WENR, June 2009: Asia Pacific


Two Years After Opening Education Sector to Private Investment, Parwan Province Gets First Private School

Opening its doors just two months ago, Maftah is the first private school in Afghanistan’s northern Parwan Province. Tuition fees, at $15 per month, are too expensive for most Afghans, but with an enrollment of 300 children, many families have decided it is worth the price.

Since Afghan authorities opened the way for private investment into Afghanistan’s education system nearly two years ago, more than 300 private schools have opened across the country. The emergence of private schools, the majority of which are secular, and parents’ eager interest in educating their children is seen by many as a sign of growing stability and optimism for the future. Only eight years ago there wasn’t a single secular school in Afghanistan, and those who were able to receive an education attended religious schools.

This academic year, more than 7 million children are attending Afghanistan’s nearly 9,000 schools — both private and public, with both systems boasting that girls make up 35-40 percent of their enrollment. The revival of Afghanistan’s education system and the return of girls to the classroom is considered one of the biggest achievements of the post-Taliban Afghan government, in power since 2001.

However, there continues to be stiff resistance to the government and its education-reform policies (mostly those opposed to schooling girls). In volatile southern and eastern areas, militants have set fire to schools and have attacked teachers and students as soft targets. More than 60 schools have been burned down in the past year, and some 650 more have been closed down due to the lack of security.

The country still needs thousands of new schools to accommodate all school-age children, and in most of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, schools desperately seek qualified teachers. According to officials, some schools have had to hire students from higher grades to fill teaching vacancies, and the ministry depends heavily on foreign aid to train teachers, provide textbooks, and to build new schools and other facilities.

RFE/RL [1]
May 9, 2009

Nation’s Only Private University Graduates First Female Business Students

According to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s only private university graduated its first class of female business students in May. Sixty women received diplomas from Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan [2] (AUAF), the country’s first and only private university. Ubaid Adnan Nejati, AUAF’s business school director, told RFE/RL that his institution was proud to give women the opportunity to promote free enterprise.

RFE/RL [3]
May 22, 2009


Short, Sharp Marketing Drive to Bump Quality Reputation of Universities

In March, the Australian government launched a A$3.5 million (US$2.7 million) marketing initiative to boost perceptions of Australian higher education in the increasingly competitive global market for educational services. The government body responsible for overseeing and promoting the country’s international education sector, Australian Education International [4] (AEI), is leading the campaign.

The focus of the nine-month initiative is on China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and it will seek to raise Australia’s profile as a safe and welcoming study destination.

The campaign focuses on four themes: Student experience, showcasing excellence, positioning Australia (Promote and communicate Australia’s international education reputation in key markets), sector support (improving communication of key strategic advice and analysis on market trends and opportunities, supporting education agents in training and development to align agents more to Australia and ensure that students are given the best possible counseling on their education choices).

Sydney Morning Herald [5]
March 17, 2009

International Enrollments Look Strong Despite Fears to the Contrary

With the global economy going through a major downturn, there were fears in Australia that the lucrative international student market would take a hit this year with declining enrollments. However, the reality seems to be quite the contrary, with The Australian newspaper reporting in May that international enrollments had jumped a massive 20 percent for the critical March enrollment period, taking many education officials by surprise.

The largest source of growth was from India, with an increase of nearly 40 percent. Students from China, however, still make up nearly a quarter of all international students enrolled in Australian higher education, according to government statistics.

The Australian [6]
May 7, 2009

As Enrollments from India Boom, so do Racial Attacks

The Economic Times reported in March that in the last six months, the Australian police have received 500 reports of assaults on Indian students, and there are fears that these incidents are on the rise because of the economic meltdown and job losses.

Concerned that these attacks will undermine a multimillion-dollar campaign to attract Indian students to Australian universities (see above), in May, The Indian Express reported that the Australian government plans to send police officers to visit India’s Australia-bound students in June to advise them about their personal safety and security.

Indians currently constitute almost 18 percent of Australia’s foreign-student population, the second-largest group after China, at 23.5 percent. Some 95,000 Indians enrolled at Australian institutions of higher education in the first 11 months of 2008.

