IT IS not just meetings of the rich and powerful that are getting increasingly cosmopolitan. Global universities are “reshaping the world”, argues Ben Wildavsky, the author of “The Great Brain Race”. Because big problems often transcend borders, many ambitious students demand a global education. The number of people studying outside their home country jumped from below 2m in 2000 to 3.3m in 2008, according to the OECD.
The most popular destination is the English-speaking world, led by America, which hosts 19% of the world’s mobile students. French and German universities are also popular, but more narrow in their allure. Most of the foreign students in France come from Europe or former colonies in Africa, but foreign students in America come from everywhere.
America’s lead is declining slightly, but remains huge at the top of the knowledge tree. Two-thirds of postgraduates who study abroad choose America. In some of the hardest disciplines most postgrads at American universities are foreign: 65% in computing and economics, 56% in physics and 55% in maths, notes Mr Wildavsky.