BookPDF Available

Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Abstract and Figures

This book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license. This collection examines how higher education responds to the demands of the automation economy and the fourth industrial revolution. Considering significant trends in how people are learning, coupled with the ways in which different higher education institutions and education stakeholders are implementing adaptations, it looks at new programs and technological advances that are changing how and why we teach and learn. The book addresses trends in liberal arts integration of STEM innovations, the changing role of libraries in the digital age, global trends in youth mobility, and the development of lifelong learning programs. This is coupled with case study assessments of the various ways China, Singapore, South Africa and Costa Rica are preparing their populations for significant shifts in labour market demands – shifts that are already underway. Offering examples of new frameworks in which collaboration between government, industry, and higher education institutions can prevent lagging behind in this fast changing environment, this book is a key read for anyone wanting to understand how the world should respond to the radical technological shifts underway on the frontline of higher education.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Edited by Nancy W. Gleason
Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth
Industrial Revolution
Nancy W. Gleason
Higher Education in
the Era of the Fourth
Industrial Revolution
ISBN 978-981-13-0193-3 ISBN 978-981-13-0194-0 (eBook)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018942753
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018. This book is an open access publication.
Open Access This book is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
4.0 International License (, which permits
use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as
you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the
Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.
The images or other third party material in this book are included in the book’s Creative
Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not
included in the book’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by
statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly
from the copyright holder.
The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this
publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specic statement, that such names are
exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use.
The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information
in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the
publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect
to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made.
The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and
institutional afliations.
Cover illustration: metamorworks
Printed on acid-free paper
This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature
Singapore Pte Ltd.
The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore
189721, Singapore
Nancy W. Gleason
Yale-NUS College
Singapore, Singapore
For Alexander, Theodore, George, and Isabelle
And to my parents, Mary Clark Webster and William Harvey Webster, III
Thank you!
It is exciting to live in a time of real change and transformation. It is also
Higher education is in the throes of massive change and transformation
along with the rest of society. Higher education is more accessible, to
more people, in more places, and in more ways than ever in human his-
tory. And, maybe, for that very reason, the what, the how, and even the
why of higher education are under question. These are exciting times.
And, scary.
This book is an important contribution to understanding one very
important dimension of the inevitable transformation of higher education:
automation. It uses the lens of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ to look at
what is happening within the world of higher education and why. It is
ambitious in its scope and yet grounded in its focus on actual examples
from around the world. It looks at the great trends in higher education,
but does so by focusing on case studies and examples from around the
world. It is optimistic in its tone, but not shy of looking at potential win-
ners and losers.
Most importantly, it is intrinsically global in its outlook. This global
outlook, in itself, is a signicant contribution. A conundrum of our eld is
that even as all higher education, everywhere, has become manifestly
global, the operation, management, and strategy of higher education have
remained staunchly parochial. This book sheds the parochialness and, for
that reason alone, is worth reading.
This is not a book of predictions about the future of higher education
as much as it is a guide to navigating the many, and mostly unknown,
transformations that are inevitable in higher education. It raises the ques-
tions we need to ask as we navigate the transformations. And in highlight-
ing experiences from around the world, it points us in the direction of
good practice. The importance of interdisciplinarity is emphasized
throughout, as learners of all ages must meet the challenges of the auto-
mation economy with creativity and curiosity. In this global community
we can all learn from each other and the case studies in this book offer
important examples of how some around the world are working in the
classroom and at the policy level to adjust the learning environment in
preparation for the future.
The contexts of the fourth industrial revolution and of automation are
important anchors for this discussion. Automation is a tangible reality for
anyone in higher education. It is an area where the change, as well as the
options, is palpable and real. The case studies in this book look at the
question of automation for myriad perspectives, but all are grounded in
the realizable policy and action. In bringing it together, the book makes a
real contribution not only to our understanding of what is happening but
also to the practical steps that readers could take in shaping the transfor-
mations that are bound to take place.
I am particularly delighted to read this volume because it exemplies
the intellectual energies and inherent optimism of Dr. Nancy Gleason,
who has been working to improve student learning for more than 15
years. I rst saw this energy and optimism in action when she was a student
in my classes at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts
University in 2005. I saw it again some years later when we worked
together in the Netherlands at the International Programme on the
Management of Sustainability (IPMS), sponsored by the Sustainable
Challenge Foundation. I am delighted to see the same enterprise and opti-
mism reected in this volume.
Dean, Frederick S.Pardee School of Global Studies,
Boston University, USA
Adil Najam
Former Vice Chancellor, Lahore University
of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan
I am appreciative to all the contributors to this volume for their ideas and
commitment to impactful higher education. They are each preparing
minds for life and work in the fourth industrial revolution in unique ways
and with tireless energy. Measuring learning is difcult, each of the authors
in this book offers some baseline context for higher education in the era of
the fourth industrial revolution. I am also grateful to Professor Adil Najam
for contributing the Foreword to this volume. His passion for higher edu-
cation around the world, understanding of complexity as it relates to, both
climate change and higher education, as well as unique administrative
experience make him ideal to introduce the importance of the book.
Ithank him for his time and thoughts.
I am also grateful to my editor, Sara Crowley-Vigneau, Senior Editor,
Humanities and Social Sciences, China & Asia Pacic at Palgrave Macmillan
Press. I thank all of my Yale-NUS College students for keeping me to
task—the hard work of challenging them just enough to nurture new
ideas is rewarding because of who they are, who they are becoming.
Iespecially thank Calvin Jing Xun Yeo for his time working on the book
with me. His formatting diligence and focus have made this a stronger
book. Finally, I thank Lily Seah for her support throughout the prepara-
tion of the manuscript.
I acknowledge and thank the Dean of Faculty’s Ofce at Yale-NUS
College and the Dean of Educational Resources & Technology Ofce at
Yale-NUS College for enabling this volume to be published on Open Access.
I am especially indebted to my family, always. Thank you for supporting
my pursuits.
1 Introduction 1
Nancy W. Gleason
Part I Higher Education Themes in the4IR Context 13
2 Globalizing theLiberal Arts: Twenty-First-Century
Education 15
Pericles Lewis
3 Educational Mobility andTransnationalization 39
Peidong Yang and Yi’En Cheng
4 Academic Library Futures inaDiversified University
System 65
Lorcan Dempsey and Constance Malpas
Part II How Education Has Begun to Adapt: Case Study
Assessment 91
5 Innovation Education inChina: Preparing Attitudes,
Approaches, andIntellectual Environments forLife
intheAutomation Economy 93
Rosaline May Lee and Yanyue (Selena) Yuan
6 Regenerative Development inHigher Education: Costa
Rica’s Perspective 121
Eduard Müller
7 Singapore’s Higher Education Systems intheEra
oftheFourth Industrial Revolution: Preparing Lifelong
Learners 145
Nancy W. Gleason
8 Adopt Fast, Adapt Quick: Adaptive Approaches
intheSouth African Context 171
Bo Xing, Lufuno Marwala, and Tshilidzi Marwala
9 The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Higher Education 207
Bryan Edward Penprase
Yi’En Cheng is a postdoctoral fellow based in the Division of Social
Sciences at Yale-NUS College Singapore, teaching in the Urban Studies
program. He is an associate at Asian Migration cluster, Asia Research
Institute, National University of Singapore. His research area lies in
global education, transnational mobilities, and youth citizenship in
Asian cities. His works have been published in Annals of the Association
of American Geographers, Antipode, Environment & Planning A, Gender,
Place & Culture, and Social & Cultural Geography as well as in edited
volumes. Cheng obtained D.Phil. (Oxon) in 2016 and M.Soc.Sci. (NUS)
in 2012in the discipline of human geography.
LorcanDempsey is VP, Membership and Research, at OCLC (Dublin,
Ohio). A librarian who has worked for library and educational organiza-
tions in Ireland, the UK, and the USA, he writes and presents regularly
about libraries and their development. He has advised library organiza-
tions in Europe and the USA, and before moving to the USA, he oversaw
national HE investment in information services for Jisc in the UK. He
has a BA and MLIS from University College Dublin and is an honorary
doctor of the Open University, UK.
Nancy W. Gleason is the director of the Centre for Teaching and
Learning, where she is responsible for providing faculty development in
teaching and student support in learning. She is Senior Lecturer in Global
Affairs in the Social Sciences Division as well. Her research focuses on
pathways of globalization, higher education, and the fourth industrial
revolution. Gleason is particularly interested in the distinctive pedagogy of
notes on contributors
liberal arts education. Prior to joining Yale-NUS in 2014, Gleason
taught at Tufts University for six years. She received her BA from
George Washington University’s Elliot School of International
Affairs, her MSc from the London School of Economics and her MA
from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Gleason received her PhD from the Fletcher School in International
RosalineMayLee is a widely regarded expert on innovation in the USA
and China through her experience as an entrepreneur, educator and busi-
ness leader. At the time of writing, Lee was the Dean of the School of
Entrepreneurship and Management at ShanghaiTech University, where
she created a program focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Prior
to her tenure at ShanghaiTech, Lee led NewYork University’s initiative to
establish a full-degree-granting campus in Shanghai. In addition to having
started two companies, Lee has also held senior positions at Goldman
Sachs and Merrill Lynch. She serves as an adviser to half a dozen start-ups
in China, as well as to corporations on innovation. She writes and speaks
about leadership, women, innovation and education.
Pericles Lewis is Professor of Comparative Literature, serves as Vice
President for Global Strategy and Deputy Provost for International Affairs
at Yale University. Reporting to the President and the Provost, he is
responsible for ensuring that the broader global initiatives of the university
serve Yale’s academic goals and priorities. Lewis works closely with
academic colleagues across all of the university’s schools and provides
support and strategic guidance to the many international programs
and activities undertaken by the university’s faculty, students, and
staff. His primary responsibility is to enhance Yale’s international
presence as a leader in liberal arts education and a world-class research
institution. Lewis earned his BA with rst-class honors in English
literature from McGill University in 1990 and his PhD in Comparative
Literature from Stanford University in 1997.
Constance Malpas is Strategic Intelligence Manager and Research
Scientist at OCLC (San Mateo, CA). Her research has focused on recon-
guration of academic print collections in the networked environment,
especially the emergence of shared print preservation models, the impacts
of emerging scholarly practice on library collections and services, and
changes in the higher education and research landscape.
LufunoMarwala is the special advisor to the Minister of Communications
in South Africa. Marwala holds a Bachelor of Science (Eng) Electrical/
Information degree, Post-graduate Diploma in Industrial Engineering,
Master of Science in Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand
and a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering from the University of
Johannesburg. He started his career as an electrical engineer at Eskom,
South Africa’s power utility. He then joined the University of Johannesburg
in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. His research focus
is in articial intelligence, in which he has published multiple papers.
TshilidziMarwala is the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University
of Johannesburg. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical
Engineering (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University
(USA), a Master of Mechanical Engineering from the University of
Pretoria, a PhD in Engineering from Cambridge University, was a post-
doctoral research associate at the Imperial College (London), and com-
pleted a Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business
School. He has supervised 47 masters and 21 PhD students to comple-
tion. His research interests are multi-disciplinary, which include the theory
and application of computational intelligence to engineering, computer
science, nance, social science, and medicine.
Eduard Müller is the founder and rector of the University for
International Cooperation in Costa Rica. He has been responsible for the
institutional development of the university since 1994, increasing access
to higher education in sustainable development through online programs.
Müller is a global leader in regenerative development. He implements a
holistic approach to generating solutions to current challenges through
transdisciplinary teams and the application of scenario-based learning
focused on climate change and socio-economic development. His research
focuses on integrating the economic, social, cultural, environmental,
political and spiritual realms in higher education. He seeks to increase
understanding of the importance of ecosystem resilience in battling cli-
mate change and facilitating mitigation. Müller holds a doctorate degree
in veterinary sciences.
BryanEdwardPenprase is the Dean of Faculty at the Soka University of
America, where he works to advance the innovative undergraduate liberal
arts curriculum and to develop new programs in science. He previously
was Professor of Science and Director of the Centre for Teaching and
Learning at Yale-NUS College, and for 20 years, he was the Frank
P.Brackett Professor of Astronomy at Pomona College. Penprase received
both a BS in Physics and an MS in Applied Physics from the Stanford
University, and a PhD from the University of Chicago in Astronomy and
BoXing is an associate professor at the Institute for Intelligent Systems,
University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Xing completed his DIng
degree (Doctorate in Engineering with a focus on soft computing
and remanufacturing) in 2013 from the University of Johannesburg,
South Africa. He obtained his BSc and MSc degrees both in
Mechanical Engineering from the Tianjin University of Science and
Technology, P.R. China, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South
Africa, respectively. He has published 3 books and over 50 research papers.
His research interest is in the fourth industrial revolution.
PeidongYang is Lecturer in Humanities and Social Studies Education at
the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore. His research inter-
ests are located at the intersections between education and mobility. Past
and present research projects include Singapore’s “foreign talent” policy
in relation to Chinese students’ international mobility, immigration ten-
sions and immigrant integration in Singapore, and most recently Indian
medical students in China. Yang is the author of International Mobility
and Educational Desire: Chinese Foreign Talent Students in Singapore
(Palgrave, 2016) and more than a dozen internationally peer-reviewed
journal articles and book chapters.
Yanyue(Selena) Yuan was born and raised in Shanghai and spent ve
years in the UK, where she completed her master’s study in Anthropology
from the University of Oxford and obtained a PhD in Education at the
University of Cambridge. She is an educator, freelance writer, and inde-
pendent researcher. As an adjunct assistant professor at the School of
Entrepreneurship and Management at the ShanghaiTech University, she
teaches Design Thinking and Innovation Lab. To date she has published
more than ten journal articles and book chapters in the eld of museum
education qualitative research methodologies and innovative approaches to
educational research. Her research interests include innovation education,
museum education, urban culture, and self-narrative research.
Fig. 4.1 Examples of online information resources 71
Fig. 4.2 Comparison of institutional proles between the AAU and
Oberlin Group 81
Fig. 4.3 Variance in institutional purpose within the Oberlin Group 82
Fig. 5.1 Towel wringing gadget 115
Fig. 5.2 Towel wringing gadget drawing 116
Fig. 5.3 Operation of towel wringing gadget 116
Fig. 5.4 Example of detachable tableware 117
Fig. 8.1 New production resources: data 172
Fig. 8.2 4IR: Dissolving human and machine boundar y 175
Fig. 8.3 Deep mining paradigm 192
Fig. 8.4 The structure of UJ’s new engineering and built environment
qualications 194
Fig. 8.5 The UJ’s mining discipline: enrolment overview 195
Fig. 8.6 The UJ’s mining discipline: access and excellence over view 197
Fig. 8.7 The UJ’s mining discipline: inclusiveness snapshot 198
list oF Figures
Table 4.1 Changing functions of the library 76
Table 4.2 Differing directions of a services-oriented library 86
Table 5.1 List of items to choose from for the desert island challenge 114
Table 7.1 Singapore’s growing higher education sector 157
list oF tAbles
1© The Author(s) 2018
N. W. Gleason (ed.), Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial
In a July 2017 piece in Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim asked: “Why is it
that books about technological-induced economic change tend to focus
on every other information industry except for higher education?”1 The
answer is because no one knows quite what is happening yet. It is too new.
The automation economy, resulting from the technologies of the fourth
industrial revolution (4IR), is changing the way we live and work.
Information transfer is no longer the sole purview of institutions of higher
education (HE). Information is everywhere and the collection of big data
means we have brand new kinds of information. Several good books have
already been released on what needs to change in HE, but they lack a
detailed perspective on how some elements of HE—liberal arts, youth
themselves, and libraries—are already changing, as well as what nations are
doing to adapt their HE institutions. HE is changing around the world
1 Joshua Kim, “‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and the Future of Higher Ed,” Inside
Higher Ed, July 10, 2017,
N. W. Gleason (*)
Yale-NUS College, Singapore, Singapore
already as a result of the fast-shifting global economy and the types of
employees and thinkers it demands. This book offers a rst glimpse at new
global trends in HE, and how nations around the world are responding in
their national HE systems in order to provide readers insights into how
that is already happening on the ground and what is likely to come next.
HE will have to change, quickly, in collaboration with governments and
industry to respond to the automation of knowledge and production.
the Fourth IndustrIal revolutIon
What is the phenomenon we are now experiencing? The rst industrial
revolution emerged in the 1780s with steam power, making humans more
productive. Then in the 1870s the second industrial revolution emerged
with the development of mass production and electrical energy. The third
industrial revolution emerged with the development of IT and electronics,
which enabled more efcient production. We are now in a new phase
where the fusion of several technologies is not only automating produc-
tion, but also knowledge. There are many working to classify and name
the phenomenon we are all experiencing. Talk of “Industry 4.0” emerged
from Germany’s manufacturing industry in the early 2000s. The changes
that are occurring are happening now because humans have nally devel-
oped the computing capacity to store massive amounts of data, which in
turn can enable machine learning. The outcome of this is the development
of what are called cyber-physical systems (CPSs). The termcyber-physical
systems was coined by the US National Science Foundation in 2006 with
the hosting of several workshops on articial intelligence and roboticsand
the declaration that CPS would henceforth be a major area of research.
