Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research

GlobalHigherEd is still alive, I assure you! Unfortunately, our respective responsibilities, and some surprises, have been all consuming of late.

Over in Bristol, Susan has been busy with a recent keynote in the Gulf region on the intersections of the public and private; a talk that drew material from her contribution to a fascinating project on the conceptualization of public-private partnerships, including in higher education. This project, which will be published in book form, ties into our broader interests in the desectorialization and denationalization of higher education.

Across the Atlantic, in Madison WI, the last 1.5-2 months have been rather unique, to say the least! Apart from the ‘usuals’, I’ve had my head down creating a new on-line (virtual) course titled World Regions: Problems and Concepts, while also being engaged in debates about the proposed New Badger Partnership (NBP); an initiative which organizationally and symbolically pulls UW-Madison out of the UW System, providing it with greater autonomy over governance matters, albeit with uncertainty (to date) about process, structure, and outcomes. My colleague, William Cronon, was also hit with an open records claim by the Republican Party of Wisconsin; a development that spiraled into a national media issue. Who said life in the ‘flyover zone’ (as the US Midwest is sometimes deemed) is boring! All of these topics will serve as rich empirical cases for entries over the next several months as we try to come up for air, and shed light on some of the more ‘global’ dimensions of these issues in GlobalHigherEd.

Apart from the above, we’ve also been working to launch a GlobalHigherEd visualization initiative. This initiative, backed by some valuable seed funding via the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), is fueling the development of a series of visualizations about phenomena associated with the globalization of higher education and research. Curiously, these phenomena are remarkably under-visualized. To be sure there are some excellent graphics in reports like the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance series, or Olivier H. Beauchesne’s fantastic Map of Scientific Collaboration Between Researchers, but really, when you think about it, there are remarkably few informative visualizations (both static and dynamic) about phenomena like student mobility, regionalism and interregionalism, international collaboration, evolving modes of knowledge production, branch campuses, emerging forms of global governance, the uneven spread of private higher education, and so on.

The map below – a static (circa 2009) visualization of the branch campus phenomenon, is based upon the OBHE’s 2009 report International Branch Campuses: Markets and Strategies.

To be sure we all know that the branch campus phenomena is associated with a very uneven development pattern, but it is only via graphics like these that the uneven global geography is discernable. And as visualizers know, images like these do work and travel easily, including to contexts where language barriers to the consumption of text (typically in English) are high.

Over time we expect to develop many more visualizations. Future visualizations will be both static and dynamic, and include those that attend to change over time.

If you have any suggestions for topics or themes that lend themselves to being visualized, please email Kris <>, Susan <>, and cc our wonderful cartographer Tanya Buckingham <>, assistant director of UW-Madison’s Cartography Laboratory.

Kris Olds

5 thoughts on “Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research

  1. Pingback: Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research … - Internet Education Blog -

  2. These maps are very interesting! I wonder if the centralization of the research collaborations is due to the fact that universities in other areas are more focused on local research, or perhaps even teaching and service? Or, do you think that there is just a lack of universities in those areas?

  3. It would be best to avoid UAE University (United Arab Emirates) if one is hoping to do some serious research there. It’s in a real financial and administrative mess at the moment.

  4. Pingback: Visualizing the uneven geographies of knowledge production and circulation « GlobalHigherEd

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