Higher education and international student mobility in the global knowledge economy

  • Nicole S Poulin
Book Review

Kemal Guruz State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 2008, hardcover, 335pp., $50–$75, ISBN-10: 0791474135

Every college campus in America has a number of international students, faculty and researchers. Whether it is the basketball player recruited from Russia or the stellar mathematician from China, the international student is always a visible sight on campus. What Dr Guruz attempted to study in his book is the historical basis of globalization, and how it affected enrollment trends of international students.

The beginnings of this history were in the industrial revolution in Europe and America, when mass production and the scientific method became the means of rapidly developing the economy. Specifically, it was the creation of the public trust in universities in the West as centers for the production of knowledge and technology that helped to fuel the creation of the global community. Rich foreigners would travel the world to obtain the best education, and generally this meant attending an American university.

The goal of the research, most of which came from data drawn from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was to show university administrators that international student mobility continues to increase each year, specifically from China and India. The main destination for these students continues to be American colleges, as the American government subsidizes education and research so much that these institutions continue to vastly outpace those in the rest of the world. Dr Guruz's research shows that if another country, aside from the United States, desires to have one of the top universities in the world, then the government needs to heavily invest in higher education.

Dr Guruz's research is not a storybook; there are few elaborate stories or examples to explain how America came to dominate the global knowledge community. Instead, there are more than 50 graphs and tables to explain with hard data the trends in international student enrollments. The more interesting graph shows that by 2025, global demand for higher education is projected to reach 263 million people, and the author even accounts for a sharp decline in international enrollments in the next decade because of the current economic conditions. Most of the data are from 2005 and earlier, and the well-collected data allow for mostly long-term trends to be studied.

Surprisingly, although Dr Guruz is a Turkish national and Dean of the Graduate School at the elite Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, he does not focus on Turkey; he adeptly explains about international students coming from New Zealand, Morocco, South Korea and Mexico. Of course, particular attention is given to the United States, China and India, as the first is where most of the knowledge in our world is produced, and the latter two are where most of the consumers of that knowledge live.

New countries have started taking on the role of housing international students; these have included Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand. Yet all countries lag behind in attracting the top international students to the United States. Another aspect of higher education that Dr Guruz studied was the increasing prevalence of for-profit institutions opening degree-granting centers in other countries. These for-profit ventures were not solely American: some were Canadian, English and Australian. Interestingly, Dr Guruz, finds most for-profit institutions of higher education appear to be Western in origin, at least for now.

This book is an excellent starting point for those interested in enrollment patterns of international students, or for people looking for a basis of international comparative education. Although much of the information may feel superfluous and the cause reader to question whether the work could have been adequately completed in a journal paper or book chapter, people who read this book with no background in the history of globalization or American higher education will find it very informative and a good read. The graphs and data are well organized and in-depth to the point that few questions remain as to the concept of international student mobility. Obviously, Dr Guruz could not have predicted the difficult current economic situation, but he does recognize that there will be a decrease in international enrollments for the next decade, partially because of security issues, and the book remains relevant.

His final thought questions the future role of international student mobility. The movement of people and ideas has helped spread democracy, values and norms across the globe. There remains a public trust in the good of higher education in advancing society and improving one's social standing, at least for most of the world. China and India have emerged as contending world powers, though they did not invest in higher education as early as America. Yet both countries continue to catch up. The duality of international student mobility that will shape the future of higher education lies in the need for institutions to stay competitive and attract international students, while allowing those students to return to their home countries to contend in the knowledge community.

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole S Poulin
    • 1
  1. 1.Peabody International Affairs, Vanderbilt University,NashvilleUSA

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