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Friday, October 25, 2013, 08:42
Asia Weekly: Learning in the east
By Kandy Wong in Hong Kong For China Daily Asia Weekly

Asia Weekly: Learning in the east

Education pendulum swings to Asia as world-class universities wake up to importance of region

Lim Pei Yee, a Malaysian who studied at the Beijing Language and Culture University after winning a Sime Darby Foundation scholarship, sees her stay in China as a time of broadening horizons and improving social skills while interacting with people from different backgrounds.

She is now studying economics at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. To start with, she struggled with reading everything in Chinese, but now has a better understanding of the language as well as of the country.

“In years to come, China will be the world’s largest economy,” Lim says. “During its growth, it would be best to venture into the market early so it will be easy later on to ride along with this huge wave.”

Until a couple of decades ago, Asian students were the ones going abroad to study, with the United States and Britain topping the list of desired destinations.

That has all changed in recent years. Asian students are still going overseas, but it is no longer a case of one-way traffic, and it is not just to English-speaking countries.

Lim is among a fast-growing number of Asians choosing to stay in the region while pursuing quality higher education. Meanwhile, students from across the world are also eyeing the Asia-Pacific region as an attractive place to spend a semester or more.

“There is growing evidence that students throughout the world no longer see the United States as the primary place to study,” says John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. This correlates with a rise in the perceived quality of institutions in the region and also means a decline in the US market share of international students.

Asia’s phenomenal economic growth, which has been driven largely by China, has seen a surge in cross-border higher education with universities from the US, Britain, Europe and Australia having established their own campuses in the region. It has also, more recently, led to Asian universities doing much the same.

“It is about establishing a local presence and capitalizing on talent in that country,” says Abid Khan, the pro-vice chancellor for global engagement at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

On Oct 24, Monash, one of Australia’s top universities and ranked among the top 100 universities in the world, opened a joint graduate school with China’s Southeast University (SEU), a leading university based in Suzhou near Shanghai.

Monash is one of the world’s most global universities and is a pioneer in new models for international engagements. It is partnering with SEU in a unique way, focusing on world-class graduate studies and research.

Monash has become the first Australian university to be granted a license to operate in China and is the only foreign university to enter the country as a graduate school.

“Most universities tend to set up a branch campus for fee-paying undergraduate or foundation year students, our new model is orientated around graduates and research,” Khan tells China Daily Asia Weekly.

“I guess you can say we are looking at the collaborative and value-adding end, rather than the purely money end,” he says.

Khan explains that with the creation of a shared physical presence on the ground, as Monash and SEU are doing, a more fundamental relationship is being built.

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