Nicholas Goldberg: Where have all the English majors gone?
This year’s Harvard class of 2012, along with their friends, will be among the first to graduate with “non-English majors”—namely, a liberal arts degree from a non-English-speaking country. As we’ve written before, the English-speaking world is an increasingly homogeneous entity, and the number of English-speaking students at the nation’s leading universities has plummeted. One can make a number of speculations about the reasons for this decline, but one thing is obvious: the most academically-oriented students are increasingly choosing to study non-English-speaking countries, and the majority of those non-English-speaking students are studying in English-speaking countries.
This trend has long been apparent at Ivy League universities like Harvard, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Columbia, where for decades no more than a handful of students were drawn from the world’s English-language nations: Israel, India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Finland, Singapore, Australia and so on, for example. Over the past decade, however, as the English-speaking world has become ever more homogeneous, the number of students with international degrees has risen. In all, the number of students holding degrees from English-speaking countries has increased from only 2,000 in the early 2000s to 5,500 in 2011. Last year’s graduating class from Ivy League universities was one of the largest in history, with some 25 percent of the incoming students coming from the world’s non-English-speaking nations. Now, with this new reality, we’re seeing the emergence of an entirely new phenomenon in the English-speaking world: the class of 2012 (and its friends) will be the first to graduate from English-speaking institutions with a degree from a non-English-speaking country.
The problem of internationalization of colleges and universities
The emergence of the non-English-speaking world in the English-