08 November 2011
The seventh World-Class Universities conference sponsored by Shanghai Jiao Tong University opened on Tuesday November 7th. The conference has become one of the key events of the international ranking calendar. This year’s theme is Towards a Global Common Good and Seeking National and Institutional Contributions.
The conference was opened with speeches by Nian Cai Liu of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and founder of the Shanghai Rankings, Zhongqin Lin, President of the university, and Jan Sadlak, President of the IREG Observatory.
The first keynote speech, which reflected the conference theme, was by Simon Marginson, Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the Institute of Education, University College London, ‘National Competition and Global Cooperation in the World-Class University Sector’.
He referred to two conversations that so far have generally been kept apart, about globalisation and about public and common goods. He discussed evidence from a variety of sources that tertiary education can provide many private and public benefits such as reduced inequality, political participation and stability, improved health and economic growth.
He noted, however, that increasing globalisation means that there is a growing tension between national and global priorities and that this has had an impact on world-class universities. International student and faculty mobility, for example, may conflict with national concerns about security and stability.
There is a danger that the contributions of such universities to the global public and common good may come into conflict with resistance to global mobility and migration. Professor Marginson concluded by arguing that there is consequently a “need for closer focus on the public and common good role of World-Class Universities.”