> 1, 2015 > The Internationalization of Higher Education: an Emerging Political Agenda

Malcolm McVicar
The Internationalization of Higher Education: an Emerging Political Agenda

22 2015

Higher education is no longer on the margins of economic and political systems. For those countries which have developing economies, the aspiration to have good universities is normally part of the governmental policy commitment to economic and social development. For those countries which have advanced economies, universities are seen as essential parts of the economic and social system, contributing widely, for example, to the supply of skilled labour, to scientific research and innovation and to social stability. For some countries, especially the United States of America and some in Western Europe, the process of economic transformation which is seeing major structural changes in their economies, has made higher education much more important economically and, hence, politically. In those economies the decline in traditional, largely manufacturing industries and, to a growing extent, some service industries, has led to a reduction in the number of large employers and to growing structural unemployment. This is normally concentrated in certain regions. In the UK, for example, the decline in traditional industries is largely in the North of England, Wales and Scotland and the South of England is much less affected. Although unemployment and under-employment is an issue in London and the South of England, it is much more of an influence in the other regions. Over the last twenty years, in many cities and urban areas, universities have grown to become amongst the few large employers in their area and thus to have an economic importance which is relatively new. As employers, higher education also normally offers rewards packages and conditions of employment, especially security of employment, which compare very favourably with other local employment opportunities. Universities may not pay relatively well in London but they do in Manchester, or Newcastle or Swansea.