Professional Biography

Alan Ruby has a long career in government, business, philanthropy, and education ranging from classroom teacher to Australian deputy secretary of education to chair of the OECD education committee. At the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Ruby, a Senior Fellow in the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD), focuses on globalization’s effects on universities and education around the world. A highly regarded teacher, he leads graduate seminars on “Globalization and the University.” He earned the School’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006. Since early 2018 he also served as the initial director of the Global Engagement office at Penn GSE advising the Dean on ways to increase the school’s international impact. 

He currently serves as a Trustee of Nazarbayev University and the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan. He has served as a consultant to the Government of India, the World Bank, the HEAD Foundation in Singapore, higher education officials in Bhutan and Indonesia, and to the American Institutes of Research. In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to international education through global reform initiatives, and his work with philanthropic organizations. He reviews for the Journal of Studies in International Education (2016) and Online Learning Journal (2015- 2017).

Mr. Ruby was a senior executive of one of the world’s premier grant making groups, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and served as director of the Human Development Sector for the East Asia Region of the World Bank, where he led the World Bank’s programs in education, health, and social insurance in 12 countries including China, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

Mr. Ruby served for over six years as Australia’s Deputy Secretary of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, where he was responsible for primary and secondary education, higher education, and vocational education and training. He chaired the education programs of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), spearheading the development of education metrics comparing school results across member countries including the development of a new assessment regime (PISA). He was also a member of the Scientific Advisory Group that created the framework for the flagship OECD publication Education at a Glance. Early in his career, he was a teacher and an official in the state government of New South Wales.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Mr. Ruby maintains a longstanding interest in education reform, globalization, alliances between unions and governments, and the role of education in developing economies. In collaboration with Mathew Hartley he is examining the ways universities and colleges pursue their academic and service missions in different economic and national settings.


Associateship, London Institute of Education, University of London, 1983

Diploma of Education, University of Sydney, 1972

B.A. (English) University of Sydney, 1971


Areas of Expertise

  • Education reform at all levels of the education system
  • Taking education reform and innovation to scale
  • Educational programs and finance strategies to support less advantaged groups
  • Globalization, international student mobility, and international education

Selected Publications

Villarreal, P., & Ruby, A. (2018). Government models for financing higher education in a global context: Lessons from the U.S. and U.K. Penn AHEAD, Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.  

Ruby, A. (2018). Long & short views: Political & policy contexts for international education research. In S. Saubert (Ed.), NAFSA Research Symposium Series, Volume 2, Washington D.C.

Kumar, V., Ruby, A., & Hartley M. (2018, April 12). Who’s afraid of university autonomy? Scholars have nothing to lose but their chains. Times of India

Kuzhabekova, A., & Ruby, A. (2018). Raising research productivity in a post–Soviet higher education system: A case from Central Asia. European Education, 1–17.  

Ruby, A., & Li, A. (2018, April 12). China’s overseas investment should not neglect education. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A., Kumar, V., & Hartley M. (2018, April 3). Selecting world class institutions: How to choose the best. Economic Times

Li, A., & Ruby, A. (2018, March 23). The quality conundrum in higher education. University World News.

Ruby, A., Kumar, V., & Hartley, M. (2018, January 4). Why Modi’s announcement of a competition to identify 20 top Indian Universities will actually improve higher education. The Times of India.

Ruby, A., & McLaughlin, C. (2017).  Teachers’ work practices in Kazakhstan: Some comparative insights from TIMMS 2011 to guide curriculum implementation. Journal of Educational Sciences, 4 (53).

Hartley, M., & Ruby, A. (2017). Parallel reforms: Nazarbayev intellectual schools and Nazarbayev University. Pedagogical Dialogue, 3(21). Center of Excellence, Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools Astana, 31–33. 

Ruby, A., & Hartley M. (2017, September 15). What freedoms do ‘institutions of excellence’ need? University World News.

Hartley, M., & Ruby, A. (Eds.) (2017). Higher education reform: The case of Kazakhstan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hartley, M., & Ruby, A. (2017). University partnerships. In J. Martin & J. E. Samuels (Eds.), Consolidating colleges & merging universities: New strategies for higher education leaders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ruby, A. (2017). Theory and reality: Research, history and brevity. International Educator, September issue, pp. 10 & 12. 

Ruby, A. (2017, August 18). Worrying about international student demand? Look at the fundamentals and look beyond. NAFSA. [Blog post]. 

Ruby, A. (2017, July 28). A day at a U.S. graduation ceremony: What to expect. Times Higher Education

He, Y., & Ruby A. (2017). A Chinese branch campus in Malaysia. International Higher Education, 88 (Winter), 3–4.  

Ruby, A., Kuzhabekova, A., & Lee, J.T. (2017). International faculty recruitment in Kazakhstan: The case of Nazarbayev University. In L. Rumbley, P. Altbach, & M. Yudkevich (Eds.), International faculty in higher education. New York: Routledge.

Ruby, A. (2016, October 14). The importance of keeping globally engaged. University World News.

Hudzik, J., with Charles, H., Green, M., Kinser, K., Lee, J.L., Olds, K., Ruby, A., & Teekens, H. (2106). Brexit and its implications for higher education internationalization. Trends and Insights, NAFSA, September.

Ruby, A. (2016, June 21). The Brexit vote signals “You are not welcome here.” University World News.

Ruby, A., & He, Y., (2016, August 27). Developing the first Chinese university branch campus in Malaysia. Times Higher Education. 

