Universities branch out: from their student bodies to their research practices, universities are becoming more global.


As never before in their long history, universities have become instruments of national competition as well as instruments of peace. They are the locus of the scientific discoveries that move economies forward, and the primary means of educating the talent required to obtain and maintain competitive advantage. But at the same time, the opening of national borders to the flow of goods, services, information and especially people has made universities a powerful force for global integration, mutual understanding and geopolitical stability.

In response to the same forces that have propelled the world economy, universities have become more self-consciously global: seeking students from around the world who represent the entire spectrum of cultures and values, sending their own students abroad to prepare them for global careers, offering courses of study that address the challenges of an interconnected world and collaborative research programs to advance science for the benefit of all humanity.

Of the forces shaping higher education none is more sweeping than the movement across borders. Over the past three decades the number of students leaving home each year to study abroad has grown at an annual rate of 3.9 percent, from 800,000 in 1975 to 2.5 million in 2004. Most travel from one developed nation to another, but the flow from developing to developed countries is growing rapidly. The reverse flow, from developed to developing countries, is on the rise, too. Today foreign students earn 30 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded in the United States and 38 percent of those in the United Kingdom. And the number crossing borders for undergraduate study is growing as well, to 8 percent of the undergraduates at America's Ivy League institutions and 10 percent of all undergraduates in the U.K. In the United States, 20 percent of newly hired professors in science and engineering are foreign-born, and in China the vast majority of newly hired faculty at the top research universities received their graduate education abroad.

What are the consequences of these shifts among the highly educated? Consider this: on the night after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Jewish students at Yale (most of them American) came together with Muslim students (most of them foreign) to organize a vigil. Or this: every year the student run Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES) organize conferences in both China and at Stanford, bringing together students from both countries chosen to discuss Sino-U.S. relations with leading experts. The leaders of student groups promoting international collaboration are in touch with each other...

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