Ragunathan Rajkumar etal. provide a useful explanation of what these
complex systems are and their broader implications:
Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are physical and engineered systems whose
operations are monitored, coordinated, controlled and integrated by a com-
puting and communication core. Just as the internet transformed how
humans interact with one another, cyber-physical systems will transform
how we interact with the physical world around us. Many grand challenges
await in the economically vital domains of transportation, health-care, man-
ufacturing, agriculture, energy, defense, aerospace and buildings. The
design, construction and verication of cyber-physical systems pose a
multitude of technical challenges that must be addressed by a cross-disci-
plinary community of researchers and educators.2
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT outlined what they call
the dawn of the Second Machine Age (2MA), which classies a shift to the
automation of knowledge. Their argument follows that the rst machine
age was about the automation of manual labor and physical strength. In
the 2MA, the technological progress in digital hardware, software, and
networks is about the automation of knowledge. This is underpinned by:
1. “exponential growth of Moore’s law yielding a new regime of
2. the digitization of everything; and
3. the emergence of an innite number of combinatorial possibilities
for innovation between the two.”3
In 2016, economist and Executive Chairman of the World Economic
Forum (WEF) Klaus Schwab published a book and launched WEF efforts
in the area of what he called the 4IR.4 Klaus Schwab’s WEF 2016 theme,
which coincided with his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution ofcially
sounded the alarm that labor costs were about to be disrupted and the way
we live and work would be permanently altered by the introduction of
CPSs. The world was put on notice that increased economic growth will
no longer correspond with increased job growth and discretionary
This volume has adopted the phrase 4IR to describe the phenomenon
we are all experiencing because it aptly applies to both the technology
shifts of 2MA and how people will live with it. Indeed, we are in the 2MA,
but that age represents revolutionary changes to everything. The transi-
tion is profound and the pace unprecedented as we learn to harness the
massive amounts of data being collected. Like earlier industrial revolu-
tions, the impacts will emerge for years to come. Many nations are now
preparing for the shifts coming, and HE is a key player. In 2018, CPS and
full articial intelligence are still, for the most part, in development form,
2 Rajkumar, Insup Lee, Lui Sha, and John Stankovic, “Cyber-Physical Systems: The Next
Computing Revolution,” in Proceedings of the 47th Design Automation Conference (New
York: ACM, 2010), 731.
3 Br ynjolfsson and McAfee, The Second Machine Age (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014).
4 Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2017).
but with signicant importance to transportation, manufacturing, health
care, energy, and agriculture, they are likely to change our lives over the
next ten years. How we live and work is being transformed by CPS and
other new technologies such as 3D-printing, the Internet of Things (IoT),
blockchain, and articial intelligence.
What does all this mean in practice? The Mckinsey Global Institute
released a 2017 report, Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works,
which measured the likelihood of automation in 54 countries which
covered 78% of the global labor market. What they found reveals the
scale of impact of 4IR.Organized by sector, the data collected show that
50% of current jobs in agriculture, forestry, shing, and hunting, repre-
senting 328.9million employees, are potentially automatable. For man-
ufacturing, 64% of current jobs are automatable, representing
237.4million current employees. For retail trade, 54% of current jobs,
representing some 187.4million current employees are automatable.5
When considered by nation rather than industry, we see massive shifts
for the world’s biggest economies. McKinsey anticipates that for China
395.3 million employees are in potentially automatable jobs, making up
51% of the labor force.6 In India, 235.1million employees are working
in automatable jobs. And in the United States 60.6million, or 46% of
the workforce, are currently in automatable jobs. Not all these jobs will
go away, but all of them will be changed. As has been noted many times
now, this is not just about unskilled labor. This is a story of all pattern-
based and routine work being replaced. Lawyers, radiologists, archi-
tects, and accountants will all see signicant changes to how they work
and in some areas a much smaller demand for human labor. For exam-
ple, machine learning will allow architects to deploy techniques that add
complexity to the built world without cost, and robots will allow for
new methods of design and fabrication doing away with traditional
Many of the new jobs that will exist even ten years from now, we cannot
imagine yet. The well-paying jobs will involve creativity, data analytics, and
cyber security, as there is currently a global dearth of talent in this area.
What we do know is that the skills needed to take full advantage of the
automation economy are different from those that have been emphasized
5 McKinsey Global Institute, Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works (New York:
McKinsey Global Institute, 2017).
6 McKinsey Global Institute, Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works.
by HE institutions in the past. According to the WEF “Future of Jobs”
report, the top ten skills that will be needed in order of priority by employ-
ers by 2020 are: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity,
people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence,
judgment and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cog-
nitive exibility.7 The skills that had been identied as needed in 2015 that
are no longer included in the top ten list were active listening and quality
control. Cognitive exibility and emotional intelligence were the two new
skills added for 2020 to replace them. This is because as work becomes
automated, it will also become much more uid. Employees will need to
be agile and able to jump between very different types of tasks and con-
texts. HE needs to change to better prepare thinkers of the 4IR.
hIgher educatIon
HE has a crucial role to play in shaping the societal transitions necessary
to adjust to the 4IR.But today’s HE was designed to meet the needs of
past industrial revolutions with mass production powered by electricity.
Those systems are not suited for the automation economy. Today’s stu-
dents (of all ages) are faced with major challenges in demographics, popu-
lation (both growing and shrinking ones), global health, literacy, inequality,
climate change, nuclear proliferation, and much more. As students today
leave university, the 4IR world has signicantly different demands on them
than have previously existed. Nearly everyone will work with articial
intelligence. What you majored in will not determine your job or your
career. The content and a deep understanding of it matter, but it is also
about what you are able to do with it.
The goal of most reputable institutions of HE is to develop capacity
for academic achievement and retention of knowledge among graduates
to prepare them for a productive life. Academic development units, com-
monly holding a title such as the Centre for Teaching and Learning, are
preparing faculty for evidence-based practice in improving learning skills.
Institutions of HE are incorporating service to community as part of
their learning cultures. For example, Hong Kong Polytechnic requires all
7 World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce
Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” January 2016,
undergraduates to participate in a credit-bearing service work program.
And institutes of HE continue to inuence policy with research-based
evidence and facts. The good news is that HE has come a long way. The
challenge is we have much further to go and shifts caused by climate
change and 4IR make adaption imperative.
Thus far the changes in HE have been slow and inadequate, though
some are tryingto adapt. In the past few decades, HE has generally expe-
rienced only small incremental improvements. Better classrooms, better
support, and advanced libraries. In many countries, access has widened to
underrepresented groups, which offers improved social mobility. Thanks
to efforts of the Millennium Development Goals to educate young girls,
and better outreach from College Admissions ofces, we are seeing much
higher enrollment and completionby women as well. HE has also offered
more diverse skills with the inclusion of experiential learning and adaptive
career ofces.These are all important improvements, but the 4IR requires
HE institutions to depart from the current 3 or 4 year undergraduate
model to prepare for lifelong learners.
Traditional, undergraduate, graduate, and research education will
remain important to society, but space must be made for adult learners to
continue their learning as well.8 Institutes of HE, in collaboration with
governments and industry, need to prepare lifelong learners together. The
concepts, let alone the vernacular, are nearly all new. From micro-
credentials, Education 3.0, nano-degrees, adaptive learning, microlearn-
ing, upskilling to the idea of preparing for just-in-time education, the
message is that we must all keep learning. We must, however, caution from
falling back into exclusively vocational skills-based learning through these
mini-degrees and credentials. The necessary cognitive exibility needs to
be there rst and the education, even if specically targeted, needs to
emphasize cognitiveagility.
The response to 4IR should be a combination of liberal arts education
and upskilling depending on where you are in your educational journey.
Not everyone can attend a liberal arts college. But the techniques and cur-
riculum deployed there can be adapted to a given institution’s cultural and
nancial context. Institutes of HE can work to scaffold in the higher order
thinking that is needed in the 4IR.
8 Joseph E.Aoun, Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Articial Intelligence (MIT
Press, 2017), 117.
Bloom’s revised taxonomy of higher learning had classied sixlevels of
learning and knowing. They are remembering, understanding, applying,
analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Information transfer through the tra-
ditional lecture and test format does not get you up very high in the cog-
nitive capacity ranks of higher order thinking. But there is also another
dimension to this, what Lorin Anderson et al. in 2001 called the
“Knowledge Dimension,” which represents a range of knowledge from
concrete to abstract.9 The knowledge dimension is made up of facts, con-
cepts, procedures, and metacognition. Metacognition is important because
it is linked to information literacy, an essential element of intelligence in
the post-truth era. Joseph E.Aoun, President of Northeastern University,
in his recent book Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Articial
Intelligence brings these issues to bear on HE as well, making the case for
content combined with cognitive capacities that revolve around systems
thinking, entrepreneurship, and cultural agility.10
Whatever combination you apply, be it a revised Bloom’s model, the
WEF skills set, or an approach such as Aoun’s, the bottom line is that cre-
ativity is the key. Furthermore, the learning cannot stop because the insti-
tutional progression does. Whatever was promised before by completing
an HE degree is not promised any longer. High school is not enough,
undergraduate education is not enough, a master’s degree is not enough,
and a PhD is not enough. Everyone is now responsible for lifelong learn-
ing and upskilling. It is the skills that will carry you through; the content
will always be changing.
To develop these skills learning must go way beyond information trans-
fer. HE needs to emphasize pedagogy that is student-centered and indi-
vidualized. Assessments are most effective when they are grounded in
project-based learning and authentic experiences. Team work also goes a
long way in developing the emotional skills necessary for twenty-rst-
century success. Ultimately, if the students have the opportunity to con-
duct their own independent research through an undergraduate or
graduate thesis, this allows them to create new knowledge and develop a
deep understanding of how we know what we know. Quality HE in the era
of the 4IR needs to incorporate these things.
9 Lorin W.Anderson, David R.Krathwohl, and Benjamin Samuel Bloom, Taxonomy for
Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Abridged Edition (Harlow: Longman, 2001).
10 Aoun, Robot-Proof, xix.
Underpinning all of this are the issues surrounding gender. 4IR will
impact women and men, boys and girls, differently. Females are less likely
to have digital literacy, which means they will be less likely to take advan-
tage of technological opportunities. Even for those who are fortunate
enough to be participating in the technology-related workforce, women
are signicantly underrepresented. The reasons for this are well docu-
mented. According to the ISACA Survey, the reasons relate to a lack of
mentors, a lack of female role models, gender bias, unequal growth oppor-
tunities compared to men, and unequal pay for the same skills.11 According
to the WEF Future of Jobs Survey, assuming that the current gender gap
ratios persist through the 2020 period, for men there will be approxi-
mately one new STEM job per four jobs lost, but for women, for every
single new STEM job created, 20 jobs will be lost.12 That being said, the
disruptions caused by 4IR present an opportunity to break away from the
status quo. Throughout this book, consideration for how we can improve
gender equality, and address the unique needs of men, women, and those
who identify as neither, is important. Organizations like Women 2.0 and
Girls Who Code are creating support on the ground in the United States.
We need much more of them, and we need similar support networks for
male labor groups as well. HE will need to play a role if we are going to
adequately address these issues.
This book proceeds with eight chapters. The rst three address major
cross-cutting issues of HE in the context of 4IR.This includes Pericles
Lewis’s contribution on the globalization of liberal arts education, which
provides an overview of the foundations of liberal arts education and the
learning that it is intended to develop. Peidong Yang and Yi’En Cheng in
Chapter 3 provide an important discussion of the disparities of opportu-
nity related to HE and youth mobility. They suggest that current preoc-
cupations with 4IR’s impact on HE is colored by technocratic discourses
that ignore “on the ground” experiences of the disadvantaged and mar-
ginalized. The nal chapter in this section, by Lorcan Dempsey and
Constance Malpas, discusses the future of the academic library in the con-
text of electronic resources. They nd that academic libraries will diverge,
11 “ISACA Survey Identies Five Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in Tech,” ISACA,
March 6, 2017,
12 World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Survey (Geneva: World Economic Forum,
with different service bundles depending on the type of educational insti-
tution they serve. This means that the model of excellence for libraries will
need to be plural, based on strategic t to the needs of the institution they
serve and not on collection size or gate count. Libraries will support
research, student success and retention, community engagement, preser-
vation of the scholarly record, and so on. But their proles will be different
depending on the particular strategic needs of their institutions.
The following four chapters look at how HE has already begun to be
adapted in China, Costa Rica, Singapore, and South Africa. Rosaline May
Lee and Yanyue Selena Yuan describe the state of current higher educa-
tional reform efforts in China that support innovation. They explore the
obstacles facing far-reaching reform, offer a view about the likelihood of
success and the potential emergence of a “Chinese model” for innovation.
May and Yuan use their own experience, introducing and teaching “Design
Thinking” to STEM students at a Chinese university as a case study to
explore how best to develop critical thinking skills in the automation
Eduard Müller looks at HE through an environmental lens, applying
the case study of Costa Rica’s experience with learning and sustainable
development. He advocates for a regenerative development approach to
HE.Müller discusses three urgent challenges: the need to move from dis-
ciplinary approaches to holistic ones; adapting to disruptive technological
advancements; and identifying what is truly important for survival of our
Reviewing the exciting opportunities in South Africa, Bo Xing, Lufuno
Marwala, and Tshilidzi Marwala make the case for an Adopt Fast and
Adapt Quick strategy for HE.Their case study presents evidence from a
“smart mining” case in South Africa as implemented by the University of
Johannesburg. Findings detail an adaptive solution to new demands in the
HE arena, which address issues of accessibility, digital literacy, accelera-
tion, pan-regionalization, transformation, inclusiveness, vision, and
engagement of students.
Reviewing Singapore’s HE systems and close government support of
preparing lifelong learners, Nancy Gleason provides a detailed review of
replicable policies and programs to prepare 4IR-ready citizens. Gleason
details three education-based initiatives in Singapore: Smart Nation
Singapore, SkillsFuture, and the creation of three new universities, in
preparation for the automation economy. She details how these education-
based initiatives are intended to address employment challenges in the era
of the 4IR. Developing the skills and mindset for lifelong learning is
essential to making a smoother transition to the automation economy and
Singapore has developedpractical large-scale policies for how to do this.
The book concludes with a chapter by Bryan Penprase on the evolution
of HE in the context of 4IR in the United States and around the world.
He emphasizes the importance of new STEM instruction that develops
technical capacities in emerging technologies in active and project-based
settings. Penprase argues that a rapid adjustment of on-campus curricu-
lum is needed. He callsfor expanding STEM’s capacity to accommodate
the rapid acquisition of new knowledge by students, faculty, and alumni,
with new modalities of instruction that leverage the digital advances from
the third industrial revolution.
Evidence-based research on how we learn and new research on what
skills are needed in the automation economy come together in this book.
We know how to create critical thinkers, but it is not easy and it is often
expensive. This book provides insights into how this is already being done
in the context of 4IR around the world. We can learn from initial efforts,
adapt them, improve them, and keep pushing the boundaries of learning.
The automation of knowledge may be upon us, but the value of emotional
intelligence combined with creativity, and working with articial intelli-
gence, is limitless. This is the capacitywe need to foster.
Aoun, Joseph E. Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Articial Intelligence.
MIT Press, 2017.
Anderson, Lorin W., David R.Krathwohl, and Benjamin Samuel Bloom. Taxonomy
for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of
Educational Objectives Abridged Edition. Harlow: Longman, 2001.
Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee. The Second Machine Age. New York:
W.W. Norton, 2014.
ISACA. “ISACA Survey Identies Five Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in
Tech.” March 6, 2017.
Kim, Joshua. “‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and the Future of Higher Ed.”
Inside Higher Ed, July 10, 2017.
McKinsey Global Institute. Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works.
NewYork: McKinsey Global Institute, 2017.
Rajkumar, Ragunathan, Insup Lee, Lui Sha, and John Stankovic. “Cyber-Physical
Systems: The Next Computing Revolution.” In Proceedings of the 47th Design
Automation Conference, 731–736. NewYork: ACM, 2010.
Schwab, Klaus. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Publishing
Group, 2017.
World Economic Forum. “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce
Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” January 2016. http://www3.
———. Future of Jobs Survey. Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2017.
Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License (
by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction
in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original
author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and
indicate if changes were made.
The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the
chapter’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to
the material. If material is not included in the chapter’s Creative Commons license
and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the per-
mitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
Higher Education Themes
in the4IR Context
15© The Author(s) 2018
N. W. Gleason (ed.), Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial
Globalizing theLiberal Arts: Twenty-First-
Century Education
A liberal arts education will become increasingly important in the twenty-
rst century because the automation economy requires more than ever
that individuals develop the cognitive exibility and the habits of mind
that allow for life-long learning. The ability to learn new skills, accept new
approaches, and cope with continual social change will be essential in the
fourth industrial revolution (4IR). In response to the need for a twenty-
rst- century liberal arts education, a partnership between Yale University
in New Haven, Connecticut, United States and the National University of
Singapore (NUS) developed the small and selective liberal arts institution
Yale-NUS College in Singapore. The establishment of Yale-NUS College,
the rst of its kind in Singapore, and one of the rst in Asia, indicates
Singapore’s commitment to life-long learning and a belief that such an
education is particularly valuable in the context of the automation econ-
omy. This chapter offers some historical context for the efforts of Yale and
NUS to found a new liberal arts college in Asia as well as some indications
of key considerations in the broader effort to globalize the liberal arts.
