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 6: Global Institutions: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Marijk van der Wende


Marijk van der Wende INTRODUCTION ‘Higher education drives and is driven by globalization. It trains the highly-skilled workers and contributes to the research base and capacity for innovation that determine competitiveness in the knowledge-based global economy’ (OECD, 2009, p. 13). This clause summarizes the vision of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the relationship between globalization and higher education. Higher education’s contribution to economic competitiveness is at the center, and the OECD emphasizes a conceptual link between the knowledge base and the global character of the economy in the twenty-first century. From the 1960s onwards neoclassical economists conceived of higher education as a producer of human capital. This defined and legitimated the notion of ‘education as an investment’ in economic development. It became central to the OECD’s involvement in the sector and its support for countries modernizing and expanding their national systems of higher education. In the 1990s the notion of globalization as a major contextual factor – not only characterizing changing economic realities but shaping the higher education sector itself – became more explicit. This introduced questions about competitiveness at a global level, the role of nations and cooperation between them (including regionalization), of cross-border flows, and about the role of new technologies therein. As the OECD saw it, higher education delivery and quality assurance had to be considered in a cross-border perspective. It suggested that supply and demand at a global level could be framed by global trade agreements based on privatization, (market) liberalization and deregulation. This...

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