WENR, June 2014: Asia Pacific


Japan and Australia Sign Trade Agreement, Including Provisions to Boost University Ties

The signing of a free trade agreement between Australia and Japan in April has boosted prospects for greater collaboration between the two nations’ universities, with Australia seeking to accelerate university, research and business ties with Japan.

Speaking in Tokyo following the signing of the free trade agreement, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson, said that Australian universities had had a long and close relationship with their Japanese counterparts but that a new strategy was needed to broaden and deepen higher education links between the two countries.

She noted that Australia’s new US$92 million ‘Colombo Plan’ [1] includes Japan as one of four nations involved in a trial of the scheme this year. Under the new plan, 300 undergraduate Australians will have the chance to study for one or two semesters in the Asian region each year. During the pilot year, 40 scholarships will be awarded to students for study in Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.

Although the Japanese government has tripled funding to encourage more of its students to study abroad, fewer than 10,000 are enrolled in Australian education institutions, most in English language colleges.

University World News [2]
April 8, 2014


‘Once-in-a-generation’ University Reforms Announced

Australia’s Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced in May “once-in-a-generation” reforms to the country’s university funding system that will allow Australian universities to “compete with the best in the world.”

The reform package presented in the 2014 budget involves cutting Australia’s contribution to tuition costs by an average of 20 percent, and fully de-regulating student fees from January 2016 allowing Australian institutions of higher education increased flexibility in setting tuition fees from 2016 onwards. The government will also extend access to student funding for non-degree tertiary students, resulting in approximately 80,000 additional students in the system.

Hockey announced the changes in a budget speech in which he proclaimed, “we must build an education and training system that becomes the envy of the world… Australia should have at least one university in the top 20 in the world, and more in the top 100.”

By removing the limits set on tuition fees, Hockey says the government is giving its higher education institutions “greater autonomy” by allowing them to be “free to compete and improve the quality of the courses they offer.”

The PIE News [3]
May 19, 2014

International Enrollments Resume Strong Growth Trajectory

Australian institutions of education have experienced a very strong start to the year in terms of international enrollments, with 21 percent growth in new enrollments across all sectors, building on 19 percent growth overall in 2013. This is according to the latest AEI March statistics [4]. However, most of the growth is concentrated among institutions of education allowed Streamlined Visa Processing [5] (SVP) under new government immigration rules.

Universities, the only sector currently benefiting from SVP, have seen the largest increase in new and overall enrollments so far this year, up 53.4 percent and 42.6 percent respectively. Compared to March 2013, the higher education sector is up 6.8 percent overall and 16.6 percent in new enrollments.

Meanwhile, the English language sector, which also includes pathway providers that can use SVP privileges of their university partners, has seen growth of approximately 30 percent in both new and overall enrollments versus March 2013. Standalone English language providers and private vocational and technical colleges, not eligible for SVP status have not fared nearly as well.

Student source countries with double-digit growth across all sectors include Brazil, Vietnam, Nepal and Thailand.

The PIE News [6]
May 7, 2014


Nurturing Domestic Talent

Building on from the ‘Thousand Talents Program’ – that grew to include the ‘Thousand Young Talents Program’ and the ‘Thousand Foreign Talents Program’ – which aims to lure expatriate and international talent, the Chinese government recently launched a ‘Ten Thousand Talents Program.’

This program focuses on developing domestic talent and pledges to select and support 10,000 leading scholars in the next 10 years in the fields of science, engineering and the social sciences. The top 100 will be encouraged to work towards earning prestigious international academic prizes, such as Nobel, as it looks to raise its ambitions to the standard of an innovation leader.

The ‘Thousand Talents Program’ did not really meet its expectations. So far, high caliber expatriate talent has not returned to China in large numbers. Among the returnees, those possessing doctoral, masters and bachelor degrees have done so in a ratio of 1:8:1. The majority of returnees are those who have spent short periods overseas studying for a master’s degree. Statistics show that over 1.5 million Chinese scholars and students remain abroad.

