WENR, June 2010: Asia Pacific


Top research Universities Say Changes to Visa Regulations will Detract from their Ability to Attract Scholars

Complicated visa requirements are hindering the efforts of Australian universities to compete against leading universities around the world when it comes to attracting the best research talent, Australia’s Group of Eight [1] (Go8) research universities has warned.

The government has decided to end preferential visa treatment for outside scholars as part of its new visa regulations. Officials at Australia’s top research universities say the change will only exacerbate an already-existing shortage of professors.

The scheme – which the government is entrenching as the dominant route to permanent residency – requires employers to offer permanent employment and guarantee a minimum of three years in the position. However, the Go8 has said many research positions were grant funded and the term of funding was often less than three years.

The Australian [2]
June 2, 2010


Universities Compete for Best Students with Generous Scholarships

With China’s ultra-competitive college entrance examination a month away, some universities were already fighting in May for the best high school graduates with generous scholarship offers.

One university described as ‘third-level’ by the China Daily newspaper offered grants of 320,000 yuan (US$ 47,000) to attract elite students and many second- and third-tier universities have also boosted their scholarships in reaction to a sharp decline in the number of high school students applying for university places.

The number of university applicants in Beijing dropped from 100,000 last year to 80,000, the impact of China’s one-child policy. Beijing Hospitality Institute [3]‘s vice-director of admissions, said students who ace their tests in their home provinces and apply for a tourism management major at the institute will receive a 320,000-yuan scholarship. Qiao added that if students’ scores exceed the threshold for entry to key universities and they elect to attend Beijing Hospitality Institute instead, they will get a scholarship of 60,000 yuan.

China Daily [4]
May 6, 2010


New York University [5] is about to open a campus [6] in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and according to a recent interview with John Sexton, the president of NYU, the next venue for the ambitions of the “global campus” could well be China.

The NYU branch in Abu Dhabi, set to open in September, is being financed entirely by the oil-rich emirate, and despite the weak economy, Sexton plans to raise more than $3 billion to revamp the university’s New York campus to become the “anchor” of a “circulatory system on six continents.” Explaining, Sexton says that students will be able to choose a continent for their next semester as easily as they might a course.

The next step in transforming NYU into a global university will most likely be China, where Sexton would like to operate a campus in the Pudong district of Shanhai. Ultimately, he would like to see the school operating 16 study-abroad sites with at least two full-fledged campuses with degree-granting power.

Along with paying all costs associated with the university, Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates, will reimburse NYU for the cost of replacing NYU faculty who relocate to the Middle East. Abu Dhabi has also made a $50 million unrestricted gift to NYU. Sexton describes it as a “gesture” rather than part of the agreement. Sexton will open Abu Dhabi’s permanent campus in 2014 on an island featuring a golf course and prime beachfront land. Its neighbors will include branches of the Guggenheim and the Louvre museums.

NYU admitted 188 students out of 9,048 applicants for the first class from more than 35 countries. The university says it does not yet have median SAT scores calculated. By 2020, enrollment is projected to grow to 2,000, with admission standards as tough as they currently appear to be. A lot of that, however, will depend on the flow of money and scholarships to entice the best faculty and student brains to relocate to the desert in a very conservative part of the world.

Business Week [7]
May 27, 2010

100 University Officials Sent Overseas to Learn How to Create Elite Universities

Approximately 100 university officials are to be sent overseas on a 24-day training course to help them build first-class universities in China. The Ministry of Education [8] said officials selected from across the country would visit Japan, Britain, Australia, and the United States to “learn advanced management skills” that could help build “a batch of first-class universities by 2020,” the Beijing News reports.

According to the QS Asian University Rankings [9], released in May, there are no mainland Chinese universities among the top-ten on the continent. Peking University [10] and Tsinghua University [11], widely considered the best in China, were ranked 12 th and 16th.

The former president of Peking University, Xu Zhihong, said China would have to deal with the fact that it has no first-class universities yet, nor would it for quite a long time. Xu said at least two generations were needed to build a great university and the Ministry of Education was being overly anxious.

Shanghai Daily [12]
May 18, 2010

Reforming University Admissions, Slightly

Close to 10 million Chinese school leavers took the highly stressful college-entrance examination, or gaokao, in early June. Their performance on the test not only determines where and what they will study, but more importantly the trajectory of their adult lives.

A total of 9.57 million students took the two-day examination, and two-thirds of them will earn places at tertiary institutions, from elite research universities to small vocational colleges, depending on their performance. Those who perform well and earn entry to prestigious universities can expect a comfortable middle-class future as part of China’s booming modern economy, while those who perform poorly will most likely be faced with a much less economically comfortable future working as poorly paid teachers in rural China or perhaps more menially with their hands on farms or in factories.

