WENR, July/August 2014: Asia Pacific


UNESCO Report Advises More R&D Output

A report by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS [1]) has found that global higher education enrollments increased from 32.6 million in 1970 to 182.2 million in 2011, with 46 percent of that growth occurring in East and Southeast Asia. Governments across the region have been put under pressure to respond and have done so mainly by constructing new universities, expanding graduate level programs, and increasing tuition fees.

The report, Higher Education in Asia: Expanding out, Expanding up [2], collates data on expansion strategies in 26 Asian countries as a guide for future policymakers in the region.

The boom in enrollments has placed huge financial strain on public university systems causing governments to pass the cost of higher education onto students through higher tuition fees and opening up to private providers. Today, nearly 40 percent of students on average are enrolled at private universities, which has created an imbalance in access to higher education among the rich and poor.

The report has found governments are investing in research and development as a means of enhancing economic development. South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China were found to be the countries committing the highest proportion of GDP to R&D expenditure. The report also found that many governments had a keen focus on improving their universities ranking performances, but warned that a focus on a few key institutions might lead to governments overlooking pockets of excellence in other institutions.

The PIE News [3]
May 29, 2014


International Students at the Advanced Diploma Level Extended Special Visa Processing Status

The Australian government has announced plans to extend Streamlined Visa Processing [4] (SVP) to students applying for advanced diploma-level programs at providers considered low-immigration risk. Invitations to participate will be sent to eligible providers in the second half of 2014.

Until now, SVP status has been reserved mainly for students applying to universities, so the announcement is seen as a boon for the vocational sector. The SVP status reduces red tape and wait times in processing student visas and has been cited as one of the reasons for the strong rebound in international enrollments at Australian universities over the last year and a half.

The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students shows there are currently 867 advanced diploma level programs registered across 290 providers, the vast majority within the vocational and technical system.

The Australian [5]
May 27, 2014

New English Language Tests to be Accepted for Work Visas

Until now the Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has only accepted IELTS [6] or the Occupational English Test [7] for visa applications, but according to a recent announcement  [8]it will begin accepting the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic [9]) and TOEFL [10] iBT scores for a number of work visas from November 2014, including sub-classes relating to Temporary Graduates and Work and Holiday visa holders.

‘Applicants who need to provide the Department with an English language test score as evidence of their English ability will be able to choose from two additional tests,” Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Senator Michaelia Cash confirmed.

“The department expects to also receive test scores from the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE [11]) test across visa programs from early 2015, further expanding the English language test market,” she added.

The PIE News [12]
June 2, 2014

Student Debt Policy Faces United Opposition

Australia’s federal government faces stiff and unified opposition from university vice-chancellors to its plan to increase the interest rate on all student debts and slash university funding, a recent survey shows.

The Fairfax Media poll of the nation’s 39 vice-chancellors – who are divided on the question of fee deregulation – found a unified stance against applying an interest rate of up to 6 percent to student debts and cutting the Commonwealth contribution to the cost of a degree by 20 percent. These measures have sparked criticism from university leaders who would otherwise have rallied behind the government’s plan to deregulate university fees.

Peak body Universities Australia is calling on the government to rethink both policies. Giving ground on these measures could help the government win broader support for its reform package, which faces a hostile Senate.

Sydney Morning Herald [13]
June 5, 2014


Government Formalizes Rules for Foreign Universities

The rule [14] – titled “Foreign university, its branches or study centres operating Rule 2014” and signed by Education Secretary Mohammad Sadik – was passed into law at the end of May. It allows foreign universities, or their local representatives, joint venture initiatives with any local university or investors to establish and operate branches or study centers in Bangladesh.

Foreign universities or representatives have to obtain temporary permission and a certificate from the country’s regulatory body, the University Grants Commission. For permission, a foreign branch campus must have 2,323 square meters of floor space in rented premises or its own building, or space that can accommodate every student. It will be required to have full-time teachers for every department, program or course, a library of at least 140 square meters, and required laboratories.

Branches will have to pay BDT1.2 million (US$15,453) as a fee for obtaining temporary permission. For a visiting campus and study center the fee is BDT 400,000 (US$5,151). Moreover, a branch of a foreign university has to deposit BDT50 million (US$643,892) in any bank in Bangladesh as security money, or BDT10 million for a study center.

Bangladesh has some 78 private universities with over 512,000 students, with the numbers rising dramatically in the last six years, indicating pent-up demand for higher education that cannot be absorbed by the country’s 34 public universities.

