Das große Wettrennen um die besten Köpfe

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Seit Jahrzehnten gelten die Forschungsuniversitäten in den USA allgemein als weltführend in Naturwissenschaften und Technologie. Es gibt seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, was schiere Menge und Qualität von ihnen hervorgebrachter wissenschaftlicher Arbeiten angeht, nichts Vergleichbares. Doch die Anzeichen mehren sich, dass die übrige Welt schnell aufholt: Sie baut neue Universitäten und verbessert bestehende, konkurriert hart um die besten Studenten und überzeugt in den USA promovierte Fachkräfte, nach Hause zurückzukommen, um dort in den Universitäten und Industrielabors zu arbeiten. Steht die internationale wissenschaftliche Hackordnung vor einem Umsturz?

Außer Frage steht, dass sich der akademische Betrieb zunehmend globalisiert, besonders in den Naturwissenschaften. Fast drei Millionen Studenten studieren inzwischen außerhalb ihrer Heimatländer – 57% mehr als noch vor zehn Jahren. Ausländische Studenten dominieren inzwischen viele US-Doktorandenprogramme; im Bereich der Computerwissenschaft etwa entfallen auf sie 64% aller Promotionen. Die Universitäten von Tsinghua und Peking haben kürzlich gemeinsam Berkeley als Topquelle von Studenten, die anschließend einen amerikanischen Doktortitel erwerben, abgelöst.

Auch die Hochschullehrer werden mobiler. Die Hälfte der führenden Physiker weltweit arbeitet heute nicht mehr in ihren Heimatländern. Und bedeutende Bildungseinrichtungen wie die New York University und University of Nottingham sind dabei, Campusniederlassungen im Nahen Osten und in Asien einzurichten. Es gibt inzwischen 162 derartige Universitätsableger weltweit, eine Zunahme von 43% in den vergangenen drei Jahren.

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