The Struggle Over Global Higher Education: Actors, Institutions, and Practices



This article examines the intensification, since the creation of the so-called Shanghai list of world universities in June 2003, of a political struggle in which a variety of actors, universities, national governments, and, more recently, supranational institutions have sought to define global higher education. This competition over global higher education has highlighted issues such as the internationalization and denationalization of higher education, the international mobility of students, the role of English language as the language of science, and the privatization of higher education. In contrast to IPE or Marxist analyses, we analyze the symbolic logic of ranking lists in higher education, their uses, and the European Commission’s initiative to create an alternative world university classification (see World Social Science Report, UNESCO Publishing; Europa zwischen Fiktion und Realpolitik/L’Europe—Fictions et réalités politiques, Transcript for analysis). This initiative represents a political move in a process of rapid restructuration of higher education at the global level.