Many foreign students are attracted not only to the academic programs at a particular U.S. college but also to the larger community, which affords the chance to soak up the surrounding culture. Few foreign universities put much emphasis on the cozy communal life that characterizes American campuses from clubs and sports teams to student publications and drama societies. “The campus and the American university have become identical in people’s minds,” says Brown University President Vartan Gregorian. “In America it is assumed that a student’s daily life is as important as his learning experience.”
Foreign students also come in search of choices. America’s menu of options—research universities, state institutions, private liberal-arts schools, community colleges, religious institutions, military academies—is unrivaled. “In Europe,” says history professor Jonathan Steinberg, who has taught at both Harvard and Cambridge, “there is one system, and that is it.” While students overseas usually must demonstrate expertise in a specific field, whether law or philosophy or chemistry, most American universities insist that students sample natural and social sciences, languages and literature before choosing a field of concentration.
Such opposing philosophies grow out of different traditions and power structures. In Europe and Japan, universities are answerable only to a ministry of education, which sets academic standards and distributes money.
While centralization ensures that all students are equipped with roughly the same resources and perform at roughly the same level, it also discourages experimentation. “When they make mistakes, they make big ones,” says Robert Rosenzweig, president of the Association of American Universities. “They set a system in wrong directions, and it’s like steering a supertanker.”
16. What does the speaker say characterizes American campuses?
17. What does Brown University president Vartan Gregorian say about students' daily life?
18. In what way is the United States unrivaled according to the speaker?
19. What does the speaker say about universities in Europe and Japan?