WENR, May/June 2001: Asia Pacific


Monash University [1] in Melbourne is ready to open its South African campus at Roodeport, the first foreign institution to do so in South Africa. The university plans to offer undergraduate degrees in the arts, business and commerce, information technology, computing and business systems. Officials at the school had predicted an enrollment of more than 300 students, but by the end of February, one week before the beginning of classes, only 40 students had enrolled. Monash University South Africa [2] officials claim the low enrollment is simply a matter of insufficient marketing and expect a large increase in the next two years.

Times Higher Education Supplement
Feb. 23, 2001

Plans to create an international online university have drawn the support of institutions around the world but angered many students from two participating Australian institutions, the University of Melbourne www.unimelb.edu.au and the University of Queensland [3]. Universitas 21 [4], which was first proposed in 1997 by Melbourne University Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert, has been accused of profiteering and avoiding standards of quality assurance.

The U21 project will work with Thomson Learning [5] in designing its online content, and has received commitments from universities in Britain, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and the United States. But students in Australia worry that a transnational administrative body will legally bypass regulations on investment and quality control.

According to one student, “The quality-assurance arm of this new university will have only three voting members — compared with the 225 members of Melbourne’s academic board.” Since degrees conferred by U21 will bear the names of all member institutions, that imbalance of standards could cheapen the value of a diploma earned through traditional, on-campus education.

The protests have emerged in the wake of Gilbert’s accepted recommendation that Melbourne University allocate US$5 million to the project. Other member universities are expected to contribute between $500,000 and $5 million each. The size of the investment, which is projected to return $500 million by its 10th year, prompted many to question the motives of the U21 venture. Skeptical students believe the international organization conveniently allows for its members to operate outside of national legal limits on the corporate control of education.

Campus Review
Feb. 28, 2001


The government’s new emphasis on skilled labor has led to a dramatic rise in the number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education. The number of new students this year will reach 2.5 million, marking a 14 percent increase over last year. Reforms in education policy have opened up more positions at public institutions, while the government has supported the establishment of private schools for vocational training.

Chinese officials project that over 20 percent of eligible students will receive a higher education by 2015, an increase that will place its massive work force in competition with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Many worry, however, that the drive to bolster enrollment has come at the sacrifice of educational quality. Observers within China have remarked on severe overcrowding and a general shortage of teachers.

Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23, 2001

In a move that should significantly bolster undergraduate student enrollments, the Chinese government has lifted its age restrictions on college applicants. Previously, those who were married or over the age of 25 were not eligible for the entrance exam and were channeled into special adult-education programs.

In 1999, about 4 million students attended regular undergraduate institutions, and another 3 million plus attended adult-education programs. The changes, which came into effect at the start of this year, are part of a trend in Chinese policy toward the broadening of access to education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 27, 2001


As Parliament discusses the budget for 2001-2002, many in the country’s education sector are worried the government could seriously reduce its funding for education. The so-called Ambani-Birla report [6], drawn up and presented to the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry, suggests growing support for limiting government funding and encouraging the privatization of higher education.

Currently, students in India enjoy some of the lowest tuition rates in the world. If the budget cuts are passed, tuition for students in the sciences, medicine and law could range between $1,500 and $8,000. Such fees would be far above the financial capacities of the Indian middle class, not to mention the country’s massive poor population.

The Ambani-Birla report, created in April 2000, aims to move higher education into a free market arena, which purportedly would gradually enhance the quality of education and improve institutions’ facilities. Both students and professors have protested the plan, calling it a clear avoidance of responsibility on behalf of the government to provide for its people.

Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23, 2001


Before stepping down at the end of March, University of Tokyo [7] president and head of the Japan Association of National Universities, Shigehiko Hasumi, blasted the government’s plans to privatize public universities and criticized the general lack of funding. His views reflected the general opinion of Japan’s 99 public universities that the privatization trend ignores the human and financial resources necessary to uphold quality education.

Japanese government officials recently announced their intention to make national universities more independent, forcing schools to increase their revenue through tuition hikes and operations cutbacks. Hasumi called the plan a political ploy, intended to reduce the number of civil servants by the 25 percent previously pledged by the government.

In addition, Hasumi criticized the country’s public funding for universities, which he says is chronically insufficient. Japan gives about 0.5 percent of its GDP to higher education, whereas the United States and France invest around 1 percent, he said.

The Japan Times
March 16, 2001

In a surprising decision by the Education Ministry [8], Japan will henceforth grant credit for study abroad programs and some courses administered online. An advisory board recommended the measures in November 2000, but few expected the ministry would comply because of its traditionally negative stance toward international education. Just recently, the ministry refused to accredit degrees earned at American island programs in the country.

Relative to the United States, Japanese education places less emphasis on student-teacher cooperation, a crucial ingredient in effective online learning. However, in its recommendation, the ministry made clear that online courses could only be accredited if teachers were accessible by e-mail. Many are skeptical that this forced relationship will appeal to students and teachers, and that as a result, online courses will suffer. In addition, while some insist the opening of the Japanese market will boost U.S. distance-education development, there is doubt surrounding the level of enthusiasm for courses conducted in English.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 13, 2001


Prime Minister Mahathir recently presented the country’s new five-year development plan, which includes critical changes in some educational policies. The goal of the plan is to produce a large pool of skilled workers who will, in turn, fuel the country’s information technology industry. To this end, Mahathir’s plan aims to reach a 3:2 ratio of science to arts students in tertiary education by the year 2005.

Mahathir also called for the extension of quality education into the countryside, where students traditionally have lacked the resources to compete with their urban-trained colleagues. The Malaysian education system has been accused of being racist and segregationist for its sharp drop-off in educational resources outside its urban centers.

In addition, the plan will promote:

The basic objective of the plan is to increase productivity behind a growing population of learned and highly skilled technological workers.

Straits Times
April 23, 2001


In its efforts to provide tertiary education to a projected one in four Singaporeans, the country is attempting to open up 5,000 university enrollments in the next year. The ambitious plan has generated a debate among educators and policymakers about the origin of these new spaces and a possible compromise of quality within the expanding universities.

The three national universities — National University of Singapore [9] (NUS), Nanyang Technological University [10] (NTU) and Singapore Management University [11] (SMU) — take in a total of 10,000 new students yearly. To reach the government’s goal of 15,000 would mean that enrollments at NUS and NTU, which together account for 80 percent of student enrollments, could increase by as much as 50 percent. Officials at the universities complain that such an undertaking would necessitate a significant bolstering of resources and funding to maintain their educational standards and positions as top-tier research institutions. An alternative to the inflation of current institutions would be the establishment of a fourth university.

The plan is part of the country’s efforts to develop the burgeoning knowledge-based economy, which has strained the national supply of highly skilled workers.

Straits Times
April 25, 2001

South Korea

Inje University [12] in Kimhae, South Kyongsang Province, announced that it has established a research center for overseas adoptees. The school will accept 10 students per semester who were orphans adopted in countries outside of their native Korea. The major courses of instruction will cover national history and the Korean language.

Officials at the school said it was their contribution to society, since the government lacks any support program for overseas adoptees. The school has also set up a homepage [13] catering to this group.

Korea Herald
Dec. 4, 2000