Among those researchers that have chosen to stay abroad, or those that have come home, problems related to corruption and bureaucracy in the funding process have been pointed to as major stumbling blocks, with one particularly well-know returned scientist stating that China’s current research culture “wastes resources, corrupts the spirit, and stymies innovation.”

University World News [7]
March 28, 2014

Top University Introduces New Admissions System

Zhejiang University, considered one of the top universities in China, is bringing in a new freshman recruitment system this year, in which the national college entrance exam will no longer be the only assessment tool.

The ‘trinity system’ will combine candidates’ performance in high school evaluation tests, recruitment interviews by the university, and the national college entrance exam (gaokao). The national exam, which used to be the sole assessment for school-leavers for university admissions, will account for 60 percent of the student admission scores under the new system. High school grades will account for 10 percent and interview scores will make up the remaining 30 percent.

In addition to Zhejiang University, 34 other universities in Zhejiang province, as well as Shanghai Jiaotong University, will also recruit freshmen via the trinity system. The new system is being piloted for a potential national rollout in the coming years.

China Daily [8]
April 28, 2014

No Luck Attracting British and American Students

Only 1 percent of American and British students contemplating study abroad options want to go to China, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

A report produced by Education Intelligence, the British Council’s global higher education research service, says that among American students, China currently ranks 10th out of the most desirable study-abroad locations, down from 9th last year. In the UK, China ranks 11th out of most-desired locations, down from 9th in 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama has prioritized encouraging more American students to study in China, a message that his wife Michelle also stressed in a recent goodwill tour of the country. However, the number of Americans studying in China grew just 5 percent in 2013 versus the year prior, according to the 100 Thousand Strong Foundation [9], a nonprofit launched to support Mr. Obama’s move to boost the number of Americans studying in China.

Education Intelligence’s survey polled more than 10,000 students in both the U.S. and UK.  For Americans, the top destinations of choice are the U.K. (19%), France (10%) and Italy (8%). Among non-Western countries, Japan (5%) and Brazil (2%) top the list as coveted destinations. Meanwhile among British study-abroad students, the preferred destinations are the U.S. (33%), Australia (9%) and France (5%).

Most study-abroad students, the report said, pick their study-abroad destinations for cultural reasons, or (perhaps not surprisingly) because they want to travel to the country. Cost is also a factor: In the U.S., for example, many students reported they were interested in Brazil or China because the tuition fees were cheaper, or because they were able to get related scholarships.

The Wall Street Journal [10]
April 28, 2014

Tuition Fees Introduced for Graduate Studies

Free graduate studies come to an end at centrally funded universities in China from the 2014 academic year that starts in September, a move that is driving more graduating students to enter the job market instead of remaining in higher education. The trend is likely to intensify the graduate unemployment problem in the country this year, reports University World News.

Despite government announcements of new financing arrangements for some students, graduate applications have seen a sharp drop. The changes will mean that the proportion of the record 7.27 million university graduates looking for jobs will rise. The total number of graduate applicants this year is down by 40,000 compared to 2013, based on the number of students who took the national graduate school entrance examination in January. Beijing alone has seen 20,000 fewer applicants compared to 2013, according to official figures released earlier this year.

Beijing institutions are, however, seeing more applicants for their professionally oriented graduate programs – 38.3 percent of all graduate applicants, compared to 14.3 percent in 2010 – an indication that graduates are looking to enhance job prospects rather than undertake graduate degrees as a matter of course.

Tuition fees for a masters degree will be around CNY8,000 to CNY10,000 (US$1,300 to US$1,600). The total number of students in graduate education will be limited to 450,000 in a bid to maintain quality, after steep rises in numbers over the past decade led to complaints by employers about the declining quality of candidates.

