How Asia will disrupt Higher Education Worldwide

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How Asia will disrupt Higher Education Worldwide
(image by NUS)

These mismatches are hindering the impending partnerships between universities and industry.

At the Higher Education Policy Institute’s 14th Annual Lecture, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan delivered a keynote lecture where he emphasised the need for tertiary institutions to comprehend the major shifts global higher education, particularly those in Asia in order to make the right decisions in the future.

The shifting higher education landscape in Asia over the last decade, including massification, a focus on liberal arts education, and great push towards the establishment of world class research impact all universities around the world.

Although developed economies like Korea and Japan have sustainable higher education enrolment rates over a long period, the shift in focus has been on the speed and scale of massification in China and India. Enrolments are estimated to increase beyond 37 million in China and exceeding 27 million in India by 2020, resulting in greater opportunities for intellectual and career development. However, it also contributes to the issue of graduate unemployment.

Prof Tan brought attention to the worry over “mismatches between the skills graduates leave university with, and the needs of industry and employers, as well as questions about the quality of teaching and learning.” The growing massficiation poses a challenge for smaller nations like Singapore in ensuring its graduates retain a talent edge, given the escalating number of graduates in the region.

He also underlined the large investment in world-class research within the region. Even though South Korea has outdone Israel in terms of R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP; China still takes the lead as the nation currently accounts for 15 percent of the world’s scientific publications. China may fall behind in terms of field-weighted citation index, however, Prof Tan is quick to point out that there is a notable shift in China to make profound investment in fundamental research.

In addition, Prof Tan reckoned “Academics tend to like publishing papers, while industry is largely concerned about commercial outcomes and profits. Our academic colleagues like the freedom to explore and pursue long-term research, while industry is often about timelines, schedules and deliverables. But the landscape is changing. Industry players are adopting open innovation approaches and strategies, and universities are embracing enterprise and innovation”. These mismatches are hindering the impending partnerships between universities and industry.

Further, in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer science and data analytics, he highlighted that the time and barriers to shift from basic research discovery to application and commercialisation have shrunk; thereby allowing more universities to place more focus on areas that embodies both high academic and translational value.

These extensive transformation bring about important questions for universities with regards to the future. These include how tertiary institutions can cultivate future-ready graduates for a dynamic environment, make radical changes that benefits society, and become key places where the future is shaped and have motivated and empowered youths adding to the shaping of that future. It is critical for tertiary institutions to look into the fundamental skills graduates will require to succeed to gain employability in the long run.

“Beyond these, it is critical to encourage our students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, not in the narrow sense of starting a business, but about having the imagination to see new possibilities and the boldness to seize new opportunities,” added Prof Tan.

Source: NUS

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