The essays collected in this issue of boundary 2 were written in response to a call for papers that would treat the contemporary university, in various regions and stages of formation around the world, in light of the interaction between local and global realities. Underlying this project is the assumption that profound changes in economy and world organization transform the function and value of universities in tension not only with the regional histories and forces in which particular universities function but also with what used to be called the idea of the university. The authors of these essays approach this topic in two ways: some present the history and current situation of the university in a given place and politics, and some write of the new university's political economy as the state withdraws support for higher education and hands the institutions over to entrepreneurial and transnational corporate culture. None of these essays defends the idea that the university pursues knowledge for its own sake. Yet there is a tinge of nostalgia for this idea, or at least for the idea that the university's task is to educate, to destroy bias, to cultivate. Of course, such an idea remains the public justification for the existence of the university, especially in the advanced capitalist societies, whose higher classes benefit the most from the globalization of economic production.