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The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World Hardcover – April 25, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2011 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Higher Education, University Professional and Continuing Education Association

Honorable Mention for the 2010 PROSE Award in Education, Association of American Publishers

"Comprehensive and fascinating. . . . [Wildavsky] reports on American universities, notably NYU, branching out internationally; on foreign governments, like China's, spending vast sums to improve their own institutions, partly to attract scholars and students from abroad; on for-profit businesses, like Laureate and the Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan Inc., planting campuses in remote global locations. . . . This is Mr. Wildavsky's major argument. The globalization of education is producing what he calls a 'free trade in minds'--beneficial not only to countries sending their students abroad and countries accepting them but also, through positive externalities, to the broader world."--James K. Glassman, Wall Street Journal

"Academic globalisation has gone into overdrive in the modern university. Some of this is along familiar lines--academics collaborating with ever more foreign colleagues and sabbatical-seekers contriving to spend ever more time abroad. But Mr. Wildavsky demonstrates that globalisation is now much more complicated than just cross-border collaboration spiced up with junkets. . . . This is a fascinating story."--Economist

"Readable, fast-paced. . . . The global race to attract the top talent among both staff and students is affecting the academy across the globe. . . . As a description of the state of play on all these issues in the summer of 2009 (approximately), the book is wonderfully successful."--Sir Howard Newby, Times Higher Education

"[Wildavsky] tells an engaging story about the ways in which global universities are 'reshaping the world'. . . . [His] style is gripping and urgent. . . . His point that the forces of globalization will profoundly shape the future of higher education cannot be ignored. Not everyone will share Wildavsky's faith that a 'free trade in mind' will lead to equitable, or economically beneficial, outcomes. However, we must all grapple with his view that knowledge is a commodity, and universities, if they wish to survive, must treat it as such."--Adam R. Nelson, Nature

"Intriguing. . . . In our comfortable spot at the top of the world's higher ed pyramid, we are ignoring one of the most powerful trends of the 21st century--a growing free trade in great minds. Wildavsky, a senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, argues that this will make this era more innovative, and more prosperous, than any that human civilization has seen."--Jay Mathews, Washington Post

"Wildavsky does a fine job of giving contour to the diffuse and multifarious phenomena that comprise the ongoing globalisation of academia. . . . Wildavsky is forthright about his enthusiasm for what he calls a new 'free trade in minds', and he is refreshingly sceptical of all the knee-jerk rhetoric purporting to warn that America and other western powers are 'falling behind'."--John Gravois, National

"Provides an informative, early-days assessment of a new phenomenon: 'free trade in minds.' Acknowledging missteps and problems, he claims, with a bow to author Thomas Friedman, that an increasingly flat academic world will bring unprecedented economic, social, and political benefits, innovative research, and spread meritocratic values to emerging nations."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Boston Globe

"Wildavsky addresses all aspects of the internationalization of universities--students, faculty, branch campuses, financing, and even curricula--and contends that the combination of research and teaching, although sometimes a source of tension within universities, has been a resounding success."--Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs

"Superb. . . . For educators, it's the equivalent of Friedman's The World Is Flat and carries much the same message: Higher education (and there are signs that K-12 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. . . . Ponder the implications. Meanwhile, read this book."--Chester E. Finn, Jr., Education Gadfly

"Makes a compelling case for both the virtue and the inevitability of globalizing higher education. . . .[Wildavsky] paints a picture of a global higher-education landscape where porous borders and surging national aspirations are driving rapid increases in competition for students, professors, and prestige."--Kevin Carey, Chronicle of Higher Education

"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."--Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Real Clear Markets

"In insightful, straightforward, and accessible writing, [Wildavsky] discusses the strategic value of universities extending their influence and brand throughout the world, noting that 'knowledge changes the world'. . . . Readers who are relatively unfamiliar with the globalization of higher education will appreciate this, while seasoned global educators will welcome its complete and compelling picture of how postsecondary education benefits a nation's livelihood and economy. A worthy addition to libraries with larger international education collections and institutions with study abroad programs and/or foreign campuses."--Elizabeth Connor, Library Journal

"As a peek into fast-evolving trends in global or transnational education that are increasingly consuming the minds of university presidents, it's extremely good, and its educated-but-breezy Atlantic style of writing, so rare in higher education books, make it a pleasure to read."--Alex Usher, Globe and Mail

"Wildavsky's thoroughly researched book . . . provides a great deal of information about globalization in higher education and it raises some interesting questions. . . . The best contribution of the book is Wildavsky's vigorous argument that the increasingly open educational world is nothing to fear."--George Leef, John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy

"The book is an excellent and thought-provoking work, one that raises many important questions about where globalized higher education will take us. . . . In the end, The Great Brain Race is very convincing: the world is a far better place when we embrace the transnational flow of people and ideas, limit the urge to engage in academic protectionism, and expand the reach of the global meritocracy."--Andrew Kelly, The American

"Wildavsky paints a comprehensive picture of a field where information is scattered and often sparse."--Mary Taylor Huber, Change

"The Great Brain Race provides thorough insight into how higher education is playing its part in today's globalized world--and the other way around. . . . Wildavsky skillfully combines information gathered first-hand (e.g. in interviews with institutional leaders), anecdotal evidence, and his own knowledge of university rankings, with a keen awareness of the scholarly debates on higher education and its developments over time. . . . Skillfully written and fast-paced, Wildavsky's contribution is an undoubted added-value to our understanding of an inevitably internationalized higher education landscape. . . . This is a timely publication--and a must--for anyone interested in making the best of today's higher education."--Leon Cremonini, Teachers College Record

"The Great Brain Race is compelling because of the breadth of evidence that Wildavsky provides to demonstrate the degree to which globalization has permeated academe. As his examples show, there is no template or roadmap to guarantee the success of an institution or nation; at the same time, there is no doubt about the changes in the academic environment, and anyone in higher education will feel their impact."--Wayne Ishikawa, Continuing Higher Education Review

"The book is a thorough work on the higher education scenario globally. It discusses the issue at micro level, detailing both sides of the story. It is undoubtedly a valuable source book on the education sector."--Vaidehi Nathan, Organiser

"What this slim volume [provides] is a highly readable introduction to and advocacy for global education."--Robin Tatu, Prism

"[Wildavsky's] background and experience in the print media business is evidently present on every page of the book: he is able to explain rather complex phenomena in popular language, he masters the skills needed to combine facts from various sources with relevant quotes . . . and he is able to organize his materials in compact chapters. . . . I would definitely recommend the book to students in higher education as a more than adequate introduction to the phenomenon."--Jeroen Huisman, Studies in Higher Education

"Wildavsky's book should be commended for striking the right balance between alarmism and complacency on Western predominance in higher education."--Garret Martin, European Affairs

"Wildavsky addresses these issues in a journalistic style, and his answers are informed by an underlying agreement with the goal of an open and free academic market. His stories are illustrative, his research is impeccable, and the argument is forceful--as it needs to be in the face of rising academic protectionism. He also provides readers with an account of how misguided concerns about national interest are the greatest threat to freedom in the academic market today."--Choice


'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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691146896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691146898
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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