P. Lewis (*)
Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
I will argue that liberal arts education attempts to shape students’ characters
through engagement in a shared community shaped by conversations
across various disciplines and points of view.
The Founding oFYale-nuS College
Singapore, a wealthy, mostly English-speaking, former British colony, has
developed in the half century since its independence an excellent educa-
tional system, including some of the best secondary schools in the world
and several excellent universities. NUS, the result of a variety of mergers
of earlier educational institutions, including the King Edward VII Medical
College (founded 1905) and Rafes College (founded 1928), has come to
be regarded as one of the best in Asia on many measures. Although it
always had some distinction in the arts and sciences generally, it was mainly
known in the late twentieth century for teaching engineering, medicine,
and law. These professions were the main areas in which the founders of
the nation wanted to invest, and the number of places at the University in
various subjects is, even today, subject to central planning by the Ministry
of Education (MOE). Early in the twenty-rst century, NUS determined
to start a program in the liberal arts.
By the late twentieth century, NUS began to rise in the rankings of
research universities, around the same time that it adopted American-style
tenure and academic titles (replacing the old British titles). In the rst
decade of the twenty-rst century, the Singaporean government decided
to grant its universities autonomy. In practice, the Ministry still exercises
considerable control since (as in many Commonwealth countries) a large
majority of the universities’ budget comes from the government. But the
universities have independent governing boards and can develop their
own priorities, and they can raise private funds to support those priorities.
In fact, the government provides generous matching funds and tax advan-
tages to encourage private philanthropy. At the graduate and executive
education level, Singaporean universities can also attract foreign students,
but at the undergraduate level, the number of foreign students is capped
at between 10% and 15%. This makes more places available for Singaporeans
but limits the ability of the universities to become international leaders in
undergraduate education. Bringing in international students diversies the
learning experience and helps build a community through conversations,
fostering skill at cross-cultural communication.
Over the decade-plus since the universities were granted autonomy,
NUS has been notable for its entrepreneurial attitude, forming the Yong
Siew Toh Conservatory in partnership with the Peabody Conservatory at
Johns Hopkins, the Duke-NUS Medical School in partnership with Duke,
the University Town residential campus, and many other impressive pro-
grams. The past President of NUS, Tan Chorh Chuan, one of the most
impressive academic leaders of our time, fostered this entrepreneurial
spirit. His great personal modesty did not disguise the high ambitions he
held for his university. Under his leadership NUS set on a course to
broaden the learning in higher education beyond information transfer.
For example, the career ofce became the Centre for Future Ready
Graduates, and the Institute for Application of Learning Science and
Educational Technology was established to offer a course for all students
on “learning to learn.”1
The founding of Yale-NUS College resulted from what seems to be a
typically Singaporean investment of energy and funds in a bright idea pro-
posed by an international panel of advisors to the government. The
International Academic Advisory Panel of the Ministry of Education,
chaired by future Singapore President (and former NUS Vice-Chancellor)
Tony Tan, recommended in January 2007 that Singapore consider found-
ing a small private liberal arts college. In October 2007, a delegation,
headed by Minister of State for Education Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew,
visited nine small colleges in the United States, plus Northeastern
University and Yale University. During the course of discussion, it was
decided that rather than an independent college, the liberal arts college
should form part of one of the existing universities. The then NUS Provost
(now NUS President), Tan Eng Chye, presented a proposal for a liberal
arts college within NUS to an MOE working group in March 2008. The
university felt that such a college would have greater opportunity for suc-
cess within a strong existing institution. Later that year, the proposal
received approval in principle.
The proposal for a collaboration between Yale and the NUS rst arose
in a conversation between Tan Chorh Chuan, then President of NUS, and
Rick Levin, then President of Yale, at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland in 2009. President Tan was looking for a US partner
with expertise in undergraduate education. A year later, as chair of the
humanities committee for the new college, I learned that many Asian uni-
versities had begun investing in a more integrative type of education, using
1 “Education,” NUS Institute for Application of Learning Science and Educational
Technology, accessed Januar y 10, 2018,
small classes and active learning, modeled on American liberal arts educa-
tion. In November of 2017, the launch conference of the Association of
Asian Liberal Arts Universities, at Lingnan University in Hong Kong,
demonstrated this in full force, as dozens of institutions were represented,
and 14 joined the association. Presidents Tan and Levin planned Yale-
NUS College to be a pioneer of this type of education, and one of its
central goals was to “foster the habits of mind and character needed for
leadership in all sectors of society.”2 In this way, Singapore’s MOE, and
NUS, demonstrated a clear commitment to fostering habits of life-long
learning in undergraduate education.
The idea of a liberal education emerges from ancient times, when it described
the kind of education appropriate for a free citizen, which is to say that it
excluded slaves, foreigners, women, and in fact anyone who had to work for
a living. We continue to work on the access to such an education today, but
the liberal arts are closely aligned with freedom—the autonomy to pursue
intellectual questions, the freedom to debate issues of common concern,
freedoms that prepare a young person for full citizenship—even though the
boundaries of that freedom have long been contested. The ancient world
contrasted the liberal arts with the servile arts, that is, what we would call
today vocational education. In Latin, the word “arts” refers to both the arts
and sciences, and the middle ages recognized seven liberal arts: grammar,
rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. Today a liberal
arts education spans the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences.
When people talk about a liberal arts education, they are generally referring
to undergraduate education that stresses broad study of the arts and sci-
ences rather than pre-professional training in such subjects as business, law,
medicine, or engineering. They also emphasize a collegiate form of educa-
tion, in which students and faculty pursue many disciplines together in the
context of a shared community, a theme addressed in the next section.
Citizenship is the most commonly cited reason to pursue a liberal edu-
cation, and it is a very important one. By developing their critical reasoning
skills, and by practicing the arts of discussion, collaboration, and compro-
2 “Yale-NUS College Faculty Handbook,” Yale-NUS College, last modied October 2016,
mise both inside and outside the classroom, students should become bet-
ter able to debate matters of public importance and to arrive at a reasoned
agreement, or reasoned disagreement, with their peers in the political or
civic sphere. There are at least four other good reasons to pursue a liberal
education and to provide one for our young people.3 A second reason, also
valid and perhaps more signicant to some parents and governments, is to
shape more innovative contributors to the economy and society. This is an
issue particularly important to Singapore’s economic and social develop-
ment. Technical education is extremely important for the development of
industrial society, but in the post-industrial world, employers value softer
skills such as creativity, the ability to think outside the box, and openness
to multiple perspectives. Liberal education fosters these traits, and this is
why liberally educated students have opportunities to join the ranks of the
global elite. These skills will arguably become all the more important as
articial intelligence replaces human workers in many technical elds.
Third, certain forms of liberal education also prepare students well for
life in a multicultural or cosmopolitan society by making them aware of a
variety of cultures and the need to communicate effectively across cultural
differences. This is done through a living and learning environment in
which students must learn to engage respectfully with ideas that make
them uncomfortable or with which they are unfamiliar. They learn to eval-
uate new ideas with evidence, and formulate opinions, not make assump-
tions. Fourth, and more fundamental than any of these, perhaps, is the
ethical case for liberal education, the case for character. Socrates said that
“the unexamined life is not worth living….”4 Liberal education makes us
aware of the importance of examining our own prejudices and assump-
tions by fostering habits of self-awareness and self-criticism. Finally, and
most intangibly, liberal education allows the individual a greater enjoy-
ment of life, whether it is in appreciating a work of art, understanding an
argument in philosophy or an equation in mathematics, or exploring the
diversity of the natural world.
3 The list here is inuenced by but not identical with that of Andrew Delbanco, College:
What It Was, Is and Should Be (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). See also my
article, Pericles Lewis, “In Asia, for the World: Liberal Education and Innovation,” in
Experiences in Liberal Arts and Science Education from America, Europe, and Asia: A
Dialogue Across Continents, eds. William Kirby and Marijk van der Wende (London: Palgrave,
2016), 47–60.
4 Plato, Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (Indianapolis: Hackett
Publishing, 2002), 41.
The second President of the United States, John Adams, was perhaps
not the most democratic of the founding fathers, and his reputation is
tainted by his enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.
Nonetheless, his opposition to slavery, his dedication to a republican form
of government—a “government of laws, and not of men”5—and his rela-
tionship with his remarkable wife Abigail Adams are among the reasons for
his enduring appeal, which has only increased in recent decades.6 A
Harvard graduate from a modest background, Adams had a particular
view of the role of liberal arts education in developing citizens for the new
republic. During the debates about the US Constitution in the 1780s, he
wrote that
By gentlemen are not meant the rich or the poor, the high-born or the low-
born, the industrious or the idle: but all those who have received a liberal
education, an ordinary degree of erudition in liberal arts and sciences.
Whether by birth they be descended from magistrates and ofcers of gov-
ernment, or from husbandmen, merchants, mechanics, or laborers, or
whether they be rich or poor.7
In other words, Adams thought that there were certain virtues associ-
ated with being a gentleman regardless of a person’s background, and that
an education in the liberal arts and sciences was the prerequisite for being
a gentleman in this sense. At least since the time of John Adams, one of
the goals of liberal education has been cultivating character and citizen-
ship. In Adams’ time, those who received a liberal education were by de-
nition part of a small elite, but in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
access to undergraduate education expanded rapidly. For example, Mount
Holyoke was established as a liberal arts college for women in 1837, fol-
lowed by several others during and after the Civil War. (Yale admitted
women to graduate programs in 1869, but the college remained all-male
until 1969.) This trend not only developed in America, but also in Asia,
5 “Massachusetts Constitution,” Commonwealth of Massachusetts, accessed January 10,
6 A phrase from the seventeenth-century political theorist James Harrington that Adams
inuentially quoted in the years leading up to the American Revolution.
7 John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (Boston:
Edumund Freeman, 1787). See also Gordon S.Wood, Empire for Liberty: A History of the
Early Republic, 1789–1815 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 24. Adams’ argument
here was not entirely democratic: he favored a bicameral legislature in which the upper house
(Senate) would represent only the educated portion of society.
for example with the establishment of the precursor to Doshisha Women’s
College of the Liberal Arts in 1876in Kyoto, Japan. But early streaming
regardless of more inclusive policies has remained the norm in many parts
of the world. Ideally, all citizens would receive some kind of education in
the liberal arts and sciences. Although American high schools have a mixed
record, they do in fact pursue a broadly academic curriculum for most
students and avoid the early streaming of some students into purely voca-
tional tracks that is common in Europe and Asia.
This chapter draws on Adams’ understanding of the liberal arts. Rather
than argue against technical education, it is notable that liberal arts educa-
tion could be strengthened by adding more of a technical dimension. At
the same time, education in elds like engineering and medicine can ben-
et from an element of liberal education, touching on communication,
ethics, and the social dimension of these technical elds. Indeed, this is
particularly true in the context of the fourth industrial revolution where
we are reaching new moral and ethical boundaries of what it means to be
human, for example in the case of biosynthetic and articial intelligence.
Rather, here the argument is for a broad education that prepares students
to lead a responsible life in this century—one that readies them for the
responsibilities and privileges of freedom. An education in the arts and
sciences should shape young people, regardless of their background, for
life in a modern democracy. It should also help them develop character.8
Critics of the liberal arts come in two main types, that I would call prag-
matic and ideological. Those who see themselves as pragmatists think that
universities should take a more vocational approach to teaching young
adults and provide them with specic skills relevant to the job market,
often with a focus on science and technology. Even the 44th President of
the United States, Barack Obama, whose eloquence and learning reect
the wonderful liberal arts education he pursued at Occidental College and
Columbia University, offered a version of this criticism when he said that
“folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the
8 For discussions of character in education, see Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit,
Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (New York: Houghton Mifin, 2012); Emily
Bazelon, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of
Character and Empathy (New York: Random House, 2013); and William Deresiewicz,
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
(New York: Free Press, 2014). On character in general, see David Brooks, The Road to
Character (New York: Random House, 2015).
trades than they might with an art history degree”9 (a comment for which
he later apologized). Sometimes this critique is the result of a misunder-
standing of the meaning of “arts”—in fact, a liberal arts education can and
often does include scientic and technical education. The important ques-
tion about breadth or general education is whether a broader, more inter-
disciplinary education really prepares students better for life. I believe that
it does, and I will explain why in the third section of this chapter.
A more fundamental, ideological critique of liberal arts education takes
aim at its aristocratic pedigree and sees the liberal arts as a training ground
for effete elitists. The opposition results in part from a decade-plus of
unequal economic growth and the sense that recent gains have gone pri-
marily to international elites. The stagnation faced by many has also
become entwined with nationalistic attitudes and resentment of perceived
outsiders; people with legitimate economic and social concerns have
become prey to demagogues who promise easy solutions based on an
imagined simpler past. Those of us in the academy have more occasion
than ever to inquire whether the kind of education we offer our students
really prepares them for lives as active citizens or whether it only makes
them ready for participation in a global elite typied by the consulting
rms and investment banks that hire so many of our graduates. Liberal arts
education should, I think, prepare students not just for success in the
economy but also for democratic citizenship.10
aSia andTheliberal arTS
Many Asian educators and planners have felt for some time that the highly
technical education they provide in their universities may have been better
geared to an earlier stage of economic development. When Singapore was
just beginning to industrialize, a certain number of engineers, doctors,
and other professionals were required, and the government planned
enrollments in the NUS accordingly. Now that Singapore is one of the
wealthiest countries in the world, however, the aspirations of its citizens
are more complex, and the economy has become more diverse. In this
9 “Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All and Skills for America’s Workers,” The
White House, last modied January 30, 2014,
10 See my article, Pericles Lewis, “A Challenging Time for Cosmopolitan Education,”
Times Higher Education, February 2, 2017.
environment, preparing students for a single job for life no longer makes
sense. Singaporean policymakers have come to recognize the importance
of soft skills (some of the same noncognitive traits we often call character)
and exibility, while Singaporean students have sought a broader range of
post-secondary educational opportunities. The increasing wealth of
Singapore has also made the brain drain a reality, as more middle- and
upper-middle-class families can afford to send their children to the United
States, Britain, and Australia for undergraduate studies. Many of them do
not return home to Singapore.
Throughout Asia in the early part of the twenty-rst century, govern-
ments and private philanthropists were founding new institutions on the
liberal arts model (some are listed below). They worried that the United
States, despite its 15-year-olds’ limitations in test-taking, had produced
greater innovation than Asian societies.11 Many advocates of liberal educa-
tion believe that it is the American post-secondary education system
(rather than, say, corporate governance, tax structures, or immigration
policy) that accounts for the success of our brands and especially our tech-
nology companies. Shortly before his death in 2011, Apple founder Steve
Jobs had said “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough.
It [is] technology married with Liberal Arts, married with the Humanities,
that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”12 Asian educators saw
that while their students had excelled in cognitive tests and in exams at the
end of high school, their universities failed to encourage innovation and
lacked some of the opportunities of the American higher education sys-
tem. To some extent, as the quotation from Jobs suggests, these opportu-
nities are curricular, but more fundamental than the curriculum was the
effort to foster character, to allow students to develop more holistically.
Jobs understood, as other entrepreneurs do, that to thrive in the fourth
industrial revolution, you need to be able to learn new things, constantly,
and to draw connections between apparently disparate areas of endeavor.
11 Richard C.Levin, “Top of the Class: The Rise of Asia’s Universities,” Foreign Affairs 89,
no. 3 (May/June 2010).
12 Quoted in Anthony Woodcock, “The Death of Liberal Arts? Or the Reunion of Broken
Parts,” Hufngton Post, April 25, 2015. For further consideration of the liberal arts and the
fourth industrial revolution, see Daniel Araya and Creig Lamb, “Surng the 4th Industrial
Revolution: Articial Intelligence and the Liberal Arts,” Brown Center Chalkboard, April
11, 2017,
The mission statements of the new Asian programs show this combina-
tion of an idealism about character education and faith in the American
liberal arts model. Yuanpei College, founded in 2001, at Peking University
(one of the leading universities in China, founded in 1898) proclaims an
“emphasis on fundamental studies, practical capability and personal
character.”13 The School of International Liberal Studies (2004) at Waseda
University in Tokyo (1882) aims to nurture “truly global citizens moti-
vated to act on the world stage by a sense of justice, competitiveness, and
humanity.”14 The College of Liberal Studies (2009) at Seoul National
University (1946) hopes “to achieve its aim of cultivating dedicated and
competent leaders of the global community … through giving students
the freedom to choose [their course of study].”15 Ashoka University, out-
side Delhi, newly founded in 2011, wants “to help students become well-
rounded individuals who can think critically about issues from multiple
perspectives, communicate effectively and become leaders with a commit-
ment to public service.”16 Although the similar rhetoric of so many univer-
sity and college websites can induce a certain amount of cynicism, in fact
the widespread efforts of these and many other new programs in Asia
point to a desire on the part of universities to move beyond simple success
on tests. They also respond to demand: Asian students thirst for an educa-
tion that will address their desires for justice, service, and self-expression.
