WENR, April 2009: Asia-Pacific
Demand for Higher Education Brings Change
The recently held Asia-Pacific Sub-regional Preparatory Conference for UNESCO’s 2009 World Conference on Higher Education in Macao, China concluded that the Asian region is facing unprecedented growth in demand for higher education services and countries are looking for ways to diversify opportunities for learning.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Asia-Pacific zone is the largest of the UNESCO regions, containing over three billion people, or 60 percent of the world’s population. Its diverse geography, population, income and culture are reflected in the size and types of higher education institutions operating in the region. Demand for higher education is rising nearly everywhere across the region, fuelled by increasing wealth and a growing population of 18 to 23-year-olds.
Dr Libing Wang, a professor at Zhejiang University, told the conference that “The past decade has been a decade of higher education expansion in China. The gross enrollment ratio of higher education has increased from 9 percent in 1998 to 23 percent in 2007. Total enrollment has risen from 6.23 million to 27 million during this period.”
The conference report concluded that during the last decade, Asian countries have met the ever-increasing demand for higher education. However, Asian higher education has to deal with the issue of managing the expansion of higher education systems while preserving equity, raising quality and controlling costs. These challenges and lessons from the Asia-Pacific region will be tabled for discussion at the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, to be held in July in Paris, France.
– Bangkok Post
March 10, 2009
World Bank Invests US$81 Million to Improve Higher Education
The World Bank in March approved a US$81 million interest-free credit to Bangladesh to improve the quality of teaching and research in higher education. According to a World Bank news release, the credit will support Bangladesh’s Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project by promoting innovation and accountability in universities and enhancing the technical and institutional capacity of the higher education sector.
In Bangladesh, the gross primary school enrollment rate is approximately 90 percent and secondary school enrollment has more than doubled since independence in 1971. However, similar progress has not been realized in the tertiary sector. Among other things, a Bangladesh Research and Education Network, and a high-performance ICT network, will be set up.
– World Bank news release
March 17, 2009
Admission Requirements Relaxed as Unemployment Numbers Increase
In a bid to reduce increasing unemployment levels, Chinese universities have been ordered to enroll MBA students without the work experience they usually need. According to the Shanghai Daily, universities in the city have each been asked to admit 50 to 60 extra graduates into their MBA programs this year. Whereas applicants would normally need at least three years of work experience to be considered, the Ministry of Education has asked institutions to waive this stipulation.
As part of a drive to increase graduate numbers by 50,000 across China, the ministry is hoping to admit 6,000 new graduates with no work experience into MBA programs this year. Other disciplines the government is seeking to boost include public administration, engineering, law and accounting.
– Shanghai Daily
February 24, 2009
Survey: Chinese Enrollments Overseas to Hit All Time High in 2009
A major education website in China has released the findings of an extensive survey, in which they speculate that 2009 will be a “peak year” for Chinese students studying abroad.
The report from www.long.cc states that its survey of 7,341 students and 365 education agents indicate that 2009 may see more Chinese students studying abroad than ever before.
– Australia Education International
March 11, 2009
Record Numbers Take English-language Test
More than 260,000 Chinese students took the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination last year. The record-breaking number can be considered bullish for education-exporting countries seeking to enroll Chinese students. The figures were released in March by the British Council, an IELTS sponsor, at the 2009 Transnational Education Summit & IETS 20 Years Celebration in Beijing.
The Xinhua news agency reports that approximately 60 percent of the IELTS test-takers were aged 19 to 22 and most intended to study abroad for a master’s degree. The test is taken largely by those seeking to study in Britain and Australia. More than 6,000 schools, government agencies and professional organizations recognize IELTS scores.
– Xinhua news agency
March 21, 2009
U.S Law School Association to Introduce India-Admissions Test
The Law School Admission Council will soon offer an Indian version of its Law School Admission Test, which is used by more than 100 U.S. law schools for admissions. The announcement could be viewed as a positive sign on future enrollments in the United States from Indian students, at least in the legal sector. The move also comes amid an increasing number of informal collaborations between foreign and Indian law firms.
Most Indian law schools conduct their own entrance tests, despite a call from India’s Supreme Court for a single admission test for all law schools. According to the Mint newspaper, the Indian version of the Law School Admission Test will be administered in mid-May. The newspaper did not say how many law schools would be adopting the test for admissions.
– The Mint
February 24, 2009
Unwieldy Universities Face Downsize Measures
Three of India’s biggest affiliating universities may be split up, with ministers concerned that they have become too cumbersome due to the large number of colleges affiliated with them.
