This week I attended a World Affairs council lecture titled Academic Globalization- How International Universities are Reshaping the World. Author Ben Wildavsky, former Education Editor for US News & World Report and currently a fellow at the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation, discussed his recent book titled, The Great Brain Race, How Global Universities are Reshaping the World.
The focus of the discussion was around the increasing globalization of higher education. Wildavsky focused on three themes:
- Unprecedented Academic Mobility
- Race to create world-class universities
- Emergence of global college rankings
Unprecedented Academic Mobility
Wiladavsky discussed the increased mobility of undergraduate and graduate students around the world. He stated that 3 million students are now studying outside their home countries, a 57% increase from 2000 (This does not count study abroad students, only students who have studied a year or more in a different country). The destination countries for these students was not just the typical places of the United States and Europe. Now countries such as China and India were attracting international students. Wiladavsky stated that China now even attracts more foreign students going into China than leaving China.
Race to create World-Class Universities
Three trends in the global higher education system are
- The emergence of world class universities that graduate students that can compete with the best US university students in the world
- Large amounts of money being spent to make universities in emerging economies competitive
- Branch campuses of western universities are proliferating around the world and university partnerships are being created.
A commonly cited example for point 1 above are the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses of India. Technical graduates from IIT have created some very successful startups in Silicon Valley and are aggressively recruited in the tech companies around the world. Interestingly, recently, the head of IIT Bombay enacted formal policies to ban their students from taking internships outside of India—a real concern about keeping the top Indian students in India is clear.
An example for point 2 is KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) in Saudi Arabia. Money has been pouring into that university from rich Saudi benefactors- it now has the 6th largest endowment in the world. KAUST is aggressively recruiting top professors and students around the world, with some recent successful examples of luring top administrators from Singapore.
Wiladavsky mentioned that there are now 162 branch campuses of western universities outside of their country, a 43% increase over the last 4 years. A trend of partnerships is evident with an example of a leading university in Singapore creating partnerships with the University of Chicago, MIT, and Insead.
Emergence of Global College Rankings
Wiladavsky, the former US News & World Report Education editor, was in charge of that publication’s annual college rankings. New global rankings being developed in places like France and China have joined the more established US and UK based global rankings. This global awareness can help motivate a country in pushing their goals and commitment even further to be top class.
My Overall Take-away
Over the years, the concept of a brain drain has typically been a concern for countries where students often left to pursue higher education. But with the emergence of global careers, lucrative career options for qualified candidates in home countries like China and India, the term Brain Circulation has become more common. A student may leave China, go to Singapore for an undergraduate degree, then to the US for a Master’s degree, then to Australia to work for a couple of years, and then back to China for a job with a multi-national company. I see the concept of multi-national universities to be much more common and sought out path for students in many countries and part of the training for students who eventually become leaders of multi-national companies. I agree with Wiladavsky who argues Americans don’t need to fear the globalization of higher education. This is the sign of the times and the US needs to adapt and be a leader in this increasing trend. Americans will need to be prepared to send their children to places in Asia like China and India, in addition to the normal Europe experience, for parts of their education career—their children will be demanding these types of experience. With aging populations in Europe and Japan (and to a lesser extent in the US), students from all around the world will become heavily recruited to fill student and labor shortages—the global mobility will often be driven by the countries themselves and not the students. Wiladavsky cited this quote which I think is an apropos way to end this posting
“Human Capital, embodied in one’s people, is the most fundamental part of the wealth of of nations” Claudia Goldin & Lawrence Katz, The Race between Education and Technology
This human capital may come from across the world and the trend of mobility will benefit both the destination and origin country.