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The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World [Kindle Edition]

Ben Wildavsky
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In The Great Brain Race, former U.S. News & World Report education editor Ben Wildavsky presents the first popular account of how international competition for the brightest minds is transforming the world of higher education--and why this revolution should be welcomed, not feared. Every year, nearly three million international students study outside of their home countries, a 40 percent increase since 1999. Newly created or expanded universities in China, India, and Saudi Arabia are competing with the likes of Harvard and Oxford for faculty, students, and research preeminence. Satellite campuses of Western universities are springing up from Abu Dhabi and Singapore to South Africa. Wildavsky shows that as international universities strive to become world-class, the new global education marketplace is providing more opportunities to more people than ever before.

Drawing on extensive reporting in China, India, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, Wildavsky chronicles the unprecedented international mobility of students and faculty, the rapid spread of branch campuses, the growth of for-profit universities, and the remarkable international expansion of college rankings. Some university and government officials see the rise of worldwide academic competition as a threat, going so far as to limit student mobility or thwart cross-border university expansion. But Wildavsky argues that this scholarly marketplace is creating a new global meritocracy, one in which the spread of knowledge benefits everyone--both educationally and economically.

Editorial Reviews


Wildavsky meticulously demonstrates how the competition for academic talent has gone global, with universities all over the world chasing the brightest students. . . . The Great Brain Race is a timely wake-up call.


'Ben Wildavsky has given us the most thorough and penetrating account to date of how globalization is transforming higher education around the world. The details are rich and compelling, and Wildavsky's judgments are, in my opinion, unerring.'--Richard C. Levin, president, Yale University

'In this masterful account, Ben Wildavsky documents the emergence of a global academic marketplace that will inevitably kindle protectionist anxieties in the established powers--but that will also spur research and innovation, boost economic growth, and solidify meritocratic values in emerging nations. At last this aspect of globalization gets the attention it deserves.'--Sebastian Mallaby, Council on Foreign Relations

'No leader in a global business can ignore the increasingly international brain exchange that this book describes. Wildavsky convincingly contends that the spread of academic excellence internationally and a free trade in minds is to be celebrated rather than feared. This is a must read for anyone in the global race for talent.'--Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline

'Ben Wildavsky has written an engaging primer on the world of international higher education.'--Philip G. Altbach, Director of the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College

Product Details

  • File Size: 594 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0691146896
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ODIX4U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,771 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, but June 1, 2010
By Gozzi
First, as a university professor, I found the issues within this book provocative at many levels. I have taught "study abroad", foreign and domestic students, introductory and graduate level courses. The collection of issues relates to the functioning of my Department and my University. I've thought the book would be a great basis for a faculty retreat. But, I do have some problems with the book.

First, the author relies on his status as a "reporter" for his credentials. A "Kaufman fellow" doesn't really mean that one understands or has experienced what goes on within a university. I would like to have known what his academic background was. He references lots of names from the academy, but alas, almost all are administrators. (Since he approaches higher education as an industry he might have looked to recent critique of the US auto industry where CEOs and the board members often had no idea what was going on in the industry.) In this volume, Wildavsky focuses on "administrators" and reveals little understanding of the fabric of an education and especially the role of teaching and teachers. Indeed, professors have two often divergent demands placed on them: doing publishable & fundable research AND teaching, it would have been good to know that he had/has informed knowledge of these functions and how they vary by institution. Focusing on administrators may or may not give a clear view of what goes on.

