Southeast Asia ‘needs a strong sector identity’

British Council report recommends that the region develop an identity revolving around a student experience based on links with employers

August 28, 2014

Southeast Asia should develop a “regional standard” for its national university systems and create a distinctive regional higher education identity to compete with Europe and the US.

That is the argument set out in a British Council report on a recent major conference on universities in the Association of South East Asian Nations region.

A British Council Global Education Dialogue was held in Burma in July, in partnership with Burma’s Ministry of Education and Unesco. A report based on the conference has now been published by the British Council.

In the report, the British Council states that Asean will take a step towards closer integration when it becomes an economic community in 2015.

“This social and economic integration will put pressure on political leaders to harmonise systems as the mobility of students, professionals and labour forces increases between member states,” the document says.

The report notes that the region’s universities range from those in “low-middle income countries” such as Burma, focused on increasing enrolment and system expansion, to those in high-income countries such as Singapore with well-developed systems focused on increasing international recognition.

The report’s recommendations include establishing a goal to “define and articulate a distinctive Asean identity for universities and what it means to study in the region”. It suggests that this should centre on “a student experience based on strong links with industry and employers and the opportunity to be mobile and gain a variety of experiences”.

There should also be a drive to “create an Asean regional standard for national systems, one that corresponds to other regional models – not necessarily a direct replication – but a system, based on a healthy mixture of public and private provision, that is transferable and robust, based on quality processes and distinctive for students choosing an Asean experience”.

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