Considering the immense importance of the gaokao examination, China’s education ministry [8] — and a number of provinces and universities — is trying to reduce the stakes, even if only modestly for now. In a recent 10-year education reform and development plan, ministry officials acknowledged the unfairness of “a single examination that defines a student’s destiny.”

While the gaokao will remain the primary means of entry to higher education, the ministry is encouraging universities to design their own “university-based assessment” to identify candidates with special talents. This effort is part of a broader government goal to develop a more autonomous system of higher education, rather than the current, somewhat rigid approach.

With many of the best schools located in wealthier towns on the east coast, provincial student quotas for each college and major exacerbates already inherent advantages for students resident in, say, Beijing or Shanghai, who automatically have a better chance of getting into a top-flight university than do out-of-towners with higher scores.

While this reality is not likely to change soon, under recent reforms some provinces now give bonus points to students who win competitions in mathematics or English. Such contests are widespread and often televised. Critics of those new scoring criteria, however, say they can intensify pressure on candidates and are widely perceived as even more elitist than the current system, thus intensifying China’s cram-school culture rather than curing it.

Additionally, a small number of universities are developing their own exams and interviews, offering conditional admissions to students. However, the fact remains that students from richer cities and provinces have access to far superior secondary schooling than that available in rural areas.

Another new entrance model allows some institutions, mainly the elite ones, to accept students based on recommendations by high-school principals. Peking University [10] started admitting up to 3 percent of its students on such recommendations, starting last fall. It’s a controversial policy, though, as some fear corruption could enter into the admissions process. Nor does it guarantee diversity, critics say, as principals would most likely recommend students who scored well on the exams anyway.

Real reform in university admissions still appears to be a long way off.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [13]
June 7, 2010

China Eager to Help Obama Meet His Goal of Sending 100,000 Students to Middle Kingdom

China and the United States in May entered an agreement to expand a student exchange program between the two nations.

“China would like to provide positive assistance to the US initiative to send 100,000 students to study in China over the next four years,” said State Councilor Liu Yandong, during a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the sidelines of bilateral strategic and economic dialogues.

The Chinese State Councilor said China will increase the number of government-funded scholarships for Chinese students who want to pursue doctorates in the US. It was an announcement supported by Clinton, who said the United States would be pleased to see an increase in the number of student exchanges between the two nations, adding that it could deepen mutual understanding and friendship among Chinese and American youth.

According to Liu, there are currently more than 300 million Chinese people attempting to learn English, and about 100,000 Chinese students studying in the US. That’s approximately five times the number of US students pursuing studies in China.

China daily [14]
May 25, 2010

Struggling to Find Jobs, University Graduates Turn to the Army for Work

A record 100,000 Chinese college graduates applied to join the People’s Liberation Army at the end of May, since this year’s military pre-recruitment campaign was launched in mid-April, according to the Ministry of Education [8]. This number represents a significant increase in the number of applicants with a bachelor degree or above over the same period last year, said a notice issued last Sunday on the ministry’s official website, without giving details.

China initiated large-scale military pre-recruitment drives for college and university graduates last year as part of the government’s plans to improve the standard of military recruits while also as a means of dealing with graduate unemployment, which has been rife in recent years.

Xinhua [15]
May 30, 2010

Hong Kong

Universities Proving Expensive for Mainland Students

The China Daily newspaper reports that school leavers in Beijing and their parents are showing only lukewarm interest in Hong Kong’s universities because of high tuition fees and living expenses, despite a range of scholarships on offer from the territory’s universities.

“We received 4,000 mainland student applications in 2009 but in the years before, we received more than 10,000 applications,” said Laura Lo, Director of Chinese Mainland Affairs at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University [16].

Increased tuition is a major reason behind the decrease in the number of mainland applicants. While Hong Kong University [17] enlarged its mainland enrollment plan from 270 to 300 for this year, it also increased tuition fees from HK$100,000 ($12,818) to HK$119,000. According to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University website, living expenses can cost HK$40,000 every year and the tuition is HK$80,000 per year.

China Daily [18]
May 25, 2010


Bill Seeks to Establish Independent Accreditation Agencies

Universities in India would be required to gain accreditation from independent agencies if a bill introduced into Parliament becomes law. The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions bill will seek to establish a national system for evaluating the quality of academic programs as well as institutions, according to a May article in the Times of India.

Currently, accreditation procedures carried out by the National Board of Accreditation [19], is required for technical programs only. Voluntary accreditation is also available from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council [20], but only a third of the country’s approximately 420 universities and one-fifth of more than 20,000 colleges have done so.

If passed, the legislation would make it mandatory for all existing colleges and universities (except medical) to apply for institutional and program accreditation within three years. Existing medical institutions would need to apply for accreditation within five years.

