WENR, February 2012: Asia Pacific


Asian Investment in Science & Technology Continues to Outpace Rest of World

The United States remains the global leader in supporting science and technology (S&T), but only by a small margin versus the 10 biggest spenders in Asia, according to indicators recently released [1] in a new report by the National Science Foundation [2] (NSF) on the overall status of the science, engineering and technology workforce, education efforts and economic activity in the United States and abroad.

“This information clearly shows we must re-examine long-held assumptions about the global dominance of the American science and technology enterprise,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh of the findings in the Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 released in January.

According to the report, the biggest gains in S&T occurred in the so-called “Asia-10” – China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand – as those countries integrate S&T into economic growth. Between 1999 and 2009, for example, the U.S. share of global R&D dropped from 38 to 31 percent, while Asia’s share grew from 24 to 35 percent. And in China alone, R&D growth increased a massive 28 percent between 2008 and 2009, moving it past Japan and into second place behind the United States.

NSF News Release [1]
January 17, 2012


Monash U Partners With British University in a Bid for Top 50 Ranking

Britain’s University of Warwick [3] and Australia’s Monash University [4] have formed a partnership that they hope will help propel them “into the first 50 institutions” in the world.

The link is designed to promote internationalized education on both campuses while increasing their appeal to overseas students – particularly those from Asia, where Monash has established branch campuses. In addition, the partnership seeks to increase the universities’ research capabilities and impact in “world-relevant and strategically important” areas.

The collaboration begins with £2 million (US$3.2 million) in seed funding for 10 joint senior academic posts, plus new dual masters and joint doctoral degrees in areas of “strategic importance.” Leaders from the two universities have also pointed to potential for online ventures and research tie-ins with international bodies as their universities help develop the global “university systems” that they believe will be needed to respond to future demands in education and research.

Monash, based in Melbourne, has full branch campuses in Johannesburg [5] and Kuala Lumpur [6], plus a graduate research center in Mumbai [7] established in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology at Bombay [8]. It also plans to set up a graduate campus in China. Warwick has a center in Venice [9].

Inside Higher Ed [10]
February 2, 2012

Jobs Outlook Looks Better for Australia’s Foreign Student Population

International students graduating from Australian universities can expect improved job opportunities in their fields of study, according to a new report [11] that says demand by employers for international graduates last year increased close to levels not seen since the effects of the global financial crisis began to be felt in 2008.

The report by Graduate Careers Australia [12] (GCA) was based on a survey of more than 500 graduate employers and reveals that the proportion of those who recruited international graduates almost doubled between 2005 and 2008 to a peak of 35 percent. This corresponded with changes to the Australian government’s general skilled migration program that made it easier for foreign students to remain in the country and find work. However, once the impacts of the financial crisis set in, the percentage of employers recruiting international graduates plummet by nearly 15 percent in 2009 and were then flat in 2010. Last year, though, the proportion of employers recruiting foreign graduates increased by almost 12 percent, just 4.5 percent below the 2008 level.

Graduate Careers [12]
February 3, 2012

China Enrollments Shrink

Australia’s freshman enrollment numbers from China, Australia’s biggest market, were down for a second year in 2011 by about 15 percent. Meanwhile, the number of offshore student visa applications lodged by Chinese passport holders between July 1 and December 31 was 12,425, representing a reduction of approximately 11 percent versus the same period in 2010 (13,969), and suggesting continued declines over the short term.

Education agents in Beijing said that the effects of the Knight student-visa changes were positive but were only starting to flow through the system now. In the past two years, Australia has dropped to the fourth-most-preferred destination, after the U.S., Britain and Canada.

“It is likely that the impact of these (Knight) changes will not be felt by Australian universities until semester two, 2012, or semester one, 2013, and it is likely to be one to two years before the full impact is felt,” according to an embassy spokesman.

The Australian [13]
February 8, 2012

Universities Question New Visa Regulations

Australian universities have expressed their concerns about new regulatory burdens they may face as part of a reform of the country’s immigration system. Under the new regulations, international students attending universities would benefit from a streamlined visa process, but universities would also have to work more closely with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

If universities opt into the new arrangement, they would have to provide the department with information about the number of foreign students being sought and how the institutions oversee recruiting agents. In addition, they would have to show a plan to ensure that students met English-language requirements and had enough money for their stay in Australia. Universities had until the end of February to decide if they want to be part of the streamlined visa system.

