Both readings for this week, International Higher Education‘s Spring 2015 issue and Bridges to the Future, cover the topic of the future of international higher education through essays from scholars in the profession. China was a subject for multiple IHE essays and a feature of the Bridges chapter.
The Bridges China feature, written by Futao Huang, covers some impressive internationalization efforts led by the Chinese government. Initiatives include the funding to send 5000 students annually to study at top foreign universities, the dispatching of 10,000 faculty and researchers abroad to conduct research each year, and the implementation of English language and bilingual programs at universities. There have also been great efforts from the Chinese government and individual institutions to implement joint programs and foreign partnerships.
Huang notes the issues China faces in its pursuit of internationalization, namely the conflicts between foreign institutions, Chinese institutions and the government over policies on internet restrictions, and concerns about the preservation of traditional culture and national identity while opening its doors to global educational opportunities. We have read and discussed these issues previously in class, but it was from a western perspective when discussing cultural clashes and academic freedom. This text was valuable for the insight it provides from a Chinese point of view.
The IHE essay, The Challenge Facing Chinese Higher Education in the Next Two Decades, author Weifang Min provides context for the reputation of higher education in China as “big but not strong”. While worldwide higher ed enrollment grew from 79 million in 1995 to 196 million in 2012, enrollment in China grew at a far higher rate, from 5.2 to 32.6 million. The government and institutions were unable to rep up with the expansion, resulting in crowded facilities, limited equipment and lower teaching quality. Institutions expanded lower cost majors rather than STEM fields, resulting in a mismatch between graduate abilities and the demands of the job market. The Ministry of Education realized their missteps and sought to scale back enrollment and improve programs. Also significant is the high numbers of college graduates entering a slowing economy, making employment a challenge. This essay provides valuable insight into the context of the large number of Chinese students studying abroad. In addition to the prestige of studying at a well regarded foreign institution and the leg up it can provide in the job market, Chinese students may not have access to a high quality education in their desired major at home. Among the policy measures proposed by Min is the promotion of international exchanges and cooperation, and to “assimilate high-quality programs such as NYU Shanghai”. This perspective stands out because NYU Shanghai and similar US-international ventures have been discussed in class, but the concerns were from the lens of US students/faculty/admin studying/teaching/working in China. The establishment of NYU Shanghai from a Chinese point of view may show such cooperations as filling a local need, with a rising middle class, a demand for higher education, and a local infrastructure that cannot meet enrollment needs. Such partnerships may be an effective way to prevent brain drain.