Times of India [21]
May 10, 2010

Enrollment Targets of 15% Achievable

Under India’s 11 th five-year plan, enrollment in higher education is to reach 15 percent of the target population by 2011, and the goal is still achievable according to officials with the University Grants Commission [22]. At the end of 10th Plan in 2006 it was 10.12 percent, reports The Times of India.

University Grants Commission chairman Sukhadeo Thorat said in May: “There could be an increase of 3 percent in the number of students opting for higher education since 2006. This is an estimate and we are yet to assess the actual rise.”

Even as he was buoyant about meeting the target, Thorat linked those targets to the need for increased allocations from state governments to match larger funds universities are getting from the federal government, owing to an increased allocation to higher education in the 11th Plan. “We are spending hugely, which should be matched by the state governments so that the goal is effectively achieved,” he said.

The Times of India [23]
May 18, 2010

Comparing the 2007 Foreign Education Providers Bill with the Current Incarnation

The United Kingdom’s International Unit [24] had an interesting comparison of the 2007 and 2009 drafts of the Foreign Education Providers Bill that would set regulations for the entry of foreign universities into India in the May issue of its International Focus [25] newsletter

Starting with the Bill’s title, which now omits the original phrase ‘and prevention of commercialization,’ and similarly, the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ at the end of the Bill omits references to ‘fraud and cheating of gullible students,’ ‘crash [sic] commercialisation’ and controlling ‘fly-by-night operators.’ Presumably this language was included at the behest of the Left, which then formed part of the coalition government. Whether they succeed in reinstating some of this language in the Bill as an opposition party remains to be seen.

Some definitions have changed. A ‘foreign educational institution’ (FEI) now has to have been operating for 20 years ‘in the country in which it has been established or incorporated.’ But the reference to proposing to offer programs in India ‘independently or in collaboration, partnership or in a twinning arrangement with any educational institution situated in India’ remains the same.

The new Bill makes no mention of ‘deemed universities’ in its definition of a ‘foreign education provider’ (FEP). In the old Bill a FEP was an institution deemed to be a university under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. Now, a FEP is ‘a foreign educational institution notified by the central government, as a foreign education provider, on the recommendation of the [University Grants] Commission as an institution competent to impart education in India and to award degree, diploma or any other equivalent qualification (other than in the distance mode) at undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral or post-doctoral level’. This, according to the International Unit, reflects Minister Sibal’s desire to retire the deemed university category in India.

The old Bill’s concern for the ‘cultural and linguistic sensitivities’ of the people on India has been dropped but concern over adversely affecting the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India’ was retained. A completely new section provides requirements for publicizing the details, on websites and in the press, of courses and programs, teaching faculty, pay for lecturers, the number of spaces available, and fees and other charges.

Finally, a key clause has been broadened. The original Bill allowed for exemptions to be had if 51 percent of the capital investment required for establishing an institution in India was forthcoming. The new Bill allows the government to ‘exempt such institutions from operation of any of the foregoing provisions’ with different caveats: only sub-section (3) of section 5 (on reinvesting surpluses back into the operation) and section 8 (on penalties) cannot be exempted.

International Unit [24]
May 26, 2010

A Single Official Source of Information on Indian Tertiary Institutions in the Works

According to a recent article in the Hindustan Times, a new web portal is being constructed to list official information on all of India’s institutions of higher education. The site will carry information on institutions’ programs, infrastructure and resources with links to their websites, and it will act as a portal for all students, Indian and foreign, interested in studying in institutions that are recognized by the relevant authorities and government bodies.

The portal will also be linked to the higher education website of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, which contains similar information about educational institutions in 30 countries. The initiative is being undertaken by EdCIL (India) Limited [26] under the guidance of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development [27], and is being touted as an e-solution to increasing concerns about quality assurance, accreditation and recognition of qualifications.

Hindustan Times [28]
May 25, 2010


Eight Institutions Awarded Right to Accredit Their Own Programs

Self-accreditation status has been given to eight higher education institutions for the first time in Malaysia, according to a recent report in The Star newspaper. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the institutions could now accredit their own programs without going through the Malaysian Qualifications Agency [29] (MQA).

The eight are the four research universities – Universiti Malaya [30], Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia [31], Universiti Putra Malaysia [32] and Universiti Sains Malaysia [33] – and four foreign branch campuses in Malaysia: Monash University Sunway Campus [34], the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus [35], Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus [36] and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus [37].

“However, the self-accreditation status does not include professional programs which still need accreditation and recognition from the relevant professional bodies,” the minister said after presenting the self-accreditation certificates to the representatives of the institutions at the ministry in May. He said the MQA would carry out a maintenance audit once every five years to ensure the institutions maintained their internal quality assurance standards.

