Greater American Higher Education

Principal Investigator:
Kyle A. Long, CPD Research Fellow 2022-24

International education is a hallmark of American public diplomacy. Every year, the United States hosts more than a million international students. The American college experience is a golden opportunity to win hearts and minds around the world. Yet, international students do not need to travel to the United States to study in an American university. There are approximately 80 independent American universities in more than 55 different countries and roughly an equivalent amount of international branch campuses of American universities. Taken together, these outposts of American higher education afford the United States an unparalleled opportunity to reach audiences that might not have the resources to study abroad. As such, they are significant resources for the development and promotion of American soft power. Yet, we do not have a central source of information on these institutions. This project is the first-ever attempt to identify, analyze, and visualize—via a publicly accessible interactive dashboard map—what I call “Greater American Higher Education.”

The foundation of this effort is the development of an institutional database. This process involves scanning publicly available information, primarily from institutional websites and secondary literature, to identify relevant institutions from 1860 to the present and collect a variety of details about them (e.g., name, location, dates of founding/closing, enrollment, affiliations, accreditation status, etc.). I will then publish the database in a dashboard and analyze the results by describing trends and situating the findings in the literature on public diplomacy. This project will help us to understand where and when there have been American higher education institutions outside the fifty states, what salient features and trends are associated with these institutions, and what impact they have on public diplomacy. Professors of education and international affairs can use the database as a teaching tool. Policy analysts and practitioners of public diplomacy can use it to inform policy to strengthen these institutions and American soft power.