WENR, December 2009: Asia Pacific


Tough Year Continues for Australian International Education Sector with Closure of 9 Private Colleges

Nine private vocational colleges in Melbourne and Sydney closed with little to no warning in early November, leaving almost 5,000 students academically stranded weeks before they were to have completed their programs, according to reports from the Sydney Morning Herald. This news is just the latest in a series of body blows the Australian education-export industry has taken this year.

Some of the disenfranchised students, who are mostly from India and Southeast Asia, had just paid their fees – thousands of dollars – for the next semester. The company that owns the colleges closed them after it began bankruptcy proceedings.

Australia’s image as an international study destination had already been seriously tarnished before this latest calamity, especially in India, after a number of South Asian students had been physically attacked earlier in the year. Soon after the racially motivated attacks caused a serious media outcry in India and damaged the once vibrant relationship between the two countries, an investigation by an Australian television station claimed foreign students were being duped into paying tens of thousands of dollars by hundreds of allegedly shady vocational institutions that were portrayed as little more than visa and immigration mills.

Foreign students impacted by the closure of the Chinese-owned colleges, and four or five others that have gone out of business this year, received some positive news with the announcement that the Australian government will exempt them from paying a student-visa application charge of A$540 (US$500), as many must obtain new visas to complete their studies at another college.

Sydney Morning Herald [1]
November 9, 2009

Minister Travels to India to Start Process of Rebuilding Australia’s Image as A Study Destination

Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd travelled to India in November in a bid to dispel growing concerns among Indian politicians, students and parents about racially motivated attacks against Indians studying in Australia and the closure of a dozen training colleges in Melbourne and Sydney so far this year (see above).

India is a hugely important market for the Australian education-export industry, second only to China, and Rudd fears that this year’s rash of bad news may lead to a serious drop in applications and enrollments from the sub-continent. The Prime Minister’s visit follows a series of trips to India by senior members of the government after an India-wide outcry over the violent attacks from earlier in the year.

The Australian [2]
November 13, 2009

Immigration Department Tightens Permanent-Residency Rules and Clamps Down on Fraud

More vocational and technical colleges in Australia are likely to close after a tightening by Australia’s Immigration Department of the rules affecting permanent residency and a crackdown on fraud being perpetrated by agents and students in India. The crackdown has already resulted in a sharp rise in the withdrawal of student applications, with the rate more than tripling to 17 percent in September compared with 5 percent in July.

As an additional measure, the government in November increased the amount of money international students must first prove they have to obtain a visa to study in Australia. The 50 percent increase – from $12,000 to $18,000 – has been welcomed by critics of Australia’s lax control over students obtaining permanent residency after completing courses, many using fraudulent documents to bolster their chances.

The Australian [3]
November 9, 2009

China Issues Warning About “Risky” Australian Private Providers

An alert published by the Chinese Education Ministry [4] and disseminated throughout the country warns Chinese students against enrolling in private Australian colleges. Thousands of such colleges have been established in recent years to attract international students, from China and India especially.

The Chinese authorities labeled private colleges as “unstable and risky” in their warning, stating that those intending to study in Australia should do so only at accredited universities and colleges. The Education Ministry re-issued a list of providers that students are approved to study at in its warning.

“Students should be cautious and not choose education providers that mainly enroll international students under a short-term business model based upon education as export,” the Education Ministry said.

There are almost 150,000 Chinese students in Australia, making up quarter of the country’s 610,000 overseas students.

The Australian [5]


U.S. Looks to Send 100,000 Students to China over Next Four Years

China and the United States in November announced a series of steps to improve relations between the two countries. One part of the joint announcement [6] focused on education and included a statement that the United States would seek to send 100,000 students to China over the coming four years. According to the Institute for International Education [7], there are currently 13,165 U.S. students studying in China, although the framers of the statement estimated the number to be closer to 20,000.

CBS News [6]
November 17, 2009

Graduate Job Market Continues to Look Grim

China’s new Education Minister, Yuan Guiren, warned in November that the estimated 6.3 million college graduates for 2010 – a record  – will face “severe challenges” in the job market. Yuan told a tele-conference in November that universities should offer students more and better career counseling and adjust their curricula to better meet the demands of the labor markets.

