All posts by Ben Wildavsky

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An Entrepreneurial Approach to Reforming Higher Education

Ben Wildavsky is a senior scholar in research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World and co-editor of Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation.

His previous blog posts can be found here.
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A paradox of American higher education is the disconnect between our vaunted international reputation and the severe probl…

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Mea Culpa

For anybody who missed it, there was an edu-wonk brouhaha this week over an embarrassing error in the New York Times’ big series on student debt. The Times vastly overstated the percentage of students with debt – a particularly significant mistake given that this statistic was the linchpin of the story – then ran a rather defensive correction three days later. In a Facebook dialogue with several academics and journalists, a former colleague known for her care with data reminded me that we all li…

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The Promise and Peril of Ed-Tech Democratization

Far be it from me to oppose the democratization of education. I’m a big fan of the idea, which in its most recent manifestation focuses heavily on the potential of technology to bring more educational opportunities to more people than ever before in history. But what do we really mean by the ubiquitous “democratization” phrase? How does aspirational talk about using technology to upend convention translate into concrete action? I’ve been mulling over two divergent strands in educational …

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What’s a College Major Worth?

Ever since I read about the Chinese Ministry of Education’s decision to phase out college majors that don’t give graduates marketable skills, I’ve been pondering the parallels between China’s higher ed headaches and those of the United States. Both countries have pushed hard to send more students to college, on the theory that building human capital will advance individuals’ prospects in the labor market while simultaneously promoting national economic growth. Yet both now see a distre…

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Against Ambivalence: Why Immigration Policymakers Should Welcome Foreign Students

Why does the presence of foreign students still evoke periodic ambivalence in the countries to which they flock? Recent examples of this uneasiness are abundant. From Australia and the United States to France and the United Kingdom, universities’ desire to enroll foreign students’ – whether for their brainpower, the tuition revenues they bring, or both – coexists uneasily with immigration policies that too often thwart the desires of graduates who want to stay on and join the host countr…

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Academic Insularity and the Swedish Language Police

Thanks to The Chronicle’s Global Ticker RSS feed, the other day I read about a surprising – at least to me – impediment to academic internationalization in Sweden. It seems that the government’s Justitieombudsmannen, or Ombudsman for Justice, has reprimanded universities for requiring that job applications and promotion requests be written in English. This practice, according to the Ombudsman, violates the country’s two-year-old language law, which mandates that Swedish – now formally desig…

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Academic Colonialism, False Consciousness, and the Western University Ideal

Is the spread of the Western higher education model around the world evidence that repressive colonialism is alive and well in academe? Apparently so, according to a statement issued by participants in the International Conference on Decolonizing Our Universities, held recently at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. The authors of the manifesto, which I read about last week in GlobalHigherEd, minced no words in describing the alleged harm done to universities outside the West by “the tute…

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Student Recruiting: the Pitfalls of Moral Absolutism

I hope somebody has told NACAC—the National Association for College Admission Counseling—about an alarming new trend signaling the further crass commercialization of college admissions. It seems that colleges around the country have established large corps of recruiters, often headed by a well-compensated numbers-whiz cum head salesman, intent on roping in undergraduates whose tuition dollars can make or break an institution’s bottom line. According to a reliable recent account, the compet…

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A New European Ranking: Prizes for All!

“Everybody’s got talent – they’re just talented in different ways!” In contemporary parent-speak, this is the kind of thing a mom or dad might tell a crestfallen fourth-grader who didn’t get the lead in the school play (but perhaps won a Best Tree award instead). This self-esteem-building mentality came to mind the other day when I read about the release of a prototype of U-Multirank. That’s the latest global university ranking to come on the scene, premised on the idea that every university s…

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Aussies, Acronyms, and Accountability

Quick quiz for non-Australians: In a post-AUQA world, how will TEQSA make sensible use of the AQF, the ERA, the CEQ, the AUSSE, and perhaps the CLA?  As DEEWR adds the functions of the recently abolished ALTC to its many other responsibilities, how useful will the government’s new My University web site be when it is unveiled later this year? Will the imminent “uncapping” of government-sponsored university places, in tandem with a new funding system in which government dollars follow stud…