ASU President Michael Crow: Universities in Global Development

February 12, 2014 - 4 minutes read

On Monday February 10th, Arizona State University President Michael Crow spoke about “Universities as Partners in Global Development” at an event organized by the World Bank Group.

According to the World Bank, higher education is one of the most important tools to reduce poverty, especially among poor, young adults.

That’s why the World Bank Group is putting more emphasis towards focusing on higher education issues. According to Jim Young Kim, president of the World Bank Group, nearly one-third of investments from the organization went into higher education in 2013.

As the president of ASU, one of the largest public universities in the nation, Crow shared his view on the role of universities in global development based on his experience of more than 25 years designing university systems and building international partnerships.

Crow explained four key features that ASU has, which are:

1. Centering the university around students and the community, rather than the faculty

2. Changing “clock speed” to make ASU agile and able to respond quickly to change

3. Avoiding replication of other models

4. Partnering with everyone, which means partnering with a wide range of institutions and corporations, rather than going it alone.

Crow cited several other universities, including Harvard, College of William & Mary, Ohio State University and University of California, Berkeley and encouraged “the rejection of all desires to replicate.”

“There is nothing wrong with any of these institutions,” Crow said, “they are just an incomplete set of institutions, an incomplete set of role models and an incomplete set of operational frameworks.”

Crow also suggested that the center to the concept of innovation and rethinking of current models is measuring success through inclusion of students, rather than by exclusion.

“The most important thing that we want to do is to establish a university wherein the status of the university is determined not by who we exclude, but by who we include, and what students do to ultimately succeed,” he said.

Another point Crow brought up is that demand for education can’t be something that only one privileged group of people can access. In order to move forward, institutions of higher education need to innovate.

“For the US to be successful, we need to find a way that the demand for education access can not be something that one group of people have access to actual, living professors and everyone else is learning off an android phone working from their job, and for some others who have nothing,” he said.

However, Crow said the resistance to changing the higher education model is a global issue. Instead of reinventing other institutions, he suggests possible partnerships with existing organizations while building something new and transformative.

As Crow wrote for the World Bank Group’s blog, “change is not easy. Modification and growth in large, complex institutions that are part of an increasingly global system of commerce, trade and interchange can be particularly challenging. But, innovation and adaptation are needed now more than ever before in our international higher education infrastructure and in our global development institutions.”


-Xi Chen