On a more positive note, the Xinhua news agency reports that the number of college students who found jobs in 2009 increased year-on-year despite the global economic downturn. Statistics from the China National Center for Human Resources showed 74 percent of 6.11 million new graduates in 2009 had found jobs as of Sept. 1, almost no change from the previous year.

The government introduced a series of measures to help college graduates find jobs, such as giving them preference in military recruitment and encouraging them to take grass-roots positions in poor western regions. The Ministry of Education said in October that a total of 130,000 graduates from Chinese universities and colleges are expected to join the army this winter, a record number.

Xinhua [8]
November 20, 2009

Questioning China’s Meteoric Research Numbers

China now produces the greatest number of Ph.D.s of any country in the world, surpassing the United States last year despite the fact that graduate education was only re-introduced at the nation’s universities in 1978 after the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. However, there is a great deal of suspicion over the rapid expansion, due to allegations that corruption in the education system has severely compromised academic standards, reports Stephen Wong for Asia Times.

According to statistics released by Yang Yuliang, the director of the Academic Degree Commission under the State Council, China’s first Ph.D. programs in 1978 had only 18 candidates. In 1982, the first doctorates were awarded to six of the 18.  Since then, graduate enrollment in doctoral programs has grown 23.4 percent annually. By the end of 2007, Chinese universities and research institutes had awarded 240,000 doctorate degrees. However, the number of qualified professors needed to supervise such doctorate programs has not kept pace, raising fears that quantity is not being matched by quality.

According to Yang, each qualified Chinese professor has to supervise 5.77 doctorate candidates, much higher than the international average. Graft has been raised as a major concern with professors saying that businessmen and party officials often use cash, power or influence to avoid doing the work necessary to obtain Ph.D.s – essentially buying or leveraging influence to earn doctorates

While for most Chinese earning a doctorate remains a serious process, powerful Chinese officials are now offered a so-called “green route” – from entrance examination to graduation. Entrance exams are generally organized by the university independently, and to attract students with political clout some colleges and universities even offer “exam-free admission”. Once enrolled, privileged students do not need to take the courses seriously; in many cases sending their secretaries to take the classes and exams. Professor Cai Jiming at Tsinghua University [9] remarked that “most degrees earned by Chinese officials are questionable”.

Observers say that Chinese officials obtaining dubious doctorate degrees not only wastes scarce education resources, it has also triggered a crisis of confidence in the education system, undermining the value of genuine doctorates earned at Chinese universities. Yet some Chinese universities say they need to meet officials’ wishes if they want to ensure their financial survival.

Growing public anger over widespread academic corruption and other problems in education recently led Premier Wen Jiabao to fire the minister of education, Zhou Ji, who had been in office since 2003.

Asia Times [10]
November 25, 2009

University Entrance Test-taker Numbers to Drop Next Year

The number of students in Beijing to take university entrance exams next June is expected to drop by 10,000 from last year, setting a record recent low for applications in the Chinese capital. According to a pre-application survey among high schools in Beijing, each district will contribute about 1,000 fewer students than last year, totaling 10,000.

About 100,000 students took the 2009 college entrance examination in Beijing in June, almost 18,000 fewer than in 2008, the lowest number of applications since 2005.

But about 7,000 Beijing students took a foreign alternative, the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 2009, up from 3,000 in 2008. “Foreign universities are sharing a larger chunk of the higher-level education market with universities in China,” said Song Baoying, a senior manager at the Australia-China Educational and Cultural Development Center.

China Daily [11]
December 2, 2009

China to Increase Availability of Scholarships for International Students in 2010

According to the China Daily newspaper, the government is planning to grant 20,000 scholarships to foreign students in 2010, 2,000 more than in 2009. Chinese Education Minister, Yuan Guiren, explained that the motivation stems from China’s desire to engage young people from around the world and to encourage ties with other countries.

China Daily [12]
December 2, 2009


Jammu and Kashmir to Host 2 Central Universities

By rule, each state is only allowed to have one Central University, yet the federal government has decided to grant Jammu and Kashmir two Central Universities, based on the fact that it is composed of two separate regions, one in the Jammu region, the other in the Kashmir Valley.

Government news release [13]
September 25, 2009

Government Doubles Researchers’ Salaries

Worried about India’s low research output, the government has doubled the salaries and annual contingency grants of research professors in public universities, according to the country’s Press Information Bureau. [14] The government agency says inflation and the devaluation of the Indian rupee are behind the decision, but officials have long been concerned [15] about India’s declining research activity.

