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A Greater International Orientation


  • We must become an international university, with a more significant orientation toward Asia and Latin America than now characterizes our commitments. The great universities of the 21st century will inevitably be global universities, and although we are comparatively small, that ought not be seen as an obstacle to our global reach. We should begin by increasing the number of international students in our undergraduate student body; develop research, student exchange, and other relationships with distinguished universities and policy institutes around the world; and foster the international learning (both here at Rice and around the world) of our faculty, students, and staff.  


We see new evidence each day of the increasingly global context for the human experience. Adequate preparation of our students requires that they be able to learn from and work in more than one culture. The diversity of our student body must therefore extend beyond our national borders. We should continue to encourage our students to take part of their educational experience abroad, but we should make sure they find at Rice an international environment as well. Currently, our undergraduate student body is only 2.9 percent foreign, which is very low in comparison with our peer universities. We should aim at a minimum to double this amount. Our graduate student body, by contrast, is very international, and we must assure that we can maintain our ability to attract the best graduate students from all over the world to study at Rice.

Our research endeavor must also not be confined to our national borders. We benefit not only from our ability to attract the best researchers-whether faculty, students, or postdoctoral fellows-from around the world, but also from the intellectual bridges we build between our university and those in other countries. Each school and department at the university should seek to build such connections, identifying strategic partnerships with universities of distinction in their respective areas of inquiry. 

Although the primary emphasis must be placed on the department choices that will lead to the most fruitful and intense collaborative relationships, we should also seek to coordinate such endeavors to build more effective bridges at the institutional level. Because we are small, we must select some geographic priorities. In light of the importance of Asia, and China in particular, in the decades ahead, we should build greater international relationships on that continent. Our location in Houston serves as an advantage in developing relationships with Latin America, and in particular with Mexico. We must continue to explore how best to build institutional relationships and to leverage the resources that we already command in each area.