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The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World

May 18, 2010

From The Economist and Carnegie Council:

The word “globalisation” usually conjures up images of globe-spanning companies and distance-destroying technologies. The Rupert Murdochs and Lloyd Blankfeins of this world are generally seen as its champions. Its enablers are the laws of comparative advantage and economies of scale.

In “The Great Brain Race” Ben Wildavsky points to another mighty agent of globalisation: universities. These were some of the world’s first “global” institutions. In the Middle Ages great universities such as Paris and Bologna attracted “wandering scholars” from across Europe. In the 19th century Germany’s research universities attracted scholars from across the world. In the early 20th century philanthropists such as Cecil Rhodes and William Harkness established scholarships to foster deeper links between countries. By the 1960s globe-trotting professors were so commonplace that they had become the butt of jokes. (What is the difference between God and professor so and so? God is everywhere. Professor so and so is everywhere but here.)

Academic globalisation has gone into overdrive in the modern university. Some of this is along familiar lines—academics collaborating with ever more foreign colleagues and sabbatical-seekers contriving to spend ever more time abroad. But Mr Wildavsky demonstrates that globalisation is now much more complicated than just cross-border collaboration spiced up with junkets. Universities are obsessed by the global marketplace for students and professors. [More]

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