Higher Education in Asia – Moving Ahead

What Drives Global Science? The Four Competing Narratives

Speaker: Professor Simon MARGINSON

Professor of Higher Education, Department of Education, Linacre College, University of Oxford

Chair: Professor Gerard POSTIGLIONE

 Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, The University of Hong Kong

September 15, 2021 (Wednesday)
Time: 16:00 – 17:00 (Hong Kong time) by zoom

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Since 1990 there has been remarkable growth and diversification of worldwide capacity and output in science, and a distinctive global science system has emerged, primarily grounded in research universities, fostered by Internet-mediated communication and publication in English, cross-border authorship and researcher mobility. While global science overlaps with and is affected by national science systems, it is constituted by pan-national knowledge flows and collegial collaboration and has partial autonomy. Four different interpretive frameworks (narratives) have evolved to explain the dynamics of global science: science as an expanding cross-border network; science as an arms race between competing nations; science as a global market of competing institutions or ‘World-Class Universities’; and science as a centre-periphery hierarchy in which emerging countries are permanently constrained by Euro-American dominance. The paper reviews each narrative in relation to the literature, especially studies in scientometrics, and in relation to empirical tendencies in global science, tracked in secondary data derived from bibliometric collections. While each narrative contains at least a grain of truth, each also conflicts with the others and each is radically insufficient. A better explanation of the drivers of global science combines (1) flat open networked relations with (2) the inequalities and closures shaped by global hegemony, arbitrarily modified by (3) national governments and specific resources.


Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, Director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Joint Editor-in-Chief of  Higher Education, Lead Researcher with Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and Professorial Associate of the Melbourne Centre for Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in UK and a member of the board of governors of the Consortium of Higher Education researchers in Europe (CHER). Simon’s research is focused primarily on global, international and comparative higher education; higher education in East Asia; higher education and the common good, including social inequality; and global science which is the topic of several recent papers. His Google Scholar h-index is 75. Recent books include High Participation Systems of Higher Education, edited with Brendan Cantwell and Anna Smolentseva (Oxford University Press, 2018), and Changing Higher Education for a Changing World, edited with Claire Callender and William Locke (Bloomsbury, 2020). Forthcoming are Changing Higher Education in India, edited with Saumen Chattopadhyay and N.V. Varghese (Bloomsbury, December 2021) and Changing Higher Education in East Asia, edited with Xin Xu (Bloomsbury, February 2022).