Glyn Davis: How English made our universities the most popular in the world

Related Topics

The number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship had approximately doubled each 15 years since 1975. According to OECD figures, English-speaking countries had 45 per cent of the international student market in 2006. Australia was on 6 per cent, and the UK on 11 per cent. So what explains the success of such countries in the international student market?

This is a story that starts several hundred years ago, as English colonists and traders began to spread far beyond Europe, into the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. They created several new English-speaking countries and made English the language of local elites in many other places. High international student enrolments are in part a late legacy of England's colonial past.

English has been spread further by the cultural and business empire of one of those former British colonies, the United States. In the twentieth century, doing global business meant dealing with the US, and as the labour market has globalised, English has become the language to have.

It is not just that major importers of people are English speaking. It is that multinational companies based elsewhere use English as their common language of communication. American popular culture has found large audiences around the world. Getting on in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has increasingly required knowing how to speak, write and read English, and this has been to the great benefit of universities in English-speaking countries.

The place of English in global affairs means that universities in English-speaking countries are likely to enjoy some enduring advantages. While speakers of Asian languages are producing and consuming a growing share of world economic output, no Asian language is likely to replace English as the global lingua franca soon. Indeed, the large numbers of people within Asia learning English, or coming to the West to learn English, without any corresponding trend among non-native speakers to learn Asian languages, are only entrenching English's position as the world's second language.

This is no cause for complacency. The familiar world will melt away in the decades ahead. But Western universities start from a position of strength.

Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, was speaking at King's College London on Tuesday

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living