In the article Governance reforms and university autonomy in Asia, Varghese and Martin examine the different reforms and policy approaches of five different Asian countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, and Vietnam) chosen because they represent varying progress in academic and administrative autonomy reforms as well as encompassing different levels of economic development and average educational attainment. For example, with a highly developed economy and educational enrollment rate, Japan’s higher education institutions already had a great deal of administrative autonomy. Therefore, the reforms there focused on quality assurance and expanding industry partnerships. Cambodia, a society with a low higher education gross enrollment rate (GER) of 7 percent in 2008, is not as far along in its path to autonomy, with only a select group of institutions transitioning to “Public Administrative Institutions” (PAIs) with limited ability to create new programs.
As demand for post-secondary education increases, it only makes sense that the types of students will be more diverse and will need different types of programs and institutions to accommodate their different needs. This expansion will also put a strain on a central government with complete control of the higher education sector. This results in policy shifts from direct central government control to a more hands off “state supervision” model. Underlying all of these reforms is the idea that a successful higher education system influences economic development in a particular country and that increased institutional autonomy will give universities the freedom and flexibility to adapt and respond to specific regional needs. This tendency toward using market forces to impact higher education leads to increased capacity and competitiveness.
Global Trends in University Governance by Fielden took a broader look at similar topics discussed in the first reading, such as the unsustainability of a diverse higher education system being fully financed by a central government and the subsequent move toward autonomy. Fielden (2008) succinctly stated, “The basic principle behind institutional autonomy is that institutions operate better if they are in control of their own destiny” (p 18). Different institutional approaches result in increased innovation and creativity that may not come about in a uniform system. Additionally, institutions have incentives to improve and increase efficiency if they can benefit from any additional revenue.
One thing I thought was interesting in this reading specifically was the importance of strategic planning both on the national and institutional levels and how planning can be used as a tool for central ministries or buffer bodies to measure success of institutions in meeting their goals. If there is a national strategic plan, institutions can incorporate those broader goals into their specific plans while adding initiatives that are unique to their institutional contexts. Funding can be allocated by a central ministry based on the success of meeting the self-imposed goals of an institution. We learned about the importance of effective strategic planning in the decentralized, highly autonomous context of the US, but it is also interesting to see how strategic plans are another method of monitoring and evaluation for countries where the government has more authority over higher education.