In this changing landscape, American universities must reinvent their paradigm. Maintaining exclusivity over students and professors is unlikely to continue in the highly transient and increasingly connected world. Mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations must become the cornerstones of our future strategy.
We have to ask ourselves: Can America lead the way in developing a system where learning takes place globally and progress toward learning is transferred seamlessly from country to country? Can a student start his degree in India, spend a second year in Greece, a third year in Brazil, and after completing a fourth year receive the degree in the United States?
A similar question has to be asked about faculty. Can we share our talented teachers and researchers across the globe, not just via distance education but by sharing their actual presence for one semester each at two universities? Wouldn't it be better to still have that professor in our American system for four to six months out of every year rather than to lose her to an attractive competitor forever? And keep in mind that faculty traveling and living abroad will likely become better educators.
Yet another question: Is it feasible to anchor an important project in one lab but allow its applicability to be developed in three research parks in three countries simultaneously? Isn't it ultimately better for important technology to be transferred to the marketplace in the shortest amount of time rather than decelerate its development by a single institution monopolizing the process?
Yes, complicated legal, logistical, and economic issues will make every such scenario seem impossible—initially. But we must realize that the primary asset of a knowledge economy is knowledge and the principal talent and resources to produce it are moving swiftly into the global marketplace.
If American higher education wants to remain relevant and globally competitive, then it must broaden its perspective and transform itself into a truly global enterprise. The innovation and initiative that helped make the American system the envy of the world can also lead the way in developing an equally admirable new model for the future.
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