Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution

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BOOK NOTES Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution Report Prepared for the 2009 UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

By Philip Altbach, Liz Reisberg, Laura Rumbley

While my usual practice is to review published books, this report in its entirety can be found online at : http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001832/183219e.pdf. I'd also commend readers to search for the following supplementary documents which relate to the report's principal findings: University World News: Global Trends in Global Higher Education, http:// www.universityworldnews.com/article. php?story= 2009070; UNESCO: World Conference on Higher Education closes with an appeal for investment and cooperation, http:// www.unesco.org/en/ education/single-view/news/world_co; Times Higher Education, Remarkable Rise of the For-Profit University, http:// www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story. asp?sectioncode=2 .

Last summer, 1,000 participants from 150 nations, including ministers, rectors and presidents, students, faculty, and representatives of the private sector, met in Paris to review the changes and examine the trend forecasts in the decade since the 1998 World Conference. The final conference communiqué called for governments to "increase investment in higher education, encourage diversity and strengthen regional cooperation to serve societal needs." Private sector partners stressed the need to increase investment in African higher education - a critical issue given the widening divide of resources that continues to separate educational opportunity for students in the least developed nations.

The report's analysis provides a fascinating and important world view of higher education on all continents. The data collected offers important insights into socioeconomic phenomenon that impact global student mobility, enrollment of international students in the United States, and the development of interuniversity linkages.

The following were reported out as key findings and hallmarks of global changes in higher education in the past decade:

* A turn away from viewing higher education as a "public good" to a "private good" largely due to financial pressures and the enrollment of large numbers of students [in relative terms for North and South nations]. The privatization of higher education is not viewed as a positive outcome;

* Changing demographics including: increased enrollment by women; and enrollment of older, part-time, and more diverse student populations;

* Expanding enrollments in developing nations may push institutions to meet this demand by lowering academic standards for faculty;

* National debates will focus more upon issues of access by a wider population of students;

* Although the academic profession will continue to diversify and become more global in nature, national "circumstances (i.e., local, regional, and national interests)" wiil constrain structure of the industry.

The sum of the changes in each case is an increased gulf in available human and capital resources to serve the needs of student-age populations in the poorest nations. While the strengthening of economies in the two largest emerging states- India and China - has altered the capacity of those governments to strengthen tertiary educational institutions and grow opportunities for employment of their most educated citizens-reversing the "brain drain" of past years - there are still far too many states who lack the resources and infrastructure to meet the growing needs of their largely young populations. …