Thursday, January 26, 2012

Higher Education Across Asia: An Overview of Issues and Strategies

Higher education (HE) is seen to have an ever more important role in human resource development and the movement of people, students, and the workforce in the region. The Asian Development Bank’s developing member countries are increasing investment in HE to support social and economic development and growth. This publication discusses the issues and strategies for HE in Asia and why there is a need to invest in this subsector. It provides an overview on how governments, together with HE institutions and stakeholders, can improve HE through adequate policies and regulations, and how they can position their economies for further development.

Higher education systems across much of Asia have made extraordinary gains in expanding access, diversifying curricula, and experimenting with new instructional delivery systems. At the same time, this success has created new challenges brought about by explosive enrollment growth; shortages of qualified instructional staff; a need to improve instructional quality; and, in many cases, severe financial constraints. These issues are interwoven, and their solutions are interdependent.

Higher education systems across Asia face four overarching challenges: (a) maintaining and improving education quality, even in the face of serious financial constraints; (b) improving the relevance of curriculum and instruction at a time of rapid change in labor market needs; (c) increasing and better utilizing the financial resources available to higher education; and (d) balancing the continued expansion of access to higher education with greater attention to equity and to the need to raise quality.

The regional study financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggests a set of actions that universities, governments, and development organizations might undertake to help address these needs. Among other things, the study posits that the continued development of higher education depends heavily on enhanced capacity of university leaders and instructional staff; more effective national and institutional-level policies; and greater attention to partnerships, including those with the private sector, to improve quality and ensure sustainable financing of higher education. ADB and other development partners have an important role to play in supporting national and regional efforts to strengthen higher education systems. They can convene individuals and organizations to address issues that span borders; they can provide data and models of effective practice drawn from regional and larger international experience; and they can highlight strategic and operational perspectives during dialogue with governments and higher education leaders.

This publication provides an overview of issues of higher education development in developing Asia. Part 1 summarizes the case for government and external support of higher education. Part 2 provides an overview of the factors that have shaped the current situation of higher education and explores options available to governments and higher education systems seeking to strengthen those systems. Part 3 offers recommendations for how development partners such as ADB, a multilateral regional development bank, might best support the continued development of higher education. The recommendations focus on strategic and operational priorities, particularly for strengthening internal and external efficiency, improving cost efficiency and sustainable financing, improving administration and governance, promoting greater access and equity, strengthening private higher education, and promoting regional cooperation and cross-border collaboration in higher education.

ADB. Date: December 2011.Type: Reports. Series: Higher Education In Dynamic Asia: Study Reports

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