When Ben Wildavsky reviewed many of the problems facing American higher education, before an audience of hundreds of university leaders from around the world at the British Council's annual Going Global conference here Tuesday, he suggested that the issues might resonate in their countries as well. Wildavsky, a senior scholar at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and co-author of Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation, talked about low graduation rates, a failure to focus on student learning and what he termed an "innovation deficit" across most of higher education in the United States. (He also highlighted examples of activities in which some educators are using new technology to innovate in significant ways.)
The critiques Wildavsky offered wouldn't surprise anyone who attends gatherings of academic leaders in the United States. But here it was striking that to some educators outside the United States, the agenda seemed foreign in more ways than one. It wasn't that they disagreed with his analysis of American higher education, but that they are truly in different places.
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