It’s conventional wisdom that Asian societies revere scholarships and that HE investments have driven economic developments in the region. Also it is to be expected that Asian universities will gradually eclipse the western university system.
At a recent event of the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) Professor Nigel Healey (Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, Nottingham Trent University) took a closer look at educational developments in Asia.
Geographically there is not one Asia, Professor Healey stated. The ‘continent’ comprises some of the richest nations (Qatar, Brunei, Singapore) and some of the poorest nations in the world (Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan) at the same time. Population figures are staggering: with 30% of the world’s land mass, Asia has a population of 3.9 billion (60% of the world’s total) and the figure has quadrupled in the 20th century.
Economic growth will continue to drive demand for higher education in Asia, at least as long as the largest Asian economies succeed in avoiding the ‘middle income trap’ hat would leave economies unable to compete internationally as the wages rise too high while countries have not yet reached the high quality production of the more advanced nations.
Professor Healey predicted that the population grow in Asia will be due to ageing, not to growth in the younger cohorts.
From quantity to quality
Since participation rates in higher education will soon begin to reach western ‘saturation levels’, the broader trend will be a shift from quantity to quality. Healey observes the advent of new quality assurance regimes in Asia and explicit policies to internationalise universities.
Korea for example has a specific scholarship programme to attract international students. In 2010-2011 this resulted in 83.840 international students; this year Korea hopes to attain the figure of 100.000.
With their quality assurance systems, Asian countries not only assure the quality of domestic providers, but often (Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore) also foreign providers. Furthermore both Hong Kong and South Korea monitor offshore operations of their domestic institutions. Asian countries participate in regional and international quality assurance networks: the Asia-Pacific Quality Network; the International Network for Quality Accreditation Agencies in Higher Education; and the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network.
According to the British Council this results in high rankings for the strength of quality assurance regimes:
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