The Australian [14]
February 8, 2012

Saudi Enrollments Decline After Australia’s Removal from Scholarship Program

Saudi Arabia’s government scholarship scheme has helped bring in a total of more than 10,000 students to Australian colleges and universities in recent years, making the Kingdom a top ten market for both the higher-education and English-language sectors.

But Australian universities were removed from the program’s preferred destination list in early 2010, amid perceptions that Saudi students had reached saturation point in Australia. Saudi freshman enrollments have dropped since then. The predicted reinstatement of Australia as a preferred destination, which industry insiders anticipated for the middle of last year, is yet to happen.

However, the decline hasn’t been too precipitous yet. And there are also signs that vocational enrollments from Saudi Arabia, which wasn’t among Australia’s top 25 VET markets last year, could soon experience a boost. The Saudi Technical and Vocational Training Corporation [15] visited the country in recent weeks looking for international partners to help teach technical skills to Saudi nationals either by setting up new colleges or working with Saudi providers.

Despite the changes to the King Abdullah Scholarship program, Saudi higher education enrollments remained reasonably strong in Australia last year. The 2,500 new enrollments were only 13 percent down on the 2010 peak of 2,850, suggesting word of mouth from friends and relatives who have studied in Australia is encouraging new applications. However, Saudi starts in English language programs have fallen 37 percent from their 2009 peak of 4,900, which is a bad sign as English language programs are often feeders for university programs.

The Australian [16]
February 15, 2012


Private Universities Provide Opportunities

The thriving town of Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor region, which brings tourists by their millions to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. A decade ago, the town had no universities, but today with the explosion of tourism it is now Cambodia’s second largest hub for higher education.

The immigrant population working in the tourist industry are taking their wages and investing it in education in one of five private universities that has opened in the last 10 years. Employers say that English proficiency is rising and that workers who attend universities stand out for their ability to express themselves and make decisions, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

The five universities in Siem Reap currently enroll more than 10,000 students and most take classes at night in sync with the rhythms of the tourist industry. University administrators say 80 to 90 percent of the students hold full-time jobs.

The New York Times [17]
January 24, 2012


Assessment of International Branch Campuses to Take Place

China will take a look at the quality standards of international branch campuses and foreign higher education provision this year with a comprehensive evaluation of Sino-foreign joint university programs, as it prepares to outline clearer guidelines for foreign universities on the kind of partnerships China is willing to support. The Ministry of Education [18] currently estimates that there are 1,200 Sino-foreign education programs operating in China.

There were a number of high-profile tie-ups last year, including New York University [19]’s campus in Shanghai [20] in partnership with East China Normal University [21], and Lancaster University [22]’s collaboration [23] with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies [24] to set up a new campus in Guangzhou called Guangwai-Lancaster University. Nonetheless, the ministry said that more than 70 percent of applications for joint Sino-foreign university programs presented by China’s provinces and cities during 2011 were rejected.

The low quality of proposed foreign education and “unreasonable” agreements between the two sides were the main reasons for rejection, the ministry said in December. Most tie-ups are negotiated with municipal governments, and there is a tendency for a foreign university to celebrate once a deal is inked with the municipal authorities. However, the Ministry of Education in Beijing has to sign off on the deals too.

Sources interviewed by University World News suggested that the wider evaluation ordered by Beijing is aimed at bringing joint programs into line with China’s national needs and in fields were there is not already high graduate unemployment rates. There is also concern that foreign programs not compete with local provision and that it not be clustered in select geographic regions and cities such as Shanghai.

University World News [25]
January 22, 2012

International Research Grant Awards a Sign of China’s Improving Research Environment

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute [26] named 28 young non-U.S. scientists [27] as recipients of generous biomedical research awards in January, with one-quarter of the grants going to Chinese researchers, more than from any other country.

The prizes are the first presentation of the Institute’s International Early Career Scientist [28] awards, and they each total $650,000 over five years. Seven of the scientists are in China, and all studied in the United States, per the requirements of the awards. The New York Times suggests that the awards can be seen as a sign that the country’s recent and substantial investments in research are paying off. With its investments, the Chinese government hopes to build a world-class research establishment, while keeping its best scientists in the country and luring back those who are abroad.

