Is ‘global’ higher education a friend or a foe?

3rd February 2022 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Simon Marginson, University of Oxford

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Audience: Public

Space making in knowledge and higher education opens up new freedoms but is inevitably subject to contestation over power. Geo-cognitive scales such ‘the global’ or ‘the national’ are constituted by three elements: the material (structural), the imagination/interpretation of agents, and the social practices of agents. ‘Global’ higher education is neither good or bad in itself – it depends on how we understand it and what we do with it.

In the weakly regulated space across and between nation-states there is a vast range of possibilities, potential to advance our cooperation and address our greatest challenges. So far, since the roll-out of the Internet in the 1990s, global higher education has had a mixed record. It has seen remarkable openness, dynamism and innovations, and also old/new forms of hierarchy, capture and closure. Potentials for multi-scalar understanding and ‘thinking through the world’ (Zhao Tingyang) have been enhanced. However, the more common perspectives have been methodological globalism, which exaggerates the weight of the global; and methodological nationalism, which shrinks from the openness of global relations, reasserts familiar controls and blocks one-world potentials from view. Joined together, these two limiting ways of thinking are mobilised to justify a Euro-American (and primarily Anglo-American) monoculture in higher education and knowledge. Methodological globalism facilitates the neo-liberal claim to intervene anywhere in the higher education world without regard for local traditions and agents or their potential to contribute to the global conversation. Methodological nationalism justifies claims to cultural superiority without any obligation to engage with the other. Neoliberal globalisation takes the national interests of neo-imperial countries, and their worldviews and ideologies, to every corner of higher education. Fortunately, this does not exhaust the open possibilities of global higher education. Like geo-politics as a whole, the higher education world is moving towards multi-polarity; and though the epistemic regime is still closed, nothing stays the same for very long. Higher education and knowledge-building foster agency. People in higher education can build cross-border relations based on mutual respect, appreciation of national and cultural diversity, and awareness of our common fate.

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).