- Reviewed by
This book has the same title as one I co-edited in 1998, Universities and Globalization, a fact that could result in a scathing review were it not for the fact that Ravinder Sidhu brings provocative and original insights to the subject. With a fresh perspective on marketing universities, Sidhu uses Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore the social practices that define international education in five countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and Brazil. The first three countries, all Anglo-American, are competitors in this global trade while Brazil and Singapore are major sources of overseas students.
The book presents a sophisticated analysis of each country's geopolitical positioning in the international education market. It gives examples of how a country's politics become imbued in the branding of its universities and the subject-citizens it creates. For scholars wishing to learn more about applying a Foucauldian approach, a particularly useful chapter is "Discursive Power and Subjectivity," which discusses the nexus between power-knowledge and discourse and how nations use the notion of governmentality to construct student subjectivities.
Sidhu's strengths are her literary flair and critical analyses. They take the reader inside these [End Page 323] countries to uncover the ideological underpinnings that buttress their particular brand of international education. She also uses autobiographical narratives throughout the book to set the scene and give us an understanding of how her background has influenced this study.
Her country studies begin with a discussion of the policies that have led to their current depiction. For example, she identifies the United States with an ethos of exceptionalism and triumphalism and describes how this approach is internalized in American subjects who see themselves as uniquely blessed and free. She uses university's webpages, brochures, and advertisements as evidence of how they imagine themselves. In analyzing an Orientation Handbook for International Graduate Students at Stanford University, she sees the American subject emerging as "a responsible, independent-minded individual who exercises agency over his or her destiny" (p. 95).
In her chapter on Education@UK, Sidhu describes the U.K. brand as "Cool Britannia" where British education has discarded its link with the old world order and replaced it with a set of forward-thinking and inspirational images. She suggests that British Council documents give a personality to the United Kingdom's education as "responsive, welcoming and alive with possibilities," presenting tomorrow's citizens as "movers and shakers" who will gain a "passport to intellectual citizenship of the world" (qtd. on p. 130).
The British brand does not totally turn its back on the past because it perpetuates the cultural narrative of Britain as an imperial power: "With a history dating back 800 years, the British way of learning has inspired education systems the world over." That way of learning is offered as "the authentic product, the genuine article" (p. 132). One of her case studies is the London School of Economics (LSE) where she confirms the importance of place construction and place branding in the marketing of international education. LSE uses its link with London as "the nerve center where interconnections are made with capital, power, influence and authority" (p. 162).
Australia is described as a country which has played a vanguard role in the commercialization of international education. It tries to be all things to the potential client: "a Western Country located in the Asia-Pacific region with close ties and affinities with North America and Europe" (p. 186). An incisive comment shows that a potential client might be viewed "as valued customer, illegal immigrant, or potential terrorist" which suggests, as Sidhu rightly puts it, that "we are a long way from a borderless world" (p. 187).
There is humor in Sidhu's description of the trade discourse used in a 2003 Australian government document, Engaging the World through Education, which she depicts as more familiar to the world of agriculture and mineral export commodities than higher education. There is a commitment "to engineer" and maintain "a high...