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Tag Archives: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership




Academics raise alarm over US trade agreement
22nd May 2014

Higher education must be excluded from any future trade partnership between the EU and the United States to avoid an influx of private universities, according to university groups.

Concerns have been raised as discussions are under way about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, designed to reduce barriers to trading goods and services. Discussions on the TTIP began in July last year and are proceeding on the basis of a negative list approach, meaning that unless a subject is explicitly excluded, it could be up for negotiation. If higher education is tabled, the implications are that both sides could open their borders to free competition from elsewhere, a stark change for many EU countries in which universities are state-owned and protected.

Howard Davies, an adviser at the European University Association, says higher education is a public good that should remain outside the remit of  such an agreement. It’s mainly a member state jurisdiction, and member
states should continue to have the right to run their systems as they please, he says.

Education International, the global federation of teachers unions, is also pushing for education to be exempt. ‘Including it in an EU-US partnership would directly lead to an increase in privatisation, which we oppose’, says
Guntars Catlaks, the unions senior coordinator for research. Negotiators are also considering agreements on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, intellectual property, e-commerce and data protection, which could affect universities.

Some member states may support a TTIP higher education agreement as they are in favour of commodification. In the UK there are universities that have opened campuses abroad and the whole ambience is entrepreneurial, says Davies. But that’s not true of other countries.

However, awareness of the TTIP negotiations in universities and rector associations remains low, which could be a problem if higher education is included in a final deal. If an agreement is reached, it will be presented to ministers and the European Parliament and there won’t be much time for lobby groups to amend whatever has been decided, says Davies.

The Parliament and environmental groups have been pushing for more transparency in the discussions to aid public debate. Davies says this has made the negotiating parties more nervous about public opinion. But it will never be totally transparent because you can’t conduct negotiations in a glass box, he says.

This article also appeared in Research Europe
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