The Times of India reports that the universities of Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur will be divided into several branches to streamline their operations. The plan was proposed last year but was put on the backburner by Dilip Walse-Patil, former Minister for Higher and Technical Education. Now his successor, Rajesh Tope, has revived the proposals and promised to establish a committee to look at the plans.
According to Tope, “The University Grants Commission … has repeatedly said that these universities are overloaded”.
– The Times of India
February 18, 2009
In Excess of 20 ‘Fake’ Universities, Report States
An official government report states that there are 22 “fake” universities operating in India. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), Uttar Pradesh has nine fake institutions – more than any other region – and Delhi has six. The UGC said that only universities established by Acts of Parliament or granted university status by state legislatures are legitimate. Those not created through such legislation, many of which operate under the Societies Registration Act, have no right to confer degrees. See the India Express article for a list of all universities deemed fake.
– India Express
February 19, 2009
University Reform Panel Calls for Greater Autonomy
In its final report, a high-level committee set up to reform the regulation of India’s higher education system said that universities should be self-regulated.
The report, presented to the ministry in charge of higher education, also said that undergraduate programs should be restructured to allow mobility between universities. In addition, the committee recommended that a single accreditation process replace the many that currently exist.
Last month, the ministry rejected the higher-education reforms recommended by the high-level National Knowledge Commission set up by the prime minister, suggesting the latest recommendations may receive the same treatment.
– The Times of India
March 9, 2009
Semesters and Credits Get Green Light
Indian faculty have long been demanding that universities offer semester-based courses with a system of credits based on student choice. The Indian Express reports that now the University Grants Commission (UGC), the sector’s regulator, has agreed. Students will also be allowed to take courses at different institutions than their home university and receive credit for those classes. The UGC has told universities to initiate the changes within two years.
Currently, universities do not divide the year into semesters. Instead they hold annual examinations at the end of each academic year but none in the middle of the year. This means that student achievement is based on a single set of examinations, rather than as a continual process. In addition, undergraduate degrees have rigid curricula, with no room for movement between fields and institutions. Currently, students registered at one university are not allowed to take courses at another institution, and credits are non-transferable.
– Indian Express
March 24, 2009
Defense University to Be Established
The Indonesian government has announced plans to establish a national “defense university,” similar to those that have been established in Singapore and Malaysia in recent years. Susilo Bambang Yudhovono, the president of Indonesia, said the institution would aim primarily to train military officers, but would also admit some civilian students.
In a speech reported in the Jakarta Post, he said the Indonesian Defense University would focus on topics such as the evolution of modern warfare, military technology and defense economics. Singapore set up a defense university in 2005, and Malaysia followed suit in 2007.
– Jakarta Post
March 11, 2009
University Merger Mooted
The smallest university in New Zealand announced plans to merge with government-owned research businesses and grow its research capability threefold, becoming one of the world’s top five land-based universities.
Lincoln University has traditionally focused on land-based industries important to the New Zealand economy, such as sheep farming. With an enrollment of just 2,600 full-time students, critiques have been raised in the past as to the institutions stand-alone viability. In March, the university announced a plan to merge with AgResearch, one of New Zealand’s eight national research institutes, in order to capitalize on the institutions’ strengths and deliver more value for the country’s land-based industries.
Unlike Lincoln, AgResearch cannot enroll students or offer qualifications, but it is a specialist research organization in agriculture with four main campuses, 1,000 staff, and a yearly budget nearly twice the size of Lincoln’s at about $150m (US$77m).
– University World News
March 15, 2009
Winning Back Chinese Market Share
New Zealand was one of the first Western countries to respond to a dramatic under-supply of university seats in China by actively recruiting Chinese students in the late 1990s. The results were dramatic, and New Zealand fast became a top destination for Chinese students in the early 2000s. As competitor countries relaxed immigration standards, and the New Zealand market suffered from bad press in the Chinese media, the “bubble” collapsed and enrollments from China dropped dramatically.
The number of Chinese international students in New Zealand plummeted from approximately 56,000 in 2002 to less than 25,000 in 2007. Now, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction, and New Zealand is once again seeing significant growth in Chinese enrollments.
While discretionary spending is decreasing around the world, education officials in New Zealand remain confident because education spending in China is not seen as discretionary. A cultural focus on education and personal advancement combined with poor tertiary education infrastructure in China sends thousands of Chinese students overseas every year.
Now New Zealand is hoping a new focus on frugality will bring more overseas students into the country. The falling New Zealand dollar is making study in the country more attractive. Applications are up 10 to 20 percent, but it is still too early to tell how many of those applications will convert to enrollments.
