In The Great Brain Race, former U.S. News & World Report education editor Ben Wildavsky presents the first popular account of how international competition for the brightest minds is transforming the world of higher education--and why this revolution should be welcomed, not feared. Every year, nearly three million international students study outside of their home countries, a 40 percent increase since 1999. Newly created or expanded universities in China, India, and Saudi Arabia are competing with the likes of Harvard and Oxford for faculty, students, and research preeminence. Satellite campuses of Western universities are springing up from Abu Dhabi and Singapore to South Africa. Wildavsky shows that as international universities strive to become world-class, the new global education marketplace is providing more opportunities to more people than ever before.
Drawing on extensive reporting in China, India, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, Wildavsky chronicles the unprecedented international mobility of students and faculty, the rapid spread of branch campuses, the growth of for-profit universities, and the remarkable international expansion of college rankings. Some university and government officials see the rise of worldwide academic competition as a threat, going so far as to limit student mobility or thwart cross-border university expansion. But Wildavsky argues that this scholarly marketplace is creating a new global meritocracy, one in which the spread of knowledge benefits everyone--both educationally and economically.Reviews
If you didn't know, Ben Wildavsky was once in charge of the annual U.S. college rankings for a major U.S. magazine. He is a great writer, this is a great topic. To put the topic in context: economic growth is, we now know, fundamentally about human capital -- inventing new ideas, optimizing factors of production. Globalization is about the evolving network of flowing goods, capital, and ideas. Put them together and what do you get?
Growth and globalization cross paths in front of every university. Summed up, a central "battle" for 21st century leadership is the competition for brains. Ben Wildavsky's book could not be more important for America's leaders to understand what is at stake in preserving and expanding our prosperity.
This is a highly insightful, very well-written book. Wildavsky lays out the several dimensions along which higher education itself is changing, but the implications of his discussion go far beyond just higher education. In particular, the book has major ramifications for the future of immigration reform in the U.S. and I hope that our tired use of brain drain/gain is replaced by Wildavsky's "brain circulation." On a more practical level, this book will (or should) be consequential for current and future college students in the United States. There is an exciting international frontier out there that American students should be a part of and, if they aren't, they will be hurting themselves as well as the country itself. Perhaps this will lead to more students studying, for example, foreign language? An idle wish, perhaps, but considering that more U.S. students obtain degrees in parks/recreation/leisure studies than all foreign languages combine, it's difficult to see just how American students can keep pace with brain circulation. I have already passed this book along to my brother, who is in college, and have already considered the implications of Wildavsky's discussion for my own children's future. You will not be disappointed by this extraordinarily helpful and finely crafted book.
This superb book by Ben Wildavsky warrants attention. For educators, it's the equivalent of Friedman's World Is Flat and carries much the same message: Higher education (and there are signs that K-12 education is following behind) is no longer confined by national boundaries, much less campus walls. At least at its upper echelons, it's now an international industry, serving an international market, populated by globe-trotting people. From a U.S. standpoint, that's both good and bad. Although we are successfully exporting something we've long been good at--and importing students and faculty, too--the universities of a dozen other lands (including India, China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, etc) are in hot pursuit and beginning to catch up. Ponder the implications. Meanwhile, read this terrific and ultimately heartening analysis.
President Levin of Yale University recently published an article in "Foreign Affairs" telling how the China and India are aggressively pursuing the establishment of 'world-class' universities within their nations. Areas of the mid-East are also involved. With the exception of India, each nation has enormous financial capacity to accomplish this goal. Some academics worry this will diminish the flow of talent into the U.S. (Over half the graduate degrees given by U.S. universities in science and engineering go to Asians.) Wildavsky, however, argues in "The Great Brain Race" that this new higher education environment is a win-win for all, that knowledge cannot be contained within borders, and that there is not a limited amount of knowledge to divide up. On the other hand, he also bemoans the fact that some foreign students don't come here because they doubt being able to stay in the U.S. after graduating. Therefore, he supports easier H-1B visas. The problem, however, is that the two positions are inconsistent, and Wildavsky's primary assertion doesn't make sense.