Indian Express [7]
May 13, 2009
Economic Times [8]
March 28, 2009

Overseas-Student-Recruitment Company Looks to Work U.S. Market

IDP Education Australia [9] has been recruiting international students for its Australian university clients for close to 40 years, and recently announced its plans to do the same for U.S. clients at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators [10] conference at the end of May.

IDP currently recruits one out of every five international students who studies in Australia. It is billing its services as a cost-effective way for American universities to extend their reach overseas. The company has a network of 850 staff members in 75 offices across 24 countries. They recruit approximately 34,000 students to Australia’s colleges, vocational institutions, and English-language programs each year.

Although the United States remains the most popular destination for international students, it lacks the kind of sustained overseas presence that Australian universities enjoy through IDP and other channels, a fact that has allowed competitor education-exporting nations, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, to cut into its market share in recent years.

The IDP move could be considered a little counterintuitive, considering the company is partially owned by Australia’s 38 public universities, but according to officials at IDP the strategy is not that unusual. Surveys have shown that international students who want to study in Australia tend not to want to study in the United States, and vice versa, while the pool of internationally mobile students is growing fast enough that IDP officials believe they can recruit for American universities without cutting into the Australian market.

IDP news release [11]
May 26, 2009


Morals to Become a Factor in University Admissions

Universities in China will be required to weigh applicants’ morals and social efforts in admissions decisions, according to new regulations recently passed down from Beijing. In April, the Ministry of Education [12] said that results from the annual national college entrance examination would no longer be the sole criteria when assessing prospective university students.

Dai Jiagan, director of the Ministry of Education’s examination center, said students would have to undertake an overall scholastic assessment, and a comprehensive evaluation of other factors including their moral outlook, sport capabilities and social work.

China Daily [13]
April 28, 2009

Initiatives to Combat Graduate Unemployment

As many as 16,000 graduates in the comparatively rich eastern province of Guangdong will work at schools in poorer regions of the country this year, under a government program that aims to find jobs for graduates amid a severe job shortage in China. The move is one of a series of initiatives the government has recently introduced to reduce graduate unemployment.

Those working in rural schools will be reimbursed their university tuition fees. Under another initiative, start-up companies founded by graduates will be exempt from administrative fees for three years. Small guaranteed loans will be increased to the equivalent of US$7,300 for those starting a business after graduation.

As many as 5,000 companies, scientific and research institutes, and industrial associations will be included in an “internship program,” providing work service for more than 60,000 graduates from 2009 to 2011. In addition, companies that hire more graduates than last year and sign employment contracts for more than one year will be given social insurance subsidies.

China Daily [14]
May 4, 2009


University Dedicated to Social Sciences and Humanities Launched

India’s first university dedicated to social sciences and humanities, Ambedkar University [15] in Delhi, was recently launched, after officially opening late last summer and beginning classes in November. Despite concerns about the economic slowdown, sectors like insurance and management are seeing a new level of demand in India. These are just some of the fields that the university hopes to train professionals in, with classes offered at the undergraduate and doctoral levels.

IndiaEdu [16]
November 28, 2008

IITs Struggle to Fill Places After Expansion Initiative

According to a report in The Telegraph, the world-renowned Indian Institutes of Technology may be losing some of their appeal. For the first time in their 58-year history, the now 15 institutes, up from seven before a major expansion in the last two years, may have to hold a second round of admissions to fill vacant seats, as many of the successful applicants have rejected the institutes’ offers in favor of alternatives, the newspaper said. Worse still, the institutes are likely to have to lower their standards for the second round.

Officials believe the seats are remaining unfilled because students are opting for the chance to study their first choice of subjects over the institutes’ “brand name.” Most educational institutions across India admit students in phases. Top students are invited first and can choose their course of study. If vacancies remain, students on a second-tier list may select their course, then a third, and so on. But in the past the institutes never needed to worry about vacancies.

Students’ new willingness to turn down opportunities to study at one of the premier institutes may confirm educators’ fears about what they call an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan last year to double the number of institutes, which many said would threaten their elite reputation.

The Telegraph [17]
May 21, 2009

Recession Good News for India’s Faculty-Starved Universities

The Times of India reports that India’s university regulator said recently that it has been inundated with applications from academics – Indian and otherwise – who currently teach at universities abroad. The regulator – The University Grants Commission [18] (UGC) – is convening a committee of university heads to work out a way to get the best of the applicants into India’s universities.

