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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Brain Race by Ben Wildavsky

In the background of our plans to create Innovation Universities, this book serves as useful reference document compiling and analyzing similar attempts made across the nations to create Elite Institutes.
Students and faculty at research institutes everywhere are conscious that they are in direct academic competition that extends beyond campus gates. What the global universities promise to do , as nations make sizable investment in education , compete to nurture human capital and send students and researchers back and forth to universities around the world, is to go one step further: from brain drain to brain circulation to brain growth.
 The three most important higher education trends in the last half century- mass access, growing reliance on merit principle and significantly greater use of technology- will all be accelerated by globalization. The book examines the phenomena of branch campuses,   almost all established by Western universities, which have proliferated largely in Middle East. Of the 162 such campuses, notable are castles built in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. They are liberally funded by the Kingdoms with grants to parent US institutes, bonus to faculty and all construction undertaken by state. The cost per student is estimated at half million US dollars per year - not a model that can be emulated in India. The other extreme is Chinese strategy of long term contracts with researchers of British universities. The Britishers know the contracts are one sided, the aggressively ambitious China will extract what it can from each partnership. This also cannot be replicated in India. The third model is distance / online education that is demand serving and cannot expect to produce Elite Institutes.
Elite institutes are by definition exclusive and as nation we need to ask the question- do we want exclusive institutes with huge endowments, full autonomy and where only the merit matters?

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