Working Paper 22
Opening up: higher education systems in global perspective
Published June 2017

Professor Marijk van der Wende from Utrecht University discusses the challenges of globalisation for higher education.

The paper highlights the opposing forces of globalisation. While there has been strengthened cooperation within networks, systems, and regions on one hand, there has also been a growing divergence and stratification. Inequality decreased at a global level but at the same time increased within certain nations and regions.

Professor van der Wende argues that higher education as a whole has opened up to the world in recent years. Yet the current backlash against globalisation in parts of the world, combined with changing geopolitical relations, spells uncertainty for the global knowledge economy of the future. Higher education faces unforeseen challenges relating, for example, to international cooperation and the free movement of students, academics, scientific knowledge and ideas.

Professor van der Wende calls for a critical review of the theoretical models and methodological approaches steering higher education systems in a global context. She concludes that we must look at how system openness can be effectively combined with the capacity to address globalisation’s effects on inequality. Only then can higher education help realise an open, democratic and equitable society.