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The internationalization of higher education – Instalment 2

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Discussing the internationalization of higher education in the context of protectionists' fears, American commentator Ben Wildavsky makes the following observation (Wildavsky, 2010):

"... the globalization of higher education should be embraced, not feared. The worldwide competition for human talent, the race to conduct innovative research, the push to extend university campuses to multiple countries, and the rush to produce knowledgeable and creative graduates who can strengthen increasingly knowledge-based economies – all of those trends are hugely beneficial to the entire world".

Wildavsky goes on to point out that the concept of the brain drain, the loss of talent to a country which provides greater rewards, needs to be replaced with that of brain circulation and brain growth: as people circulate, so does knowledge, with the possibility of stimulating the global knowledge economy.

We are living not only in a global knowledge economy, but also a global marketplace for talent, which includes universities. In 2009, an estimated three million students attended universities abroad, an increase of 57 per cent since 1999 (Knowles, 2010).

In this situation, it is vital that universities educate people with a global perspective and the skill to be able to accommodate to another culture.

There are many different ways of achieving this goal: some encourage student mobility through exchanges, while others nurture international research collaborations, and yet others seek to be physically global by having campuses on foreign soil.

Internationalization is best done by thinking strategically about one's goals and the resources needed to achieve them. There are a number of different options, but what isn't an option is to ignore the world which creates the need for internationalization in the first place.