“There is an opportunity in economic recession,” S.K. Thorat, chairman of the UGC told The Times. “We have received hundreds of applications expressing interest in taking up teaching assignments in India,” he added. Most are seeking appointments at the 15 new Central Universities that will open this year, at the six new Indian Institutes of Technology that started last year, or the two new institutes scheduled to open in July, he said.

Indian universities are currently facing faculty shortages of up to 50 percent, and in a bid to combat the professor drought, the Indian government last December awarded big pay increases, averaging 70 percent, for the 500,000 academics who teach in the public-university system, a move that may also draw foreign academics.

The Times of India [19]
May 28, 2009
Indian Express [20]
May 28, 2009


International Students Double in a Decade

The number of students from abroad enrolling at Japanese institutions of higher education has more than doubled in the last decade, reports the Daily Yomiuri, while the number of Japanese students headed the other way has dropped off.

In 2008, 123,829 foreign students were studying at Japan’s universities and colleges, a 240 percent increase over the 1998 figure, according to data from the Japan Student Services Organization [21]. The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been dropping since 2004 when a record 82,945 students were studying overseas. In 2002, nearly 46,000 Japanese were studying in the United States; but by 2007, that number had shrunk to 34,000.

Daily Yomiuri [22]
April 30, 2009


University Audits to Begin in August

Malaysia is to begin an audit of its universities as part of an ongoing push to establish the country as a “world-class education hub”. The audits, which will be carried out by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency [23] in August, were announced by Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Malaysia’s Higher Education Minister, in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.

He told the New Straits Times newspaper: “There is no such thing as compromise when it concerns our institutes’ academic quality.” About 20 public universities and 29 private institutions have already signed up to a benchmarking system, which aims to assess the strengths of the Malaysian higher education sector over a period of six years.

New Straits Times [24]
May 5, 2009

New Zealand

Depending on Who You Believe, International Enrollments are either Growing or Plummeting

The Dominion Post reported in April that the number of foreign students enrolled in New Zealand’s higher education sector increased 15 percent over the prior nine months. A few days later, the New Zealand Herald reported that institutions in the country were increasingly reliant on new markets such as Saudi Arabia to boost flagging numbers of overseas students. The question is who to believe?

The Post article cited the weak New Zealand dollar as the driving force behind a growth in immigration figures, as reported by industry group Education NZ [25]. The industry body for export education says it is seeing a recovery in “new start” students, particularly from India, Brazil and the Middle East. Immigration figures for nine months to March show that more than 21,700 new foreign students have entered the country, up 3,356 on the same period a year before. The total number of foreign students last year fell 3 percent to 88,557, well off the peak of 121,000 in 2003. However, Education NZ said the number of full-time students declined less than 1 percent.

The Herald took another angle on enrollment figures suggesting the industry was in trouble, citing anecdotal evidence from the universities of Auckland [26], Otago [27], Massey [28], Victoria [29] and Auckland University of Technology [30] (AUT), all of which reported an overall decline in international equivalent full-time students since last year. The Herald also cited Ministry of Education [31] figures, which show that the number of international students across New Zealand universities as a whole has dropped 34 percent from 2004 to 2008.

The Dominion Post [32]
April 20, 2009
New Zealand Herald [33]
April 22, 2009

With an Eye on the International Market, New Zealand Considers Fast-track Master’s

Looking to increase lucrative enrollments from abroad, universities in New Zealand may change their rigid structures to allow students to earn master’s degrees in a shorter period than they currently can. Under the country’s current system, such degrees are awarded only after five years of study. However, the shorter and more flexible alternatives available at universities abroad, including in Australia and the UK, have given pause for thought.

Under proposals being considered, shorter, more intensive programs – which are often a more attractive option to overseas students on tight budgets and timetables – may be introduced, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported. Raewyn Dalziel, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Auckland [26], said: “We have to preserve the core of the prestige masters degree and create some flexibility around it so that the students who want to have it for other purposes can have one.”

New Zealand Herald [34]
April 27, 2009


Foreign Scholarship Program Reinstated

Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission [35] has resumed its graduate-level foreign scholarship program, which it had put on hold last November because of a cut in funds by the federal government, The News reported in May.