PIB [16]
October 29, 2009

Canadian University Launches ‘First Foreign MBA’ Program in India

Canada’s York University [17] in November officially launched the first M.B.A. program in India run by a university from outside India. The York program will involve a year of classes at the S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research [18], in Mumbai, and a year in Toronto at York’s Schulich School of Business [19]. York faculty members will teach a majority of courses in Mumbai and all classes in Toronto.

York news release [20]
November 10, 2009

27,000 Additional Institutions of Higher Education Needed

India requires a further 27,000 institutions of higher education to meet its targeted Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 30 percent for 2020, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said in November.

“This figure includes 14,000 colleges of general higher education, 12,775 additional technical and professional institutions and 269 additional universities,” Sibal said at a recent meeting of his ministry’s consultative committee.

Indo-Asian News Service [21]
November 7, 2009

International Engineering Association Denies India Membership

India’s bid for full membership in the Washington Accord [22], an elite international association focused on standardizing engineering education, was rejected in November because of concerns over the quality of faculty members and students in Indian engineering programs. The group, which includes accrediting agencies from the United States and 12 other countries, agreed to extend India’s provisional membership as it works toward alleviating these concerns.

Press Trust of India [23]
November 16, 2009

Foreign Universities Bill Faces Yet Another Delay

The prime minister’s office has referred a proposed law to allow foreign universities to establish in India to a panel of top government officials for possible revisions on fears that it still isn’t attractive enough to appeal to the world’s best universities.

The bill, which was originally scheduled for introduction to Parliament in 2007, has faced numerous delays. Kapil Sibal, India’s minister in charge of higher education, told The Chronicle of Higher Education [24] in October that he expected the bill to be passed before July. But the decision by the prime minister’s office may mean the legislation could undergo significant changes and be delayed again, the newspaper said. Typically, review panels take several months to complete their work.

The Telegraph [25]
November 25, 2009

UGC Issues List of Legal Private Universities

India’s university regulator issued a public notice warning in December of private universities having affiliated colleges and off-campus centers beyond the territorial jurisdiction of their state. The University Grants Commission [26] lists 52 private universities established by Acts of 13 States approved to award degrees through their main campus.

University Grants Commission [27]
December 7, 2009


Cross-border Tensions Enter the University Arena

The Indonesians and Malaysians have been squabbling over islands and maritime boundaries of late, and now a leading Indonesian university has talked openly of excluding Malaysian students from its campus as a protest against the use of a Balinese dance by the Discovery Channel as part of a tourism campaign by the Malaysian government.

Reportedly, Discovery has accepted it made a mistake in using the dance, but still Diponegoro University [28] in Semarang, Java, has threatened to exclude its Malaysian students from campus.

Outside of the university campus, nationalists have taken to the streets of the capital Jakarta to conduct ‘sweeps’ in which they stopped vehicles to demand of drivers and passengers whether they were Malaysian or not. Incendiary statements issued by the university have not helped, and neither has the Ministry of National Education [29], which has remained notably passive on the matter.

University World News [30]
October 25, 2009


University Leaders Fear Academic Brain Drain to Hong Kong

Taiwan’s university presidents fear that a trickle of academics to better paid positions in the region will turn into a mass exodus after Hong Kong’s tertiary institutions switch over to a four-year undergraduate structure next year. The head of the nation’s top research institute recommended in November that the salary structure for Taiwan university faculty be revised to prevent a brain drain of academic talent.

Speaking with reporters, Academia Sinicia [31] President Wong Chi-huey noted that with university faculty salaries in Hong Kong and Singapore being significantly higher than those in Taiwan and with mainland Chinese salaries quickly catching up, academics in Taiwan are concerned that more local talent might be drawn to these locations for employment.

Wu Se-hwa, president of Taipei-based National Chengchi University [32], told Taiwan Today that Hong Kong might need to recruit around 1,000 professors to satisfy increased demand. “Salaries in Hong Kong are three to four times higher than those in Taiwan,” he said. Wong said that he has recently been working with the presidents of major universities in the country to come up with ways to improve the salary situation and urged the government to take the issue seriously and address the problem appropriately.

