Building World-Class Universities: Different Approaches to a Shared Goal

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Building World-Class Universities: Different Approaches to a Shared Goal

World-class universities also widely known as the most prestigious research universities are imperative for advancing a nation’s competitiveness in the global knowledge economy. These universities are fundamental in the creation and dissemination of knowledge, educating a highly skilled workforce for technological and intellectual leadership, and resolving societal challenges.

In the past few years, there has been an increasing number of countries, regions and higher education institutions across the world that are now involved in the competition for academic excellence. This trend to create or enhance globally competitive universities can be observed in both developed and developing countries. While emerging countries and their universities are committed to boost their capacity and research performance, the academic superpowers endeavour to maintain – if not further enhance – their global standing. However, universities have varying higher education systems and are circumscribed by differing cultural, social and historical origins and conditions. Therefore, how do different countries and regions develop world-class universities? Are they facing the same issues and challenges? Can successful experiences and strategies in one country be copied in other national contexts?

Thus, to  help institutions achieve this objective and advance their global competitiveness, both national governments and institutions will have to implement various strategies and approaches. Despite the various social, cultural and economic differences worldwide, three key and common strategic factors can be identified, and they include competitive funding schemes, internationalization and governance reform at both governmental and institutional levels.

Various strategic funding programmes have been executed to push for excellence by different countries and regions. Selected universities and research centres in these countries and regions have been furnished with additional and concentrated funding to establish excellence of teaching and research. Despite distinctive organizational and management approaches, these initiatives propose the clear objective for excellence, providing sufficient funding to selected institutions and research centres, and safeguarding the fundamental policy support from the governments. These competitive funding schemes are also proposed, agreed on and legislated by government and associated organizations. The legislative processes channel these educational initiatives into regulations and laws, which bolsters the authoritative and compulsory nature of the policies. These funding programmes have also enhanced the awareness of international competition among institutions.

Advocating internationalization is another prevalent strategy in the pursuit of excellence. This can be addressed through several methods such as curriculum reform, student and faculty mobility, and cooperation and partnership in administration. Different institutions in different regions have varying focus on these aspects to advance development. High-quality faculty recruitment has also been encouraged in both national policies and institutional visions. Outstanding academics are believed to play a critical role in the advancement of institutions and development of graduate programmes and research centres in areas of comparative advantage. Thus, governments and universities worldwide are making attempts to attract, recruit and retain these individuals. To enhance the progression of world-class universities, some leading universities have forged partnerships with other distinguished universities. This form of international collaboration served as a platform for students and faculty exchange, and the distribution of resources and ideas. Relevant governance is another key factor that shapes the performance of higher education systems and research universities.

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Join us in the upcoming QS-APPLE 2018 from 21-23 November 2018 in  Seoul, South Korea, as we discuss the topic on “Future Universities in the Asia-Pacific: The Changing Face of Higher Education”.