interpretations by WTO tribunals".