American university students remain largely cloistered from international affairs in spite of wars and worldwide terrorism, according to a study.
The report, from the American Council on Education, found that while many universities have increased entry requirements in languages and global culture, they have done little else to encourage international education.
"I think that there is student interest out there that could be tapped," said Madeleine Green, ACE vice-president and director of the Center for Institutional and International Initiatives.
While more than 67 per cent of staff agree that international skills and knowledge should be incorporated into the curriculum, only 41 per cent report that they have done so in the past three years. Only a third of US universities mention global education in their mission statements, and only a quarter rank it among their top five priorities.
The percentage of universities with foreign language prerequisites for admission has increased from three to 23 in the past 15 years, but the percentage of students enrolled in foreign language classes has remained flat. Of those who do study languages, an increasing number take Spanish, while interest in other languages - particularly French and German - has declined.
The cold war encouraged internationalisation in the 1950s and 1960s but that has dropped off, said David Ward, ACE president. He said the government had to be involved in reversing this trend.
Study abroad may not be the most effective solution, the report says. While 58 per cent of US students think all students should study abroad at some point, only 12 per cent actually do so.
"While study abroad is very important, it touches very few students," Ms Green said. "The major focus on internationalisation has to be on campus."
The study was based on a poll of 1,290 students and 1,0 faculty members at 752 US universities Those students who do go overseas feel they benefit greatly from the experience, according to a survey by the Institute for the International Education of Students.
Ninety-six per cent said the experience enhanced their self-esteem and 90 per cent said that it had encouraged them to make more diverse friendships.
Nearly 60 per cent said they had returned to visit or work in the country where they had studied.
Details: the ACE study can be ordered at http:///www.acenet.edu/bookstore/pubInfo.cfm?pubID=306