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Higher Education in Asia: Expanding Out, Expanding Up PDF Print Email

As university enrolment continues to grow across Asia, a new report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) analyses ways in which countries across the region can accommodate more students while strengthening the quality of their university programmes and research.

Entitled Higher Education in Asia: Expanding Out, Expanding Up, the report will be launched in Bangkok on 19 May during an event organized by the Office of Higher Education Commission, Mahidol University and UNESCO.

Based on data from the UIS and a wide range of other sources, the report is designed to help governments in Asia and beyond evaluate the policy tradeoffs in expanding access to high-quality universities and research institutions.

Across Asia, higher education systems are expanding out with government support to construct new campuses, hire more professors and expand the private sector. Nearly 40% of tertiary students in Asia are enrolled in private universities and colleges, which have experienced phenomenal growth over the past decade.

But the situation varies considerably between countries, with the share of students enrolled in private institutions ranging from 15% in Viet Nam to 81% in the Republic of Korea, according to the report.

At the same time, universities are also expanding up with the introduction of new graduate programmes in response to growing socio-economic demands for highly-skilled professionals.

These programmes also enable universities to keep up with the rising demand for higher education by producing more professors with higher qualifications. In China, for example, only about 16% of university faculty members have doctoral degrees and another 35% have a Master’s degree. The situation is similar in Viet Nam, where 14% of university instructors have a doctorate and 46% have just a Master’s degree.

Across the region, countries are not simply seeking to expand enrolment in universities – they are also striving to strengthen their foundations in research and experimental development (R&D). The report presents a range of data to better evaluate the economic benefits flowing from university research, as well as the spillover effects to industry.

Overall, R&D intensity (a commonly used indicator reflecting R&D expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product) varies considerably in countries across the region: Republic of Korea (4.0%), Japan (3.4%), Singapore (2.2%), China (1.8%), Malaysia (1.1%), India (0.8%) and Thailand (0.25%).

The report also compares government investment in applied versus basic research. In Thailand, for example, 38% of R&D expenditure is devoted to applied research versus 14% to basic research. The rest (48%) goes to experimental development. In contrast, China devotes 78% of R&D expenditure to experimental development, 17% to applied research and 5% to basic research.

This publication offers a new service, Datalinks, which enables users to download the underlying data presented in the charts, figures and tables.

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