International Competition

A few months ago I had the opportunity to attend a session by Thomas Friedman, journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded. He talked about the convergence of technology, how the “dot.com” boom wired the world, and the international competition that is now unfolding.

Higher education is not immune to international competition. Not all that long ago, the United States was “the” place to go for a college education; foreign students were scrambling to attend U.S. colleges and universities. But that is changing — and changing rapidly — as costs increase, along with competition from schools in other countries. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of students enrolled in a college outside their home countries soared 
85 percent, to 3.3M. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operative Development (OECD), during that same time the U.S. share shrank from 24 percent to 19 percent.

U.S. schools now compete with top colleges in other countries for the best and brightest students and staff. Our institutions are still quality institutions, but looking at the 2011 U.S. News & World Report’s World’s Best Universities rankings report, its not only U.S. schools that top the list. That top 10 is: 1) University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; 2) Harvard University, United States; 3) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States; 4) Yale University, United States; 5) Oxford University, United Kingdom; 6) Imperial College London, United Kingdom; 7) UCL (University College London), United Kingdom;  8) University of Chicago, United States;  9) University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), United States; and 10) Columbia University, United States.

[The U.S. News & World Report’s World’s Best Universities rankings, based on the QS World University Rankings, evaluated schools in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and more, and identified these to be the world’s top universities in 2011. The indicators were: academic reputation (40 percent); employer reputation (10 percent); citations per faculty (20 percent); faculty-student ratio (20 percent); proportion of international students (5 percent); and proportion of international faculty (5 percent).]

Higher education is quickly becoming a part of a “flat world” as more students and faculty explore options outside their own country’s borders. The choice is no longer just between an in-state or out-of-state university — it’s a school anywhere in the world. 

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