The Great Brain Race: Many winners?

Ben Wildavsky’s The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World will be published this month.

In an interview with Insider Higher Ed, Wildavsky argues the globalization of universities is inevitable and potentially a win-win.

In the near term, we shouldn’t lose site of the fact that we remain hugely dominant – we have a disproportionate share of top researchers, 70 percent of the world’s Nobel winners, hold most of the top slots in global college rankings, and so on. We also pass an important market test, continuing to attract the lion’s share of top international students. That said, patterns of mobility could well change, and with so many new and improved universities in other nations focusing on science and engineering, that seems likely to be an area where we might lose ground.

. . . From a U.S. point of view, where we are likely to remain very strong is in our creative spark, in academia and beyond. This is something other nations urgently wish to emulate – our ability to innovate, and to use research discoveries in entrepreneurial ways.

In many competitor nations, universities have no “liberal arts tradition,” Wildavsky says. “A few are trying to change that, but for now our ability to ask questions, to challenge the conventional wisdom, to be nonconformist at times, is likely to continue to be an area where we stand out.”

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  1. Oh, so it’s our “liberal arts tradition” that accounts for U.S. higher education dominance? Whodda thunk?

    I’m inclined to think that the inherently competitive nature of U.S. higher education, with students fighting to get into the college of their choice and the colleges fighting to look as attractive as possible so as to attract the most qualified students, is the more likely reason for U.S. higher ed dominance.

  2. Hm-m-m.As an educator at a Title 1 school, accustomed to bad news about students who either aren’t on grade level or, worse, don’t “show growth,” I’m shocked the US is dominant in ANY area, academically!

  3. georgelarson says:

    Do we still have a liberal arts tradition in our colleges anymore? When I went to school in the 70s colleges were dropping required courses that were part of the liberal arts tradition and not replacing them with anything. I got the impression that our revisionist humanities and social science faculties considered the liberal arts part of the oppressive power structure. I am sure it is still possible to get a liberal education, but the student must want it and pursue it independently.


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