They also want to develop the noncognitive skills that will allow them to
be successful in a globally competitive job market—a job market, that for
Asia, is likely to be automated sooner than in other parts of the world.
The secondary education system in Singapore is generally judged to be
one of the best in the world, and Singaporean students score near the top
internationally in tests like the Programme for International Student
Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-olds’ achievements in reading,
math, and science, and in the British A-levels and the International
13 Quoted in Chang Chenguang, “Introducing English-Language Liberal Education in
China,” in International Teaching and Learning at Universities, eds. Gordon Slethaug and
Jane Vinther (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 38.
14 “School of International Liberal Studies,” Waseda University, accessed January 10,
15 “Seoul National University College of Liberal Studies,” Yale-NUS College, accessed
January 10, 2018,
16 “About Ashoka University,” Ashoka University, accessed January 10, 2018, https://
Baccalaureate (IB). But Singaporeans have been aware for some time that
success on tests does not necessarily translate directly either into good
employment opportunities or for that matter into happiness. The high
schools have gradually moved away from rote memorization and test prep
and toward more active learning approaches. In his 2012 National Day
Message, the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, argued for a more holistic
form of education: “Let us prepare every child for the test of life, not just
a life of tests.”17 This has been further fostered not just by the develop-
ment of Yale-NUS College, but also by investments in life-long learning
through such programs as FutureSkills Singapore and SingaporeInnovate.
Some writers on education argue that schools, colleges, and universities
have given up on the goal of shaping their students’ characters.18 In a soci-
ety with many competing views about virtue, and one where students and
their parents are often seen as clients or customers, it is easier for educa-
tional institutions to remain neutral about anything that touches on values
and to demand less from their students. The right tends to blame educa-
tional institutions for being too permissive and not, for example, guiding
students on proper sexual mores. The left blames those same institutions
for transmitting the values of a dominant society that it views as inegalitar-
ian or even oppressive. Critics on the right would have the university speak
more explicitly about moral values. Critics on the left would have us more
explicitly question the social and political values of the dominant society.
In this context, even talking about character can seem prudish or quaintly
And yet, educators want to transmit values to the next generation. The
values to be transmitted vary greatly. Some may want to teach rigorous
scientic method; others a particular set of theories about society or
notions of justice; still others a set of esthetic responses to the world. But
in all these cases the underlying concern is to shape students’ characters,
to make them in a broad sense better people. Educators understand that
the desire for knowledge, curiosity, is central to the development of char-
acter. It is not just the old injunction, know thyself, that was engraved on
the entrance to Apollo’s Temple at Delphi. It is also a matter of knowing
17 “Prime Minister’s National Day Message: Full Speech,” The Straits Times, August 8,
18 Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep; Harr y Lewis, Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal
Education Have a Future? (New York: PublicAffairs, 2007).
the world—that curiosity about the world helps us to understand how we
relate to what is on the next block or the other side of the planet and
thereby also helps us to understand how we relate to other individuals and
other cultures. In the pursuit of knowledge about the world we also come
to know ourselves better.
The Chinese refer to liberal education as “whole-person education.” It
is recorded in the Analects of Confucius that “The Master said: The gen-
tleman [junzi] is not a vessel [qi],” where Chin Annping explains that “a
gentleman, junzi (君子), is broad of spirit and intellectually agile; he can
take on different problems and apply himself to many situations and so is
not a vessel, a qi (), for a specic use.”19 One source for the recent surge
of interest in liberal education is the sense that the relatively narrow, tech-
nical education that has predominated in Asian universities does not pre-
pare students well for the complexity of the modern world and economy.
But a deeper source of concern is the sense that mere technical education
does not help students develop character, does not shape gentlemen in
Confucius’ sense. Some of the liberal education movements have aimed to
inculcate Confucian values, as perceived by modern Asian governments,
and (at least in their interpretations) such values in fact strongly contrast
with modern Western liberal values. But the most promising experiments,
not only in Singapore but also in China, Hong Kong, and South Korea,
expose students to a variety of both Asian and Western ideas about char-
acter and allow the students to form their own judgments, whether they
be gentlemen or ladies.
In all character education, the teacher’s role as an example is essential.
Mencius, the most famous follower of Confucius, said in the fourth cen-
tury BCE
A gentleman teaches in ve ways: the rst is by a transforming inuence like
that of timely rain. The second is by helping the student to realize his virtue
to the full. The third is by helping him to develop his talent. The fourth is
by answering his questions. And the fth is by setting an example others not
in contact with him can emulate. These ve are the ways in which a gentle-
man teaches.20
19 Confucius, The Analects, trans. Chin Annping (New York: Penguin Books, 2014),
20 D.C. Lau, Mencius (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1979), 2: 283.
A Chinese liberal arts professor once told me his goal was to train peo-
ple to be noble or better persons. We may all disagree on what constitutes
nobility or what it means to be a gentleman or lady or even a good person.
Some of us may doubt whether it is possible to have much inuence on
people’s characters by the time they get to university. But I think that
anyone who decides to become a teacher would agree that, underlying the
subject matter, methodological debates, or political ideologies, the ulti-
mate goal of education is to make young people better. Ideally, we can
help them learn to shape their own characters to the point where, at least
within the limits of circumstance, they can also choose their own fates, and
have the habits of mind to adjust their knowledge to the societal context.
While schools, colleges, and universities help to form their students’ char-
acter, they do not do so through a simple exchange between an individual
teacher and a single student. They shape their students through their
engagement in a community. The philosopher John Dewey, the leading
inuence on progressive education in the United States, wrote that “the
school is primarily a social institution … [and that] the child should be
stimulated and controlled in his work through the life of the community.”21
Colleges, in particular the residential colleges typical of American higher
education, provide a special kind of community that students inhabit for
four years of transition between adolescence and adulthood. American
educators have used the term a “community of learning” to describe the
function of such colleges, which ultimately derive their form and often
their architecture from the cloistered monasteries of medieval Europe, and
they often maintain the air of the cloister for better and for worse.
The rst residential colleges were constructed at Oxford in the thir-
teenth century for students at the university there. The essential character
of college life is the attention we pay to the needs of a group of friends and
classmates who learn together and who teach one another.22 This living
and learning environment enables what social scientists call the peer effect.
21 John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed,” in The Continuing Debate: Essays on Education,
eds. Leslie A.Fiedler and Jacob Vinocur (New York: St. Martin’s 1964), 172, 174. Dewey
did not make a strong distinction between society and community.
22 “Groundbreaking Ceremony of Yale-NUS College: A Community of Learning,” Yale-
NUS College, July 6, 2012,
It is something professors sometimes neglect to acknowledge, namely that
students can—in the right environment—learn as much from their inter-
actions with each other in student societies and team sports, and from
intense late-night conversations, as they do from their formal course work.
While the American collegiate model traces its roots to medieval Oxford
and Cambridge, similar communities of learning existed in China and
India even earlier. At the Temple of Confucius in Beijing, built in 1302,
the 13 Confucian classics are inscribed on steles and the names of the
scholars who scored highest in the imperial exams are preserved on stone
Many committed educators see a split in the purpose of college arising
out of the growth of the research university in the late nineteenth century,
a point made with great subtlety by Andrew DelBanco in his book
College.24 The Ivy League colleges all began life before the American
Revolution as undergraduate-only institutions, and in fact students often
enrolled at the age of 15 or 16. It was only with the rise of science and
social science and the importation of graduate education, mostly on a
German model, that these colleges became universities, in a sense adding
a whole research apparatus on top of their traditional undergraduate pro-
grams—and transforming those programs in the process. Dartmouth, in
fact, still calls itself a college, and the other Ivy League universities became
more or less research-intensive, with Harvard perhaps the most tilted
toward graduate and professional education while others like Princeton
and Brown remained relatively more focused on undergraduates in the
United States.
Around the same time, in the late nineteenth century, new universities
like Johns Hopkins (1876), the University of Chicago (1890), and
Stanford (1891) were founded on the research-intensive model.
Meanwhile, hundreds of small colleges, often founded by religious
denominations, maintained their focus on liberal arts education for under-
graduates only. In general, the older colleges and those located in wealthy
cities (which, in the nineteenth century, included New Haven, Connecticut)
tended to grow into universities, while those in more out-of-the-way
23 On the histor y of Chinese higher education, see T.H. C.Lee, Education in Traditional
China: A History (Boston: Brill, 2000).
24 Delbanco’s book tells something of the histor y of American liberal arts colleges, includ-
ing Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, in the pre-revolutionary era. See also Bryan Garsten etal.,
Yale-NUS College: A New Community of Learning (New Haven: Yale University, 2013).
places or with somewhat shorter histories remained liberal arts colleges.
Many of the large universities, however, maintained a strong emphasis on
undergraduate education.
An early encounter between the liberal arts tradition and modernity
resulted in one of the most inuential educational documents of the nine-
teenth century, the Yale Reports of 1828. Other colleges, notably Amherst,
were considering dropping the requirement for Latin and Greek, and the
Yale trustees asked a faculty group, led by President Jeremiah Day, to con-
sider reforms to the curriculum. The rst section of the resulting report,
written by President Day himself, offers a strong defense of liberal educa-
tion, mostly along traditional lines but with important innovations. What
seems to have been relatively innovative, and become a standard part of
most subsequent defenses of liberal education, was Day’s emphasis on
teaching students “how to learn.”25 In particular, Day argued in what
became a famous passage that
The two great points to be gained in intellectual culture, are the discipline
and the furniture of the mind; expanding its powers, and storing it with
knowledge. The former of these is, perhaps, the more important of the two
… Those branches of study should be prescribed, and those modes of
instruction adopted, which are best calculated to teach the art of xing the
attention, directing the train of thought, analyzing a subject proposed for
investigation; following, with accurate discrimination, the course of argu-
ment; balancing nicely the evidence presented to the judgment; awakening,
elevating, and controlling the imagination; arranging, with skill, the trea-
sures which memory gathers; rousing and guiding the powers of genius.26
What was distinctive about the Yale Reports was the emphasis not on
the teaching of traditional subject matter (although the second part of the
document does defend classics) but on the development of the student’s
mental powers, “the resources of his own mind.”27 The reports in fact
used most of the arguments in favor of liberal education that educators do
today—the political (citizenship), economic, cultural, ethical, and
esthetic—and, as the historian Jack Lane has shown, they do so in service
of a relatively modern, liberal capitalist notion of the autonomous
25 Yale University, Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College: By a Committee of the
Corporation and the Academical Faculty (New Haven: Hezekiah Howe, 1828), 14.
26 Yale University, Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College, 7.
27 Yale University, Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College, 8.
individual who contributes to society through his economic activities as
much as through politics or religion.28 Lane notes that the report nowhere
uses the word virtue, a more traditional and morally loaded term for edu-
cation29; it does, however, frequently emphasize character, with its impli-
cations of self-reliance and entrepreneurship, appropriate for the rapidly
expanding American economy. Day emphasizes also that all social classes
should have a liberal education, given “[o]ur republican form of
government.”30 Despite their curricular conservatism, the Yale Reports
took a clearly progressive political view in their justication of the curricu-
lum. The Yale Reports had a major inuence on the curriculum in many
of the 80 or so colleges founded in the United States in the rst half of the
nineteenth century, a signicant number of which were led by Yale gradu-
ates or former Yale faculty.
In the later nineteenth century, as the research ideal gained ascendancy,
Harvard President Charles William Eliot moved his university away from
the common curriculum and introduced the elective system for under-
graduates. Eliot argued in his inaugural address of 1869 that “the young
man of nineteen or twenty ought to know what he likes best and is most
t for.”31 The rise of the elective system was part and parcel of the trans-
formation of liberal arts colleges into research universities, as both profes-
sors and students became more specialized. It may also have reected a
new idea of young adulthood as many of Eliot’s students had fought in the
war and the average age and maturity of undergraduates rose notably.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, most American universities
allowed students to choose most of their own courses and required them
to specialize in one major subject, while often creating distributional
requirements that required them to study at least some subjects outside
their own major eld. Eventually Yale too dropped the Latin and Greek
requirements and started to allow students to choose most of their own
courses and to major in a specic discipline. Training in a major (or con-
centration at Harvard) resembled preparation for a PhD more than it did
the old unied curriculum of the early nineteenth century. This breaking
up of the old systems of knowledge and replacement of traditional subjects
28 Jack C. Lane, “The Yale Report of 1828 and Liberal Education: A Neorepublican
Manifesto,” History of Education Quarterly 27, no.3 (1987): 337.
29 Lane, “The Yale Report of 1828 and Liberal Education,” 334.
30 Yale University, Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College, 29.
31 Elliot, Addresses at the Inauguration of Charles William Elliot as President of Harvard
College, Tuesday, October 19, 1869 (Cambridge: Server and Francis, 1869), 39–40.
by modern, late nineteenth-century ones reected the impressive growth
of science and the social sciences as well as a more fundamental change in
the attitude to the purposes of undergraduate education, with an increased
emphasis on specialization.
Residential colleges continue the work of liberal education beyond the
classroom, promoting compromise over unilateral decision-making and a
recognition of others’ humanity and worth over the primacy of a single
student’s individual needs. Students learn to become leaders among their
peers, but also learn to listen to what their peers have to say, forging and
evaluating solutions together. Particularly in today’s multicultural society,
by living alongside peers with a variety of different backgrounds, experi-
ences, and interests, students learn to coexist with others, even in situa-
tions where their opinions or expectations may differ widely from one
another.32 As the connectedness of the social media and the internet of
things brings us all closer together, these skills increase in value.
Ultimately the challenge of designing a curriculum for a cosmopolitan and
multicultural college relates to the problem of meaning in a secular age. In
his early twentieth-century lecture on “Science as a Vocation,”33 the soci-
ologist Max Weber quotes the novelist Leo Tolstoy to the effect that the
essential question for all of us is “what shall we do and how shall we
live?”34 Weber argued that the modern age is one of disenchantment, in
which we no longer believe that the world itself has an essential meaning.35
For Weber, this also led to a somewhat pessimistic assessment of the pos-
sibilities for education. Since science, and learning more generally, is con-
tinually expanding, it is impossible for any one of us to command more
than an innitesimal fraction of all the knowledge that is out there in the
world. Furthermore, whatever scientic discoveries we make today are
destined to be surpassed in just a few years. For Weber, this meant that
modern life lacked the sense of meaning that life in a more traditional
32 On the importance of avoiding self-segregation in university accommodation, see Lewis,
Excellence without a Soul, 79.
33 Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” in Max Weber’s Complete Writings on Academic
and Political Vocations, trans. Gordon Wells, eds. John Dreijmanis (New York: Algora
Publishing, 2007), 25–52.
34 Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 39.
35 Weber, “Science as a Vocation.”
society, whose mores and intellectual presuppositions were not constantly
changing, could supply. Weber recognized, however, that even while
scholarship could not necessarily solve the problem of how to live, the
scholar as teacher did have a responsibility to his or her students. That
duty, the college teacher’s duty, is not to tell students what they should do
with their lives, how they should live, but it is to confront students with
what Weber called “inconvenient facts,”36 that is, facts that may challenge
their preconceived opinions. This is not to say that we should only present
the facts that support our own opinions—far from it, if we are doing our
job right we will also present facts that challenge what we ourselves hold
dear. Weber summarizes the task of the educator as follows: “we can force
the individual, or at least we can help the individual, to give himself an
account of the ultimate meaning of his own conduct.”37 In other words,
our task is to require students to clarify their own answers to the questions
“what shall we do and how shall we live?” We cannot answer the questions
for our students, but we can ask young people to confront them. As arti-
cial intelligence replaces humans in many jobs, what livelihoods will be
human? These questions are essential for civic leaders to ponder and
respond to as the way we live and work is altered. In this way, a liberal arts
education prepares communities for the adjustments ahead.
The goal at Yale-NUS College was to create a more integrative type of
curriculum that would truly prepare students for an engaged and intel-
lectually enriching life. I phrased the challenge of the Yale-NUS curricu-
lum in terms of a central question: What must a young person learn in
order to lead a responsible life in this century? The stor y of how the Yale-
NUS curriculum developed is essentially a conversation about conversa-
tions, and I believe it has some value for thinking about how we educate
young people to be open-minded participants in the conversations of
today and even to enter into conversation with the great traditions of the
past. These are the kinds of conversation that Plato and his friends held in
the academy, the grove of olive trees in Athens that gives its name to mod-
ern academia. The great painting by Raphael, The School of Athens, in the
Vatican, imagines the thinkers of many centuries in a conversation, with
Plato and his student Aristotle at the center. This was the kind of conversa-
tion we wanted our students from all over the world to participate in, but
what would an Athenian-style education look like today?
36 Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 43.
37 Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 48.
