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It is often-touted that the world has been shifting towards Asia. Indeed, innovation has clearly gotten a good footing in the East and higher education has been no exception; in the last 10 years the global center of mass of the top ranked 100 universities has been constantly shifting towards the East particularly China. According to 2018 QS world universities ranking out of top 100 universities 23 universities are Asian among them 11 universities are based in People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong). The number of students who choose to study at a university overseas has grown-up significantly in recent decades. The composition of the globally mobile student body has changed notably over the last decade, with student mobility shifting from a largely unidirectional east-west flow to a multidirectional movement and encompassing non-traditional sending and host countries.
China, in particular, has invested significantly in its higher education sector in the last few years. Chinese investment in internationalized education extends to the top government level, with a conscious understanding that education is a means of investing in the population and student mobility is a chance to influence the next generation. China has built up its own universities to compete with ‘world-class’ institutions through C9 League, Project 211 and Project 985, spreading access to Chinese language and culture learning and using English as medium of instruction by many universities for different programs. National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, Peking University, Tsinghua University, The University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, The University of Hong Kong are some of the world class research universities of Asia where even the American and European Students dream for getting their higher study.
These universities are as competitive as elite European and American universities in terms of quality education, research and world class infrastructures. Japan was already one of the global education hubs for higher study and Singapore has established itself as world research hub from last one decade. But if you see the recent trend and development Chinese Universities have already uplifted them compare to other Asian elite universities and established as the world class research institutes and higher study centre as well as future heart of world higher study and research hub. Many Chinese universities are just behind few British and American world renowned universities in terms of quality education and research for higher study. It is a time to view China not just as a follower but as potentially a global leader in higher education.
Governments particularly those in non-traditional host countries continue to develop a broad range of strategies to develop the appeal of their higher education sector to foreign students and scholars, to develop research and teaching links with international partners with the aim of increasing institutional visibility. Japan and China, in particular, have targeted international students as a way to achieve a number of national aims, including encouraging the internationalization of higher education in their countries (in part as a tool to drive up research and teaching standards), developing links between Japanese and Chinese universities and peer institutions overseas, and developing a workforce that meets the needs of their industries.
Chinese universities are internationalizing in many directions. China’s President Xi Jinping had launched a number of new international initiatives in 2015–16, reflecting a big push for China to develop closer links with other countries across a range of areas. While study abroad and other international experiences are widely considered to be valuable for students, and to develop a wide range of soft skills such as inter-cultural communication, openness to new challenges, problem-solving and decision-making skills in returnees, there has not always been a strong empirical evidence base to support efforts to broaden student internationalization.
As the broad outline of student mobility slowly changes, political and demographic changes continue to shape government policies towards international students. In Asia, for instance, ASEAN nations are working to support local students to study in Asia rather than going to western countries’ universities, and already, have launched a ‘Common Space of Higher Education’ to promote cross-border student mobility and academic incorporation across Southeast Asia.
The international population of students who move to another country to study is continuously rising. The number of Students studying abroad reached almost 5 million in 2014, more than double the 2.1 million in 2000 – with an annual rise of 10%. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has projected that, with demographic changes, international student mobility is likely to reach 8 million students per year by 2025. The balance of host nation is beginning to change which was constant over past decade. From several years the USA remains the trendiest destination for international students, followed by the UK, Germany, Australia and France. However, the USA and UK’s conventional market share is waning, with China, Japan, and South Korea increasing in popularity among Asian and African students for higher study. Among Asian higher education hubs Japan and Korea enjoy high numbers of international students from regional countries: 81% of international students in Japan and 75% in Korea come from other Asian countries. International student mobility is changing with conventional destinations losing market share.
Recently developed geopolitical environments such as Brexit and the US’s taking back hand from multilateral trade and cooperation generates waves of uncertainty in higher study education concerning international cooperation, the free movement of students, education, scientific knowledge and ideas. China is utilizing this situation and has already introduced new international initiatives with its New Silk Road (One Belt One Road) project, which could potentially spread and incorporate important areas of the world across the Euro-Asian continents, but likely on new and different conditions, and also for higher study education.
The size of China’s higher education, research and development system and the speed at which it develops to global standards, it already has 33 million students, 443,000 international students and rising, and a ‘Double World-Class Project’ aiming to have 40 world-class universities by mid-century will have an impact on its major competitors globally, not least as it seeks to cooperate with academic partners along the Silk Road. The economic powerhouse is moving from the old industrialized countries to Asian countries. The economic powerhouse is moving and there are good reasons to believe also the powerhouse of higher education will move too.
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