What does it mean to educate citizens who are instantly linked to people on every continent, who share a fluency in the technologies of communication that erase borders and take for granted a transparent, permeable world? Our students’ central challenge will be to negotiate the vast richness of this miniaturized world.
If we are to avoid the kind of destructive balkanization that shreds the fabric of civility on a global scale, we have to create pathways of comprehension and communication across traditional divisions. Universities, as instruments for the good in our global community, protect and inaugurate those pathways.
In that regard, this report is about the massive, tectonic change that is occurring around the world today, with both opportunities and challenges for American higher education in all of its sectors. The report adds a key inflection point for the role of various sectors of American higher education in meeting the opportunities and challenges of a world without borders.
The motif of the report is not one of competition, but one of networking and cooperation. The report suggests that to the extent that competition is an inherent element—because competition for faculty and students occurs everywhere in higher education—it should be more “coop-etition” than competition.
I am also pleased that the report sees that there is an opportunity here to make American higher education better. The process of embracing the possibilities that are here, of inculcating a more embracive experience in our students, faculty, and everything we do, and an instinct to see the world not just through the single window of our own culture but through the many facets of global culture, means elevating American higher education.
John Sexton is president, New York University. He served as chair of the ACE Board of Directors (2009-2012) and is chair of the ACE Blue Ribbon Panel on Global Engagement.