The commission’s executive director, Sohail H. Naqvi, told the newspaper that the government had released the equivalent of US$100 million for the overseas scholarship program. Mr. Naqvi said about 340 students’ scholarships had been put on hold, even though most had been admitted to universities in New Zealand, Germany, Italy, and other European countries.

The November cancellation was widely condemned. In addition, the commission had not paid the tuition for students already enrolled at foreign universities.

The News [36]
May 10, 2009


New Universities

The government of Singapore has announced that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [37] is to be a partner in Singapore’s planned fourth public university. In confirming the news, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen added that a Chinese partner for the university will be announced later this year. The research-intensive university is slated to open in 2011 with an undergraduate student population capped at 4,000, compared with the 10,000 to 12,000 previously reported. Caps on graduate and postgraduate numbers were not in the ministry news release. The institution will be focused mainly on sciences, engineering, information systems and architecture.

A core team of professors from MIT will play the lead role in developing the curriculum. MIT will also kick-start the new university’s research capability by developing relevant research programs.

The university is one of three new higher education institutions announced by President SR Nathan at the opening of the country’s Parliament. According to a government news release, the Singapore Institute of Applied Technology (SIAT) will offer programs aimed at opening up more direct routes for polytechnic graduates to obtain degrees, while also managing foreign collaborations with existing polytechnics. From 2011 onward, SIAT will work with foreign universities to offer degree programs, awarded by the foreign university and conducted at polytechnic campuses. Forty percent of all tertiary students are currently enrolled in the polytechnic sector.

The third announced project is a new medical school, although the verbiage in the news release suggests that this initiative is currently under consideration, rather than moving forward. Nanyang Technological University [38] (NTU) has been asked to submit a proposal on the establishment of the nation’s third medical school.

Singapore Ministry of Education [39]
May 19, 2009

South Korea

Business Schools Building International Credentials

Business schools in Korea have undergone dramatic changes in recent years under a campaign to globalize curricula, faculty, and approaches to student learning. Top universities have restructured their programs by modeling themselves largely on leading business schools in the U.S.

Korea University Business School [40], among other schools at top universities, want to join other Asian business schools in Hong Kong, Singapore, and China in competing directly with European and U.S. schools. That’s because Asia has emerged as a home for a growing number of multinational corporations that generate many highly paid jobs. With multinational businesses increasingly focused on Asia, so business schools in the West are trying to build relationships with business schools in the region to offer exposure to their students.

Korean business schools are leveraging this new interest by offering up to 50 percent of classes in English, while also building relationships with Western schools. Intra-Asian efforts are also aiming to maximize such incentives. Last year, Korea University [41] (KU) forged a three-nation alliance with the National University of Singapore [42] and China’s Fudan University [43] in Shanghai to open a joint 18-month program, which requires students to study for six months at each of the three schools. The program, called “S cube” to represent the three cities of Seoul, Shanghai, and Singapore, “will let students leverage on different strengths of the three nations and benefit from extensive Asian networking,” say officials at KU.

To make its curriculum compatible with leading business schools in the U.S. and Europe, KU received accreditation from the U.S.-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business [44] (AACSB) in 2005 and the Brussels-based European Foundation for Management Development [45] in 2007. The school has also pushed to team up with foreign partners. In recent years, Korea University has concluded exchange programs with some 100 business schools in the U.S., Europe, and Asia to accept some 300 foreign students, or nearly a fifth of all business school students, annually. Apart from 10 full-time foreign professors, more than 20 visiting foreign professors run courses throughout the year.

Six other universities in Korea, including Seoul National University [46], Yonsei University [47], and Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology [48], have been accredited by AACSB and they all run MBA courses in English. Globalization initiatives have been supported by the government with funding of more than US$20 million.

Business Week [49]
May 8, 2009


Faculty Exchange Agreement with South Florida Poly

The University of South Florida Polytechnic [50] has signed an agreement to exchange faculty with Vinh University of Vietnam [51]. A USF news release said that up to three faculty members from each institution will work each year on a project funded by the World Bank to strategically improve Vinh University’s information technology curriculum. Two Vinh University professors are expected to visit USFP this summer.

Vinh University was founded in 1959. It is a public university with an enrollment of 20,000 students.

