The high watermark of the Anglo-American academy

US and UK reign over the ‘global research university’ will be overthrown by the East’s rise and mainland Europe’s resurgence, expert predicts. John Morgan reports

March 27, 2010

The global dominance of the Anglo-American university is coming to an end as Asian nations invest heavily in higher education, an international education conference has heard.

The British Council’s “Going Global” event brought together 1,200 delegates in London on 25 and 26 March. Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, discussed the concept of the “global research university” in a keynote address.

Within this concept, he identified a tension between the prevailing Anglo-American dominance and the rise of Asia.

“The Shanghai Jiao Tong top 100 research university list is dominated by the US and the UK is number two, a remarkably strong performance given the underfunding of the higher education sector in this country,” Professor Marginson said.

But the status quo will not last, Professor Marginson predicted.

“We are at the historic highpoint of the Anglo-American university. Not for long. As everyone knows, the East is rising.”

China and South Korea were key countries in its ascent, he added.

“The innovation tigers in Asia focus mostly on applied research, but are investing so heavily in research and development that their basic research systems are expanding, too. Note that in these systems, public investment is crucial to the accelerated growth of research outputs and tertiary participation, while public funding is declining elsewhere.”

In the US and UK, state support for higher education “is being battered by the recession”, he said, while in Western Europe, “universities are also strengthening”.

Other issues debated at the conference included staff and student mobility, whether internationalisation is a Western construct, China’s global agenda, challenges in international branch campuses, Germany’s tactics to “top the global Bundesliga” and the improvements being made to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings.

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