– New Zealand Herald
March 14, 2009
Singaporeans with Overseas Law Degrees to Enjoy Relaxed Labor Regulations
The Ministry of Law has done away with a requirement for Singaporeans with qualifications from recognized foreign institutions to undertake a year-long law diploma in Singapore. Those with the equivalent of a Second Lower Honors law degree from a recognized or accredited foreign institution are also now eligible to practice in Singapore after passing the Bar exam.
– Australia Education International newsletter
February 25, 2009
120,000 to Benefit From Government Training Program
The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has eased its criteria for labor training vouchers in a bid to get more unemployed people into training programs and, ultimately, the job market. Taking effect in March, the program is designed to reach 120,000 people throughout Taiwan.
The CLA will provide tuition subsidies of up to 100 percent. Those eligible for full tuition reimbursements include women who are family breadwinners, middle-aged or senior citizens, physically or mentally challenged people, and native Taiwanese. In addition, those laid off between July of last year, and the end of this year, will also receive vouchers for the full cost of their program.
– China Post
February 25, 2009
Details of Education Reform Announced
After major reforms a decade ago, Thailand is gearing up for a second round of education reforms. Education Council Secretary General, Tongthong Chandransu, recently described an opening focus of those reforms in an interview with The Nation newspaper, a Thai daily.
According to Chandransu, reforms will be focused on the development of teachers and students, with an implementation time frame of six to seven months. There will be nine major areas of reform: the development of students; the development of teachers; increasing education management efficiency; increasing educational opportunities; producing the skilled workforce needed for the country; preparing sufficient funds for education; educational technology; enforcing education laws efficiently; and promoting non-formal education.
The Education Council is expected to review and approve the implementation plan in June for submission to Cabinet in July or August.
– The Nation
February 10, 2009
German-Vietnamese University Set to Begin Classes
The Vietnamese-German University (VGU) in Ho Chi Minh City was officially opened in the fall of 2008, and is set to begin graduate classes in September of this year. It is the first university in Vietnam with foreign ownership or affiliation to be granted the status of a national university.
According to a report from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), VGU is to become a model research university, and officials hope it will become a regional research powerhouse in technical and scientific fields. The language of instruction will be English, although students will also be required to take German-language classes.
The German side of the partnership is being financed by the German government and DAAD, and was formally established in February as a consortium of 30 universities. The consortium will largely be responsible for developing the research platform at VGU.
– VGU news release
Students Looking Closer to Home for Overseas Study Opportunities
Recruitment agencies are reporting that Vietnamese students looking to study overseas have either decided against the idea, or are looking to destinations closer to home. Destinations like Australia are becoming more favorable than more expensive destinations such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Overseas study consultancy firms contacted by VietNamNet are reporting a 30 to 50 percent drop in business since the end of 2008, in comparison with the same period last year. By contrast, consulates and foreign education agencies in Ho Chi Minh City believe that overseas study visas have remained the same.
An unnamed director of an overseas study consultancy firm said that big markets like the United States and the United Kingdom have dropped drastically with no clients since February. The director has attributed the sharp fall off to a strongly appreciating dollar, pound and euro against the Vietnamese dong. Anecdotally, the director reported that many second or third year students in the United Kingdom have had to return to Vietnam, as they do not have enough money to continue studying in the country.
Australian universities are reportedly picking up the slack, largely because of enticing immigration and post-graduation employment policies, in addition to a weak Australian dollar and easier visa processes. According to data from Australia Education International, the number of Vietnamese students in Australia increased from 9,600 in 2007 to 15,900 in 2008. The latest enrollment figures from the Institute for International Education show that the number of Vietnamese students in the United States grew at an equally impressive rate between 2006/07 and 2007/08, from 6,036 to 8,769. However, these numbers do not cover the period of greatest global economic upheaval from the end of summer 2008.
– VietNamNet Bridge
March 3, 2009
New Technology University to Set Quality Standards for All Others
The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training announced recently that a new science university will be opened later this year, and that it will be of international standard, setting a benchmark against which all other science universities in the country will be measured.
The Hanoi University of Science and Technology has set a target of enrolling 10 percent of its students from overseas by 2016, and having at least 50 percent of faculty of “international standard”. By 2020, the government aims to have the university ranked on the list of world-class universities.
Addressing a planning meeting earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tien Nhan said he hoped the new university would be a driving force behind education reform, become a leading science training center and a model “for building other world-class universities”. While the Vietnamese government has invested US$100 million in the new institution, additional financing will come from foreign partners. Support from France has reportedly been confirmed and other foreign partners are currently being sought.
The new university is just one of four world-class universities planned for Vietnam. The Vietnam-Germany University opened last year in Ho Chi Minh City (see above). Two more institutions, including the American International University, are currently being planned.
– Vietnam News
March 7, 2009