University World News [11]
May 7, 2014

English Off the Gaokao From 2017, a Year Earlier than Initially Planned

Action to remove English language testing from China’s highly competitive university entrance exam, the gaokao, will come into force a year earlier than originally planned, according to officials.

From 2017, the English component of the high-stakes exam will be removed to allow for additional testing in mathematics and Chinese language. Announced last year, the reforms do not involve scrapping the English requirement from the entry process altogether. Instead, students will sit an external, “socialized” exam that can be taken multiple times throughout the year as part of the admissions process. Universities will be free to set their English language admissions requirements as they see fit.

Critics of the plan are concerned that the reform signals a de-prioritization of English teaching, and that without the focus of a high-stakes exam students will devote less time to their English studies.

The PIE News [12]
May 23, 2014


Scholarship Fund Announced for Attendance at the World’s Best 50 Universities

In an effort to increase the number of Indonesians with graduate qualifications, the government recently launched the Indonesia Presidential Scholarships to help fund overseas studies at the world’s top universities.

The international scholarships require Indonesian applicants to be accepted at a university abroad before they can apply. They are intended to cover the expense of studying at a list of 50 top-ranked universities in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Canada, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, Singapore, South Korea, Denmark, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The government said it is aiming for 100 grantees every year, in the fields of agriculture, medicine, food, energy, IT, telecommunication, technology, science, economy, finance, business, economics, law, religion, politics, and social and cultural sciences.

Grantees will be obliged to return to Indonesia after completing studies abroad, with sanctions imposed on those who do not return.

University World News [13]
April 18, 2014


International Enrollments Fall for Third Year in a Row

The number of international students studying at the higher education level in Japan has declined for the third year running, although numbers are up in language institutions, according to new data from the Japan Student Services Organization [14].

The annual survey showed that there were 135,519 international students enrolled at higher education institutions in Japan as of May 2013 (the Japanese academic year typically begins in February or March) – down by 1.6 percent versus 2012. Since 2010, enrollment has dropped a total of 4.5 percent.

The vast majority of international students at Japanese higher education and language institutions – almost 93 percent – were from Asia. China remained the primary source country by a significant margin, followed by Korea, although numbers did decrease compared to the previous year, by 5.1 percent and 8.1 percent respectively. However, there was a 43.8 percent increase in the number of students from Vietnam, to 6,290, and a 30.1 percent increase in Nepalese students, to 3,188.

The government has set a goal of doubling international student numbers to 300,000 by 2020. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology reiterated its commitment to this goal with its National University Reform Plan, which laid out plans to support universities with internationalization through “inviting educational-units from foreign universities, establishing joint graduate schools, actively employing foreign faculty, [and] increasing courses carried out in English.”

The PIE News [15]
April 29, 2014


Government Awards Five Institutions New Status as Research Universities

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, announced recently, the government has elevated five institutions to the status of research universities.

The newly minted research universities are: Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. According to the Education Ministry, each of the universities was allocated between RM50 million (US$15.4 million) and RM90.8 million between 2010 and 2012.

Dr Mohd Fakhri Zaki Jaafar, deputy director for the promotion and marketing division of UPM’s Putra Science Park, noted that one of the main attributes of research universities is taking in more graduate students. Research universities have set the intake target of 50:50 for graduates and undergraduates.

Bernama [16]
May 6, 2014


Education System Ready to Upgrade and Expand

The education system in Myanmar is attracting attention, as both the state and private sector look to invest in upgrading schools and universities. The re-opening of Yangon University to undergraduates last December is seen as a key development. Once considered a leading institution in the region and home to 60,000 students, the university saw its undergraduate teaching suspended in the late 1990s under the military dictatorship.

Today in Yangon, universities have low budgets and are spread across a wide area making management difficult and development sluggish. As Myanmar looks to rebuild its university system, cooperation with international institutions may be one way to secure the necessary funds and other resources. In October, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced it was funding a $13.5m initiative to improve engineering education at Yangon Technological University [17] and Mandalay Technological University [18], in association with seven Japanese universities. In February 2013, a group of 10 American universities, organized by the International Institute of Education, a New York-based non-profit, traveled to the country to explore partnerships.

