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Higher Education and Global Poverty: University Partnerships and the World Bank in Developing Countries

reviewed by Loren Intolubbe-Chmil - February 21, 2012

coverTitle: Higher Education and Global Poverty: University Partnerships and the World Bank in Developing Countries
Author(s): Christopher S. Collins
Publisher: Cambria Press,
ISBN: 1604977256, Pages: 254, Year: 2011
Search for book at Amazon.com

In Higher Education and Global Poverty: University Partnerships and the World Bank in Developing Countries, author Christopher Collins, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness at Pepperdine University, offers a comprehensive analysis as well as a well-supported argument for a framework intended to address global development and poverty reduction through World Bank initiatives. While this text is replete with information that many scholars and practitioners will find useful, the essential mission of this work is arguably in the effort to humanize the diverse stakeholders who inhabit the institutions and communities where this work takes place.

Using policy analysis and case study as complementary methods, Collins combines a high level of organization with a great deal of sensitivity to the complexity of the World Bank, global development, and scholarship that bridges the theory-practice gap. Weaving through the neo/post-colonialism and imperialism discourses that tend to characterize critiques of economist-driven development, Collins manages to reach through the binary of what ‘is’ or ‘is not’, demystifying bureaucracy, jargon, and polarizing views so that readers can envision a more productive way forward.  

Collins organizes his study in three phases; Phase I is a thorough analysis of the World Bank; Phase II highlights case studies in Thailand and Uganda, which center on contrasting World Bank investments in higher education in each of these regions; and Phase III establishes U.S. land-grant institutions as feasible models for regionally-based global investment by the World Bank.  This final phase of Collins’ study sets the stage for his policy recommendations.

Collins begins with an insightful cultural and policy analysis of the World Bank, providing readers familiar with the World Bank and its investment/development trajectory a good sense of this vast institution and its initiatives.  This section includes excerpts from interview transcripts that serve to humanize the World Bank while at the same time frankly stating the impact that shifting political winds have had on development funding.  

Collins then highlights two case studies that offer particular perspectives on the approach and feasibility of World Bank investment in higher education.  In this section, Collins illustrates the ways in which the World Bank has already invested in higher education in Thailand and Uganda, countries that represent, as the text points out, two key regions of the developing world.  These case studies provide the rationale for a World Bank emphasis on higher education as well as a solid argument for how higher education initiatives might be more effectively structured based on outcomes elicited from this case analysis.

In Phase III, Collins introduces what is arguably the major premise of this text: the value of land-grant type university approaches in partnering with the World Bank on global development and poverty reduction initiatives. Collins provides a comprehensive background of the history and mission of U.S. land-grant institutions, which were created through the Morrill Act of 1862.  Essentially, the Morrill Act promoted the usefulness of universities for surrounding communities by specifying that “funds should be used to endow a university to develop teaching and research agriculture [as well as other applied sciences and disciplines]…to support human-capacity building” (p. 58).  This is where Collins succinctly links this highly influential historic legislation to his current study and subsequent recommendations, stating that “…the land-grant act in the [U.S.] provides a historical precedent concerning the potential results and benefits of such actions for a nation-state…and some of the land-grant institutions are now involved in poverty-reduction initiatives outside the [U.S.] as part of a global land-grant mission” (p.58).

In order to operationalize his recommendation that the World Bank ramp up efforts to invest in and support best practice in partnership with higher education, Collins uses Texas A&M and Michigan State University as ‘ideal type’ institutions for the kind of extension and applied science and education which may hold the highest potential for development efforts that are ultimately intended to decrease dependence and stimulate regional economic growth in developing countries. In addition to bringing into relief the transferability and feasibility of this integrated model, Collins also brings to bear the inherent value and necessity of indigenous knowledge traditions and systems as integral components of a sustainable extension framework. This is where this work fits well with current advocacy for transdisciplinary collaborations (e.g., see Cundill, Fabricius & Marti, 2005 and Max-Neef, 2005).

Although Collins fleshes out the colonialist nature, thus the neo/post-colonial turn, of most global development work, the World Bank included, he takes care to employ an asset-based approach.  In a sort of dialectic, Collins grapples with the contested nature of development work and acknowledges the less than favorable conditions and outcomes, yet dedicates the bulk of the text in the service of a proactive, inclusive approach for the promotion of global well-being.  This perspective is clearly grounded in, as Simon Marginson also points out in his forward to this text, respect for the Other.  

Maintaining fidelity to the notion of transdisciplinarity as well as to indigenous knowledge in a sense, Collins utilizes his personal wilderness experiences as a tool for the development of a Poverty-Reduction Compass model, which serves as a metaphor for the study “because the economic stipulations handed to developing countries are often presented inaccurately as being factual (akin to true north)” (pg. 46).  This dimension of the text is critical to understanding the process and impact of global development funding schemes, which as Collins and many others argue, are overwhelmingly devoid of representative stakeholder participation and transparent decision-making.  The Poverty-Reduction Compass model illustrates the pathway for Collins’ extension model for development; multiple iterations of the compass model map on to Collins’ findings and analysis.

Through this text, Collins reminds us that higher education has a history grounded in a civic mission and education for the public good.  Where market-driven forces have increasingly dictated the rules of engagement within and between our institutions globally, this study champions the rebuilding of human connections and democratizing development work through the ‘glonacal agency heuristic’ (Marginson & Rhoades, 2002, from Collins, 2011), promoting investment in an extension model for higher education within a global context intended to contribute to regional well-being.

In contrast to the economist view which has dominated the discourse on global development, and in this case, World Bank-specific endeavors, Collins applies a fresh lens and sound recommendations to addressing global development and poverty reduction.  Most significantly, he has done so in a way that bridges many gaps and elevates the critical reality that it is our humanity, our interconnectedness, and our existing assets that could, and should, shape our capacity-building trajectory.


Collins, C.S. (2011). Higher Education and Global Poverty: University Partnerships and the World Bank in Developing Countries.  Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.

Cundill, G.N.R., Fabricius, C., & Marti, N. (2005).  Foghorns to the future: Using knowledge and transdisciplinarity to navigate complex systems.  Ecology and Society, 10(2), Article 8.

Marginson, S. & Rhoades, G.  (2002).  Beyond national states, markets, and systems of higher education: A glonacal agency heuristic.  Higher Education, 43, 281-309.

Max-Neef, M.A. (2005). Foundations of transdisciplinarity. Ecological Economics, 53, 5-16.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 21, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16708, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 11:49:02 PM

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About the Author
  • Loren Intolubbe-Chmil
    University of Virginia
    E-mail Author
    LOREN INTOLUBBE-CHMIL, Ph.D., is a Teaching & Research Associate at the University of Virginia, whose work centers on the transformative nature of cross-cultural, transdisciplinary exchange within diverse education and community-based settings. Loren's work is affiliated with the Eastern/Southern Africa and Virginia Networks and Associations (ESAVANA) Consortium, which offers global research, education, and outreach opportunities for a range of participants. She currently has a co-authored article in review for publication which describes the transformative learning experiences of undergraduate participants in an intense study abroad program that travels in southern Africa. Loren has worked for many years in community-based organizations and as part of community-university partnerships, dedicating much of her life’s work to representative, participatory engagement.
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