Tag: Asian HE

Ranking the 100 under 50

Most of the major rankings tend to be dominated by large research intensive institutions, and they also tend to be some of the older institutions in their respective countries. In order to examine what is going on with the newer institutions, Times Higher Education launched today a new ranking – calling it the “100 under 50”. In many ways this formulation somehow reminds of lists of young promising entrepreneurs, and one could perhaps argue that this resemblance in formulation is not completely coincidental.

In the complementary THE magazine these institutions are presented as having upward trajectories, little institutional baggage and opportunities for rapid response to societal needs – they are presented as somehow different and “doing their own thing“. Knowing the one Norwegian institution on  that list – University of Tromsø – this “being different” motto was quite prominent during its establishment, and they were reffered to as a regional experiment during their establishment in 1968.

However, as the magazine also points out, this newness can also provide its challenges – where research cultures might not be established quite yet and the institution needs to finds its place in the local and global higher education landscape.  Overall, it was well under half of these young universities, in fact only 19 of them, that rank amongst the top 200 in the world (according to World University Rankings). So – does this imply that when building a world class institution – age matters?

International student mobility – questioning future scenarios

In the context where an increasing amount of higher education institutions in USA and UK are increasingly dependent on fees and having to become “self-sufficient”, the question of international student mobility is becoming increasingly important for these institutions.

According to a recent article in University World News, “China and India alone will see their aggregate urban consumption increase seven-fold and six-fold respectively from 2005 to 2025“. In the article, this is used as an argument that there will be an increasing pool of potential international students in terms of quantity, and that this would also allow institutions to be more selective rather than being dependent on any student coming. As such, the article presents this transformation as a huge potential for higher education institutions in the West – and especially for USA and UK that would need to have clear strategies on how to gain from this situation.

Though, the picture might be as clear cut, and some issues one might want to consider include that Asian own higher education institutions are on the rise, and there is increased focus on cross-border education and branch campuses that seems to be the preferred mode, instead of sending out students. In addition, one can expect increasing competition from other European countries, as the EU is soon to issue its new internationalisation strategy for higher education with third countries (as indicated by a Commission representative during the recent ESMU conference in Brussels). 

Hong Kong institutions lead the rankings in Asia

QS university rankings has been producing the ranking of top 200 Asian universities since 2009, and the newest edition was recently published. The methodology for this ranking is somewhat different from the QS World University Rankings that has been produced since 2004. Whereas in the world ranking the focus is on international research universities, the Asian ranking also weighs universities that have a more local focus and that publish primarily in the local language.

The newly published QS rankings of top Asian universities has indicated that the two overall best universities in Asia are located in Hong Kong.  John O’Leary summarizes on the QS Intelligence unit page some of the findings. Japan still keeps its strong position in the ranking with over 25% of the universities in top200 being from Japan. While Hong Kong also shows a strong performance, mainland China has only made marginal progress. Considering the Chinese efforts in building world class universities, this could be seen as a disappointing result. However, as always, depending on the ranking methodology there are aspects of higher education that the rankings do show and there are always aspects they do not show. The rankings include institutions from 13 countries, however – Vietnam and Sri Lanka are still absent.

One can also examine the rankings with respect to the specific indicators that have been measured. If one examines the academic peer review aspect of the ranking, one can see that what are considered the best universities in Asia by peers include seven institutions with a top score – two from Japan, two from China, and one from Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. This is in contrast with the THE reputation rankings of world universities published earlier this year, where  the top 6 was leading by a clear margin.

Higher education in Japan – current challenges

Higher Education in JapanJapan has been frequently featuring media during the last two months, since the tragic earthquake on March 11, 2011 that has taken countless lives and created destruction beyond imaginable. While great attention has been paid to the courageous attempts to keep the nuclear plants under control and avoid even greater catastrophe, the aftermath of this crisis has also had a major impact on higher education, as on all other spheres of society.

Japan has been through quite significant changes in recent decades. Being a huge success story during the 80s through production of high-tech, consumer electronics and car industry, Japan faced an economic downturn during the 90s. From societal perspective, one of the more striking features is the significantly aging population, and a recent OECD report on tertiary education in Japan indicated that by 2050, the population will have decreased by 25%, this rapid shift is already taking place and is having major consequences for the whole society.

Japanese higher education system is characterized by a large private sector and a high participation rate, where expansion has been achieved through diversification of institutional missions (OECD 2009). From governance perspective, Japanese higher education system has been described as a hybrid system, characterised by policy borrowing/learning from both the US and Germany, as argued by Tom Christensen in a recent article in Higher Education Policy.  Christensen provides a thorough examination of the various reforms that have taken place in Japan this far, and argues that the reform trends can be characterised both by New Public Management (NPM), but also post-NPM trends. These trends are characterised by focus on efficiency and effectiveness, institutional leadership, competition and management.

New research on massification of higher education in China

Photo: Stock:xchng

China is often stated as the new upcoming power in higher education, shown both in the rapid expansion of enrollments and  increasing production of research and academic publications. While there has been some disagreement about whether it is primarily a quantitative or qualitative expansion, there is no doubt that China is prioritizing focus on knowledge and that there is also increasing amount of research published in international journals on Chinese higher education.

However, this rapid growth has had consequences as well and it is not guaranteed that the outcomes would necessarily be the ones anticipated, as in any policy process. In a recent publication in Higher Education, Xiaoyan Wang and Jian Liu examine this transition. The article highlights that the growth has indeed been on a huge scale, during just over ten years, there has been a growth from just under 10% participation rates to 24,2% in 2009.

The authors emphasize that this expansion was not spontaneous, but a planned measure to combat the consequences of the  Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 – the expansion was expected to give a boost to the economy, through increased need for infrastructure and consumption of educational resources. The underlying principle for this policy initiative was grounded in Keynesian thinking and human capital theory – meaning that investing in education and infrastructure has also positive short-term effects on consumption and thus the economy.

While the article indicates that there was indeed increased consumption and need for infrastructure, the initiative also had unintended consequences, most notably on the equity aspect of the students enrolled due to increasing tuition fees and an insufficient financial aid programme. In addition, this huge investment has also burdened the banks, and the researchers argue that this might have had a negative effect on potential growth in other sectors. The most worrying tendency brought out by the authors is the astonishing increase in the amount of unemployed graduates, and Xiaoyan Wang and Jian Liu thus argue that “China’s current social, economic and political structures are not ready to absorb them“.