Global U

Andrew Ross

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    As universities are increasingly exposed to the rough justice of the market, their institutional life is distinguished more by the rate of change than by the observance of custom and tradition. Few examples illustrate this better than the rush, in recent years, to establish overseas programs and branch campuses. Since September 11, 2001, the pace of offshoring has surged and is being pursued across the entire spectrum of institutions that populate the higher-education landscape-from the ballooning for-profi t sectors and online diploma mills to land-grant universities and the most elite, ivied colleges. No single organization has attained the operational status of a global university, after the model of the global corporation, but it may be only a matter of time before we see the current infants of that species take their fi rst, unaided steps. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been pushing trade-services liberalization for several years, of which higher-educational services are a highly prized component, with an estimated global market of between $40 billion and $50 billion (not much less than the market for fi nancial services).1 Opponents of liberalization argue that higher education cannot and should not be subject to the kind of free-trade agreements that have been applied to commercial goods and other services in the global economy. After all, WTO agreements would guarantee foreign service providers the same rights that apply to domestic providers within any national education system while compromising the sovereignty of national regulatory efforts. Yet the evidence shows that, just as corporations did not wait for the WTO to conclude its ministerial rounds before moving their operations offshore, the lack of any international accords has not stopped universities in the leading Anglophone countries from establishing their names and services in a broad range of overseas locations. The formidable projected growth in student enrollment internationally, combined with the expansion of technological capacity and the consolidation of English as a lingua franca, has resulted in a bonanza-style environment for investors in offshore education. As with any other commodity good or service that is allowed to roam across borders, there has also been much hand-wringing about the potential lack of quality assurance. Critics argue that the caliber of education will surely be jeopardized if the global market for it is deregulated. Much less has been said in this debate about the impact on the working conditions of academics or on the ethical profi le and aspirational identity of institutions. How will globalization affect the security and integrity of livelihoods that are closely tied to liberal educational ideals such as meritocratic access, face-to-face learning, and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge? Will these ideals wither away entirely in the entrepreneurial race to compete for a global market share, or will they survive only in one corner of the market, as the elite preserve of those who are able to pay top dollar for such hand-crafted attention? No slouch when it comes to entrepreneurial conduct, NYU has eagerly sought recognition as a global player. In the course of the 1990s, it established itself as the national pacesetter in sending students abroad. Currently, 25 percent of its vast student body, many of whom refer to their alma mater as Global U, enrolls in one of its eight study-abroad programs-in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Prague, Florence, Shanghai, and Accra. The administration has mandated this student number to rise to 50 percent by 2011, new programs are being set up in Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, and an additional one is likely to resume operations soon in Mexico. Its faculty ritually bemoans the quality of offerings in many of the overseas "island" programs (in which students study with other Americans on campuses abroad) or laments that students spend their time abroad in an edu-tourist bubble, cosseted from any authentic contact with a non-American culture or environment. Much less discussed is the fi nancial reasoning behind these and other NYU offshore operations or the overall logic behind the rapid expansion of the university's existing global network in recent years. Some of this neglect is due to the lack of fi scal transparency at a private university and to the eroded state of faculty governance over academic affairs. But to approach the topic adequately requires familiarity with the larger picture of how and why American, British, and Australian institutions, in particular, are going global. This chapter charts some of the dimensions of that aggregate move, assessing NYU's profi le in a sector that, for all its mercurial growth, is not well documented, let alone widely understood.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThe University Against Itself
    Subtitle of host publicationThe NYU Strike and the Future of the Academic Workplace
    PublisherTemple University Press
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Print)9781592137411
    StatePublished - 2008

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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