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Global studies

Global studies

Global studies is the interdisciplinary study of political, economic, legal, ecological and cultural interconnectedness. Predominant subjects are politics, economics and law on an international level. Global studies is oriented around the study of globalization as it relates to intercontinental politics, the global economy, international law, market relations, the movement of people and resources, global communications, the effect of human activity on the environment, and many more topics. Global studies is often used to map global change and is both micro and macro in scope. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines global studies as "the study of political, economic, and social situations in the world".[1]

Global studies tackles the aforementioned topics by examining global power structures influenced by perspectives such as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. Global studies is distinguished from international studies by its broader focus – international studies is only one aspect of global studies. In cases such as international studies or international relations, the concept of 'national' confines the meaning of those fields of study. By comparison, global studies has a broader reach, from the global to the local.

History and context

The development of global studies in secondary and tertiary education is arguably a product of globalization, and its consequent results on the international community. In the late 20th century, an unprecedented rise in communications technologies and computerization occurred around the world, again enhancing the processes of globalization: “it is a shift in our very life circumstances ... the speed of change is closely allied to the growth of communication, and development in information and communication technologies have been exponential ... globalization is a fact of life from which we cannot retreat.”.[2] As a result of this constantly changing global community, education providers began to see a need for the introduction of global studies into secondary school curricula (i.e. introduction of global issues through already existing subjects), and to create global studies degrees for tertiary students (i.e. sole degrees with a global focus).

According to Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies and Sociology at The University of California, Santa Barbara:

The first Global Studies conference took place at the University of Illinois Chicago in 2008; the 2009 conference was held in Dubai on the theme Views from Dubai: The Gulf and Globalization. The 2010 conference was in Busan, South Korea under the heading Global Rebalancing: East Asia and Globalization; the 2011 conference took place in Rio de Janeiro on Emerging societies and Emancipation; the 2012 conference was at Moscow University on the theme of Eurasia and Globalization: Complexity and Global studies; and the 2013 conference took place in New Delhi on the theme of Social Development in South Asia.[3]

The Global Studies Journal was founded in 2008 and is "devoted to mapping and interpreting new trends and patterns in globalization".[4]

Definitions of global studies

Global vs. international studies

There can be much confusion about the use of the terms, "global studies" and "international studies."

They are at times used interchangeably and differences in meaning are not evident, however, both disciplines are concerned with political, social and cultural issues, with the main focus of study being placed on international community interaction. However, subtle distinctions can be made between the two phrases. International studies generally looks at exchanges between states, multilateral or bilateral agreements, diplomacy and how issues are handled between two or more states. Global studies, in contrast, focuses on globally shared issues.[5]

It has also been suggested that there are left wing and right wing connotations to each phrase, international studies being preferred by the right wing (i.e. relations between states) and global studies preferred by the left (i.e. issues affecting all global citizens).[6]

The terms have also been described as such:

International studies might be called the grandfather of global education. It often includes the study of countries, world religions, languages and international relations ... (global studies) is centred on the concept of connectedness – recognizing local/ global connections, the commonalities all humans share, and how understanding how national borders have become practically irrelevant for many global actors.[7]


Five defining characteristics of global studies were identified by scholars at the first annual meeting of the Global Studies Consortium in Tokyo in 2008:[8]

  • Transnational

  • Interdisciplinary: global studies scholarship can involve politics, economics, history, geography, anthropology, sociology, religion, technology, philosophy, health as well as the study of the environment, gender, and race.

  • Contemporary and historical examples range from the transnational activity of the Greek and Roman Empires to modern European colonialism.

  • Postcolonial and Critical: global studies often emphasizes a postcolonial perspective, and attempts to analyze global phenomena through a critical, multicultural lens.

Subjects of interest

The field of global studies revolves around the impacts of globalization and the growing interdependence of states, economies, societies, cultures, and people. This necessitates that students are well versed and capable of critical analysis when it comes to global issues.[9] Some of the most pressing issues in global studies are national security and diplomacy, effective citizenship in a participatory democracy, global competitiveness in a world market and the desire to enter the aid and development sector.

National security

The first major funding for international education was the 1966 International Education Act in the US. It provided funding to institutions of higher education to create and strengthen international studies programs.[10] Created at the time of the Cold War, this act stressed the need for all citizens (with a focus on USA citizens) to understand global issues in order to build skills for diplomacy.[11]”The importance of diplomacy as a driving force for political development is well known and understood. It is of great importance as a long term instrument for conflict prevention.”[12]

The development of issues and crisis on a global scale such as international terrorism, climate change and environmental degradation, pandemics (such as ebola), and the Great Recession have convinced policymakers of the importance of global studies and international education to national security and diplomacy.[13]

Global economy

A second motivation for global studies is facilitating a better understanding of the global marketplace. Many international companies have identified the need for a workforce that has the skills to work cross-culturally and identify and serve the needs of a global market.[14] Some international companies, such as Microsoft, have taken the lead in convening policymakers and key stakeholders to demand additional investment in education.[15] The US state and federal governments have also placed global studies as a key priority for preparing a competitive workforce.[16] Furthermore, in 2002 the Australian federal government (through its development body AusAID) used some of its funding to introduce a ‘Global Education Program.’ This program aims to increase understanding of development and international issues among Australian students. It provides teachers with professional development opportunities with NGOs and thorough curriculum support. The program “informs and encourages teachers to introduce students to global issues in a classroom setting.”[17] Higher education institutions have closely followed with integrating international studies across disciplines. It is rare to find a leading business school without an international focus.[18][19]

Global citizenship and rights

A third motivation for global studies is the creation of an effective citizenry. In the US, the National Council of Social Studies states that the purpose of social studies is to “teach students the content knowledge, intellectual skills, and civic values necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy.” A key goal of the NCSS is “global education”.[20] As globalization causes the lines between national and international to become blurred, it becomes increasingly important for citizens to understand global relationships.[21] The creation of effective Global citizenship results in people who are willing to, and have the capacity to become involved in local and global issues. In the UK, local government research conducted in the surrounding areas of London has found that citizens must have the opportunity to become involved and then possess the skill, knowledge and confidence to take part. The outcomes are often very positive, leading to an improvement in services, better quality of democratic participation and community education.[22]
To achieve effective citizenship, students must be educated in ways that engage and place emphasis on the importance of global issues. By studying a subject such as global studies, students can gain the knowledge required to become effective citizens.

