WENR, July-August 2017: Asia Pacific

India: Government Considers Merger of UGC and AICTE

India’s government is developing plans to integrate oversight of the country’s university and technical education sectors by merging the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and form a unified Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency. While detailed information on the proposal is not yet available, the move seems to be motivated by India’s need to increase its skilled labor force. India’s official goal to upskill 402 million people by 2020 is behind schedule, while 66 percent of technical graduates are unemployed, reportedly due to insufficient skills.  Against this backdrop, the integration of the university and technical education sectors is viewed as a means to revitalize skills training while reducing regulation overlaps and bureaucratic complexities burdening the current system.

The PIE News
July 26

The Philippines: First 12th Grade Cohort Starts School

The reform of the secondary education system in the Philippines from a 10-year to a 12-year system has entered its final stage with the first K-12 cohort entering school in June of this year. Until the reforms were initiated in 2013, the Philippines, along with Djibouti and Angola, was one of only three countries worldwide still using a 10-year pre-university track.  The introduction of the longer K-12 system has proven controversial in the Philippines, particularly among parents concerned about the additional costs of supporting their children through two additional years of school. This resistance is reflected in lower than expected grade 12 enrollments in some regions, but the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, elected in 2016, is proceeding with the reforms despite opposition and court challenges. The alignment of the secondary system in the Philippines with the 12-year systems found in in most countries of the world is expected is to increase outbound mobility, since it will increase Filipino students’ chances of admission to foreign universities.

ICEF Monitor
July 26

South Korea: Growing Dissatisfaction with Higher Education System Among Youth

The number of Korean secondary school students going on to university has reached its lowest point in two decades with less than 70 percent of high school graduates enrolling in higher education in 2016. Korean youths are losing trust in an education system that does no longer provide for social mobility as it used to, writes the Economist.  The rapid growth of an expensive private tutoring industry has priced less affluent students out of a highly competitive education system, while youth unemployment stood at 12 percent in 2017. The fact that employment prospects in the country are heavily skewed towards graduates from top universities in Seoul has recently spurred political initiatives to mandate “blind hiring” processes based on standardized exam scores rather than academic record in state-owned companies.

 The Economist
July 22

India: Academic Fraud on the Rise in Bangalore

According to Indian authorities, the city of Bangalore, India’s main IT and education hub, has become home to a growing counterfeiting industry selling fake degrees.  In June 2017, an individual was accused of the sale of 2,000 fake degrees following earlier charges against a distance education institution in 2016 said to have traded forged degree certificates for 56 study courses, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The recent arrests are reportedly just the tip of the iceberg – the Indian police estimates that about 40,000 people in and around Bangalore have gained employment on the basis of fake credentials.

The Hindu
June 22

China: Internet Restrictions Threaten Quality of Research

University World News reports that attempts by the Chinese government to increase internet restrictions in China have heightened concerns among Chinese scholars about academic freedoms and the ability to access vital information. The Chinese government recently ordered a ban on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) for private individuals, a change that will make it more difficult for researchers and students to circumvent censorship and access foreign media sites blocked by the government. The ban, which is scheduled to go into effect in February 2018, will not only limit access to online databases and research, but could also hamper outbound student mobility, as it may impede students’ ability to access foreign university sites. While some universities use private servers not affected by the recent restrictions, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have urged the government to loosen internet restrictions to ensure that Chinese scholars can conduct world class research.

University World News
July 17

Malaysia: China’s Xiamen University Opens International Branch Campus

Xiamen University has established China’s first large-scale branch campus in Malaysia and is now competing with other transnational education providers from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia already in the country. Xiamen University Malaysia currently has a student body of 1,900 and offers curricula taught in English. The branch campus is said to be part of China’s “going global” strategy, seeking to increase influence abroad in both economic and cultural spheres. The Chinese government reportedly views the expanding transnational ventures of Chinese universities as a means to compete in international higher education and enhance Chinese soft power.

The Guardian
July 7