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Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy’

University of Wisconsin–Madison via Coursera

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Universities and higher education systems worldwide are being transformed by new and changing actors, practices, programs, policies, and agendas. From notions of 'global competency' and 'international branch campuses,' to ever more common perceptions that international collaborative research is a desirable objective, through to the phenomena of bibliometrics, rankings and benchmarking that are framed and operate at a global scale, contexts are changing. This massive open online course (MOOC) itself, developed in Madison and Bristol and hosted on the Coursera platform in Silicon Valley, is a perfect case in point!

Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy’ is designed to help students better understand some of these complex changes. Our specific objectives are to:

  • Provide an integrated 'big picture' regarding the globalization of higher education and research.  
  • Reinforce the value of thinking about processes of change by focusing on emergences -- the forward edges of change -- as well as the frictions associated with these processes. We attempt to make this tangible by highlighting the role of relevant logics, thinkers, institutions, networks, technologies, ideas, temporalities, and regulations.
  • Highlight the role of relative and variable forms of power in shaping agendas and practices, as well as uneven development patterns and outcomes.

In the end, we hope to stimulate some exciting globally oriented learning about how the higher education sector - from research to teaching, learning, and service (the 'third mission') - are changing. 


Week 1: Universities (Starting Monday 24 March)Keywords: collaboration, competition, global competency, globalization, internationalization, learning, logics, mechanisms, mission, mobility, models, technology
Week 2: City-regions (Starting Monday 31 March)Keywords: academic freedom, branch campuses, cities, city-regions, competition, hubs, gateway cities, global cities, innovation systems, liberal arts colleges, mobility, R&D, networks, urbanization.
Week 3: Nations (Starting Monday 7 April)Keywords: competition, denationalization, exports, mobility, nation-state, revenue, services, students
Week 4: Regions (Starting Monday 14 April)Keywords: collaboration, competition, geopolitics, higher education areas, interregionalism, regionalism
Week 5: Globals (Starting Monday 21 April)Keywords: assessment, benchmarking, competition, desectoralization, framing, governance, hegemony, knowledge, intergovernmental organizations, publishing, R&D, rankings, thinkers
Week 6: World Class (Starting Monday 28 April)Keywords: assessment, benchmarking, bibliometrics, competition, desectoralization, governance, metrics, models, world class universities, world university rankings
Week 7: Singapore (Starting Monday 5 May)Keywords: academic freedom, branch campuses, city-state, competition, developmental state, global cities, hubs, innovation systems, nation-states, networks, R&D, rankings, regionalism, services

Taught by

Kris Olds and Susan L. Robertson


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