Since classical times in the West, as I mentioned above, a liberal educa-
tion has been understood to mean the type of learning appropriate for a
free citizen. In the ancient world, these citizens were exclusively male and
often held slaves; even Athenian democracy was hardly democratic by
modern standards. Nonetheless, over time, and notably in the early days of
the American republic, liberal arts also became part of an education for
democratic citizenship, and even earlier education has generally had an ele-
ment of meritocracy or democracy about it, insofar as it allowed the most
talented to rise regardless of rank and connections. This was the motiva-
tion behind the great Asian examination systems, and in fact Asia had its
own forms of liberal arts education. The seven liberal arts of medieval
Europe comprised the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the qua-
drivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), while in China,
from the time of Confucius onward, the six arts that dened a gentleman
were rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics.
There is considerable overlap here with the West, although the Chinese
seem to have prized military accomplishments more highly. In both Asia
and the West, what we today think of as sciences were part of the liberal
arts from the beginning.
The plan for the curriculum at Yale-NUS College was to draw on the
great traditions of both Asia and the West, and to establish a conversation
among them. Our ideal of forming a well-rounded person capable of taking
on challenges from multiple perspectives would be recognizable to educa-
tors of earlier generations in China as well as Greece. Nonetheless, these
traditions have been very broadly transformed by the forces known as
modernity. This is another word for the same set of forces that Weber
described as responsible for the “disenchantment of the world.”38
Modernity means that rather than living in organic face-to-face communi-
ties we live in larger, more impersonal societies. It also undermines our
consensus about what kind of character should be admired. These forces
also mean that there is less consensus than there once was about the cur-
riculum or what the curriculum really represents, the knowledge every edu-
cated person must have.
One of the most telling criticisms of the liberal education provided at
American colleges and universities ever since the development of the elective
system has been that it caters to student desires or fads and does not demand
enough of them. There is some truth to this complaint, although much
38 Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 35.
depends on the attitude of the students, since the elective system allows them
so much leeway. The former Dean of Harvard College (from 1995 to 2003),
Harry Lewis (no relation), argues that systems based on distribution require-
ments provide “the easy way out of the imperative for general education …
for both students and faculty [since] professors can teach from their home
bases and yet take credit for contributing to the breadth of undergraduate
education [while students can] treat curricular requirements as the rules of a
game they are challenged to win, seeking out the easiest course in each
division.”39 As a result, such relatively weak general education requirements,
and an obsession with grades, may undermine some of the purposes of liberal
education and may also exacerbate the divide between the humanities and
the sciences, as students from one division try to get away with the least pos-
sible work in the other.
In the end, the new Yale-NUS faculty created a comprehensive curricu-
lum based on conversations between Asia and the West, which has been
one of the hallmarks of the college and broadly popular among students
and applicants.40 One of the main goals was to bridge the gap between the
sciences and the social sciences, to bring STEM into the fold to make it
STEAM.Given the diversity of preparation of our students and the cumu-
lative nature of scientic subjects, designing a common course in science
was a particular challenge. We decided to focus on the process of scientic
inquiry—how are scientic theories developed and proved, what evidence
counts, and how have these standards developed over time. The rst few
times we taught the science courses we experienced the challenge, more
forcefully than in other elds, of trying to teach a broad approach to the
nature of scientic knowledge when the knowledge base was quite uneven.
In other words, it would be easier to teach the scientic discipline of the
mind if all the students had the same scientic furniture. After reviewing
the entire common curriculum in the college’s third year of operation, we
came up with an approach that emphasized one big question in each
semester of the scientic inquiry course. One semester would approach
the question how do we know that the theory of evolution is true and accounts
for the development of the human species? The other would ask how do we
know that climate change is happening and how do we predict its impact?
These broad questions, while taking in many questions of basic science
and the history and philosophy of science, also lend themselves to exploring
39 Lewis, Excellence Without a Soul, 50.
40 Garsten etal., Yale-NUS College.
current, cutting-edge techniques. They also have obvious social impor-
tance and inherent signicance.
There are legitimate questions about whether a core or common cur-
riculum is the best form of liberal education, as against the elective systems
more common in American colleges and universities. I think it is the right
approach at Yale-NUS because it creates unity of experience among a very
diverse group of 250 students per year from over 40 different countries
and because, being very selective, we can count on students’ ability to
manage the challenges of the common curriculum. As such, the diversity,
the small class size (capped at 18 students), and the selectivity make this
approach feasible. It also helps that we do not assign recorded grades in
the rst semester so students have some time to adjust to the rigors of col-
lege, developing skills in how to learn, rather than how to earn an A.
Our common curriculum is our answer to the question of what a young
person must learn—for this time and place—and we recognize that the
answer in a different college might be different. But more importantly, we
expect that our students will specialize—we just want them to specialize a
year or two later than they do elsewhere. Specically, we are trying to reset
the balance between the disciplines that were mostly founded in the nine-
teenth century and that are the central organizing principle of most mod-
ern research universities, and the broad learning that we think, even today,
will form the best basis for a student’s future encounters with the world.
The original designers created 14 majors across three divisions, sciences,
social sciences, and humanities. The faculty members who support these
major programs can speak to a vast breadth of literature, history, and
quantitative reasoning. In this way, they model the character and citizen-
ship the college intends to foster in our students.
In the end, the argument for a common curriculum is closely linked to
the notion of college as a community of learning. Clearly there are some
things a young person must learn, and just as clearly not all those things
are taught in high school. In a global college like Yale-NUS in Singapore,
but even in a diverse community like the United States, despite the efforts
to achieve a common core in high school, students come to college with
very different levels and types of preparation, and ideally a common cur-
riculum will allow us to ensure that they graduate with some of the essen-
tial skills and civic knowledge that cannot be guaranteed in a pure elective
system and that may not be included in their majors.
There is pressure everywhere for education to be more technically or
vocationally focused. The case made here is that history has created a
model of education that develops the whole person, to yield critical think-
ers who know how to learn and accept that necessity as inevitable. In the
automation economy, the most valuable education will come from col-
leges and universities that can teach students how to learn. The example
of the US higher education system in the past century and a half is one in
which students have been allowed to study broadly, providing a commu-
nity in which creativity and active learning can thrive. The forces of global-
ization are spreading this approach further still. The establishment of
Yale-NUS College in Singapore is a strong example of the thoughtful way
in which Asian nations are opening up such opportunities for their citi-
zens. This will make them all the more prepared for the impacts of the
fourth industrial revolution and enable them to live fuller lives.
Adams, John. Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States.
Boston: Edumund Freeman, 1787.
Araya, Daniel, and Creig Lamb, “Surng the 4th Industrial Revolution: Articial
Intelligence and the Liberal Arts.” Brown Center Chalkboard. April 11, 2017.
Ashoka University. “About Ashoka University.” Accessed January 10, 2018.
Bazelon, Emily. Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and
Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. NewYork: Random House,
Brooks, David. The Road to Character. NewYork, Random House, 2015.
Chang, Chenguang. “Introducing English-Language Liberal Education in
China.” In International Teaching and Learning at Universities, edited by
Gordon Slethaug and Jane Vinther, 31–51. New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Massachusetts Constitution.” Accessed
January 10, 2018.
Confucius. The Analects, translated by Chin Annping. NewYork: Penguin Books,
Dewey, John. “My Pedagogic Creed.” In The Continuing Debate: Essays on
Education, edited by Leslie A.Fiedler and Jacob Vinocur, 167–181. NewYork:
St. Martin’s, 1964.
Delbanco, Andrew. College: What It Was, Is and Should Be. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2014.
Deresiewicz, William. Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and
the Way to a Meaningful Life. NewYork: Free Press, 2014.
Elliot, Charles William. Addresses at the Inauguration of Charles William Elliot as
President of Harvard College, Tuesday, October 19, 1869. Cambridge: Server
and Francis, 1869.
Garsten, Bryan, Rajeev Patke, Charles Bailyn, Jane M.Jacobs, Kang Hway Chuan
and Bryan Penprase. Yale-NUS College: A New Community of Learning. New
Haven: Yale University, 2013.
Lane, Jack C. “The Yale Report of 1828 and Liberal Education: A Neorepublican
Manifesto.” History of Education Quarterly 27, no. 3 (1987): 337.
Lau, D.C. Mencius, 2. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1979.
Lee, T.H. C. Education in Traditional China: A History. Boston: Brill, 2000.
Levin, Richard C. “Top of the Class: The Rise of Asia’s Universities.” Foreign
Affairs 89, no. 3 (May/June 2010).
Lewis, Harry. Excellence Without a Soul. NewYork: PublicAffairs, 2007.
Lewis, Pericles. “In Asia, for the World: Liberal Education and Innovation.” In
Experiences in Liberal Arts and Science Education from America, Europe, and
Asia: A Dialogue Across Continents, edited by William Kirby and Marijk van der
Wende, 47–60. London: Palgrave, 2016.
———. “A Challenging Time for Cosmopolitan Education.” Times Higher
Education, February 2, 2017.
NUS Institute for Application of Learning Science and Educational Technology.
“Education.” Accessed January 10, 2018.
Plato. Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Indianapolis:
Hackett Publishing, 2002.
“Prime Minister’s National Day Message: Full Speech.” The Straits Times. August
8, 2012.
The White House. “Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All and Skills
for America’s Workers.” Last modied January 30, 2014, https://obam-ce/2014/01/30/remarks-president-
Tough, Paul. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of
Character. NewYork: Houghton Mifin, 2012.
Waseda University. “School of International Liberal Studies.” Accessed Januar y
10, 2018.re/sils/en/about/overview/.
Weber, Max. “Science as a Vocation.” In Max Weber’s Complete Writings on
Academic and Political Vocations, translated by Gordon Wells, edited by John
Dreijmanis, 25–52. NewYork: Algora Publishing, 2007.
Wood, Gordon S. Empire for Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815,
24. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Woodcock, Anthony. “The Death of Liberal Arts? Or the Reunion of Broken
Parts.” Hufngton Post, April 25, 2015.
Yale-NUS College. “Groundbreaking Ceremony of Yale-NUS College: A
Community of Learning.” July 6, 2012.
———. “Yale-NUS College Faculty Handbook.” Last modied October 2016.
———. “Seoul National University College of Liberal Studies.” Accessed January
10, 2018.
Yale University. Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College: by a Committee
of the Corporation and the Academical Faculty. New Haven: Hezekiah Howe,
Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License (
by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction
in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original
author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and
indicate if changes were made.
The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the
chapter’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to
the material. If material is not included in the chapter’s Creative Commons license
and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the per-
mitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
39© The Author(s) 2018
N. W. Gleason (ed.), Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial
Educational Mobility
PeidongYang andYi’EnCheng
The concept fourth industrial revolution (4IR) currently generates per-
haps as much excitement as it does vagueness and ambiguity. Coined by
Klaus Schwab,1 and promulgated through the highly inuential World
Economic Forum (WEF) he founded, 4IR appears to be the next big idea
about world technological and economic development. According to
Schwab, the 4IR is ‘building on the Third, the digital revolution that has
been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by
a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical,
1 Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution (New York: Crown Publishing Group,
P. Yang (*)
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore, Singapore
Y. Cheng
Yale-NUS College, Singapore, Singapore
digital, and biological spheres.’2 Despite its being built on the third indus-
trial revolution (3IR), Schwab maintains that the 4IR is not merely an
extension or prolongation of its predecessor, but is a distinct phase distin-
guished by the extraordinary velocity, scope, and system impacts of its tech-
nological advancements. In more concrete terms, Schwab identies
articial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autono-
mous vehicles, 3D-printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology as some of
the key technological drivers of the 4IR; in addition, he also highlights
disruptive impacts of emerging business models such as ‘sharing’ or ‘on
demand’ economy (with perhaps the most iconic examples being AirBnB
and Uber).3
It is argued that this burgeoning 4IR will have far-reaching and pro-
found consequences for all actors in today’s globalized world: businesses,
governments, and people.4 However, what exactly these consequences will
be remains unclear and essentially a matter of speculation. Considerations
of the changing nature of employment and skills are often prominent
within existing discussions about 4IR.If one takes a functionalist view that
education primarily serves to equip members of society with the right
qualities and skills to function in the prevailing socio-economic conditions,5
then such considerations can also be regarded as implicitly about educa-
tion and training. For example, when writing about the opportunities and
challenges associated with 4IR, Schwab asserts that talent will represent
the critical factor of production, leading to a job market increasingly seg-
regated into ‘high-skill/high-pay’ and ‘low-skill/low-pay’ segments, with
the middle hollowed out. Implicitly, then, education and training in the
4IR-shaped future should aim to develop in learners high-level, high
value-adding skills.6 A similar narrative is found in the Asia Pacic
Economic Cooperation (APEC) Education Strategy Action Plan, which
endorses multilateral cross-border collaboration between universities
2 Klaus Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond,”
January 14, 2016,
3 Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
4 Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
5 Randall Collins, “Functional and Conict Theories of Educational Stratication,”
American Sociological Review, 36, no. 6 (1971): 1002–1019.
6 Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
within the region, so as to deliver skills required to produce graduates who
can navigate the 4IR.7
In this chapter, we are interested in the relationships between (higher)
education, mobility, and the 4IR.We question whether and to what extent
higher education (HE) has been transformed by 4IR.Furthermore, we
consider whether these transformations are contributing to changing
structures around educational inequality and social justice or reproducing
them. We engage with these questions by drawing on our respective
research on HE mobility and transnationalization in the context of Asia.
We view education from a critical and loosely speaking culturalist perspec-
tive. By critical we mean that in our work we maintain a critical distance
from, and a skepticism of, certain hegemonic discourses and imaginaries
about education and educated persons. Instead, we pay attention to rela-
tions, practices and subjectivities of power, domination, inequality, and
injustice manifested in specic educational contexts. By a culturalist per-
spective we mean that we treat education as a socio-cultural domain that
cannot be adequately understood without being sensitive to the local
social and cultural contexts to certain educational projects or congura-
tions and attending to the cultural and subjective dimensions in educa-
tional experiences in terms of meaning-making, narratives, values, desires,
and aspirations.
We adopt such a critical and broadly speaking culturalist perspective as
opposed to a functionalist one not only because the former is integral to
our empirical research, but also for two additional reasons. First, as evi-
denced in existing 4IR literature about education and training, a function-
alist perspective tends to result in a kind of futurologist discussion that
comprises half speculation and half prescription, both divorced from
empirical observations from the ground. Secondly, our research has led us
to view educational systems and congurations (such as international
mobility and transnationalization) as outcomes of enduring power rela-
tions that act and interact on multiple scales: global, national, institutional,
community, and individual. Because of this complex socio-cultural consti-
tution of educational phenomena, we are somewhat skeptical of any
straightforward idea about HE being transformed as a result of the alleged
onset of the 4IR, especially with respect to education’s role in social and
cultural reproduction. Instead, with our studies depicting signicant recent
7 Yojana Sharma, “Universities can help overcome economic nationalism,” November 23,
trends in HE in the Asian context, we aim to shed light on the various
social forces, interests, and contextual factors shaping HE in the rst two
decades of the twenty-rst century. Our basic assertion is that such an
understanding will continue to be valid for the near future, and thus pro-
vide a solid ground for pondering the new changes 4IR may bring to HE.
In the remaining sections, we discuss two contemporary educational phe-
nomena that are undergoing profound intensication, namely international
student mobility (ISM) and emergence of transnational higher education
(TNHE) industry in the context of Asia. We then illustrate both phenomena
through two cases. The rst case consists of a recent form of intra-Asia stu-
dent mobility involving Indian youths heading to China for English-medium
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)degrees. The sec-
ond case concerns transnational education programs offered by private insti-
tutes in the city-state of Singapore. In the chapter’s concluding section, we
sum up the main insights emerging from our two cases, and offer these as
the basis for an alternative and more critical direction for understanding the
complex relationships between 4IR and HE.
EducatIonal changEs InacontEmporary asIan
contExt: IntErnatIonal mobIlIty andtransnatIonal
hIghEr EducatIon
International Student Mobility
In tandem with the intensication of globalization, ISM in HE has under-
gone signicant expansions over the past decades. The number of students
enrolled in tertiary education outside their countries of citizenship grew
from 1.3million in 19908 to an estimated 5million in 2014.9 With the
world now poised to enter the 4IR era, ISM is set to continue to grow: it
has been projected that by 2025 there will be 8million HE international
students in the world. Importantly, while so far ISM has predominantly
8 OECD, “Education Indicators in Focus– 2013/05 (July),” 2013, http://www.oecd.
9 ICEF Monitor, “The state of international student mobility in 2015,” November 5,
involved student ows from Asia to the Anglophone West,10 the rise in
student mobilities within Asia has caught scholarly attention more recent-
ly.11 According to UNESCO, in 2016 the East Asia and Pacic region
already hosted 19% of the world’s international students, trailing only
behind North America and Western Europe.12 The case of Indian youths
being attracted to earn their MBBS degrees in China provides an interest-
ing lens for examining this rising trend of intra-Asia student mobility.