The Star [38]
May 18, 2010

Foreign Students No Longer Eligible for Government-Sponsored Places

From July, foreign students wishing to study in Malaysia will no longer be eligible for government subsidies, according to a recent announcement. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said recently that the subsidy for local students will still remain in place, but for foreign students tuition fees will fall into line with those charged by private institutions of higher education.

According to the minister, the original subsidies were put in place to attract international students – but are no longer necessary. “[T]hese universities have now grown in strength and are able to attract international students on their own without the subsidy. These students need to pay the fees in full,” he said.

The new tuition policy was announced at a speech made by the minister in May at Inti University College [39], after its upgrade to a university-level institution. After the upgrade, the institution was renamed Inti International University.

Bernama [40]
May 31, 2010

45 Private Colleges Lose Licenses

Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education [41] has rescinded the registration approvals of 45 private colleges for flouting the Private Higher Education Institution Act last year, according to education officials quoted by The Star newspaper. An additional 38 avoided being deregistered, but other forms of action were taken against them for infringing the Act, said Deputy Minister Dr Hou Kok Chung. A further 96 institutions are reportedly being monitored.

According to Hou, the inspection process, which started last year, was to safeguard the interest of students and maintain a high standard for all programs being offered at the nation’s private institutions of higher education. Among the infringements committed were conducting courses without approval or with expired approval, changing premises without prior approval and operating in unregistered premises.

The Star [42]
June 5, 2010

New Zealand

Caps on Domestic University Enrollments, not so for International Students

The New Zealand government announced last year stiffer entry requirements for domestic school leavers wishing to enter tertiary education, in a bid to cap enrollments at the nation’s financially strapped institutions of higher education. More recently, however, the government announced it hopes to attract more students from abroad, causing a fair degree of consternation among students and other stakeholders.

With approximately 100,000 foreign students currently attending New Zealand institutions (accounting for 12 percent of its university revenues – compared to neighboring Australia’s 20 percent), the government is hoping that increased revenues from abroad will help cut revenue shortfalls.

The Dominion Post [43]
May 31, 2010


Higher Education Funding Agency Takes Huge Budget Cut Putting Overseas Scholarships at Risk

Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission [44] is looking for alternative income sources after its operating budget from the state was cut 20 percent to Rs15.8 billion (US$0.2 billion) for 2010-2011, reports The News.

The commission had requested a 30 percent increase in the budget, but was turned down, and instead had its funding cut. This has left the commission with no option but to find ways of generating income and to reconsider various big projects, Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi told The News.

“What we need to do is to stand on our feet and look into the possible ways of income generation and fundraising. The best available option in front of us is to rationalize the fee structure in universities while protecting the students who are unable to pay big fees,” he said.

Among other projects, the HEC is responsible for funding a huge scholarship program that has sent Pakistani students overseas for higher education training. The commission is currently spending approximately Rs10 billion for the various scholarships programs. According to Naqvi, the HEC will not cut scholarships for those currently overseas, but will instead cut the budget for infrastructure development and future scholarship schemes.

The News [45]
June 3, 2010

Sri Lanka

Looking for Overseas Partners

The Sri Lankan government is considering a plan to open the country to foreign universities. S.B. Dissanayake, the minister for higher education, said large sums of money were being drained from the country each year as students left for universities overseas. In a bid to reverse this brain drain, the minister said his government is looking at plans to open negotiations with institutions abroad, with a view to their opening Sri Lankan campuses.

The Colombo Page website reported that the minister expressed confidence that the move would win widespread support. However, student unions in Sri Lanka affiliated with the Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna have been fiercely opposed to private higher education, it added.

Colombo Page [46]
May 10, 2010


More and More Doctorates, but No Jobs

In the 10 years between 1999 and 2009 the number of doctorates awarded by universities in Taiwan rose from 13,000 to 33,000, according to data from the Ministry of Education [47]. However, due to shrinking enrollments the number of faculty positions at institutions of higher has not kept pace, meaning man y doctorate holders are having trouble finding work in academia.

Media reports cited Yang Yu-hui, deputy director of the Ministry of Education’s Department of Higher Learning, as saying it is a little difficult for the ministry to set a limit on the number of PhD students universities can enroll each year.

AsiaOne [48]
May 19, 2010


Doctoral Programs Suspended at 35 Universities

Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training [49] recently suspended what is has described as sub-standard doctoral programs at 35 universities and institutes. In order for the suspension to be lifted, those institutions must improve standards set by the ministry before a 2012 deadline, reports Saigon Giai Phong, a state-run media outlet.

Under a recent decision by the ministry, the 35 institutions – several of them well-known – must suspend PhD training in 101 fields, reform the programs and report their actions to the ministry by May 15, 2012 if they want to continue doctoral training.

Saigon Giai Phong [50]
May 31, 2010