Four of the seven Chinese winners work at China’s new National Institute of Biological Sciences [29], which is led by an American-educated scientist, Wang Xiaodong. The remaining three work at Beijing’s Tsinghua University [30], the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics [31] in Hubei Province, and Nankai University [32] in Tianjin.

The New York Times [33]
January 24, 2012

Another Record Year for Study Abroad

According to statistics recently released by the Chinese Ministry of Education, approximately 339,700 Chinese students left to pursue degrees at overseas campuses in 2011, an increase of 55,000 versus 2010.

A report released in late December, Investigation Report on Trends of Studying Abroad in 2011, by China Education Online – an online education hub administered by the Ministry of Education – found that outbound Chinese student mobility has increased by more than 24 percent over the last three years, from 179,800 in 2008 to 229,300 and 284,700 in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The final tally was not official for 2011 at the time of publication, but was expected to exceed 350,000 (so a little on the high side).

The ministry statistics show that 12,800 overseas students were sponsored by the national government, 12,100 were sponsored by their workplace, and 314,800 were self-funding. In addition, it was found that the average age of Chinese students going abroad has decreased, with the number of TOEFL test-takers under the age of 18 doubling in 2011. The most popular countries for Chinese students are the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore.

Overseas students returning to China increased proportionally at a greater rate in comparison to 2010 figures. Figures for returnees in 2011 increased by 38.08% (51,300) versus 2010, with 186,200 students returning. According to the ministry, since 1978 and the opening of Chinese borders to overseas study, 2,245,210 Chinese students have received an international university education at the undergraduate level or higher. The ministry estimates that there are currently 1,108,800 students pursuing degrees overseas.

People’s Daily [34]
December 19, 2011
Ministry of Education [35]
February 13, 2012


Delhi University to Introduce Four-Year Undergraduate Degree

Delhi University [36] announced in early January that it will extend its three-year undergraduate programs to four years from 2013 in an effort to offer a broader base of studies to incoming students, according to Vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh.

Not unlike the U.S. system, students in their first year of studies would be able to choose from a broader range of subjects before specializing. The idea has been welcomed by many academics, but faces challenges with regards to realigning the existing curriculum and finding qualified extra teachers.

Under the new system, a student leaving after two years of study will receive a diploma if the required number of credits has been completed. A general bachelor degree will be awarded after three years of study and an honors degree after specialization during the fourth year.

Other institutions in India that already offer four-year undergraduate programs include the Indian Institutes of Technology (bachelor of technology), while the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore [37], introduced a four-year bachelor-of-science program last year.

The Times of India [38]

‘Innovation Universities’ Plan to Be Moderated

India’s plan to establish 14 so-called innovation universities, which would serve as model institutions, has been scaled back by the Ministry of Education.

The effort had attracted the interest of American universities [39], including Yale [40], as some of the new universities were to be built with assistance from foreign partners. The ministry sent a note to the Indian Cabinet saying the number of proposed institutions will be reduced without specifying exactly how many. A ministry source told India Express that only a couple will be started because it isn’t feasible to start so many new universities. The legislation authorizing the new universities, the Universities of Innovation bill, is slated to be presented to the Cabinet soon, after which it has to be passed by Parliament.

India Express [41]
February 6, 2011


Increasing Number of Universities Consider Change in Academic Calendar

More than 40 percent of Japan’s national universities are giving consideration to following the University of Tokyo [42]’s lead by switching the start of their academic year for undergraduates from spring to autumn, a Kyodo News survey showed in January.

Major private institutions such as Waseda University [43], Keio University [44] and Ritsumeikan University [45] are also considering the move, which a University of Tokyo panel recently advocated to conform to international norms. The survey received response from the presidents of all 81 national universities except the University of Tokyo and graduate schools unaffiliated with universities, as well as 12 major private universities in Tokyo and the Kansai area in western Japan. According to the survey, 35 of the 81 national universities said they are ready to consider making the switch, citing potential for increased international mobility as a major reason.

The University of Tokyo has called on nine other national universities to join it in moving the start of the academic year and said it will set up a body in April to facilitate coordination with other universities. Of those 11 universities, only Kyoto did not express a willingness to participate, making it highly likely that coordination will start in April.

Mainichi Daily [46]
January 26, 2012


British University to Develop Campus

The University of Reading [47] announced in December that it will be establishing a campus in Malaysia in partnership with [email protected] Sendirian Berhad, the company behind EduCity Iskandar Malaysia.