USF News Release [52]
April 27, 2009

Building the Private University Sector

Private universities and colleges in Vietnam have traditionally been looked down on as motivated by greed and profits, yet a movement is afoot to build new private universities of good quality to supplement a public higher education system that is generally considered of poor quality.

Ton Nu Thi Ninh, a high-ranking member of Vietnam’s Communist Party, is described by The Chronicle of Higher Education as the most powerful woman in the country, and she is seeking to raise funds to build a new private university from the ground up as a means of improving Vietnamese higher education.

She has been traveling globally to build financial support and academic expertise for Tri Viet University [53]. (She estimates she will need US$30 million in the first three years alone). Ms. Ninh is talking with Arizona [54] and Portland State Universities [55] and De Anza College [56], in California, among others, hoping to persuade them to come on board as advisers, curriculum designers, or donors.

Another influential and well-healed Vietnamese woman, Dang Thi Hoang Yen, is also frustrated with the skills she sees Vietnamese university students graduating with when entering the job market. Knowing that it would take years of reforms to see significant change, Ms. Yen bought a large plot of land outside Ho Chi Minh City, hired architects to draw up the plans for a campus to eventually enroll 20,000 students, and appointed Mark S. Scheid, a former director of international programs at Rice University [57], to be the first president of Tan Tao University [58].

As with Tri Viet University, Tan Tao will be modeled on the American university system. English will be the main language of instruction. Until a new generation of Vietnamese Ph.D.’s and professors is trained, Mr. Scheid says, the plan is to hire 70 percent of the faculty from the United States, relying on less expensive retirees and new graduates. For the first few years, tuition will be free.

Vietnam actually approved the building of a university with international standards back in 2005. Insiders say a power struggle between hard-liners and reformers in the ruling Communist Party, not money, has kept it from getting off the ground. The old guard wants to keep a tight leash on what is taught and who is teaching it; reformers argue that competition from private foreign universities is the only way to spur real change.

Last month, Tri Viet University finalized the details of its lease, and Intel has just agreed to advise on curricular development and help with IT equipment and fund raising. Workers at Tan Tao University have already finished erecting the first of five floors of the main building.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [59]
May 15, 2009

Shut Out of India and China, Foreign Universities Build Relationships in Vietnam

The Saigon Institute of Technology [60] became the only Vietnamese college to offer an American-accredited two-year degree, in collaboration with Houston Community College [61], which offers six associate-degree programs in cooperation with the institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hundreds of other overseas institutions have signed memoranda of understanding with Vietnamese counterparts, with many offering joint or dual-degree programs. American colleges are helping the Vietnamese design curricula and teaching materials. And interest is still growing. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), a recent conference sponsored by the U.S. government attracted 100 participants from American academic institutions interested in doing business in Vietnam.

Vietnam graduates one million students from high school annually, but only has places for fewer than 20 percent within the higher education system. With China’s education market considered saturated and India’s currently barring foreign degree providers, Vietnam has been getting a lot of interest from institutions abroad trying to build a presence in Southeast Asia.

One example is Vanderbilt University [62], which will begin offering a doctoral program in clinical psychology in conjunction with Vietnam National University [63] in Hanoi this fall. Troy University [64] runs another joint program that is prospering in Vietnam. The curriculum for its master’s program in business with Vietnam National University [63] is the same as that offered in the United States. But about half of the professors are Vietnamese, a demographic that saves on costs. Despite tuition of $4,800 a year — four times Vietnam’s annual per capita income — the Alabama-based institution is able to fill the courses it offers.

The government is openly encouraging foreign participation, realizing that the current system cannot come close to meeting the demands of a booming economy and an increasingly literate population. Red tape has been drastically reduced and a pilot program even allows some local universities to hire American institutions to redesign their curricula and train their faculty members to teach the material. However, an estimated 80 percent of international initiatives fail to deliver after agreements are signed.

For Houston, years of negotiations and planning have paid off, with the associate-degree program growing from 400 to 3,000 students in five years, despite tuition (US$1,500 annually) set at 10 times that charged in the public sector.

An unfortunate downside to the influx of foreign providers is the entry of dubious unaccredited institutions, preying on uniformed students desperate for a foreign degree. The number of dubious distance-learning courses has risen steadily over the past several years. Several academic insiders say that, so far, no moves have yet been made to regulate or toss out unaccredited providers in Vietnam.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [65]
May 15, 2009