An example from my own experience is relevant to this point and more. A very important administrator here seriously argued that there should be NO prerequisites for any course within the university; we should recognize that the student is the customer and the customer is always right. "There's no reason a student has to study Beowulf in order to study Shakespeare.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave New World of Worldwide Higher Education April 27, 2010
This superb book by Ben Wildavsky warrants attention. For educators, it's the equivalent of Friedman's World Is Flat and carries much the same message: Higher education (and there are signs that K-12 education is following behind) is no longer confined by national boundaries, much less campus walls. At least at its upper echelons, it's now an international industry, serving an international market, populated by globe-trotting people. From a U.S. standpoint, that's both good and bad. Although we are successfully exporting something we've long been good at--and importing students and faculty, too--the universities of a dozen other lands (including India, China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, etc) are in hot pursuit and beginning to catch up. Ponder the implications. Meanwhile, read this terrific and ultimately heartening analysis.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pompous, tedious, polyannish April 2, 2011
By Hal P
The book contains some OK journalistic reporting about the growth of universities around the world, but if that's what you want you can get it in magazines and on websites. The distinctive aspect of the book is a polyannish claim (asserted over and over and over again) that there is no important zero sum game in the realm of education, that if say Chinese and other higher education systems surpass the US, that's really just fine for the US because don't you know, everything is win-win in the world, the better off everyone is, the better we all are. You have to be a glazed-eyed globalization enthusiast devoid of much acquaintance with human history or even supply and demand curves, to believe this sort of stuff. Wildavsky pompously lectures Americans that their natural and growing concerns about mediocre educational achievement in the US, and about being overtaken by higher-performing foreigners, are somehow naive and silly. Unfortunately, he neglects to provide any analysis that deserves to be called an argument for this conclusion--much less a convincing argument. So how will it all work out, Ben, when say China's GNP is twice or four times ours? When our engineers cannot keep up with the algorithms that China is putting into its fighter aircraft avionics, please explain to us how everything will be fine for US national security? When we cannot afford limited commodities like fish because what was formerly known as the Third World has bid up the price of them beyond our means? Show us simpletons exactly how the Laws of Economics guarantee that we'll be better off then, Ben! Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to the Future April 28, 2010
This is a highly insightful, very well-written book. Wildavsky lays out the several dimensions along which higher education itself is changing, but the implications of his discussion go far beyond just higher education. In particular, the book has major ramifications for the future of immigration reform in the U.S. and I hope that our tired use of brain drain/gain is replaced by Wildavsky's "brain circulation." On a more practical level, this book will (or should) be consequential for current and future college students in the United States. There is an exciting international frontier out there that American students should be a part of and, if they aren't, they will be hurting themselves as well as the country itself. Perhaps this will lead to more students studying, for example, foreign language? An idle wish, perhaps, but considering that more U.S. students obtain degrees in parks/recreation/leisure studies than all foreign languages combine, it's difficult to see just how American students can keep pace with brain circulation. I have already passed this book along to my brother, who is in college, and have already considered the implications of Wildavsky's discussion for my own children's future. You will not be disappointed by this extraordinarily helpful and finely crafted book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening in a sense of what the internet has done
Obviously the world is getting smaller and smaller everyday and this book does a great job of explaining the globalization of higher education. Read more
Published on July 30, 2012 by Robert Kirk
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insights, Important Analysis
Whether Clint Eastwood is correct or not that the US is entering the second half (if Eric Hoffer is a philosopher, why not Dirty Harry), too many in our country still fail to see... Read more
Published on February 24, 2012 by Wittgenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising analysis of globalization's impact on higher education
Given Ben Wildavsky's focus on higher education, you might assume that only educators would be interested in his book. Don't make that mistake. Read more
Published on June 30, 2011 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars The Future of Higher Education
This is a valuable read for anyone interested in the future of higher education. I'm in a book group of college advisors who were so impressed with the high quality of Ben's... Read more
Published on February 25, 2011 by Shirley Bloomquist
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly great reading
Intelligent, informed treatment of a very current topic for the first 3/4 of the book. It bogs down when the focus turns to rankings and too much attention is paid to this... Read more
Published on September 20, 2010 by Robert A. Pesek
1.0 out of 5 stars The author is misleading everyone
It is very sad when we see "an expert" on higher education, making a biased, shallow and an untrue statement such as this one: "Boxter points to the huge differences between the... Read more
Published on August 3, 2010 by Dubai educator
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for those who care about the future of education
Wildavsky does for higher education what Tom Friedman did for business, telling the stories of the current state and future prospects of global higher education. Read more
Published on June 30, 2010 by J. Abraham
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and entertaining review of the state of global higher...
This is an engaging and entertaining review of the state of global higher education. Two of the three themes developed in the book - the internationalization of (mostly Western)... Read more
Published on June 15, 2010 by David Achenbach
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Brain Race -- Not a zero-sum game
Ben Wildavsky has produced a first-rate look at higher education in motion around the world as countries and universities compete for students, faculty, prestige, and, yes,... Read more
Published on May 30, 2010 by Cambridge Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful, Great Writing
If you didn't know, Ben Wildavsky was once in charge of the annual U.S. college rankings for a major U.S. magazine. He is a great writer, this is a great topic. Read more
Published on April 28, 2010 by Timothy J. Kane
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More About the Author

Ben Wildavsky is a senior scholar in research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. A leading education analyst and popular speaker, he is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World (Princeton University Press, 2010). He is also the co-editor of Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation (Harvard Education Press, 2011). His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The Atlantic, and many other publications.

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