The 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO last month gave the green light to continue the work on UNESCO’s academic mobility convention, the Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, with the aim of formally adopting the new convention by UNESCO’s next general conference in November 2019.
Why should this be of interest to the academic community? Over the past generation, there has been an explosion in international student mobility worldwide. According to the OECD, the number of international students in higher education has risen from 0.8 million in the late 1970s to 4.6 million in 2015.
This increase has been accompanied by a growth in interregional student mobility, with 2.5 million international students studying in a country outside their region of origin, according to UNESCO in the preliminary report on a potential global convention.
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In the world of higher education, there has been much discourse and claims of a shifting global movement gravitated towards Asia. Indeed, it is not unusual to also hear and read about the region’s profound transformation and rise over the past half-century since the 70s to the present day.
Asia has undergone unprecedented economic growth over the last few decades resulting in driving major social and demographic change as well as institutional reform. In some countries, for the most part, this has brought about greater stability, infrastructure and more sound policies and regulations. The rise of a large and growing middle class together with increased openness, market reforms and regional initiatives such as ASEAN to unite and increase its global competitiveness has brought about greater interconnectedness amongst Asian countries and the rest of the world.
The higher education sector in the region has also reflected these dynamics, which is no surprise considering the economic boom in many fast-growing Asian countries is linked to a knowledge-based economy – knowledge production, advanced skills and an overall rising demand for higher education. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, China alone will account for 30% of the world’s university graduates aged between 25 to 34 years old. Asia’s third largest economy, India is also projected to add 300 million people to the workforce in the next 2 decades – that, by the way, is the equivalent size of the entire population of the United States. On top of these big players, let’s not forget hot emerging countries that have undergone strong transformation or are part of the global competition and experienced rapid economic growth and taken steps to internationalize their higher education institutions, such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Let’s look at the higher education landscape in Asia from the view of international engagement between Asian countries versus the rest of the world as well as domestic higher education developments of Asian countries.
A recent Open Doors 2014 statistics show a clear pattern that affirms the surge in mobility out of Asia, as well as into Asia. Delving deeper, we see many Asian faculty who return to leadership positions in their countries having obtained their PhDs from either US or European universities. On top of that, there is an increasingly growing segment of post-secondary students in Asia that plan to study abroad, likely in the US, Australia or Europe. This isn’t surprising. Consider this – Asian students make up a whopping 64% of the total international student body in the US. What does all this mean for Asia’s higher education landscape? Read more