Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam (right) shakes hands with Pericles Lewis (center), president of the Yale-NUS College at the inauguration ceremony to open the campus in Singapore in August. Throughout ASEAN, universities from within the region and around the world are establishing campuses, usually through joint ventures. (AFP)
Quality education with an international flavor is increasingly available across the region
They are being called ‘glocal’ students — young people with global ambitions but who prefer to stay in their own country or region to be educated.
Rahul Choudaha, director of research and advisory services for the New York-based World Education Services, said that when it comes to glocal, a term he coined, students in the fast-developing countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are leading the way.
It has been estimated that by 2015, over 100 million people in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam will have joined the growing middle class, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group.
In a commentary for The Guardian newspaper, Choudaha said this growing consumer class will “expand a new segment of students who are willing to pay for a global educational experience while staying in their home country or region”.
Choudaha said the traditional group of international students go abroad for a combination of reasons such as career advancement, quality of education, immigration or the experience of living abroad.
“Glocals differ from this traditional segment as they look for career advancement and quality of education, without having to go very far from home.”
In 2015 the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) aims to transform the Southeast Asian region into a common market with free flow of goods, services, investment and workers, which will benefit students as well, Choudaha added.
Glocals represent the segment of students who typically seek transnational education — education for students based in a different country to the degree-awarding institution — including international branch campuses, twinning arrangements and online education.
Throughout ASEAN, universities from within the region and around the world are establishing campuses, usually in joint ventures.
The Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education announced that 15 foreign universities have expressed an interest in establishing their presence in the country.
Seven foreign branch campuses currently exist in Malaysia, from institutes in Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
“The demand to establish branch campuses by many good institutions reflects the confidence of foreign institutions in the country’s higher education sector,” Rujhan Mustafa, Malaysia’s director-general for higher education, said earlier this year.
Xiamen University announced it would invest 1.26 billion yuan ($206 million) building a campus in Malaysia — the first overseas venture by a Chinese university.
Recently Malaysia and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to increase the number of Vietnamese students studying at Malaysian universities and centers for higher education, from 500 to 5,000.
The MoU is reciprocal, allowing Malaysian students to study in Vietnam.
In April 2011, one of America’s elite universities, Yale, and the National University of Singapore (NUS) signed an agreement creating the first liberal arts college in Singapore — also one of the first of its kind in Asia.
For NUS, the project is one of many joint ventures with US universities as Singapore positions itself as the intellectual center of Asia.
With an endowment worth in excess of $20.8 billion, Yale sees the tie-up as a way to increase the university’s prestige and visibility in Asia.
In August, 157 students were enrolled in the Yale-NUS College and, according to online higher education news source University World News, 11,400 applications were received from more than 130 countries.
A statement from Yale-NUS said that around two-thirds of the students are Singaporean, with the rest from 25 other countries.
Student numbers will be increased by 250 each year to eventually reach around 1,000.
“Many of the students from outside Asia were attracted to the idea of being part of the Asian century”, said Pericles Lewis, president of the Yale-NUS College.
He told University World News that all students had been selected for their “leadership potential”, not just their academic records, which he described as “stellar”.
Christina Yan Zhang, an analyst with the QS Intelligence Unit which ranks world universities, said in a commentary: “In a globalized economy, every student should be educated as an international student, a global citizen with the aspiration to compete globally.
“However, not everyone is lucky enough to be blessed with the talent and wealth to be admitted to the world’s most competitive and expensive universities.”
Transnational education is becoming increasingly popular, she said.
“It often offers students an international experience with the advantages of better affordability, lower English language requirements, less competitive admission standards, and regional economic initiatives,” she added.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, she said, Asia has increasingly attracted the attention of the world with its booming economy and the abundance of business opportunities.
With a combined population of over 600 million, the 10 ASEAN countries reported a combined GDP of $2.1 trillion last year. The International Monetary Fund says it expects growth will come in at around 5.6 percent this year.
Zhang said by 2015, ASEAN aims to integrate the whole Southeast Asia region into the AEC.
“Just look at how the European Union operates now, and you can imagine what a massive change this would bring in two years’ time to everyone who is lucky enough to be connected with ASEAN, or Asia in general. This applies both to students and universities.”
Higher education will play a crucial role in supporting the continued economic integration of ASEAN by 2015, Zhang added.
“An ambitious plan was set up in 2009, aimed at creating a systematic mechanism to support the integration of universities across Southeast Asia.
“Student mobility, credit transfers, quality assurance and research clusters were identified as the four main priorities to harmonize the ASEAN higher education system, encompassing 6,500 higher education institutions and 12 million students in 10 nations. The ultimate goal of the scheme is to set up a Common Space of Higher Education in Southeast Asia.”
Individual ASEAN governments have increased public investment in universities to support the ASEAN Higher Education Area and the region’s burgeoning knowledge economy.
During the sixth China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week held in Guizhou province in September, education officials from China and ASEAN countries exchanged ideas on transferring credits between Chinese and Southeast Asian universities, clarifying their own degree and diploma systems, and determining how to guarantee education quality under an integrated system.
“Along with deepened cooperation between China and ASEAN members in various fields, China is now pushing hard for education cooperation with these Southeast Asian countries,” Zhang Xiuqin, head of the Chinese Ministry of Education’s Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges told China Daily.
“An integrated education system with the possibility of credit transfers and mutual degree recognition can inspire more ASEAN students to study in China and Chinese students (to study) in Southeast Asia,” she said.
So far, China has signed mutual higher education degree and diploma recognition agreements with Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The agreements offer policy and legal support to Chinese and Southeast Asian overseas students and guarantee education cooperation between China and those countries.
Zhang said China is making efforts now to sign such agreements with the six other ASEAN countries.
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