‘Europe’ looks to the Asian (China?) higher education market

On July 12th, the European University Association expert Michael Gaebel, presented at the 3rd QS Apple “Asia Pacific Professional Leaders in education conference” held in Hong Kong. Specifically Gaebel had the task of promoting Europe within the Asian region (with a particular eye to China) both as a preferred model for the organization of higher education and also as a destination for students. In the press release that accompanied this event, Gaebel was quoted as saying:

We are seeing increasing interest in Bologna from countries outside Europe. The mutual recognition of degrees and the wide ranging reforms, which are on a scale that has never been seen before, is opening up opportunities both in terms of study and employment for staff and students.

The press release continued

Higher education reforms in Europe are no longer a matter of interest only to Europeans but also have an impact on the global higher education arena. The Bologna Process has created a situation where countries outside of Europe are now looking at their own university structures. There is increasing evidence in the US, Australia, Latin America and parts of Africa, but also parts of Asia that educators are looking more closely at the reforms in Europe…

The press release concluded:

Each of these countries and continents is looking at the Bologna Process form a slightly different standpoint. In China for example, where the student body is expected to rise to 25 million, there is great interest in the Bologna process as an example of a reform process as an example of a reform process which has implicated a diverse and large geographical area.

The Bologna reforms have indeed ‘jolted’ the global higher education community in more ways than one. Not only is the Bologna Process intended to create ‘Europe’ as a coherent and competitive regional entity, as in the European Higher Education Area, but its global ambitions have become more apparent with the ‘Looking Out: The Bologna Process in a Global Setting’ initiatives driven by the Bologna Follow-Up Group. Whether it is Europe’s interest in the Asia/China market, or it is China taking the Bologna Process as a model for its own internal reorganization, the consequences for countries like the USA and Australia are profound. Both countries have depended on the Asian market for students in the form of fee-payers and, in the case of the USA, for providing a significant amount of the brainpower for its research and development activities.

The entry of Europe into this battle for markets and minds in the global higher education sector has certainly raised the stakes of the game. Susan Robertson and Ruth Keeling have explored in more depth this battle between the higher education ‘lions’ – though the China factor remains relatively under-examined. One thing for sure is that this is just the start of what is to come. The EUA, for instance, are involved in organising their first EUA Asia event in Malaysia. Let’s see what the outcomes will be over the next year or so.

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