New Global College Marketplace

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Jul 7, 2011 in , , | No Comments

What exactly is the “new global college marketplace”?

Basically, it is a growing trend of students who choose to attend college outside of their homeland. The number of students studying abroad is staggering–3 million–which is a 57 percent increase in just the past decade. This trend includes faculty too, who are taking advantage of opportunities at top foreign universities.

Additionally, a number of students studying abroad (in countries offering more opportunities than their homeland), stay in, or return to, those host countries. What are the pros and cons of this new global college marketplace?

The Big Winners and Losers

In Ben Wildavsky’s commentary, The New Global College Marketplace, (U.S. News & World Report), he argues the phenomenon is positive for the individuals and nations that participate.

Mr. Wildavsky states, “So far, the United States has been the biggest winner in this talent race. Two thirds of all international graduate students study in America’s world-renowned universities.”  But, the U.S. is losing ground as more and more foreign universities become competitors in this global marketplace. This is actually good news for students as it creates opportunities to study and work anywhere their skills are required–including halfway around the world. Students who once had limited opportunities, now find themselves, (based on their talents) able to take advantage of academic and job possibilities that in the past, were only a dream.

And in Brain Drain, by Lauren Wilcox, (World Ark, Summer 2011) she asks, “Is this always a negative for developing countries, or could the movement of the world’s best and brightest serve to bridge cultures and help those who remain at home?” She goes on to point out that, “It has long been conventional wisdom that the exodus of a poor nation’s best and brightest was a disaster equal to a magnitude to any of these, [poverty, poor infrastructure, civil wars, corruption, crippling natural disasters] depleting a country of the brainpower it needs to grow and prosper. And yet although that assumption might seem self-evident, it may not be true.” Ms. Wilcox states that the phenomenon affects “…recipient countries and home countries, as well as emigrants themselves, in complex and sometimes surprising ways.”

Ms. Wilcox points out an unexpected benefit of some skilled-worker emigration is an increase in a country’s education level, “…the reason seems to be that the prospect of work abroad compels people to pursue the necessary education.” But the biggest benefit, she believes, is that when emigrants return to their country, they carry with them valuable skills and experience, and business contacts they acquired abroad. However, a large number of emigrants don’t return to their homeland–which could be seen as the negative aspect.

The Controversy

Mr. Wildavsky believes that this is a “new kind of free trade–free trade of minds,” which comes with some degree of controversy. There are now enrollment limits and visa barriers, posing new problems for global students. Evidently, worries about the growing competition from other developing countries are beginning to plague Western nations. Are there valid reasons for these worries? Mr. Wildavsky concludes, “there is no reason to believe that gains for one nation mean losses for the rest.”

Ms. Wilcox also points out, “While economic studies have shown that brain drain is correlated with poor conditions in home countries [why people leave]…very few studies have been able to show that it causes poor conditions. But economists most often agree that skilled-worker emigration probably weakens a country’s ability to build its institutions, such as hospitals, schools and courts.”

Some want to limit emigration opportunities–stopping the hemorrhage of talent–forcing those who would have emigrated to find jobs at home in their developing countries. However, many critics of that thought feel it is not the answer.

The Down Side

The down side might be what these new globe-hopping students bring back to their homelands in the way of excess. If a student from a developing country studies in a wealthy Western country, they often adopt not only the positive aspects of that culture, but also the negative. This can prove to be disastrous, as pointed out by author Thomas L. Friedman in his book, Hot, Flat and Crowded. Mr. Friedman discovered students brought back a degree of consumerism which catapulted a few developing countries into major home building, production of luxury goods, and increased industrialization that produced major problems with pollution and energy consumption.

But, the flip side of that are remittances–money sent home by emigrants to their families–which is a large amount of funds. Ms. Wilcox documents, “The World Bank estimates that in 2009, remittances sent to developing countries alone totaled $307 billion. Much of that money is spent on immediate needs such as food and medical care. And remittances tend to act as a “buffer”, helping families through a country’s economic crises or other disaster.

The American Brain Drain

Others have pointed out that the brain drain taking place could create problems for the U.S. in the long run. Where are we losing ground? Less American-born students are majoring in science and engineering, two areas where demand is now high, but where foreign students are enrolled in great numbers. 60 percent of Ph.D. candidates on American campuses are from other countries.

Whatever the view, our world is bringing forth a more educated and well-traveled group of students than ever before.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have firsthand experience being a student in a foreign country seeking better opportunities?

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