According to current plans, the University of Reading Malaysia [48] will open in September 2014 with an initial intake of 500 students and a long-term goal of approximately 2,000 students. Undergraduate and graduate degrees will be offered across multiple disciplines including real estate, construction, finance, law, chemistry and pharmacy.

EduCity Iskandar Malaysia is being developed as a Southeast Asian hub for international education. The University of Reading will join other branches of overseas institutions of education, including Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia [49], Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology [50], Raffles University Iskandar [51], University of Southampton Malaysia Campus [52] and Marlborough College Malaysia [53].

Reading news release [54]
December 12, 2011

Five Universities Awarded Increased Autonomy by a Government looking for Excellence

Five universities in Malaysia have been given the autonomy to become innovative and competitive institutions, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin in January. The institutions are to be given greater autonomy over governance, finance, human resources, academic management and student intake, reports the official news agency Bernama.

The five institutions are Universiti Malaya [55], Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia [56], Universiti Sains Malaysia, [57] Universiti Putra Malaysia [58] and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

Bernama [59]
January 26, 2012

South Korea

Korean Universities Cut Tuition Rates

Roughly a third of Korean universities have announced that they will lower their tuition fees by almost 5 percent on average for the 2012 school year in a bid to meet the government’s request to reduce tuition costs in line with state tuition subsidies for students, after years of protests about the cost of higher education. The government has been urging the cuts, in a year in which student aid is being increased, to make higher education more affordable for Korean families. The 5 percent average cut is well below the double-digit reduction demanded by the government.

The government announced it will offer 1.75 trillion won ($1.54 billion) in tuition subsidies to college students to ease their college tuition burden. The move is expected to lower nominal college tuition by 25 percent for the bottom 70 percent income bracket. The nation’s education ministry wants tuition lowered by 30 percent over the next two years.

The Korea Herald [60]
January 24, 2012


International Student Numbers Almost Double 2007 Level

The number of foreign students pursuing academic degrees in Taiwan has increased significantly in the past four years, with the number of foreign undergraduates almost doubling, according to statistics recently released by the Ministry of Education.

According to the ministry’s statistics, the number of foreign undergraduate students increased to 4,847 in the last academic year, from 2,454 in 2007, when figures for foreign students were last published. The number of foreign students pursuing master’s degrees also rose from 2,033 to 3,603 in the same period, while the number of doctoral degree candidates more than doubled to 1,497, from 743.

Increasing enrollments from overseas is a major educational policy goal for the current administration, which has set a target of attracting 130,000 students by 2020, from 48,000 in the last academic year. Currently, the most popular disciplines are banking and finance, business administration, information technology, and science and engineering.

China News Agency [61]
January 22, 2012


Universities to Push Back Start of Academic Year to Conform to Regional Norms

Students starting university in 2014 will likely begin classes August/September, instead of June, following an agreement in February among representatives of state and private universities.

Further discussions among stakeholders regarding the possible impacts are still ongoing, but top officials from the Office of the Higher Education Commission, Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT), Council of Rajamangala University Presidents of Thailand and the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions of Thailand yesterday agreed in principle to reopen at the same time as universities in Asean nations and many other countries from 2014 in preparation for the launch of the Asean Economic Community the following year.

Universities that offer international programs will be asked to adjust their reopening dates from 2013, said CUPT president Prof Somkit Lertpaithoon.

The Nation [62]
February 7, 2012


Student Code of Conduct Delves into Minutia and Restricts Freedom of Expression

Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Higher and Secondary Education [63] issued a highly detailed code of conduct for university students in January, covering such details as how to walk past and shake hands with professors and when to take bathroom breaks during classes.

According to an article by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the code, “Ethical Rules for Higher Education Institutions,” is an attempt by the authoritarian Uzbek government to control its youth population.

The rules, which must be signed by every student and professor, also restrict freedom of expression, with bans on religious clothing and on uploading material to the Internet that is “not in line with national values or related to the internal problems of higher-educational institutions.”

“These rules are being introduced to form and retain, as well as defend, the ethical integrity of members of higher educational institutions,” the document says. It promises to “prevent the decay of students…and defend them from alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as the threats of religious extremism and mass culture.”

RFE/RL [64]
January 20, 2012