As a multifaceted phenomenon, ISM has been approached from vari-
ous theoretical perspectives in literature.13 One of the most analytically
productive ways to understand ISM is through a Bourdieusian lens
focused on different forms of capital14 and their mutual conversion as a
mechanism of class re/production. ISM is analyzed as a way of accumulat-
ing cultural capital which is subsequently reconverted into employability,
status, social networks to facilitate the reproduction of class advantage.15
Johanna Waters’s work on Hong Kong students saliently highlights how
10 UNESCO, “The International Mobility of Students in Asia and the Pacic,” 2013,
11 Sheng-Ju Chan, “Shifting Patterns of Student Mobility in Asia,” Higher Education Policy
25, no 0.2 (2012): 207–224; Francis L. Collins, “Regional Pathways: Transnational
Imaginaries, Infrastructures and Implications of Student Mobility within Asia,” Asian and
Pacic Migration Journal 22, no. 4 (2013): 475–500; Christopher Ziguras and Grant
McBurnie, “International Student Mobility in the Asia-Pacic: From Globalization to
Regional Integration?,” in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacic, ed. Simon Marginson, Sarjit
Kaur, and Erlenawati Sawir (Netherlands: Springer, 2011), 123–140.
12 UNESCO, “Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students,” 2016, http://www.uis.unesco.
org/Education/Pages/international-student-ow-viz.aspx (site discontinued).
13 Russell King etal., “Reproducing advantage: the perspective of English school leavers on
studying abroad,” Globalisation, Societies and Education 9, no. 2 (2011): 161–181.
14 Pierre Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital,” in Handbook of Theory and Research for the
Sociology of Education, ed. John G.Richardson (London: Greenwood Press, 1986), 241–260.
15 Vladimír Baláž and Allan M.Williams, “‘Been there, done that’: international student
migration and human capital transfers from the UK to Slovakia,” Population, Space and Place
10, no. 3 (2004): 217–237; Allan M.Findlay etal., “World class? An investigation of globali-
sation, difference and international student mobility,” Transactions of the Institute of British
Geographers, 37, no. 1 (2012): 118–131; Russell King and Enric Ruiz-Gelices, “International
student migration and the European ‘Year Abroad’: effects on European identity and subse-
quent migration behavior,” International Journal of Population Geography 9, no. 3 (2003):
229–252; Johanna Waters, “Geographies of cultural capital: education, international migra-
tion and family strategies between Hong Kong and Canada,” Transactions Institute of British
Geographers 31, no. 2 (2006): 179–192; Johanna Waters, Education, Migration, and
Cultural Capital in the Chinese Diaspora: Transnational Students between Hong Kong and
Canada (New York: Cambria Press, 2008).
cultural capital is accrued transnationally, sometimes by students who are
otherwise excluded from rst-choice local universities in their home coun-
try/territory.16 In this sense, studying abroad also functions as a ‘second
chance’17 strategy for certain student populations in highly competitive
educational systems—a point that resonates with the case of transnational
education (see below).
It is worth noting that although there has been an implicit assumption
that internationally mobile students tend to be privileged socio-
economically,18 increasing evidence shows this is not necessarily the
case.19 For youths from not-so-privileged backgrounds, studying abroad
could be:
1. a way to bypass local barriers to education—nancial and/or
academic—and to get a ‘second chance’ at realizing their aspiration
for social mobility through training in certain professions that are
believed to promise such;
2. a step toward immigration to a more desirable country or place that
promises higher wages and/or a greater sense of international
Thus, pursuing educational mobility is seldom about education/learning
per se, but is often deeply embedded in specic social contexts and moti-
vated by socio-culturally shaped desires and imaginaries.
16 Waters, Education, Migration, and Cultural Capital in the Chinese Diaspora.
17 Rachel Brooks and Johanna Waters, “A Second Chance at ‘Success’: UK Students and
Global Circuits of Higher Education,” Sociology 43, no. 6 (2009): 1085–1102.
18 Johanna Waters, “Geographies of International Education: Mobilities and the
Reproduction of Social (Dis)advantage,” Geography Compass 6, no. 3 (2012): 123–136.
19 Michiel Baas, Imagined Mobility: Migration and Transnationalism among Indian
Students in Australia (New York: Anthem Press, 2010); Vanessa L.Fong, Paradise Redened:
Transnational Chinese Students and the Quest for Flexible Citizenship in the Developed
World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011); Peidong Yang, “Compromise and com-
plicity in international student mobility: the ethnographic case of Indian medical students at
a Chinese university,” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, online
rst(2018): 1–15.
20 Baas, Imagined Mobility; Shanthi Robertson, Transnational Student-Migrants and the
State: The Education-Migration Nexus (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Transnational Higher Education
The contemporary TNHE sector represents a case of global higher educa-
tional landscape undergoing systematic changes stemming from techno-
logical multiplication and digitization. It reveals the rapidly shifting ways
in which new educational arrangements are built, delinked, reassembled,
and experimented with by multiple state and non-state actors. Since the
early 1990s, cross-border movements of educational programs and insti-
tutions, physically and virtually, have become one of the major transna-
tional ows integral to the internationalization of HE.21 In addition to
intensied cross-border collaborations and partnerships between public
and national universities, we also witness an increasing growth of private
and non-state sectors venturing into HE provision, thereby contributing
to the proliferation of education institutions leading to various foreign
degrees and academic credentials. These can take the form of franchised
overseas academic programs (including online and distance learning) or
degrees, branch campuses, or private institutions modeled after overseas
academic models.
In reviewing extant literature on TNHE, there is no xed denition
that scholars and education practitioners can agree on. According to
UNESCO, transnational education is broadly dened as education ‘in
which the learners are located in a country different from that where the
awarding institution is based.’22 But in the context of China, Fang
observes that ‘an education provision is considered transnational when
substantial investment from both foreign and Chinese sides are involved
even if the provision does not award foreign degrees.’23 Tim Mazzarol,
Geoffery Soutar, and Michael Seng dene TNHE through three overlap-
ping waves of cross-border ows: the rst ‘involved students travelling to
a host nation to study’; the second wave involved the ‘alliance or coali-
tion’ through twinning programs; and the third wave involved ‘the cre-
ation of branch campuses in foreign markets and the development of
21 Futao Huang, “Internationalization of higher education in the developing and emerging
countries: A focus on transnational higher education in Asia,” Journal of Studies in
International Education 11, no. 3–4 (2007): 421–432.
22 UNESCO-CEPES, Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education
(Bucharest: UNESCO/Council of Europe, 2000).
23 Fang Wenhong, “The development of transnational higher education in China: A com-
parative study of research universities and teaching universities,” Journal of Studies in
International Education 16, no. 1 (2012): 6.
“on-line” delivery of courses through information and communications
technologies (ICT).’24 This expansive understanding of TNHE as assem-
bled through a network of human, policy, and institutional connections
across disparate places is reected in Huang’s denition that takes TNHE
as “any cross-border or inter-regional higher education activities or ser-
vices in a broad sense.”25
Although proponents have likened the growing TNHE sector to bor-
derless education26 and borderless university,27 others remain wary of such
straightforwardly optimistic views. Altbach, for instance, expressed con-
cern that transnational education will deepen inequalities among the
global education landscape, whereby the role of world-class universities
in Western countries will be strengthened on the one hand, while other
ostensibly ‘second-tier’ universities will continue to have little competi-
tive potential in the globalizing world.28 Huang’s assessment of case
studies of TNHE across East and Southeast Asia also revealed the manner
in which internationalizing strategies adopted by governments largely
maintain an attitude of ‘catching up’ with the English-speaking world.29
In her study on Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan, geographer Natalie Koch
argues that the contemporary circulation of Western (European and
North American) educational models throughout Asia contributes to
shaping a global knowledge economy that largely privileges Western
knowledge practices.30
The speed and scale at which ICTsare being applied to HE is also
believed to have democratized learning through the exibilization of insti-
tutional and curricular structures as well as the widening of participation.
24 Mazzarol, Soutar, and Seng, “The third wave: Future trends in international education,”
The International Journal of Education Management 17, no. 3 (2003): 90.
25 Huang, “Internationalization of higher education in the developing and emerging coun-
tries,” 422.
26 Stuart Cunningham et al., The Business of Borderless Education (Canberra: DETYA,
27 Kevin Robins and Frank Webster, The Virtual University? Knowledge, Markets, and
Management (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
28 Philip G. Altbach, “Higher Education and the WTO: Globalization Run Amok,”
International Higher Education 23, (2001): 2–4.
29 Le-Ha Phan, Transnational Education Crossing ‘Asia’ and ‘the West’: Adjusted desire,
transformative mediocrity and neo-colonial disguise (London: Routledge, 2017); Huang,
“Internationalization of higher education in the developing and emerging countries.”
30 Koch, “The shifting geopolitics of higher education: inter/nationalizing elite universi-
ties in Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and beyond,” Geoforum 56, (2014): 46–54.
The virtual university, which describes the electronic and online delivering
of educational services and activities, is claimed to be the future of HE.31
One such area that has been heralded as a remedy to educational dispari-
ties is the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as
Coursera, EdX, and Udemy across the 2000s. The president of EdX,
Anant Agarwal, goes to the extent to claim that they ‘are democratizing
and reimagining education by fullling [their] nonprot mission to
increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere.’32
However, evidence gathered has shown that global information ows
manifested in the digital divide are highly uneven, including barriers found
in individuals’ technological capacity and literacy as well as those seg-
mented across class, gender, and race. Schwab correctly noted that inequal-
ity is the largest concern associated with the 4IR, especially when
innovation and creativity tied to the techno-sciences have tended to ben-
et the rich while hollowing out opportunities for the poor.33 Similarly,
digital technologies in (transnational) HE may potentially serve the inter-
est of the elite more so than actually closing socio-economic gaps. To this
end, Yang accurately cautions that “virtual space is innite, but it does not
promise universality or equality.”34
casE 1: IndIan studEnts onEnglIsh-mEdIum mbbs
coursEs InchIna
The Case: Indian Doctors Made inChina
With China being the world’s largest sending country of international
students, its rising prole as a destination for ISM has been largely
neglected so far. As of 2016, more than 440,000 foreign students studied
in China.35 Although over half of these foreign students are on non-degree
31 Parker Rossman, The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University: Information Age and
Higher Education (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1992).
32 Anant Agar wal, “MOOCs and the Global Democratization of Higher Education,” June
24, 2016,
33 Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
34 Yang, Rui, “Globalisation and higher education development: a critical analysis,”
International Review of Education, 49 no. 3–4 (2003): 281.
35 PRC State Council, “More Chinese students return from overseas in 2016,” March 1, 2017,
courses, since early 2000s mainland Chinese universities have also offered
programs catered to foreign students seeking full degree credentials.36
Among these were English-medium MBBS programs that target speci-
cally international students from developing countries. The number of
places on these English-medium MBBS courses increased steadily from
2095 offered by 24 universities in the 2007 admission year to the high
watermark of 6020 places offered by 52 institutions in 2013, after which
there was a notable decline.37 In the 2016/2017 admission (the most
recent with data available), 45 Chinese institutions offered a total of 3470
places.38 Students from India most likely make up the largest single-
nationality group in these MBBS programs. According to Pallivi Aiyar,
Indian students rst started heading to China for MBBS in their ‘hun-
dreds’ since as early as 2004/2005.39 By 2015, the majority of the 16,694
Indian students in China could be safely assumed to be studying MBBS.40
How has this seemingly unlikely project of intra-Asia student mobility
come about? Not unlike elsewhere, in India an education in professional
elds such as medicine, law, and engineering is integral to many middle-
class families’ social aspiration and strategy. However, medical education
remains highly difcult to access in India, with affordable government-
subsidized medical school places reserved for only the most academically
competitive students. A signicant for-prot private medical education
sector has developed in response,41 but this sector is characterized by very
expensive tuition fees. As a result, young doctor-aspirants hailing from the
‘the lowest or more struggling sections of India’s new middle classes’42
36 Chiharu Kuroda, “The New Sphere of International Student Education in Chinese
Higher Education: A Focus on English-Medium Degree Programs,” Journal of Studies in
International Education 18, no. 5 (2014): 445–462.
37 Medical Council of India, “List of China Colleges,” 2015,
MediaRoom/ListofChinaColleges.aspx (site discontinued).
38 Ministry of Education China, “List of Institutions and Enrollment Plan for
Undergraduate Clinical Medicine Programs Taught in English for International Students,
2016/2017,” January 4, 2016,
39 Aiyar, “Made in China Indian doctors,” The Hindu, May 17, 2006, http://www.the-
40 CAFSA, “Statistics for international students in China 2015,” April 18, 2016, http://
41 Rita Sood, “Medical education in India,” Medical Teacher 30, no. 6 (2008): 585–591.
42 David Sancho, “Escaping India’s culture of education: Migration desires among aspiring
middle-class young men,” Ethnography 18, no. 4 (2017): 3.
who are academically as well as nancially excluded from medical educa-
tion at home are compelled to look overseas for alternatives. While previ-
ously medical schools located in certain eastern European countries (e.g.,
Ukraine, Russia, and Armenia) lled this gap, China has more recently
emerged as the top player in this segment of the educational market.43 For
example, during the 2011–2014 period, the largest group of candidates
taking the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (or FMGE—a mandatory
licensing exam for Indian candidates trained in foreign countries other
than the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand) was those educated in China.44
As earlier batches of graduates returned home to attempt the FMGE,
however, their low passage rates began to be noticed by the public. In a
Hindustan Times article titled ‘80% students unk mandatory test after
MBBS in China, Russia,’ Vishav Bharti notes that between 2012 and
2014, the exam pass rate for China-trained candidates was only 18.9%.45
As rising numbers of apparently under-prepared medical doctor candi-
dates returned, there is now a general realization in India that ‘foreign
medical degrees are no longer fancy.’46
These problematic outcomes dovetail with the rst author’s (Yang)
observations during his ethnographic eldwork at a provincial university
in eastern China (to be referred to as ‘CNU’ in this chapter) where the
international MBBS program was found to have serious quality issues with
respect to admission screening, teaching and learning practices, student
services, and so on. Yang’s research on the Indian medical students in
China was conducted between 2014 and 2016, adopting mainly an ethno-
graphic approach. The eldwork consisted of:
43 Alya Mishra, “China has become preferred destination for medical education,” September
9, 2012,
44 Poulomi Banerjee, “Here’s why foreign medical degrees are no longer fancy,” Hindustan
Times, November 23, 2015,
45 Bharti, “80% students unk mandatory test after MBBS in China, Russia,” Hindustan
Times, 2015,unk-mandatory-test-
46 Banerjee, “Here’s why foreign medical degrees are no longer fancy.”
1. a week-long ethnographic observation and interaction with Indian
MBBS students at CNU campus in March 2014;
2. a two-week trip to four Indian students’ hometowns in the state of
Tamil Nadu during June–July 2014;
3. a week-long visit to Kolkata and Bengaluru in early 2016 focusing
on an India-based educational intermediary.
These intense ethnographic trips were further supplemented by Yang’s
continuous engagement with Indian student informants through social
Pragmatism, Compromise, andMediocrity: Realities
ofInternational Educational Mobility
The case of Indian MBBS students in China materialized primarily as an
outcome of the pragmatism of both the educational consumers and edu-
cational providers in attempting to achieve their respective objectives. For
the Indian students, the objective is simply to obtain an MBBS degree at
an affordable cost. For the Chinese universities, especially lower tier ones
like CNU, it is to reap nancial as well as prestige gains from having inter-
national students that they are otherwise not in a position to attract. As
Yang’s eldwork revealed, however, the Indian students subsequently
found the Chinese MBBS program falling short of their expectations,
sometimes in signicant and unsettling ways. Even so, they were generally
willing to accept and acquiesce because this represented for them a ‘sec-
ond chance’ that they must settle for. In other words, studying MBBS in
China was a compromise that most Indian students have willingly made.
Similarly, the Chinese institution also found its initial objective of achiev-
ing nancial and reputational gains at least partially defeated, because not
only did quite a number of Indian students struggle to pay tuition fee
installments on time upon enrolling in China, their general lack of cultural
capital (e.g., in areas of English prociency, cosmopolitan outlook and
competence, and academic ability) also added little prestige to CNU in the
eyes of the university.
The Indian students’ desires for an MBBS degree from China are pri-
marily shaped locally in their home-country context as a tenuous strategy
for achieving social mobility through education. Yang’s informants—both
the Indian students and their parents in the study—typically had very little
prior knowledge about China and Chinese higher education institutes
(HEIs), and did not in any signicant way cite the imagined qualities of
the host country and institution as reasons for their pursuit of this
educational mobility. In fact, the only ‘pull’ factor consisted in the signi-
cantly lower tuition fees at the Chinese medical schools—equivalent to
about a quarter to a third of what it costs in a private medical school in
India. This nding contrasts notably with a few other accounts about
international students in which active ‘imaginative work’ about the culture
of the destination country/society and the features of its education
system(s) featured prominently in students’ narratives about studying
abroad.47 This contrast shows that the socio-cultural construction of edu-
cational desires can be highly contingent contextually. While education
has been theorized as a form of cultural capital that must be simultane-
ously institutionalized (as credentials/diplomas) and embodied,48 depend-
ing on context, social actors may emphasize predominantly only one
aspect while bracketing the other. This seems to be the case with the
Indian MBBS students in China, who primarily regard studying in China
a second chance to obtain a credential that they are excluded from domes-
tically; they seem to pay scant attention to the embodied as well as experi-
ential aspects of their education in China.
