The ascent of Asia? The rise of higher education in Asia


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This briefing session explores the rise of higher education in Asia considering both the demand for, and supply of higher education in the region.

On the demand side, it reviews the role of population demographics and economic growth, as well as cultural factors, in fuelling the demand for university places from Asian students over the last 20 years.

On the supply side, it examines the roles of both the public and private sectors in adjusting to meet this growing demand. China provides a case study of unprecedented investment by government in public higher education, which has resulted in participation rates trebling since 2000. In other countries, particularly India, the private sector has supplemented the expansion of public universities.

These supply-side developments, coupled with explicit public policy initiatives to either retain the best students at home and/or attract incoming foreign students for financial or geo-political reasons, are rapidly transforming international student mobility flows. The number of Asian students studying in the West is now subject to a “tug of war” between continuing demand growth on the one hand and increasing supply-side capacity across the region on the other.

Finally, the briefing session considers the impact on quality of the investment in Asian higher education, asking whether the increased quantity of universities is associated with increased or reduced educational quality.

Asia-Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) 5th Annual Conference, Griffith University, Brisbane, April 2010

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The ascent of Asia? The rise of higher education in Asia

  1. 1. Association for International Education 2010 The Ascent of Asia? Professor Nigel Healey Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Canterbury Gold Coast 2010
  2. 2. Overview  Demand for higher education in Asia  Supply of higher education in  From (potential) net importers to net exporters  The X factor: quantity vs quality  Conclusions 20th Annual EAIE Conference 2 Gold Coast 2010
  3. 3. Drivers of demand for higher education  Per capita GDP  affordability: higher education is a ‘superior good’, so per capita GDP growth leads to proportionately higher rate of growth of demand for higher  necessity: economic development requires knowledge workers with higher level skills, globalisation requires English  Income distribution  size of the ‘middle class’ who can support their children through higher education  Population demographics  proportion of the population of university age (typically 18-25 years) 20th Annual EAIE Conference 3 Gold Coast 2010
  4. 4. Asia is getting 20th Annual EAIE Conference 4 Gold Coast 2010
  5. 5. …so more Asian families can afford higher education Number of households with annual income > US$25,000 (nominal) 25,000,000 20,000,000 India 15,000,000 Nigeria 10,000,000 5,000,000 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Source: Economist Intelligence Unit Gold Coast 2010
  6. 6. ...and Asia has a huge population... 20th Annual EAIE Conference 6 Gold Coast 2010
  7. 7. ...which is very young (Vietnam) 08:30-10:00 20th Annual EAIE Conference 7 Gold Coast 2010 Friday, September 12
  8. 8. …India… 20th Annual EAIE Conference 8 Gold Coast 2010
  9. 9. …and 08:30-10:00 20th Annual EAIE Conference 9 Gold Coast 2010 Friday, September 12
  10. 10. Interim summary  Asia-Pacific accounts for 65% of world’s population, 35% of world GDP, characterised by:  Rapid per capita GDP growth  Growing middle  Increasing numbers of university age people  Low, but rapidly rising, domestic tertiary participation rates  Historically, the growth in demand for higher education has outstripped the domestic supply of places – part of excess demand ‘spilled over’ abroad 08:30-10:00 20th Annual EAIE Conference 10 Gold Coast 2010 Friday, September 12
  11. 11. Supply-side response in Asia  Over the last two decades, there has been a huge expansion in provision in Asia  In China, investment has been public – projects 211, 985, 111, participation rates have grown from 6% to 22% (2000-08)  In India, some investment has been public, but much from private sector: 75% of HEIs private, 90% of colleges in engineering, IT and management private; new laws to attract foreign investment  In Singapore, Malaysia, etc, mixed model, with both public investment and inward foreign investment (Global School House) Gold Coast 2010
  12. 12. From net importer to exporter  China  195,500 international students in China in 2007  10,151 supported by Chinese government  China/UNESCO Great Wall Fellowship Scheme  40m estimated to be learning Chinese outside China, Confucius Institutes – 210 in 64 countries  Malaysia  has historically sent 50,000+ students a year overseas  ‘make or buy’ calculus changing  Government now seeking to reverse mobility flows, to attract 100,000 (60,000 in 2007) foreign students by 2020 20th Annual EAIE Conference 12 Gold Coast 2010
  13. 13. From (potential) net importers to netexporters Supply of Places Places “Tug of War”: Demand-side vs Supply-side Developments Net exports Demand for Places Potential Net Imports Depends on ability to pay Time Gold Coast 2010
  14. 14. Quality: the X-factor  Has the rapid expansion in the quantity of university places in Asia been associated with an increase or decrease in quality?  The relative quality of Asian higher education affects the profile of students who go overseas for study:  If domestic quality is high and rationed, less able students go offshore  If domestic quality is low, top students go off-shore Gold Coast 2010
  15. 15. X-factor and China  Quality?  Most Chinese investment has gone into 211 and 985 universities  Of China’s 1,700 public universities, 6% are universities and account for:  96% of laboratories  80% PhD students  70% of research funding  67% of postgraduate students  But growing evidence of mismatching, with falling graduate employment rates since 2000 – now major policy problem Gold Coast 2010
  16. 16. Ascent of Asia? - conclusions  Demand for higher education will continue to grow strongly  Major supply-side response and increase in region’ domestic capacity  Region moving from net exports towards net imports, but likely to be a lot of intra-regional mobility (eg, Pakistan/Bangladesh to Malaysia)  Quality is a key issue, major constraint is the development of trained faculty over next decade Gold Coast 2010