Some critical scholars note that beyond content, students must be taught "global cognition" in order to truly understand global perspectives. These scholars believe that in order to fully understand world issues, students must recognize that their perspective is not necessarily shared by others and understand the social forces that influence their views.[23][24] These perspectives encourage engagement with new promises and threats for the promotion of human rights, social justice, and political participation.

International Institutions

By 2006, the international development sector had expanded exponentially, with the “NGO sector now being the 8th largest economy in the world ... employing nearly 19 million paid workers."[25] Financing health projects used to be the biggest issue in global aid, but private and public organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have helped overcome such problems. The issue now is making sure that the money is used in a proper manner to help those in need of the primary essentials of life.[26] Studying global studies may lead to involvement in the aid and development sector in multiple ways. These can include working in post-conflict or natural disaster zones, improving public services in developing communities (health, education, infrastructure, agriculture) or aiding private sector growth through business and market models.[27] Through studying global studies, students can be equipped with cross cultural knowledge, field experience and an awareness of global issues. Many students are now studying global studies in order to enter this sector.

Learning outcomes and job prospects

Learning outcomes for global studies vary depending on the institute's curriculum and students individual focuses. Although introductory courses are designed to cover a wide range of topics in a single semester, students are expected to delve into a specific phenomenon or area of study for their academic career. there are some generic outcomes that students are expected to develop over the duration of study. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Cultural awareness

  • Ability to analyze the interconnectedness of the global and local

  • Skills in ethical research and analysis with specific policy implications

  • Awareness of current affairs

  • Ability to communicate effectively in a range of situations

  • Increase in cross-cultural competence

  • potentially improve proficiency in a foreign language

Global studies scholars are eligible for a myriad of professions, tackling political, social, and economic issues on an international scale that work to improve the human condition.

  • International relations

  • Foreign affairs

  • NGOs

  • Local, national, and international government

  • Environmental research

  • Historical analysis

Universities that offer global studies


  • Egypt: The American University in Cairo [125]

  • Morocco: Enssup [126]

University of Cape Town https://www.news.uct.ac.za/article/-2010-12-06-global-studies-programme-gives-students-larger-perspective [127]


  • Canada: Carleton University [128] Huron University College [129] Wilfrid Laurier University [130] Vancouver Island University [131] Collège universitaire Glendon [132]

  • Latin America: Nahual Institute [133]

  • United States: San Jose State University [134] Arizona State University [135] Azusa Pacific University [136] California State University, Monterey Bay [137] California State University, San Marcos [138] Hamline University, Saint Paul [139] Hofstra University [140] Indiana University [141] LIU Global College[28] Lehigh University [142] Loyola University Maryland [143] Michigan State University [144] Middle Tennessee State University [145] [1] [146] Missouri State University [147] National University [148] Eugene Lang College, The New School Providence College [149] Rutgers University [150] Sacred Heart University [151] St. Cloud State University [152] St. Lawrence University [153] Saint Leo University [154] Texas State University-San Marcos [155] University at Albany, State University of New York [156] University of Arizona [157] University of California, Berkeley [158] UCLA [159] University of California, Santa Barbara [160] University of California, Riverside [161] University of Denver, University College [162] University of Southern California [163] University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana [164] University of Kansas [165] University of Kentucky [166] University of Maryland, Baltimore County [167] University of Minnesota [168] Nazareth College [169] University of Nebraska-Lincoln [170] University of North Carolina Chapel Hill [171] University of Pittsburgh [172] University of Tennessee [173] University of Virginia [174] University of Washington Bothell [175] University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee [176] Warren Wilson College [177] Western Michigan University [178]

  • Caribbean: University of the West Indies [179]


  • China China University of Political Science and Law [180] Shanghai University [181]

  • India Ambedkar University Delhi [182] OP Jindal Global University [183] India-Center for Culture & Global Studies [184]

  • Japan Akita International University [185] Dōshisha University [186] Hitotsubashi University [187] International Christian University [188] Ritsumeikan University [189] Sophia University [190] Tama University [191] Center for Culture & Global Studies [192]

  • Thailand Thammasat University [193]

  • Singapore National University of Singapore [194]

  • Hong Kong The Chinese University of Hong Kong [195] The University of Hong Kong [196]

  • South Korea Pusan National University [197]


• Australia:

° Monash University [198]

° University of Technology, Sydney [199]

• New Zealand:

° University of Auckland [200]


  • Austria: University of Graz [201] University of Vienna [202]

  • Belgium: Ghent University [203]

  • Denmark: Roskilde University [204]

  • Finland: University of Helsinki [205]

  • France: Sciences Po [206]

  • Germany: Humboldt University of Berlin [207] University of Freiburg [208] University of Leipzig [209]

  • Italy: [2] [210]

  • Norway: NTNU [3] [211]

  • Poland: University of Wrocław [212]

  • Russian Federation: Moscow State University [213]

  • Spain: Pompeu Fabra University [214]

  • Sweden: Lund University [215] University of Gothenburg [216]

  • UK: London School of Economics [217] University of Sussex [218] University of Essex [219]

See also


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