17 Feb How Asian Universities Are Changing The Status Quo Of International Student Recruitment
Over five million tertiary students are currently studying outside of their home countries enrolled in higher education programs. Improved US relations within Asia-Pacific, through Obama’s “rebalancing strategy” mean international counterparts are increasingly open to educational exchanges. Indiana University, one of the top ten producers of the Fulbright US Student Exchange Program, recently formalized a ten year partnership with China’s top ranking university Tsinghua University.
In 2016, the number of international students in the US topped 1 million for the first time ever. But, the balance of host countries is shifting amid a wave of regionalization threatening decades-old collaborations. Trump and Brexit may jeopardize international alliances, potentially limiting future growth in the US and the UK.
Economic agreements and international collaborations have laid the foundations for future student mobility. Though it has made a late entry to the game, Asia is growing in popularity as an emerging destination for international students. So, what’s the impact of these international trends, and how is Asia forming new alliances to attract international audiences?
Regionalisation shifts international student flow
International collaboration, fuelled by economic trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and politico-economic alliances like the European Union, provides new channels for student mobility. It creates a bedrock for open borders, facilitating student exchange programs and educational collaboration.
NAFTA created economic integration between the US, Mexico and Canada. It was instrumental in promoting the Program for North American Mobility for Higher Education, providing funding for projects that encourage cooperation and exchange between the three countries. Programs like ‘100,000-strong in the Americas’ aim to increase the number of US students in other countries on the continent, and Mexico’s ‘Proyecta 100,000’ additionally aims to send the same number of Mexican students to the US by 2018.
However, a Trump presidency spells an uncertain future for trade relations and established international alliances. His campaign pledge to reduce or even end the H-1B visa for foreign workers could prevent international graduates from finding work.
A post-Brexit UK offers a similarly bleak outlook. Leaving the European Union (EU), UK students and universities likely no longer benefitting from the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) or recent legislation streamlining EU regulations.
While the US and the UK, set about forging new agreements and exchange programs to create more welcoming environments — at the hands of a new trend of regionalisation — host countries within Asia are providing new opportunities for curious minds.
Asia Emerges as the Next Destination for International Students
Providing 53% of international students, Asia controls the biggest share of demand. This growing wealth of Asian students are increasingly looking closer to home, exploring tertiary study opportunities within the region. This is encouraged by regional collaborations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) University Network. Furthermore, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) created a free trade area four times more populated than the EU, also driving new initiatives in higher education.
ASEAN is working with EU support to provide scholarships helping students in Asia to visit other countries in the continent. The extended ASEAN Plus Three (APT) moreover celebrates collaborations in Asia, most recently with the five-year ASEAN Work Plan to unite efforts across 18 countries.
While institutions in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India, rise in world ranking, increased movement is also being seen in new emerging education hubs. Japan is seeing an uptick in visitors from increasingly wealthy neighbouring states. And continued efforts in Malaysia, including an offshore campus from the UK’s University of Nottingham, have recently been acknowledged by UNESCO’s inclusion of Malaysia within its top ten preferred international education hubs, bagging the number nine spot.
Home to the global community’s lion’s share of mobile students, China sends over 400,000 students out into the international community every year. As the US becomes less attractive, experts predict a flux of Chinese students to new destinations such as Canada and Australia, accelerating the pre-Trump trend. While this is a ripe time for ASEAN alliances to pursue Chinese students, it also means China has a pretty impressive bargaining tool — almost half a million highly educated students with which to build new exchanges.
China Will Decide Asia’s Successes
China’s education ministry claims to support students traveling overseas in pursuit of further education, and it is also endeavoring to attract a new international audience. Since 2005, China has doubled the number of international students, powering the fastest year-on-year educational sector growth of any country.
China is currently building universities at a rate of one per week. In 2016, Universitas 21 exposed China as the nation with the biggest improvements since 2013. Moreover, collaborations like ‘One Belt, One Road’ aim to bolster the international crowd
through improved foreign relations. In 2013, New York University opened its campus in Shanghai through a joint-venture promoting the first ever Chinese-American classes.
Further initiatives in China also address limited job opportunities and visa barriers. Last year, the education ministry held the first ever international job fair at Peking University, attracting 1,700 students from nearly 100 countries. And in Beijing Masters students are exempt from the necessary two years of work experience in the country in order to obtain work visas.
If Asia is to succeed as an international hub, it will need the continued efforts from China to combine intensified regional alliances with work to strengthen foreign relations from further afield. It also means overcoming the risk of nationalistic tendencies, for instance favouring political programs over international study.
This means focusing on international relations to power educational initiatives, as well as creating improved work opportunities for further down the line. Regardless, Chinese students will continue to opt for new pastures, and this will power international relations and strengthened bonds for the future. As Brexit and Trump dampen international exchange efforts, in today’s interconnected global society, Asia’s growth is a silver lining.