For those of you who have been putting off reading Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu just released a short article with the modest ambition of recapping the last 100 years of economic and political history, and predicting the trajectory of the next 100. It’s called The World Our Grandchildren will Inherit, and it’s a pretty snappy encapsulation of the Why Nations Fail thesis: that inclusive rather than extractive political systems result in inclusive rather than extractive economic institutions, and those in turn form the fundamental building block of sustainable economic growth. (h/t Blattman)
This is a guest post by Generation Rwanda Fellow Meghan Hammond
The 2005 IAU Global Survey Report on Internationalization of Higher Education, led by Jane Knight of the University of Toronto, asked what institutions of tertiary education across the world were seeking from internationalization, and with whom they hoped to build cooperative relationships. The report found that universities in the African region wanted foremost to build international networks within Africa itself. Outside of Africa, these universities sought internationalization with Europe first, Asia second, and North America third (editor’s note: foreign professors in Rwanda are overwhelmingly Northern European or Indian).
Indeed, institutions of higher education in Africa seem to have little desire to recruit professors from the North American region. This lack of interest stands in contrast to the eagerness of universities in East Asia and the Middle East to find teachers with doctoral degrees from the United States and Canada. A simple search on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s popular jobs database, for example, will yield advertisements for jobs in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Offered in a wide range of fields across the humanities and sciences, these are mostly contract positions.
It is easy to see what the nations recruiting North American Ph.D.s have in common: economic power. These nations have cash on hand and have made it a priority to improve the quality of higher education on home soil, thus reducing the risk of “brain drain” tied to sending students abroad. Furthermore, elite institutions of higher learning serve as both a symbol and a source of power. Their establishment takes time; one way to speed the process is to borrow the human and cultural capital of universities abroad at a time when doing so is cheap thanks to an abysmal job market.
Interesting post on higher education in the MENA region over at DevEd:
Today, MENA’s main challenge is to adapt and to evolve within the framework of the knowledge economy since it is no longer possible to compete on the basis of cheap unqualified labor. In fact, the absence of adequate skills means that these countries will fail to attract foreign investments. Hence, education can no longer be organized in the shape of a pyramid where the number of students decreases with the level of education. In fact what is needed now is a more diverse and comprehensive post-compulsory education system that delivers skills adapted to the needs of the economy and to each country’s context. These skills should reflect the diversity of abilities and aspirations within the student population.
It will be interesting to see whether these reforms gain traction first in places like Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia–or whether autocracies looking to make minor reforms see science education as a relatively benign target.