University World News [15]
June 12, 2014


Provinces Miss University Enrollment Targets as Birth Rate Drops

Universities in a number of provinces in China are failing to meet student recruitment targets, a survey has found. At least seven provinces and one region did not meet their recruitment goals in 2013, according to the College Enrollment Report released last in June by eol.cn.

The provinces are Henan, Shandong, Fujian, Anhui, Hebei, Guizhou and Qinghai, along with the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. They are the only areas that have disclosed such figures in the past year, China Daily reported. Universities in Shandong, for example, planned to recruit 529,900 students in 2013, but only 466,300 were enrolled. Only 536,000 students were admitted by universities in Henan last year, short of the target figure of 606,600. Shandong has failed to meet its recruitment targets since 2011, while Henan and Anhui have not done so for the past two years, the report said. Chen Zhiwen, China Daily’s editor-in-chief and one of the report’s authors, said the main cause was a drop in the birth rate.

“The number of newborns has been falling after peaking at 20 million in 1990 and dropped to 12 million around 2000. This is to say that the number of people aged, the age when most students in China start college will continue to drop before reaching the bottom in around 2018,” Chen said.

China Daily [16]
June 5, 2014

China Ranks Third as Study-Abroad Destination

According to data maintained by the Institute of International Education (IIE), China is now the third most-popular study destination in the world, surpassing other heavyweights such as France, Germany, and Australia in the last few years.

The IIE Project Atlas report notes that China hosted nearly 330,000 foreign students in 2012 [17], with only the UK and the U.S. home to larger international student populations at the tertiary level. The total enrollment of 328,330 international students represents 8 percent of the global market, behind 488,380 international enrollments at UK institutions of higher education and 819,644 in the United States.

The Chinese government recently set a target of enrolling 500,000 students by 2020, and the nation is seemingly on its way. University World News reports that China’s top universities – most of which deliver significant programs in English – are seeing increasing numbers of overseas students from non-Asian countries [18]. But there has also been “a substantial increase” in the number of international students enrolled in degree programs delivered in Chinese.

ICEF Monitor [19]
June 11, 2014

Half of Nation’s Universities to Become Polytechnics

In an effort to graduate more students with job-ready skills and reduce graduate unemployment, China has announced that it will turn at least half of its public universities into institutions of applied learning or polytechnics.

Lu Xin, a vice-minister in China’s Ministry of Education, announced the decision to turn 600 of the country’s general universities into polytechnics at a meeting of college and university leaders at the 2014 China Development Forum earlier this year. She said that in a “gradual transition” to the dual system, the new applied institutions would focus on training engineers, senior technicians and other highly skilled workers rather than pursuing over-academic, highly theoretical studies.

This year a record 7.26 million students will graduate from China’s universities, with unemployment levels running at around 15 percent. Some 80 percent of higher vocational school graduates last year found jobs, while only around two-thirds of college graduates found work within six months or a year after graduation, according to a report from the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing.

Although the list of universities to be converted has not been made public, likely candidates will be universities created during and after the 1990s, when hundreds of new local universities emerged as higher education enrollment skyrocketed, Qiang said. The government has said pilot programs will be launched this year, with 150 universities already signing up for the plan, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Separately, the government had already announced reforms to the national college entrance exams, the gaokao, with a new option from this year to take a vocational-technical exam rather than the well-known academic exam that determines university entry. Previously some 40,000 vocational institutions set their own entrance exams with lower academic requirements than the gaokao but with aptitude tests related to the programs offered.

University World News [20]
June 12, 2014


New Education Minister Prioritizes Regulatory Role of UGC

Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani is focused on transforming the University Grants Commission (UGC) into a legitimate higher education regulator that is in tune with the sector’s changing landscape, according to The Economic Times.

Restructuring and refocusing the UGC from a grant-disbursing organization into one that maintains standards and regulates the sector is among Irani’s top 100-day priorities. Officials said the growth in the sector of private players, and possible entry of foreign education institutions, meant that the UGC needed to expand its regulatory functions.

Ministry officials are already working on the necessary amendments to the UGC Act, the first step in the process before it can be vetted by the law ministry and sent for parliamentary approval. The amendments would broaden the UGC’s functions, which are currently mostly focused on disbursing grants and determining the universities and colleges that qualify for these grants. The UGC is also charged with regulation of fees, inspection of universities, and advising governments on matters related to establishing new universities and maintaining standards.

Former HRD minister Kapil Sibal had pushed for an overarching higher education regulator National Commission for Higher Education and Research, which would subsume all existing regulatory bodies such as University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education. There is no clarity whether the proposed Higher Education Commission would follow this model.

