Universities in ASEAN countries should be prepared for the implementation of economic integration in the region by 2015 by enhancing their competitiveness.
As ASEAN achieves commercial liberalization throughout its 10 member states, universities will have to adapt to suit the context of the new ASEAN region, Piyapun Santaveesuk of Mahasarakham University, Thailand, said in his presentation during a three-day conference of education experts in Nusa Dua that ended on Friday.
“Universities will need to be increasingly compatible and connected. Curriculum designs will need to be more cooperative in nature. At the same time, the liberalization of the region may make universities increasingly compete with each other for students, staff and income,” said the university’s vice president for student affairs and organization development.
Another speaker, Andy Gibbs from the UK’s Edinburgh Napier University, explored the possibility and significance of higher education convergence within the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) in terms of economic, social and cultural status, and external pressures.
The UK Bologna expert with wide-ranging involvement in supporting the European Higher Education Reforms said in his presentation that for CAFTA, higher education was facing more severe challenges compared to the European Higher Education Area.
“The lack of strong regional identity, enormous outflow of students and consequent high opportunity cost, all suggests that higher education convergence may not simply be desirable but also essential for CAFTA,” he said.
“Although the current situation indicates that CAFTA should launch educational reform, concrete steps and innovative policies are needed to make it happen.”
The advancement of higher education in this fast-changing global era also requires strategic partnerships between universities and industries.
Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University shared its best practices of advancing industry and university partnership. As a hub of innovation and technology, the university has constantly sought to advance its research interests through close collaborations in significant project areas with various industry partners.
“More importantly, faced with the challenges of growing competition, mounting costs for research and development, and the necessity for innovation and invention in the marketplace, the industry has been increasingly steered toward universities in a bid for new solutions and knowledge,” said the university’s chief of staff, Lam Khin Yong.
“Spin-offs, industry-funded research, licensing, patents, venture creation and employment are now many of the multiple mediums used to build strategic collaborations between industry and university.”
The private sector also plays a crucial role in capacity building for higher education, as the sector has taken the initiative and been at the forefront of the tremendous growth in the higher education sector either through international branch campuses or the establishment of new higher education institutions in various developing countries, said Rosie Bateson, a professor of higher education management at The International University of Jakarta.
“Governments have been challenged in building capacity by their ability to access human and economic resources. And especially with the global economic crisis staring them down,” said the leader of Indonesia’s Putera Sampoerna Foundation’s university project.
“As populations continue to grow at a rapid pace and more enter college age globally, it is the private sector that is best positioned to deliver on the education front,” Bateson said.
The Asia Pacific Professional Leaders in Education (QS-APPLE) conference and exhibition brings together international educators, senior academic administrators and government officials from across Asia Pacific and around the world.
The conference seeks to help Asian universities in their quest for globalization by providing a meeting place where they can learn from experts, build networking with peers from around the world and discuss the hot topics of the industry.
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