Being global while sounding local


David Eastwood (guest writer), vice chancellor of the University of Birmingham in Britain, WorldWise: Commentary from globetrotting higher-education thinkers (blog), The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 7, 2013

Another iteration of ‘think globally, act locally/institutionally’?

Traditionally a university has been defined by, indeed defined itself as, a place. People “go to” universities, even in a world where the virtual may seem to have made place less important. Students often will pay, and pay significantly, to study at universities, putting a premium on the real, the immediate, and the academic experience in a particular environment. The Harvard experience is Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. However generous the institution is with its online content, that is only a tantalizing fragment of the Harvard experience. Not valueless, of course, but different.

To study at a particular university means to study in a unique setting and in a distinctive program. The importance of that experience for many leads them to want to return to their alma mater, literally to revisit their memories and to reconnect in their university setting. Nowhere is this more powerful than at the most prestigious universities.

So what does this mean in a world where higher education is increasingly globalized, and where many of us think long and hard about our global strategy? (read more)

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2 Responses to Being global while sounding local

  1. Nathan Phelps says:

    This article raises some important questions about the long-term consequences of globalization. To some, especially critics, this process means both “westernization” (or more specifically Americanization) and homogenization. It means the end of the particular, the regional, and the local. It means a diminished planet in terms of cultural and social diversity. Thomas Friedman’s “flat world” analogy seems to imply that more and more people are now playing the same game by the same rules and therefore the world is quickly becoming more alike as it becomes more connected. Kids here “compete” with kids everywhere else—as do their parents. Friedman is not sanguine about Americans’ prospects for success in this new game, unless we change. And that may be the crucial point. Different people are playing similar games, but in different ways, with different rules, and yet each is influenced by and connected to the fate of other “players.” It is not a single game, but a connected set of processes.
    While this article focuses on higher education, it makes the larger point that global initiatives and perspectives need not, and indeed likely will not, “replace” local considerations. The local context informs the way global issues are understood and by extension, their impact. The opposite is also true: globalization is a complex phenomenon that is shaped by many discreet “inputs.” People seem to value the particular and the local, and there is good reason to think that globalization will only make these distinctive qualities all the more cherished in the future. If it wasn’t such an awful neologism, I would call it glocalization.

    • Wolfgang Brauner says:

      I very much agree with you on the interdependence of the global and the local. Glocalization seems to be the name of the game, though I never liked the term much either. See here for a decent overview, including its use in academia: Some suggest creolization and even hybridization to refer to this process: Not much prettier and also of limited analytical value to grasp this emergent complexity.

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