Review of Asia: The Next High Education Superpower?
By Merri Rosenberg
Asia: The Next High Education Superpower?
Edited by Rajika Bhandari and Alessia Lefebure
Published by The Institute of International Education, NY
There’s no mistaking the pointed salvo hurled at the American higher education establishment.
The opening sentences of the first chapter baldly state, “The 21st century will be the Asian century. This is overdue and inevitable. A surge of investment in higher education is already taking place in Asia, which will accompany the emergence of the Asian century.”
For decades, top students from Asia—notably from China, South Korea and India—came to the United States for graduate degrees, especially in science and technology fields. Currently students from these countries comprise 64 percent of the international student population in the United States. Many American colleges and universities have relied upon these students, and their infusion of tuition dollars, to support their programs financially, as well as provide a steady supply of teaching assistants and researchers.
As this provocative volume suggests, the landscape is shifting. As the editors
suggest, “When we look at its [Asia’s] rise through the lens of academic mobility, a clear pattern emerges: many of the Asian faculty who return to their country of origin to take leadership positions have studied in the United States and obtained their PhD at a U.S. or European university; many post-secondary students in Asia plan to at some point continue their education overseas, likely in the United States or Australia….”
Given this overall expansion of international academic mobility, most Asia governments decided to join the competition with the clear ambition to have their higher education system play at the top.”
That’s not to say that the power center will shift entirely to Asia. The editors, and many of the individual authors, recognize that Western research universities continue to attract students and retain significant international influence. Many of these universities, in fact, have launched campuses in Asia, or established more dual degree programs and strategic partnerships to capitalize on the fluid relationships that exist.
And clearly the Asian higher education landscape is not monolithic. For every super success story, there are individual countries that struggle to reach the higher standards now required to produce a competitive, global citizenry.
As one of the titles in the Global Education Research Reports Series, this volume offers comprehensive, dense and seriously data-rich articles, well foot-noted, that isn’t really meant for a general audience. Topics include overviews of the Asian higher educational system, with some historical context based on these countries’ experiences as colonies of European countries; influences of specific European models on countries like Japan; the challenges faced by countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, and what places like India can do to surmount entrenched institutions of mediocrity and cultivate the pockets of excellence that do exist.
Anyone working in higher education would find this a worthwhile addition to the literature, and an important contribution to the conversation.#