The Economic Times [21]
June 3, 2014


British Vocational Colleges Sign Deal to Help Establish World Class Colleges

Britain’s TVET UK [22] in association with Ravensbourne College [23] in London have been selected to provide specialist technical training for two new colleges in Kazakhstan that hope to achieve ‘world-class’ status, and which are set to open in 2015.

The agreement is the latest in a slew of foreign collaborations in the mineral-rich country, highlighting the opportunities available to international vocational providers in light of the government’s push to increase technical training.

“The country is coming from nowhere to be a real power and it certainly already is in the region,” Matthew Anderson, Executive Director of TVET UK told The PIE News.

The tender was awarded by Kasipkor holding company, set up in 2011 by the government to improve technical education to meet international standards. It has previously set up a synergistic relationship [24] with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Canada as well as Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Australia’s TAFE network and Pearson. TVET UK has been active in Kazakhstan for the past seven years, securing contracts for members totaling between £15-£20 million to date.

The PIE News [25]
June 6, 2014


International Enrollment Goals on Target

Malaysia received 12,850 applications from international students to study at private higher education institutions in the first quarter of 2014, according to recent data released by Education Malaysia Global Services [26] (EMGS).

The data show that 11,336 applications were approved, which translated into 31 percent of the target of 36,000 new international students for 2014. According to the Immigration Department, there were a total of 117,833 international students in Malaysia in December 2013, with 140 different nationalities represented.

Second Education Minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, said in a statement issued through EMGS: “Malaysia remains a favorable education destination for international students. The ministry, together with EMGS, continues to enhance efforts, both in marketing and operations, to attract more international students.”

EMGS was established in 2012 to market Malaysia as a study abroad destination and to manage student services including visa applications. Idris said that through EMGS data monitoring, Malaysia was able to track institutions that “habitually” offer places to unqualified candidates and take actions against such institutions. As a result, he said, the number of irregular applications had declined and only 3 percent of applications in 2013 were declined.

Hot House Media [27]
May 27, 2014

New Zealand

International Student Numbers Drop 1.8% in 2013

Overall international student numbers in New Zealand fell in 2013, however pockets of growth in key markets in the second part of the year have offered reason for optimism looking forward. A major decline in Korean enrollments is one factor behind the fall in enrollments, which has been the pattern since 2010.

In 2013, international enrollments were down 1.8 percent to 97,283 students compared with 99,094 in 2012. A decline of 1,450 Korean students contributed 80 percent to the overall decline, while the English language sector dropped by 2,705 students, according to a recent government snapshot report [28].

On a positive note, the report found an 11 percent increase in graduate numbers, continuing the sector’s annual average increase of 7 percent since 2009. Also the education export sector’s contribution to the national economy has given cause for optimism, increasing by 1.3 percent, despite the overall enrollment drop. This was due largely to a 4 percent increase in tuition revenue from higher fees at the graduate level.

Key source markets continued to grow despite the drop in Korean numbers, especially Japan, China, India and Thailand. And initial figures from 2014 visa approvals from January to March suggest that this year could yield positive results, especially in the English-language sector. For the first quarter, year-on-year visa approvals are up 22 percent representing the strongest Q1 results since 2010 when overall international numbers peaked at 104,460.

The PIE News [29]
June 12, 2014


Knowledge Park Attracts Interest From Foreign Universities

Established in the historic city of Lahore, Pakistan’s first ‘knowledge park’ has attracted a number of foreign universities wanting to set up campuses there, reports University World News.

Britain’s University of Lancaster, Noor International University of Bangladesh and Scotland’s University of Strathclyde signed agreements in May to locate branch campuses in the park. And in April, a high-level delegation from America’s Louisville University called on Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to discuss basing a campus in Lahore. The university’s school of public health and information sciences plans to partner with local foundations involved in medical, dental and nursing school programs to create a masters degree in public health.

In September 2013, the provincial government unveiled a master plan for a high-technology park that would also attract IT and engineering companies. The government plans to break ground for the park in July, and has reserved half of the 345 hectares of land for world-class foreign universities, including a proposed state-funded information technology university. The rest of the land will be for local universities and associated services such as student accommodation and faculty residences. The government hopes to attract at least 10 foreign universities.

When the park project was unveiled, the provincial government and the British Council signed a memorandum of understanding to work jointly to attract universities from the UK and other parts of the world. The British Council in Pakistan is working with eight universities from Britain, Turkey and Malaysia to set up campuses there, said Peter Upton, the council’s director in Pakistan.

University World News [30]
May 23, 2014