Due to this local/domestic constructedness and orientation of the
Indian students’ rationality for pursuing MBBS in China, mobility in this
case largely fails to act as a catalyst for value-added education. Educational
mobility has often been touted for creating additional values to the multi-
plicity of actors involved in it, be it the countries, regions, cities, institu-
tions, and most importantly, the people.49 For learners, especially,
educational mobility is believed to be the key in enhancing one’s cultural
capital through opening access to advanced knowledge, inter-/cross-
cultural competencies, cosmopolitan perspectives, and so on. However,
for the majority of the Indian MBBS students in Yang’s study, few of these
would seem true (although there inevitably are exceptions to the rule,
which cannot be discussed here due to limit of space). As a telling exam-
ple, most Indian MBBS students at CNU regarded learning the Chinese
47 Suzanne E.Beech, “Why place matters: imaginative geography and international student
mobility,” Area 46, no. 2 (2014): 170–177; Fong, Paradise Redened.
48 Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital.”
49 Francis L.Collins and Ho Kong Chong, “Globalising higher education and cities in Asia
and the Pacic,” Asia Pacic Viewpoint 55, no. 2 (2014): 127–131.; Francis L.Collins etal.,
“Mobility and desire: international students and Asian regionalism in aspirational Singapore,”
Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 35, no. 5 (2014): 661–676.
language as extremely difcult and a burden. Language barriers, together
with racially and socio-economically based prejudices and discriminations,
led to the isolation of the Indian students in their host institution, as well
as their general lack of interaction with the host society. Furthermore, in
order to satisfy the learning needs of the Indian students, it is common for
the Chinese universities to employ Indian-background lecturers to teach
on the program. When Chinese lecturers taught according to their own
China-based medical curriculum or syllabus, students typically reacted
adversely instead of appreciating it as curricular diversity, citing the prag-
matic consideration that the Chinese syllabus does not help them toward
passing the India-based FMGE. In a similar vein, due to language and
cultural barriers, Indian students are unable to benet optimally from
medical practicums conducted at hospitals in China.
These and various other observations reveal a palpable gap between the
oft-claimed benets of international educational mobility on the one hand
and the realities as found in the experiences of the Indian MBBS students
in China on the other. This case seems to show that, for academically and
socio-economically not-so-privileged students pursuing educational
mobility in non-elite institutions, a production of educational mediocrity50
may be a possible outcome.
casE 2: sIngaporEan studEnts InprIvatE
transnatIonal dEgrEE provIdErs
The Case ofTNHE inSingapore’s Private Institutes
Transnationalization of HE driven by economic globalization gained
momentum in the 1990s as part of the government’s aim to transform
Singapore into a global education hub.51 The government’s search for
‘global city’ status through HE began in 1998 with the launch of the World
Class Universities project to transform Singapore into ‘Boston of the East’.
A key strategy involved courting renowned American universities such as
Wharton, MIT, Cornell, and Duke among others to establish satellite cam-
puses and joint ventures in Singapore. The Global Schoolhouse initiative
was introduced in 2002 as an explicit strategy to nurture HE as a service
50 Le-Ha Phan, Transnational Education Crossing ‘Asia’ and ‘the West.’
51 Ravinder Sidhu, Kong Chong Ho, and Brenda S.A.Yeoh, “Emerging education hubs:
the case of Singapore,” Higher Education 61, no. 1 (2011): 23–40.
sector for revenue growth vis-à-vis the fashioning of a ‘virtuous circle,’
whereby universities—especially research-intensive agship institutes such
as the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological
University—are perceived to generate talented citizens who would then
create knowledge capital and networks that drive knowledge- based econo-
my.52 In addition to transforming the domestic public- autonomous univer-
sities into global agship centers of research and innovation excellence
through various international partnership projects (such as Yale-NUS
College of liberal arts and sciences, Duke-NUS medical school, and NTU-
Stanford), the Global Schoolhouse initiative also encouraged the privatiza-
tion of HE by attracting new players into the educational market.53
Private institutes in Singapore (and many parts of East and Southeast
Asia) are not granted with degree-awarding powers but instead partner
with overseas universities to offer programs that would lead to the confer-
ment of a degree by the overseas ‘home’ university. The programs on offer
include both part-time and full-time degree courses spanning across social
sciences to business and marketing, offering a wide array of overseas cre-
dentials from reputable partner universities, such as University of London
from the United Kingdom, University of Buffalo from the United States,
and RMIT from Australia. These home universities also take advantage of
these partnerships as part of their internationalizing strategies to grow
their presence across the world and to capture a portion of the revenue
afforded by this emerging transnational education industry. In forging
these cross-border institutional linkages that facilitate networked circula-
tion of educational models, knowledges, and policies, private HEIs serve
as important individual sites in the global assemblage of Singapore’s edu-
cation hub formation.54 Much of this assemblage clearly thrives on the
condition afforded by revolutionized technology, which has made possible
new modes of collaboration, organization, and service provision in com-
pressed time-space that is the current (neoliberal) imaginary.
The rapid expansion of a transnational private HE sector converged with
the city-state’s response tothe increased tertiary participation rate produced
by the mid-1980s school-leavers from the ‘youth bulge’ generation. This is
52 Kris Olds, “Global Assemblage: Singapore, Foreign Universities, and the Construction
of a ‘Global Education Hub’,” World Development 35, no. 6 (2007): 973.
53 Peter Waring, “Singapore’s global schoolhouse strategy: retreat or recalibration?,”
Studies in Higher Education 39, no. 5 (2013): 874–884.
54 Olds, “Global Assemblage.”
compounded by a rising middle-class aspiration for higher qualications and
the continued impact of credential creep (i.e., the simultaneous ination of
minimum credentials required for a given job and devaluation of diplomas/
degrees). Due to recent public concerns about the lack of local university
places for Singaporeans to pursue their degree education, the government
convened a committee in 2012 to explore strategies for expanding the HE
landscape culminating in a report for creating multiple university pathways.
Private HE sector was construed in this report as having a ‘role in comple-
menting the public university sector, by injecting greater course diversity
and supporting workforce development (emphasis added).’55 Private HE
was therefore framed within state policy discourse as demand-absorbing,
providing opportunities to those who needed to upgrade workforce skills
and knowledge, and expanding the educational service market.
According to the Council of Private Education, more than 100,000
Singaporeans pursue degree and diploma studies across approximately 71
private education institutes in Singapore. By 2012, there was already an
estimated 47,500 Singaporeans enrolled in full-time and part-time under-
graduate degree programs in the city’s four largest private institutes. The
majorityare fresh A-level and diploma graduates who were unable (or did
not try) to secure places in the more established and reputable public-
autonomous agship universities—namely the National University of
Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, and the Singapore
Management University. Anothergroup consists of young working adults
in their 30s who wish to upgrade their existing credentials through ‘top-
up’ degree programs. Together, this sizeable student population has
grown to match the number of Singaporeans enrolled into the local public
universities, which was estimated to be just over 45,000in the same year.
Transnational Higher Education: Democratized andBorderless?
The idea that private transnational education is a ‘second chance’ option to
obtaining a degree began to emerge during the second author’s (Cheng)
ethnographic eldwork conducted between 2012 and 2014. During this
period, Cheng interacted with numerous domestic students in private HE,
55 Ministry of Education Singapore, “Final Report of the Committee on University
Education Pathways Beyond 2015,” August 28, 2012,
ties.pdf (site discontinued).
out of which 35 interviews were held individually and in focus groups.
Students spoke about private degree education as an alternative pathway to
that of mainstream agship universities, without which they would need to
consider the more expensive route of pursuing a degree overseas. As such,
the availability of overseas degree programs locally becomes a palpable
option given they are more nancially viable than living and studying
abroad. While this dominant narrative reects a form of students’ practical
reasoning, it is informed by private institutes’ marketing discourses that
employ the very same rhetoric of private degree education as offering
young people a ‘second go’ at university education. Surveying various pri-
vate institutes’ websites revealed this language built into graduate and stu-
dent ‘testimonials’ selected to promote their degree programs. In doing so,
private education institutes participate in the appropriation and marketiza-
tion of young people’s aspirations, wherein students are framed as consum-
ers and whose educational desires are increasingly co- opted into commercial
agendas.56 As such, the ‘second chance’ discourse that helps frame local
understandings of private degree education57 echoes more broadly held
beliefs that TNHE offers the possibility of making university education
borderless, contributing to widening participation, and by extension repre-
sent a more democratized moment of education and learning.
The vocabularies of borderless and democratization, however, serve to
mask more complex and nuanced details of how disadvantage and hierar-
chies are produced through TNHE, even as it paves an additional route
for credential-seeking youths. The analytic prism therefore needs to pay
heed to how the ‘actually existing’ experiences of transnational education
is constituted through reproduction of power relations and value hierar-
chies. As Waters and Leung argue based on their work on TNHE in Hong
Kong, there is very little criticalanalysis on its complex spatialities—‘how
it can be conceivably both detached from the local education system and
yet also at the same time profoundly implicated inlocalized processes of
social reproduction.’58
56 Rajani Naidoo, Avi Shankar, and Ekant Veer, “The consumerist turn in higher educa-
tion: Policy aspirations and outcomes,” Journal of Marketing Management 27, no. 11–12
(2011): 1142–1162.
57 Yi En Cheng, “Commentary: Is private higher education in Singapore a ‘second chance’
option?,” September 17, 2017.
58 Johanna Waters and Maggi W.H. Leung, “Domesticating transnational education: dis-
courses of social value, self-worth and the institutionalisation of failure in ‘meritocratic’
Hong Kong,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42, no. 2 (2016): 235.
Educational hierarchy in Singapore has long privileged ‘Western’ over-
seas universities, as reected in the government’s practice of sending the
‘brightest’ students abroad for university education in the Global North
under prestigious scholarship schemes, followed by a more localized com-
petition among the public universities.59 Private TNHE institutes, as the
new kid on the block without the established resources and reputation rela-
tive to the domestic universities, are categorically pushed to the bottom
rung of this hierarchy. Domestic students enrolled into private institutes are
structurally constituted as ‘educated non-elites’ in the state’s vision of
Singapore as an epicenter of knowledge and talent.60 Even though many of
them are considered relatively privileged enough to be able to pursue uni-
versity education, as opposed to the least advantaged youths in vocational
and technical institutes61 or those who have no nancial means to pursue
HE, private degree students often face uncertainty in job prospects and do
not have access to a wide variety of employment opportunities unlike their
counterparts studying in domestic public-autonomous universities. This is
largely due to the lack of faith in TNHE programs and degree credentials
by employers and hirers that can be attributed to multiple factors, including
stereotypical views about the quality of students and programs. Currently,
42% of graduates of private TNHE were unable to secure full-time jobs
within six months of completing their studies, which is a striking contrast to
an 83% successful full-time job rate among the public university students.62
Two key points about the challenges faced by private TNHE students in
Singapore can be made that connect to localized social reproduction.
First, even though Western overseas universities and their credentials are
much sought after by employers in Singapore, they do not remain as such
in the context of private TNHE.Instead, private TNHE-awarded degrees
undergo a process of value erosion as they cross geographical boundaries
59 Rebecca Ye and Erik Nylander, “The transnational track: state sponsorship and
Singapore’s Oxbridge elite,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 36, no. 1 (2015):
60 Yi En Cheng, “Educated non-elites’ pathways to cosmopolitanism: the case of private
degree students in Singapore,” Social & Cultural Geography 19, no. 2 (2018): 151–170.
61 Terence Chong, “Vocational education in Singapore: meritocracy and hidden narra-
tives,” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 35, no. 5 (2014): 637–648.
62 Sandra Davie, “Private school graduates nd it harder to land jobs: Poll,” The Straits
Times, September 24, 2016,
and get reinterpreted in the local context of existing HE hierarchies vis-à-
vis a politics of value recognition tied to student worth and institutional
reputation. This cross-border erosion of (Western) credential value poses a
challenge to the notion of TNHE as a form of borderless education that
can uproot itself from geographically embedded forces.
The second point relates to how TNHE has been postulated to have
democratizing impact on participation in HE.The case of Singapore has
indeed demonstrated the possibility of widening university participation
for a broader range of young people, and which serves as a discourse that
appeals to the popular imagination, including the students’ own percep-
tions of private TNHE.Nevertheless, it is also revealed through research
that more complex intricacies of power relations operating within private
institutes continue to reproduce (dis)advantage. For instance, even within
a single institute some university programs are perceived as better than
others. Generally, American degree programs are perceived by students as
of a higher class than the Australian counterparts. But those who wish to
enroll into the American programs would have to pay a higher tuition fee
as compared to Australian universities. In terms of access to opportunities
to partake in overseas study and work placements that might support
future employability, there is also evidence thatsome working-class stu-
dents could not afford to pay for additional expenses needed to enter such
programs. As such, while TNHE offers the possibility of international
education experience with respect to their foreign curricular programs,
not every student has equal access to tangible forms of international learn-
ing experiences and especially for socio-economically constrained individ-
uals. These exclusions on the ground serve as a caution to viewing TNHE
as any more democratic than earlier forms of educational arrangements.
dIscussIon andconclusIon
While we could have offered a discussion of how HE may be impacted by
and can in turn respond to 4IR from a functionalist angle, evidently this is
not the approach we have taken in this chapter. Instead, leveraging on our
respective studies in emerging student mobilities and transnational private
HE in Asia, we have attempted to reect indirectly on claims tied to 4IR
as a technologically enabled and driven force that would disrupt HE learn-
ing and training. In the process, we have pondered the roles of student
mobility, transnationalization, economic/social/cultural capitals, social
reproduction—and the complex cross-border interplay of these factors—
in animating today’s global landscape of HE.
Transnational mobilities and connectivities in HE have no doubt
become deeper and more extensive as the result of the 3IR-driven global-
ization of the preceding era. With the onset of the 4IR, these processes are
likely to further accelerate and intensify. This notwithstanding, our
research suggests that the patterns of educational mobilities and transna-
tional linkages are highly uneven, and remain powerfully shaped by hege-
monic global structures and hierarchies around knowledge authority,
institutional prestige, and country reputations. Our ndings show that
today’s HE institutions adopt ‘globalization’ or ‘internationalization’—
often in ways that reect dominant technofetishized impulses—as strate-
gies to boost student enrollment, whereas students often use their
participation in educational mobilities and transnationalism as alternative
routes to overcome locally based barriers to access educational pathways
and labor markets. Thus, we contend that, while examining the globaliz-
ing aspects of HE and participation that are often associated with global-
ization and are projected to intensify in the age of 4IR, we must not lose
sight of the locally embedded logics and rationales underpinning institu-
tions’ and individuals’ articulations and experiences of HE.
More broadly, with the critical and culturalist analytical perspective we
adopt, our hope through this chapter is to open up a more critical conver-
sation about the current state and future direction of scholarship on 4IR
and HE.Existing discourses on 4IR remain very much dominated by the
elite industrial and academic voices that coined the concept in the rst
place.63 Characterized by a strong technocratic/technophilic impulse and
futuristic orientation, such discourses address primarily the policymakers
and the elites, but elide the ‘on the ground’ experiences and subjectivities
of the more disadvantaged and marginalized. Hence, for instance, in the
WEF’s recent report The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce
Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there are many a prediction
and pronouncement about the ‘hot’ skills of the future, which all seem to
us to be largely out of touch with the ways in which socio-culturally and
geographically embedded actors are engaging with HE as means of real-
izing locally dened social aspirations and desires.64 In a sense, our chap-
ter aspires to be a corrective to prevailing 4IR discourses which fail to
63 Schwab, The First Industrial Revolution.
64 World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce
Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” January 2016,
challenge the continued hegemony of the business world and capitalist
economy impacting upon HE alongside the unevenness, hierarchies, and
inequalities that are reproduced in the process. We argue that paying
attention to theseissues is crucial if we wish to take seriously and critically
the complex relationships between 4IR and higher education.
Aiyar, Pallivi. “Made in China Indian doctors.” The Hindu, May 17, 2006. http://
Altbach, Philip G. “Higher Education and the WTO: Globalization Run Amok.”
International Higher Education 23, (2001): 2–4.
Agarwal, Anant. “MOOCs and the Global Democratization of Higher Education.”
June 24, 2016.
Baas, Michiel. Imagined Mobility: Migration and Transnationalism among Indian
Students in Australia. NewYork: Anthem Press, 2010.
Baláž, Vladimír, and Allan M.Williams. “‘Been there, done that’: international
student migration and human capital transfers from the UK to Slovakia.”
Population, Space and Place 10, no. 3 (2004): 217–237.
Banerjee, Poulomi. “Here’s why foreign medical degrees are no longer fancy.”
Hindustan Times, November 23, 2015.
Beech, Suzanne E. “Why place matters: imaginative geography and international
student mobility.” Area 46, no. 2 (2014): 170–177.
Bharti, Vishav. “80% students unk mandatory test after MBBS in China, Russia.”
Hindustan Times, 2015.
Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research for
the Sociology of Education, edited by John G.Richardson, 241–260. London:
Greenwood Press, 1986.
Brooks, Rachel, and Johanna Waters. “A Second Chance at ‘Success’: UK Students
and Global Circuits of Higher Education.” Sociology 43, no. 6 (2009):
CAFSA. “Statistics for international students in China 2015.” April 18, 2016.
Chan, Sheng-Ju. “Shifting Patterns of Student Mobility in Asia.” Higher Education
Policy 25, no. 2 (2012): 207–224.
Cheng, Yi En. “Educated non-elites’ pathways to cosmopolitanism: the case of
private degree students in Singapore.” Social & Cultural Geography 19, no. 2
(2018): 151–170.
———. “Commentary: Is private higher education in Singapore a ‘second chance’
option?” September 17, 2017.
Chong, Terence. “Vocational education in Singapore: meritocracy and hidden
narratives.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 35, no. 5
(2014): 637–648.
Collins, Francis L. “Regional Pathways: Transnational Imaginaries, Infrastructures
and Implications of Student Mobility within Asia.” Asian and Pacic Migration
Journal 22, no. 4 (2013): 475–500.
Collins, Francis L., and Ho Kong Chong. “Globalising higher education and cities
in Asia and the Pacic.” Asia Pacic Viewpoint 55, no. 2 (2014): 127–131.
Collins, Francis L., Ravinder Sidhu, Nick Lewis, and Brenda S.A.Yeoh. “Mobility
and desire: international students and Asian regionalism in aspirational
Singapore.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 35, no. 5
(2014): 661–676.
Collins, Randall. “Functional and Conict Theories of Educational Stratication.”
American Sociological Review, 36, no. 6 (1971): 1002–1019.
Cunningham, Stuart, Yoni Ryan, Lawrence Stedman, Suellen Tapsall, Kerry
Bagdon, Terry Flew, and Peter Coldrake. The Business of Borderless Education.
Canberra: DETYA, 2000.
Davie, Sandra. “Private school graduates nd it harder to land jobs: Poll.” The
Straits Times, September 24, 2016.
Fang, Wenhong. “The development of transnational higher education in China: A
comparative study of research universities and teaching universities.” Journal of
Studies in International Education 16, no. 1 (2012): 5–23.
Findlay, Allan. M., Russell King, Fiona M. Smith, Alistar Geddes, and Ronald
Skeldon. “World class? An investigation of globalisation, difference and
international student mobility.” Transactions of the Institute of British
Geographers, 37, no. 1 (2012): 118–131.
Fong, Vanessa L. Paradise Redened: Transnational Chinese Students and the
Quest for Flexible Citizenship in the Developed World. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2011.
Huang, Futao. “Internationalization of higher education in the developing and
emerging countries: A focus on transnational higher education in Asia.” Journal
of Studies in International Education 11, no. 3–4 (2007): 421–432.
ICEF Monitor. “The state of international student mobility in 2015.” November 5,
King, Russell, and Enric Ruiz-Gelices. “International student migration and the
European ‘Year Abroad’: effects on European identity and subsequent migra-
tion behaviour.” International Journal of Population Geography 9, no. 3
(2003): 229–252.
King, Russell, Findlay, Allan M., Jill Ahrens, and Mairead Dunne. “Reproducing
advantage: the perspective of English school leavers on studying abroad.”
Globalisation, Societies and Education 9, no. 2 (2011): 161–181.
Koch, Natalie. “The shifting geopolitics of higher education: inter/nationalizing
elite universities in Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and beyond.” Geoforum 56,
(2014): 46–54.
Kuroda, Chiharu. “The New Sphere of International Student Education in
Chinese Higher Education: A Focus on English-Medium Degree Programs.”
Journal of Studies in International Education 18, no. 5 (2014): 445–462.
Mazzarol, Tim W., Geoffery N.Soutar, and Michael S.Y. Seng. “The third wave:
Future trends in international education.” The International Journal of
Education Management 17, no. 3 (2003): 90–99.
Medical Council of India. “List of China Colleges.” 2015. http://www.mciindia.
org/MediaRoom/ListofChinaColleges.aspx (site discontinued).
Ministry of Education China. “List of Institutions and Enrollment Plan for
Undergraduate Clinical Medicine Programs Taught in English for International
Students, 2016/2017.” January 4, 2016.
Ministry of Education Singapore. “Final Report of the Committee on University
Education Pathways Beyond 2015.” August 28, 2012.
diversity-more-opportunities.pdf (site discontinued).
Mishra, Alya. “China has become preferred destination for medical educa-
tion.” September 9, 2012.
Naidoo, Rajani, Avi Shankar, and Ekant Veer. “The consumerist turn in higher
education: Policy aspirations and outcomes.” Journal of Marketing Management
27, no. 11–12 (2011): 1142–1162.
OECD. “Education Indicators in Focus– 2013/05 (July).” 2013. http://www.
Olds, Kris. “Global Assemblage: Singapore, Foreign Universities, and the
Construction of a “Global Education Hub”.” World Development 35, no. 6
(2007): 959–975.
Phan, Le-Ha. Transnational Education Crossing ‘Asia’ and ‘the West’: Adjusted
desire, transformative mediocrity and neo-colonial disguise. London: Routledge,
PRC State Council. “More Chinese students return from overseas in 2016.” March
1, 2017.
Robertson, Shanthi. Transnational Student-Migrants and the State: The Education-
Migration Nexus. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Robins, Kevin, and Frank Webster. The Virtual University? Knowledge, Markets,
and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Rossman, Parker. The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University: Information Age
and Higher Education. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1992.
Sancho, David. “Escaping India’s culture of education: Migration desires among
aspiring middle-class young men.” Ethnography 18, no. 4 (2017): 1–20.
Schwab, Klaus. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to
respond.” January 14, 2016.
———. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. NewYork: Crown Publishing Group,
Sharma, Yojana. “Universities can help overcome economic nationalism.”
November 23, 2017.
Sidhu, Ravinder, Kong Chong Ho, and Brenda S.A.Yeoh. “Emerging education
hubs: the case of Singapore.” Higher Education 61, no. 1 (2011): 23–40.
Sood, Rita. “Medical education in India.” Medical Teacher 30, no. 6 (2008):
UNESCO. “The International Mobility of Students in Asia and the Pacic.” 2013.
———. “Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students.” 2016. http://www.uis.unesco.
org/Education/Pages/international-student-ow-viz.aspx (site discontinued).
UNESCO-CEPES. Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational
Education. Bucharest: UNESCO/Council of Europe, 2000.
Waring, Peter. “Singapore’s global schoolhouse strategy: retreat or recalibration?”
Studies in Higher Education 39, no. 5 (2013): 874–884.
Waters, Johanna. “Geographies of cultural capital: education, international migra-
tion and family strategies between Hong Kong and Canada.” Transactions
Institute of British Geographers 31, no. 2 (2006): 179–192.
———. Education, Migration, and Cultural Capital in the Chinese Diaspora.
Transnational Students between Hong Kong and Canada. NewYork: Cambria
Press, 2008.
———. “Geographies of International Education: Mobilities and the Reproduction
of Social (Dis)advantage.” Geography Compass 6, no. 3 (2012): 123–136.
Waters, Johanna, and Maggi W. H. Leung. “Domesticating transnational educa-
tion: discourses of social value, self-worth and the institutionalisation of failure
in “meritocratic” Hong Kong.” Transactions of the Institute of British
Geographers, 42, no. 2 (2016): 233–245.
World Economic Forum. “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce
Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” January 2016. http://www3.
Yang, Peidong. “Compromise and complicity in international student mobility: the
ethnographic case of Indian medical students at a Chinese university.” Discourse:
Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, online rst (2018): 1–15.
Yang, Rui. “Globalisation and higher education development: a critical analysis.”
International Review of Education, 49 no. 3–4 (2003): 269–291.
Ye, Rebecca, and Erik Nylander. “The transnational track: state sponsorship and
Singapore’s Oxbridge elite.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 36, no. 1
(2015): 11–33.
Ziguras, Christopher, and Grant McBurnie. “International Student Mobility in
the Asia-Pacic: From Globalization to Regional Integration?” In Higher
Education in the Asia-Pacic, edited by Simon Marginson, Sarjit Kaur, and
Erlenawati Sawir, 123–140. Netherlands: Springer, 2011.
Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License (
by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction
in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original
author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and
indicate if changes were made.
The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the
chapter’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to
the material. If material is not included in the chapter’s Creative Commons license
and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the per-
mitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
65© The Author(s) 2018
N. W. Gleason (ed.), Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial
Academic Library Futures inaDiversied
University System
LorcanDempsey andConstanceMalpas
Universities (and Libraries) intransition
Following World War II, the higher education sector grew rapidly. The
increases in college attendance were dramatic. For example, in 1949,
2.4million students attended US colleges and universities; by 1969, total
enrollment had grown to 8million students; and by 1994, enrollment had
risen to 14.3million students. And this growth continues. Between 2004
and 2014, enrollment increased 17%, from 17.3million to 20.2million.1
As the higher education sector has grown, the number of US academic
libraries has increased as well, growing by 6% from 2002 to 2012, and
totaling more than 4000in 2015.2
1 Thomas D.Snyder, Cristobal de Brey, and Sally A.Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics
2015 (Washington D.C: National Center for Education Statistics, 2016), 460.
2 Snyder, Brey, and Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics 2015, 881.
L. Dempsey (*)
OCLC, Dublin, OH, USA
C. Malpas
OCLC, San Mateo, CA, USA
Higher education is now the subject of an intense debate about mis-
sion, organization and direction. This is driven by multiple factors, includ-
ing affordability and inclusion, research evaluation and the associated
inuence of rankings and increased recognition of the diversication of
mission. An important strand in the United States has been the discussion
about institutional isomorphism, which has featured centrally in inuential
recent contributions.3 Institutional isomorphism refers to the tendency of
institutions in a eld to come to resemble each other over time, shaped by
coercive (mandated) or normative (professional) inuences. In the higher
education eld, Michael Crow and William Dabars have coined the terms
Harvardization or Berkeley envy for a historical trend they observe: uni-
versities have aspired to those institutions as common models of excel-
lence.4 They, and others, argue that the needs of their constituencies
demand a more plural form of education, where different types of institu-
tion t different niches.
And, indeed, it has become increasingly clear that universities are sort-
ing themselves into new patterns of development. For example, Crow’s
own institution, Arizona State University, is very deliberately charting a
course as a new type of mega-university, arguing that it is possible to
increase simultaneously both inclusiveness and research excellence. Other
patterns are apparent: the residential liberal arts college, for example,
which is developing career-oriented professional online offerings (e.g.,
Indiana Wesleyan University), the regional public university seeking to
streamline based on a distinctive career focus (e.g., the University of Texas
Rio Grande Valley), the system with shared services (e.g., University of
Georgia) and so on. As universities change and grow, so do libraries, and
there has also been much discussion of the future of academic libraries.5
3 Paul DiMaggio and Walter W.Powell, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Collective Rationality
and Institutional Isomorphism in Organizational Fields,” American Sociological Review 48,
no. 2 (1983): 147–160; Kevin Carey, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning
and the University of Everywhere (New York: Riverhead Books, 2015); Michael M.Crow and
William B. Dabars, Designing the New American University (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2015), 118.
4 Crow and Dabars, Designing the New American University.
5 For recent examples consider Steven Bell, Lorcan Dempsey, and Barbara Fister, New
Roles for the Road Ahead: Essays Commissioned for ACRL’s 75th Anniversary (Chicago:
Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015); Stephen Pineld, Andrew M.Cox,
and Sophie Rutter, Mapping the Future of Academic Libraries: A Report for SCONUL
(London: SCONUL, 2017).les/documents/
Against the university background sketched above, such discussion shares
two interesting features.6 First, it often proceeds without reference to the
universities of which libraries are a part. We contend that the most important
long-term inuence on the library is the requirement placed on it by chang-
ing patterns of research and learning. These changing patterns, in turn, are
shaped by the focus of the parent university or college and the directions it
is taking. And, as we noted above, a variety of patterns is emerging here.
Second, it often presumes some homogeneity of approach or direction, dif-
ferent only in degree among libraries. This presumption of homogeneity
encourages a view of academic libraries in which the research library is seen
as a terminal point in evolution, rather than as one type among others.
However, where universities and colleges seek to differentiate themselves
this presumption is increasingly misleading. The models of excellence for
libraries supporting, say, an elite comprehensive research university, a liberal
arts college devoted to broad-based student learning, or an increasingly
career-oriented public institution will be very different from each other.
These factors mean that despite considerable exploration, discussion of
library futures can be somewhat partial. We contend that different types of
academic libraries will be on different vectors, inuenced by the types of
universities or colleges they support. In the remainder of this chapter, we
will consider the future of academic libraries in the context of a diversifying
higher education system. We will proceed as follows. We will consider how
the academic library developed in parallel with the growth of the higher
education system more broadly. We then will look at some general library
trends brought about by the digital shift. We will go on to consider how
libraries in different types of higher education institutions will likely develop
different emphases to support the specic directions of their host institu-
tion. To facilitate this discussion, we propose a simple typology of higher
education institutions. This is based on some collaborative work we cur-
rently are engaged in to characterize libraries in the context of university
strategic directions (in a later stage of this work, we will be looking at devel-
oping a more rened view of the library service portfolio supporting differ-
ent types of university. This is based on eld work currently in process).7
6 Unless stated other wise, when we use library in this unqualied sense we mean academic
7 The University Futures, Librar y Futures project is a collaborative initiative of OCLC
Research and Ithaka S+R, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. See
“University Futures, Library Futures,” OCLC, last updated May 31, 2017, https://www.
Most of our examples are drawn from the United States, which has an
enormously rich and diverse ecosystem of educational provision. Of
course, in many other countries there may be a more systemwide approach,
guided by public policy and national planning or funding (and this cer-
tainly carries over into library provision, where nationally supported shared
infrastructures, union catalogs for example, or shared content licensing
arrangements, are common). However, we believe that similar trends are
observable elsewhere, and that libraries worldwide are on similar trajecto-
ries even if they are realized unevenly.
the CoLLeCtions-based view oftheLibrary
The enormous growth in higher education in the post-war period was
mirrored by a growth in publication, and of the libraries that managed
those publications for universities and colleges. Consider journal publica-
tions.8 This is the period of De Solla Price’s big science, where govern-
ment funding of big science and technology challenges coincided with the
professionalization of research, the emergence of commercial scholarly
publishers and “the growing importance of published works as career-
dening tokens of prestige for academics.”9 The academy outsourced
reputation management to the publishing system, and at the same time
that publishing system was increasingly commercialized. This has led to
strenuous discussions about models of open access, funder and national
policy attention to the dissemination of research outputs and occasional
suggestions that management of thescholarly record be repatriated to the
academic community.
On the monograph side, the volume of both consumer and scholarly
book publications saw big increases. In 1945, there were a total of 6548
book titles published in the United States. By 1965, the number rose to
28,595 books published. By 1985, the number rose to 50,070 titles.10 By
8 Michael Mabe, “The Growth and Number of Journals,” Serials 16, no. 2 (2003):
9 Aileen Fyfe, Kelly Coate, Stephen Curry, Stuart Lawson, Noah Moxham, and Camilla
Mørk Røstvik, “Untangling Academic Publishing: A History of the Relationship Between
Commercial Interests, Academic Prestige and the Circulation of Research,” Zenodo, May 25,
10 Jean Peters, “Book Industry Statistics from the RR Bowker Company,” Publishing
Research Quarterly 8, no. 3 (1992): 12–23.
the 1970s, these factors had established the traditional collections-based
view of the library in the print world. The library was associated strongly
with the collection of print materials. A ‘good’ library was a ‘big’ library,
because it assembled locally a large part of the scholarly and cultural record
for prospecting by students and researchers.
Three overlapping central features are worth noting here: identity,
value and workow. The identity of the library was formed by its print
incarnation: a central building which makes print collections available.
Powerful associations grew up around this: the library at the heart of the
university, a physical manifestation of the cumulating scholarly and cul-
tural record, which is created through research and scholarship, shared
through teaching and learning, and preserved by the library. These asso-
ciations are still strong. Indeed, it often is difcult to separate the idea of
the library as a ‘building’ from the idea of the library as a ‘service.’ Consider
media stories about academic libraries: they often will be accompanied by
stock images of the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin, or a similar
wood-paneled, book-lined library interior.
In parallel, the value of the library was associated strongly with access
to the assembled print record, to its organization and to its provision of
adjacent study spaces. Until recently, the collections model of libraries has
meant that academic libraries have measured their quality or value in terms
of how big their collections are—every library trying to be as much like
Harvard as possible. In this way, we have had a fairly monolithic model of
what constitutes excellence, often focused on collection size, circulation
and gate counts, and library expenditures. A university that provided more
educational and research materials could offer more comprehensive pro-
grams and attract more students. This model of excellence continues to be
perpetuated in library rankings and national statistical reporting, which
emphasize ‘counts’ of items (or titles) in the collection, or the size of the
library budget relative to other core institutional expenditures.
This centrality is reenforced by workow. Resources are scarce in a print
world, and the lib