Over the last several weeks more questions about the changing nature of the relative position of national higher education and research systems have emerged. These questions have often been framed around the notion that the US higher education system (assuming there is one system) might be in relative decline, that flagship UK universities (national champions?) like Oxford are unable to face challenges given the constraints facing them, and that universities from ‘emerging’ regions (East and South Asia, in particular) are ‘rising’ due to the impact of continual or increasing investment in higher education and research.
Select examples of such contributions include this series in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
- ‘America Falling: Longtime Dominance in Education Erodes‘ (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘Asia Rising: Countries Funnel Billions Into Universities‘ (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘Asian Universities on the Rise: a Comparison With U.S. Institutions‘ (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘Scientific Research: Asian Countries Expand, U.S. Holds Steady‘ (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘Singapore: Teaming Up With Foreign Universities for Innovative Research‘ (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘China: Attract Talent First, and Outstanding Universities Will Follow‘, (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
- ‘South Korea: Government Support for Research Builds Industries‘, (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009)
and these articles associated with the much debated THE-QS World University Rankings 2009:
- ‘Rankings 09: Asia advances‘ (Times Higher Education, 8 October 2009)
- ‘UK boosts standing but Asian countries ‘snap at our heels”, (Times Higher Education, 8 October 2009)
- ‘Rankings 09: Beacons of excellence‘, (Times Higher Education, 8 October 2009)
- ‘The Global Competition For Talent: The Rapidly Changing Market for International Students and the Need for a Strategic Approach in the US‘ (by John Aubrey Douglass and Richard Edelstein, Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California – Berkeley, October 2009)
a US report titled:
- Sizing Up the Competition: The Future of International Postsecondary Student Enrollment in the United States (by the American Council on Education, September 2009)
and one UK report titled:
- International Benchmarking Study of UK Research Performance 2009 (by Evidence Ltd., a Thomson Reuters business, for the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, September 2009)
There are, of course, many other calls for increased awareness, or deep and critical reflection. For example, back in June 2009, four congressional leaders in the USA:
asked the National Academies to form a distinguished panel to assess the competitive position of the nation’s research universities. “America’s research universities are admired throughout the world, and they have contributed immeasurably to our social and economic well-being,” the Members of Congress said in a letter delivered today. “We are concerned that they are at risk.”….
The bipartisan congressional group asked that the Academies’ panel answer the following question: “What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?”
Recall that the US National Academies produced a key 2005 report (Rising Above the Gathering Storm) “which in turn was the basis for the “America COMPETES Act.” This Act created a blueprint for doubling funding for basic research, improving the teaching of math and science, and taking other steps to make the U.S. more competitive.” On this note see our 16 June 2008 entry titled ‘Surveying US dominance in science and technology for the Secretary of Defense‘.
Taken together, these contributions are but a sample of the many expressions of concern being expressed in 2009 in the Global North (especially the US & UK) about the changing geography of the global higher education and research landscape.
These types of articles and reports shed light, but can also raise anxiety levels (as they are sometimes designed to do). The better of them attempt to ensure that the angsts being felt in the long dominant Global North are viewed with a critical eye, and that people realize that this is not a “zero-sum game” (as Philip Altbach puts it in the Chronicle’s ‘America Falling: Longtime Dominance in Education Erodes‘). For example, the shifting terrain of global research productivity is partially a product of increasing volumes of collaboration and human mobility across borders, while key global challenges are just that – global in nature and impossible to attend to unless global teams of relatively equitable capacities are put together. Moreover, greater transnational education and research activity and experience arguably facilitates a critical disposition towards the most alarmist material, while concurrently reinforcing the point that the world is changing, albeit very unevenly, and that there are also many positive changes associated with a more dispersed higher education and research landscape.
We’ll do our best to post links to new global mappings like these as they emerge in the future. Please ensure you let us know what is being published, be it rigorous, critical, analytical, alarmist, self-congratulatory, etc., and we’ll profile it on GlobalHigherEd. The production of discourses on this new global higher education and research landscape is a key component of the process of change itself. Thus we need to be concerned not just with the content of such mappings, but also the logics underlying the production of such mappings, and the institutional relations that bring such mappings into view for consumption.