Ruby, A., (2016, July 14). The untold story of Middle America's regional universities. Times Higher Education

Ruby, A., (2016, April 13). How Don Nakanishi overcame prejudice in the academy. Times Higher Education. 

Ruby, A. (2016, February 12). Implementing stronger and more credible student assessment. Education for Global Development. [Blog post].

Ruby, A., & Kent, D. (2016). Investing in learning outcomes: Findings from an independent review of the Russian Aid for Development (READ) trust fund. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Ruby, A., Perna, L., Boruch, R., & Wang, N. (2015). Are there metrics for MOOCS from social media? Online Learning Journal, 19 (5).

Ruby, A. (2015). Will universities survive the 21st Century? In Asian Universities in New Times, THF Workshop Reports #2, The Head Foundation, Singapore 2015.

Ruby, A. (2015). Globalization and the university: A relationship worth Studying? In B. Spooner (Ed), Globalization: The crucial phase. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Boruch, R., & Ruby, A. (2015). To flop is human: Inventing better scientific approaches to anticipating failure. In R. Scott & S. Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Ruby, A. (2015, July 30). How the 99 per cent learn: America’s overlooked successes. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2015, May 14). A pick ‘n’ mix programme can be an incoherent one. Times Higher Education

Ruby, A.  Review of 14-18: A New Vision for Secondary Education by Kenneth Baker et al. Education Review, 22. April 2015.

Ruby, A. (2015, April 9). Generation Y are failing to put money where their mouths are. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2015, January 29). U.S. student debt: borrowing the long and lending the short of it. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2015, January 8). Super-sized system offers more choice than the McDonald’s menu. Times Higher Education.

Perna, L. W., Ruby, A., Boruch, R. F., Wang, N., Scull, J., Ahmad, S., & Evans, C. (2014). Moving through MOOCs: Understanding the progression of users in massive open online coursesEducational Researcher.

Ruby, A. (2014, November 27). The discounting trend at US universitiesTimes Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2014, October 16). A welcome clash of academic culturesTimes Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2014). Preparing global citizensThe International Educator.

Ruby, A. (2014, September 11). How a small university maintains its big international reachTimes Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2014, May 1). Heavy weather: Fiscal clouds and MOOC waves in the sunshine stateTimes Higher Education.

Perna, L., & Ruby, A. (2014). Cautious towards MOOCsScienceGuide.

Chi, P. T., Ruby, A., & Linh, H. H. (2014). Mid-term review of the Vietnamese-German University. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Ruby, A., & Sarinzhipov, A. (2014). Towards the next stages of educational reform in Kazakhstan. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Educational reform and internationalization: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 

Ruby, A., & McLaughlin, C. (2014). Transferability and the Nazarbayev intellectual schools: Exploring models of practice transfer. In D. Bridges (Ed.), Educational reform and internationalization: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  

Ruby, A. (2013, November 28). State interventionism. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A., & Jaramillo, A. (2013). A buyer’s guide to branch campuses. In D. Araya & P. Marber (Eds.), Higher education in the global age: Policy, practice and promise in emerging societies. New York, NY: Routledge. 

Ruby, A., & Boruch R. (2013, September 5). Failure analysis. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2013). Benchmarking higher education. In A. Jaramillo (Ed.), The 100 universities study: University governance in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Ruby, A. (2013, June 27). Big, bold and highly accessible. Times Higher Education

Ruby, A. (2013). Market trends for international students—2020: Trends and Insights. Washington, D.C.: NAFSA. (Also published in The International Educator, March 2014, and in ScienceGuide as Where will international students go?, 10 June 2013.)

Perna, L., & Ruby, A. (2013). The silver bullet of education. ScienceGuide

Ruby, A. (2013, May 9). Massive, open, online appraisals. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2013). A few global trends and points of commonality in quality assurance in higher education. In T. Regan & A. Saginkyeva (Eds.), Eurasian higher education leaders forum conference proceedings. Nazarbayev: Nazarbayev University.

Ruby, A. (2013, February 28). Adapt, survive, and thrive. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2013, January 10). More to MOOCs than moolah. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2013). Tinker, tailor. In L. W. Perna (Ed.), Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs in metropolitan America. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Ruby, A. (2012, 1 November). Bologna tasters enter US menus. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2012, 4 October). Take and give. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2012, 9 August). Beyond a joke. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2012, 12 July). Recommended reading. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2012, 26 June). A utilitarian view of rankings. Trends and Insights for International Education Leaders. Washington, D.C.: NAFSA.

Ruby, A., & Kelly, S. (2012). Status update: Actively engaging our friends. Times Higher Education.

Ruby, A., & Jaramillo, A. (2011). A buyers guide to branch campusesUniversity World News

Ruby, A. (2011). Moving past the agent debate. Trends and insights for international education leaders. Washington, D.C.: NAFSA.

Hartley, M., & Ruby, A. (2011, March 29). A little supervision is a good thing. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jaramillo, A., Ruby, A., Henard, F., & Zaapanne, H. (2011). Internationalization of higher education in MENA: Policy issues associated with skills formation and mobilityWashington, D.C.: The World Bank. 

Ruby, A. (2010, November 18). The not so open door. Inside Higher Ed.

Choudaha, R., & Ruby, A. (2010). Foreign borders: Putting national needs first. University World News

Ruby, A. (2010). India: Selling services or spreading light? University World News.

Ruby, A. (2010, January 29). India is opening up. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ruby, A. (2010). The uncertain future for international higher education in the Asia Pacific. Washington, D.C.: NAFSA.