This article discusses the impact of transnationalization on higher education, drawing primarily on material related to US universities. Transnationalization refers here both to the effort of universities to branch out globally, following corporate models, and to their search at home for foreign undergraduate student “consumers.” The two processes are transforming the university, with pressures to shift the context of higher education from the national to the global that have important institutional and educational consequences. Cultural globalization and the emergence of a “transnational capitalist class” offer new opportunities in the search for “paying” customers. Financial pressures at home make transnationalization almost irresistibly attractive. These forces have triggered the global expansion of elite universities and the rush of public institutions, in particular, to make themselves attractive to foreign students, hailing mostly from the wealthier classes of East and South Asia. The People’s Republic of China holds a particular fascination as a source of students, who also bring with them the promise of commercial links. Notable among accommodations of the PRC is the compliance of US institutions with officially sponsored projections of “soft power” through the so-called Confucius Institutes. The financial gain from the “education industry” has become attractive to states such as the United States, the UK, Canada, et cetera, as well as to universities. On the other hand, transnationalization challenges the local responsibilities of universities as institutions of learning intimately connected with practices of citizenship. The curricular preference of foreign students for marketable subjects also intensifies pressures to reorient university education more closely to transnational corporate needs.

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