Global studies

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Global studies is the academic study of political, economic, ecological and cultural relations and processes that in some way bear upon the world. Global studies is oriented around the study of globalization as it relates to different fields of activity — areas as diverse as market relations, the movement of commodities, global communications and consumption, refugees, migrants and other movements of people around the globe.[1] Global Studies incorporates transnational and local trends in its curriculum insofar as they illustrate broader questions of global change. Undertaking a global studies course can also include field work or research in a particular area of interest.

Global studies can also include international studies or international education. International studies more narrowly focuses on relations between national borders — one aspect of global studies. Similarly, international education refers more narrowly to the development of educational institutions internationally or comparatively between different nation-states. In both cases, 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 globalisation, and its consequent results on the international community. Globalisation is said to have really taken off in the 15th century when European countries began colonizing to increase trade, power and status. However, it has been in the last few decades that the world has experienced an unprecedented rise in communications technologies and computerization, 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 ... globalisation is a fact of life from which we cannot retreat.” - [citation needed]. 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). The benefits of integrating global knowledge into education are plentiful and include cross cultural understanding, a sense of global community and the ability to critically analyse foreign affairs issues.

Definitions of Global Studies

Global vs. international studies

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

Often, for educational purposes, they are used interchangeably and differences in meaning are not evident, with the suggestion[by whom?] that 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 like the preservation of culture and environment, movements of people and the effects of globalization (i.e. issues that are communally relevant worldwide). Unlike traditional international studies, global studies often examines phenomena that are supranational (such as global climate change, pandemic disease, transnational economic formations) and subnational (such as the local and regional impacts of deindustrialization that arise due to the shifting landscape of global capitalism).[citation needed]

It has also been suggested[by whom?] 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).

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."[2]

Characteristics of Global Studies

Five defining characteristics of global studies were identified by scholars at the first annual meeting of the Global Studies Consortium in Tokyo in 2008:[3]


Proponents of global studies claim that the reality of globalization and the interconnectedness of nations and economies demand that students must be well educated in global issues.[4] Four commonly cited motivations for 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 and diplomacy

The first major funding for international education was the 1966 International Education Act in the USA. It provided funding to institutions of higher education to create and strengthen international studies programs.[5] 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.[6]”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.”[7]

Recent events that have had a global impact such as September 11, the London and Madrid bombings and the consequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan convinced policymakers of the importance of global studies and international education to national security and diplomacy.[8]

Global competitiveness

A second motivation for global studies is arming workers to engage in 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.[9] Some international companies, such as Microsoft, have taken the lead in convening policymakers and key stakeholders to demand additional investment in education.[10] The USA state and federal governments have also placed global studies as a key priority for preparing a competitive workforce.[11] 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.”[12] 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.[13][14]

Effective citizenship

A third motivation for global studies is the creation of an effective citizenry. In the USA, 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”.[15] As globalisation causes the lines between national and international to become blurred, it becomes increasingly important for citizens to understand global relationships.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18][19]

Aid and development sector

The number of people entering into this sector has grown exponentially over the last few decades with the “NGO sector now being the 8th largest economy in the world ... employing nearly 19 million paid workers."[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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

Learning outcomes for the global studies vary, depending on the institute’s objectives. However, there are some generic outcomes that students are expected to develop over the duration of study. These include:

  • Cultural awareness
  • Ability to think globally and locally
  • Skills in research and analysis
  • Awareness of current affairs
  • Ability to communicate effectively in a range of situations
  • To be bilingual or have some comprehension in a second language.[citation needed]

Job prospects

The job prospects after graduating from a degree of global studies are exceptionally varied. Career paths may include entering into international relations, trade, foreign affairs, diplomacy, politics, local government, environmental research and planning and international development.[citation needed]

Universities that offer global studies






See also


  1. Manfred Steger (2013), ‘It’s About Globalization, After All: Four Framings of Global Studies’, Globalizations, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 771–77.,
  2. Merryfield, M 2004 ‘The importance of a global education,’ Outreach World, viewed 5/10/10 at:
  3. Mark Juergensmeyer, Thinking Globally: A Global Studies Reader
  4. "Global Education Policies and Practices," Peace Corps., accessed September 7th, 2009.
  5. "Digest for Education Statistics, 2004 - Chapter 4: Federal Programs for Education and Related Activities." National Center for Education Statistics (2004),, accessed September 7th, 2009.
  6. International Education Act: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, Eighty-Ninth Congress, Second Session on S. 2874 and H.R. 14643. Publication date: 1966, Accessed through ERIC,
  7. Skylakakis, T 2010, ‘The importance of economic diplomacy,’ The Bridge Magazine, viewed 24/9/10 at:
  8. Korry, Elaine. "Bush Expected to Hike Funding for Language Training," National Public Radio Broadcast, January 5th, 2006, Accessed online
  9. Groennings, Sven. "Economic Competitiveness and International Knowledge. A Regional Project on the Global Economy and Higher Education in New England. Staff Paper II." New England Board of Higher Education. October 28th, 1987. Page, 26
  10. "ECS, ISTE and Microsoft to Sponsor Global Education Competitiveness Summit.", Accessed September 8th 2009.
  11. Putting the World into World Class Education. West Virginia Department of Education., Accessed September 6th 2009
  12. Gallus, C 2002 ‘Global Studies Statement Launch,” AusAID, viewed 2/10/10 at:
  13. Harvard Business School., Accessed September 8th 2009
  14. Yale Business School., Accessed September 8th 2009.
  15. "About National Council for the Social Studies." The National Council for Social Studies,, Accessed September 8th 2009
  16. Lapayese, Yvette. "Review:Toward a Critical Global Studies Education" Comparative Education Review, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Nov., 2003), pp. 493-501
  17. Andrews, Cowell, Downe, Martin 2006 ‘Promoting effective citizenship and community empowerment,’ Office of the Deputy PM, London, viewed at:
  18. Hanvey, Robert. "An Attainable Global Perspective." Theory into Practice, Vol. 21, No. 3, Global Education (Summer, 1982),pp 162-167
  19. Anderson, Charlotte. "Global Education in the Classroom." Theory into Practice, Vol. 21, No. 3, Global Education (Summer, 1982),pp 168-176
  20. Hall-Jones, P 2006, ‘The rise and rise of NGOs,’ Public Services International, viewed 23/9/10 at:
  21. Garrett, Laurie. 2007. "The Challenge of Global Health," Foreign Affairs 86 (1):14-38.
  22. Coffey International Development, 2010 ‘Work that makes a difference,’ Coffey, viewed 24/9/10 at:

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