It’s not very often I find myself disagreeing with Sir Dyson.. As an industrial designer he inspires and like many folks that speak about design and business, the market leadership story of the Dyson vac has filled more than few slides as I present on the value of prototyping and differentiation. But I have to question his thinking (reported in a recent interview the Mirror and Times) or at least the applicability to American universities.
Dyson claims foreign students, specifically from China, are stealing secrets and taking them with them when they return home, even leaving computer bugs to that might allow them to continue to spy at a later date. There is no particular reason to doubt the accounts in the story or the motivation of the students, but there is a reason to rethink the relationship our universities have with foreign students.
We also have to ask what are we doing to encourage these visiting students and graduates to identify with their American communities and contribute to our economy. Most of the foreign students I have known have been loyal to their homelands but also wisely opportunistic. The fact is now many of the opportunities are spread throughout the world.
One solution as Richard Florida and many others suggest is to effectively hand out an H1B visa with every advanced degree, thereby allowing the brightest students to stay and start new businesses.
Many clearly acknowledge the value of the smart student that stays, but what of the smart students that leave?
When students leave (whether local a student leaving to the city or a foreign student returning home) do they know what they are leaving? do they know how to find out what is available? When students return to their home countries they often take leadership roles. We should be equipping these students with a professional network of relevant people and businesses to make it easy to link back in.