Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education
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Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education

Edited by Roger King, Simon Marginson and Rajani Naidoo

Higher education has entered centre-stage in the context of the knowledge economy and has been deployed in the search for economic competitiveness and social development. Against this backdrop, this highly illuminating Handbook explores worldwide convergences and divergences in national higher education systems resulting from increased global co-operation and competition.
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Chapter 4: The University as a Global Institution

Peter Scott


Peter Scott INTRODUCTION The university is generally regarded as an international, if not global, institution – in terms both of its historical development and of its future trajectory. This supposedly fundamental characteristic is accepted as a ‘given’, too easily perhaps because it tends to emphasize one element in the formation of the modern university (the international, or global) at the expense of other, arguably more significant, elements (the local and the national); and also because it may also place too much emphasis on a single strand, however important, in its future direction, leading to the adoption of a single-path model of development. The purpose of this chapter is not to debunk but to problematize this idea that the university is (or should be) first and foremost a global institution. The intention is to lead to a more rounded and more nuanced account of the university’s global role. Both aspects of the claim – the historical and the developmental – require careful investigation. The historical development of the university is a complex phenomenon. It is true that the first universities emerged in a recognizable form in the Middle Ages before nation-states had properly formed, although it may be significant that two of the earliest examples, Paris and Oxford, were established and flourished in France and England, which were perhaps the most advanced territories in terms of state formation (and went on to become the two most developed nation-states in Europe in later centuries). But, rather than regarding the medieval university as an international institution,...

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