Taiwan Today [33]
November 2, 2009
Taiwan Today [34]
November 11, 2009

More Foreign Students, English-taught Programs

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president, announced plans in November for a significant expansion of the island’s foreign student population and university courses taught in English, according to a recent report in the Taipei Times.

“Higher education in Taiwan should not keep its doors closed any more. We need to promote the idea of studying in Taiwan and attract great students to Taiwan,” the president said.

As part of the government’s effort to attract foreign students, it will add US$3.1 million to its budget for foreign scholarships next year. Thirty-nine of the 70 public and private universities in Taiwan offer a total of 9,350 English-taught courses, while foreign students make up 1.3 percent of all college students. The government hopes to double international enrollments within the next few years, according to Ma.

Taipei Times [35]
November 8, 2009

Students from China at Taiwan Universities as Early as June

Taiwan plans to recognize degrees from mainland China and enroll Chinese students at Taiwanese universities from as early as June of next year, Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji announced in December. In the initial stage of the opening-up initiative, credentials from the mainland’s top 41 universities will be accepted for public-sector employment among returning Taiwanese.

Under the enrollment proposals, mainland Chinese high school graduates can apply to universities in Taiwan on the basis of their “higher education exam” scores starting next year. Public universities will only be allowed to accept graduate students, while private institutions will be permitted to recruit both undergraduate and graduate students. A maximum of 2,000 mainland Chinese students will be allowed to enroll at colleges and universities in Taiwan next year. Of these, one half will attend four-year colleges, while the other half will attend technical schools. No more than two percent of students at any Taiwanese institution can be from China.

The Ministry estimates that approximately 2,000 mainland Chinese students, or 1 percent of Taiwan’s yearly admissions quota, will initially be admitted to Taiwanese universities under the new policy. Among them, the number of mainland students attending public graduate schools in Taiwan is expected to be fewer than 100, with the rest admitted to pursue undergraduate or graduate studies at private universities, the ministry predicted. Chinese students will pay tuition fees equivalent to those charged by local private universities, regardless of the type of institution they study at.

The plan, which must be approved by parliament, follows talks between Taipei and Beijing last year, when they signed deals to forge closer trade ties and agreed to promote educational exchanges.

Taiwan Today [36]
November 19, 2009
United Daily News [37]
December 8, 2009


France-Vietnam University to Open in Hanoi Next Year

French government officials in November signed an agreement with counterparts in Vietnam to collaboratively establish a new university specialising in science and technology near the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. The university, known as USTH, will focus on six strategic multidisciplinary research areas – biotechnology-pharmacology, aeronautics-space, energy, ICTs, materials-nanotechnologies and environment-water-oceanography.

The agreement was signed in Hanoi by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Training, Nguyen Thien Nanh, and France’s Minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse.

USTH, located at a high-tech park 18 miles from Hanoi, is set to open in stages with inaugural classes to take place next year. Officials expect enrollments to eventually cap out at 8,000. A consortium of more than 30 French higher education institutions is behind the French part of the project, and they are focusing on matters of governance and program structure, which will follow the Bologna degree structure of three, five and eight years.

The new university will recruit from graduates benefitting from a government initiative to train 20,000 doctoral students in the 10 years to 2019. Half of those doctorates will be earned abroad, and Pécresse promised places at French institutions of higher education for 2,000 Vietnamese doctoral students over the next ten years. There are currently 5,000 Vietnamese students in the French tertiary system.

University World News [38]
November 22, 2009

Prime Minister Accepts Partial Blame for Allowing Sub-standard Institutions to Set Up Shop

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has accepted partial responsibility for allowing the operation of a number of sub-standard universities recently, although he added that the Ministry of Education [39] and the rest of government were also to blame. Speaking in the National Assembly, Dung said he, the ministry and government were all responsible for the poor quality of “some” schools – but he also said the cases were the exceptions, not the rule.

“We shouldn’t deny the achievements we’ve made in higher education due to shortcomings found at a few schools,” Dung said. He added that poor state management had hampered performance at several universities, adding that he had made the point to university and college directors at a recent meeting with them.

The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with universities and colleges, is reportedly planning to tighten rules governing the establishment and oversight of new universities. However, the Ministry presented only general measures for an overhaul while failing to explain the specifics of how to revamp the system, which has been increasingly criticized by the public.

VietnamNet [40]
November 22, 2009
VietnamNet [41]
November 21, 2009