Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: July 26, 2007

Committee Looks At Effect of University Globalization on U.S. Pre-Eminence in STEM Fields

(Washington, DC) The U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology today held the second in a series of hearings this Congress on the complexities of offshoring – or the movement of U.S. technical jobs to overseas locations.

Today’s hearing, entitled The Globalization of R&D and Innovation, Pt. II: The University Response, follows on a June 12, 2007 hearing that examined the current state of technical jobs in the United States, as well as on the implications of innovation offshoring for U.S. workers and the economy.

“As an increasing number of American universities establish campuses in foreign countries, many questions and concerns are arising about the impacts this will have on American students, job opportunities, and competitiveness. To address this, we must learn more about how university globalization will impact our country's pre-eminence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," said Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA), who chaired today’s full committee hearing.

Committee Members today heard from a panel of U.S. university-based witnesses on how America’s universities are addressing the challenges of globalization - both by establishing campuses overseas and preparing their domestic students to compete in the global marketplace. Witnesses also explored the implications for the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.

The U.S. higher education system is a principal source of America’s pre-eminence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. STEM offshoring is increasing competition for U.S. STEM workers. Many universities are responding by improving curricula to help their U.S. students better compete in a job market that is likely to be increasingly international. At the same time, globalization enables American universities to venture abroad - to build programs and campuses overseas to serve the growing demand of foreign students.

Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, “…having a STEM degree, even from a top school, no longer guarantees lifelong employment in a well-paying job in the United States. Our students are increasingly competing with well-trained, low cost employees in countries such as India and China. Universities are our first line of defense in ensuring our leadership in the global economy by giving our scientists and engineers the special skills they need to set themselves apart from the global competition.”

“In some respects American universities have been global for many years. They have attracted large numbers of foreign students, particularly in STEM fields at the graduate level. But offshoring is giving high quality foreign students outstanding job opportunities in their home countries. This may make it less likely that foreign students will stay in the U.S. after graduation, and may make it less desirable to come to the U.S. to study in the first place. So, American universities are taking their education to foreign students by building campuses and offering STEM degree programs in other countries,” added Chairman Baird.

The data on the globalization of American universities is sparse, but the phenomenon is not very large by most measures, at least not yet. Experts believe that we may be approaching a turning point in the globalization of American universities. The emergence of China and India as offshoring destinations has spurred rapid growth in demand for quality higher education, especially in STEM fields.

America's higher education is considered the best in the world. The Economist reports that America has 17 of the top 20 universities and employs 70 percent of the world's Nobel prize-winners. American academics also produce 30 percent of the world's peer-reviewed scientific and technical journal articles, according to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2006.

For more information on offshoring and the Committee’s ongoing investigation and activities, please click here.

Witnesses at the hearing included Dr. David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University; Dr. Gary Schuster, provost and vice president for academic affairs of Georgia Institute of Technology; Mr. Mark Wessel, dean of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University; and Dr. Philip Altbach, the Monan professor of higher education and director of the center for international higher education at Boston College.



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