Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

Inside the Universities Incubating the Foreign-Policy Elite

And how they’re being shaped by international politics.

Opening day at the University of Hong Kong old hall in 1969
Opening day at the University of Hong Kong old hall in 1969
Opening day at the University of Hong Kong old hall in 1969. Eddie Jim/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Why are German politicians obsessed with Ph.D.s? How has Beijing’s crackdown changed Hong Kong’s universities? And are the United States’ international relations schools broken?

As graduation season comes to a close, we thought we’d dive into our archives on the universities incubating the world’s foreign-policy elite. The following essays answer these questions and more, exploring how institutions from the University of Hong Kong to Tehran’s Imam Sadiq University shape and are shaped by politics at home and abroad.—Chloe Hadavas

In Hong Kong, a Once Liberal University Feels Beijing’s Weight

With protesters crushed and memorials removed, there’s no room for campus dissent, Karen Cheung writes.

Why are German politicians obsessed with Ph.D.s? How has Beijing’s crackdown changed Hong Kong’s universities? And are the United States’ international relations schools broken?

As graduation season comes to a close, we thought we’d dive into our archives on the universities incubating the world’s foreign-policy elite. The following essays answer these questions and more, exploring how institutions from the University of Hong Kong to Tehran’s Imam Sadiq University shape and are shaped by politics at home and abroad.—Chloe Hadavas


The Pillar of Shame is displayed at the campus of the University of Hong Kong.
The Pillar of Shame is displayed at the campus of the University of Hong Kong.

The Pillar of Shame is displayed at the campus of the University of Hong Kong on Oct. 10, 2021. The statue, created by Danish artist Jens Galschiot, had been on display at the university since 1998 until its removal in December 2021.Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/LightRocket via Getty Images

In Hong Kong, a Once Liberal University Feels Beijing’s Weight

With protesters crushed and memorials removed, there’s no room for campus dissent, Karen Cheung writes.


Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg arrives to testify at the Bundestag commission investigating the Wirecard scandal in Berlin on Dec. 17, 2020.Andreas Gora – Pool/Getty Images

Don’t Call Me Doktor

German politicians are obsessed with earning Ph.D.s—but plagiarism scandals tend to catch up to them and derail careers, FP’s Elisabeth Braw writes.


America’s IR Schools Are Broken

There’s a lot of innovation on the surface, but the rot runs deep. Here’s how to fix it, FP’s Stephen M. Walt writes.


Portraits of Islamic clerics hang in an Iranian library.
Portraits of Islamic clerics hang in an Iranian library.

Portraits of Islamic clerics hang in an Islamic library in Qom, Iran, on Sept. 22, 1996.Scott Peterson/Liaison

Tehran’s Harvard Incubated Iran’s New Government

The school’s mission is to find the most talented Iranians willing to serve the state—and give them access to power, Mohammad Hashemi writes.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the opening of the Confucius Institute in Stralsund, Germany, on Aug. 30, 2016.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the opening of the Confucius Institute in Stralsund, Germany, on Aug. 30, 2016.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the opening of the Confucius Institute in Stralsund, Germany, on Aug. 30, 2016.Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Academic Freedom Is Now Decided in Beijing

German universities are bowing to China on censorship. That could finally change under the new government, Andreas Fulda and David Missal write.

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