Foreign investors are already moving into the primary and secondary school segments, looking to serve wealthy local families and the expatriate community. The British International School plans to open a $20,000-per-year institution in August, which will look to satisfy some of the demand fueled by local wealthy families and expatriates. UK-based Harrow International Management Services and Dulwich College International are partnering with Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings to enter the market.

The government also appears committed to spending money to upgrade and expand its education system. Under the military junta, education received little funding, on average accounting for 1.3 percent of the national budget. In the latest budget, for fiscal year 2012/13, education accounted for 11 percent of the government’s $7.13 billion in spending.

Meanwhile, Burma’s participation in a new credit transfer system that has been dubbed the ‘Asian Erasmus’ will ensure greater harmonization within the region. Other cross border initiatives include a US$6.5 million British Council [19] and UK DFID [20] (Department for International Development) plan to provide native English teacher trainers to 21 of Burma’s training colleges.

Oxford Business Group [21]
April 29, 2014

Sri Lanka

Looking to Attract 10 International Universities by 2020

Sri Lanka is opening up its higher education system, and plans to attract significant investment by allowing 10 private universities from abroad to operate locally by 2020, a government official said recently.

Sunil Jayantha Navaratne, Secretary of the Higher Education Ministry, said that his government also plans to attract 50,000 foreign students to study at the new universities alongside local youth.

In October 2013, the University of Central Lancashire received parliamentary approval to set up a branch campus in Sri Lanka. It reportedly has plans to enroll as many as 6,000 students at a purpose-built campus. A large number of other foreign universities have sought permission to establish branches there, including India’s Manipal University and Singapore’s Raffles University. Moves by the government to establish private universities have come under fire from student unions and lecturers at public universities.

Business Standard [22]
April 23, 2014


Too Many University Graduates

According to a government unemployment report released in April by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, the number of university graduates currently being produced in Vietnam every year is 10 times the demand for them.

According to the report, more than 1.2 million workers were ‘lacking jobs’ by the end of 2013, accounting for 2.63 percent of total workers. Of this number, 900,000 had been reported as ‘unemployed,’ which accounted for 1.9 percent of the labor force. The proportion of unemployed workers finishing junior colleges (three-year training) and universities (four- to five-year training) was relatively high at 20.75 percent.

Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, commented that the situation was predictable: the number of workers with higher education simply far exceeds demand. In a report he released in 2004, Thuyet estimated Vietnam would only need 13,000-15,000 new bachelors every year.

Under the national human resource development program, Vietnam set a target of 3.5 million of workers with higher education by 2015. However, the country already had 3.7 million workers with higher education by the end of 2013.

Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep said on Tuoi Tre that a large percentage of Vietnamese degree holders remain unemployed or have to take low-paying jobs because of the “oversupply of unqualified workers with higher education.”

VietNam Bridge [23]
April 18, 2014

Universities Offer Incentives to Hire PhDs and Avoid Program Closures

Universities in Vietnam are racing to recruit permanent lecturers with doctorates to avoid an enrollment ban by the Ministry of Education and Training, with many offering cash and other benefits – including the right to become the co-owners of the institutions – to prospective candidates.

In January, the education ministry suspended 71 higher education institutions from accepting new students into 207 university-level disciplines after inspections at 242 junior colleges and universities nationwide, where the education watchdog checked if they violated its regulations on the number of tenured lecturers.

The ban was a result of a campaign launched by the ministry this year to tighten control over academic affairs at the undergraduate level in line with a circular issued in February 2011 on university and junior college enrollment. Ministry regulations stipulate that a university can only admit students to a certain major if its tenured lecturers are able to cover at least 70 percent of the curriculum.

Tuoitre News [24]
April 28, 2014