Letter from the Editor

bridges vol. 26, July 2010 / Letter from the Editor

By Caroline Adenberger

The 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa came to its grand finale on Sunday, with Spain’s national team beating the Netherlands in the final and thus winning the World Cup for the first time in its history. Admittedly, I belong to what seems to be a minority with quite limited interest (to put it mildly) in international sporting tournaments. I haven’t seen a single game, despite the TV that appeared miraculously on our office’s floor the very day the World Cup competition kicked off. Maybe my disinterest stems from the fact that the Austrian national soccer team usually participates in any kind of international competition only when we are hosting it (for the simple reason that a country’s soccer team automatically qualifies for the tournament it hosts).

What I like, though, about international sporting events, is the fact that many nations come together to participate in a peaceful competition. Events like the Olympic Games or the Soccer World Cup also offer a unique, albeit expensive, opportunity for the host nation(s) to showcase country and culture to a world that watches closely. In their own way, these big events contribute to a better understanding among nations and their people. If 20 men chasing a ball can cause this effect, I like soccer.

Other ways that have proven to be very effective, while less expensive, in fostering understanding between people and countries are educational exchange programs like the Fulbright Program. Called the “grandfather” of all exchange programs, the program owes its origins to US Senator J. William Fulbright, who in 1946 created an institution based on a vision of peace through dialogue with other cultures via international educational exchange, in order to ”to see the world as others see it” as the Senator put it.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Austria. More than any other academic or cultural exchange program, it has contributed to promoting mutual understanding between the people of Austria and the United States and has become an irreplaceable network promoting Austro-American relations. Since its inception on June 6, 1950, the Austrian-American Educational Commission, better known as the Fulbright Commission, has overseen some 5,400 students, teachers, scholars, and professionals from both countries who have participated in bilateral educational exchange. Since the 1960s, an additional 2,650 American university graduates have also served as teaching assistants at schools in communities large and small throughout Austria.

Several articles in this issue of bridges commemorate this wonderful anniversary of the Austrian-American Fulbright Program: a feature article contributed by the Austrian Press and Information Service tells the history of the Austrian Fulbright Program and its evolution over the last decades. In a “People in the Spotlight” interview, the Austrian-American Educational Commission’s Executive Director Dr. Lonnie Johnson shares his insights from the Austrian side of the Fulbright Program, while Dr. Andy Riess from the American counterpart organization, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, looks at the Fulbright Program in his commentary from the other side of the Atlantic. Last but not least, bridges spoke with the young Austrian Jonathan Rameseder, who is the first Austrian recipient of an “International Fulbright Science and Technology Award.” Living proof that Senator Fulbright’s original idea continues to blossom, Rameseder is currently pursuing his graduate education at MIT as a Fulbright fellow, raving in the Q&A about his experiences and, after the first few months, already considering himself a “Fulbrigther for Life.”

Higher education not only offers its students and scholars the opportunity to learn with and from other countries via educational exchange programs; it also serves the needs of society for a well-educated and skilled workforce. A recently published report by the US Council of Graduate Schools warns that the United States runs the danger of losing its edge in graduate education to other nations if it doesn’t redouble its investment in graduate education, as described in an article based on the report in this bridges issue. Philipp Altbach and Patti McGill Peterson, two renowned experts in international higher education, investigate the transformation of higher education globally in their contribution, while Jamil Salmi, coordinator for tertiary education at the World Bank, analyzes the worldwide buzz about university rankings in his article and gives advice on how to develop a benchmarking system for higher education institutions that could provide feedback to universities, policy makers, and society in a more constructive and critical way.

As with every issue, bridges features several portraits of successful Austrian scientists and scholars working in the United States in its “News from the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad” section; it also provides useful information in its “Re$earch Re$ources” section on where to find funding for transatlantic joint research projects; and our regular columnists Roger Pielke Jr., Norm Neureiter , and bridges’ Brussels correspondent Martin Schmid provide with you their latest insights in the world of S&T policies.

I wish you a pleasant reading experience.

Caroline Adenberger
Editor-in-Chief {/access}