Over the holiday, I had the opportunity hang out with friends, who are also university teachers and researchers. If you’re not an academic, this probably sounds like the worst cocktail party ever. But bear with me. As we were comparing notes, one thing was clear—we were all seeing an increase in the number of international students in our classes.
I have always welcomed this influx of talent from other parts of the world, as it lends much needed global perspective to the classroom experience. But why, you might ask, are other nations sending their young people here? The standard response is that the US system of higher education is recognized for providing access to a quality education. And that is largely true and undeniable. But there may be more to it.
The American research university is arguably one of the most successful innovation engines the world has ever seen. And other countries would like a piece of the action. Learning from and reproducing this model elsewhere is both an understandable goal and something we should be proud to support.
But while the rest of the world is learning from our success, we are at risk of killing-off the very thing they seek to emulate. Research funding and research-driven tenure-track positions are in decline as universities find themselves strapped for cash and needing to implement temporary stop-gaps to make ends meet. We can do better. We need to be intelligent stewards of this vital resource that has made our education system the envy of the world.
I'm David Gunkel, and that's my perspective.