Nuances of Brain Drain

TORONTO — “Brain drain” and efforts to combat it continue to be a major motivation behind a range of higher education policies worldwide. While some of those efforts have succeeded, the ability of the United States and a few other English-speaking nations to attract the best talent to their shores is likely to continue, with serious ramifications for the rest of the world.

Those were some general conclusions of a panel of experts here Friday at the First International Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education. (Inside Higher Ed is one of the organizers of the conference.) The experts also noted many subtleties in the flow of academic talent that sometimes escape the policy makers.

Noreen Golfman, dean of graduate studies at Memorial University in Newfoundland and president of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that Canada has gone through a series of waves of thinking about foreign talent, so much so that she said that someone could write a country song about it, to be called “At First My Baby Left Me, But Now She’s Come Back Again.”

A generation or two ago, she said, many leading Canadian universities featured faculty members whose accents revealed them to be American or British academics by birth and/or education. Then the universities placed a priority on hiring Canadians. Then, in the 1990s, the country experienced “a lot of panic and anxiety” about brain drain, about “our so-called best minds being hoovered up by fatter salaries” in the United States. Read more…