Modes of Higher Ed Capacity Building for South Korea’s South Coast Sun Belt

What to do when development strategies for a city-region change, but there is limited higher education capacity in said region? This issue emerged this summer when, following a work-related visit to Beijing in late July, I spent four fascinating days in Yeosu, a city of approximately 300,000 located near the southeast tip of South Korea.

The purpose of the visit was to participate in a Pacific Rim Council on Urban Development (PRCUD) Roundtable Forum regarding the future of Yeosu’s development strategy in a post-Expo 2012 era. PRCUD roundtables are structured somewhat similarly to the OECD’s missions regarding higher education and city-region development. By this I mean:

  • Local host agencies (government, the private sector, community-based organizations) request an international ‘outside’ assessment of particular development challenges;
  • Background documents are prepared for the visiting team;
  • A visit to the city is held that involves meetings, Q&A sessions, debates, etc.;
  • Preliminary findings are outlined in a wrap-up meeting;
  • A final report is issued to the local host agencies.

While not gratis, this form of service is much more affordable than that provided by private consultants for the visiting team members provide their time for free because they value public service and find the exercise intellectually stimulating.

Like many mega-event host city-regions, Yeosu has benefited from the improvement of its infrastructure, including rail and road systems, on and near the Expo 2012 site. It is also important to note that Expo 2012 is designed to facilitate change beyond the boundaries of the city itself, as highlighted in a part of a speech by former President Moo-hyun Roh during a International Exhibitions Bureau/Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) evaluative site visit to Yeosu in April 2007:

Korea’s message in the proposed Expo 2012 is focused on the ocean and the coast. Yeosu will be the host city of Expo we are preparing and the event’s name will be Yeosu International Exposition, but we are hoping Korea’s south coast as a whole to be the proposed Expo’s main stage. We Koreans want to showcase this beautiful coastal belt to the world through Yeosu Expo… Let me add two more important meanings of our Expo bid. Korea is a country with large inter-city and inter-regional development gaps. Yeosu Expo will contribute to a more balanced territorial development in the country. In addition, the Expo will also able to act as a catalyst for inter-regional collaboration, cooperation and integration between southeast and southwest coastal regions. These two regions have a long history of political conflicts.

The above quote, as well as the following paragraph and map, were included in a briefing document we were provided with:

As such, the national government considered the Expo bid as a central project that could actualize an important regional policy and planning ideal known as ‘balanced national development.’ Since the early 1970s, the goal of balanced territorial development has been pursued in the country in order to spatially redistribute the benefits from industrialization concentrated in the Capital Region. Such exchanges might entail taking from Seoul-Incheon Corridor and surrounding Gyeonggi Province to provide less economically viable regions with varied development opportunities and incentives. In this regional policy context of South Korea, hosting an Expo in Yeosu was hoped to catalyze the development of economically distressed Jeonnam Province and the host city was expected to play a role as the central city in the country’s South Coast Sun Belt.

One of the interesting themes that emerged in the context of the meetings was inadequate higher education capacity in the Yeosu city-region. Yeosu – a city of 300,000 situated on the southern coast of South Korea – only has one small university. This university – known as Chonnam National University – was originally called Yosu University until it was merged with a larger regional university Chonnam University in March 2006. Given the merger, Chonnam National University now has a Yeosu campus (often known as the Doondeokdong Campus). This campus is not large, with 218 faculty serving 5,241 students. While I have not done a systematic comparison with other typical cities, it is worth noting that Chiang Mai University in Thailand serves some 25,000-30,000 students in a city of 160,000 (excluding the Chiang Mai regional population) while my own city (Madison WI) of 236,000 hosts two non-virtual universities serving 45,245 students.

A number of us on the PRCUD visiting team were surprised that the broad regional development agenda for the ‘South Coast Sun Belt,’ which is dependent upon a nurturing a vibrant Yeosu, had little to say about expanding opportunities to acquire a high quality higher education in the Yeosu city-region. The logic for doing so includes:

  • Redress population loss through the influx of more students, staff, faculty, and visitors. For example, Yeosu is a wonderful location for international students (e.g., via study abroad schemes) such that visiting students would acquire a rich sense of Korean society while also enjoying an attractive coastal context.
  • Facilitate structural change in the labour market through the provision of skilled labour, but also the development of the higher education component of the services sector.
  • Facilitate the building of greater linkages with key sectors of the existing city-region economy. For example, there are limited ties and capabilities within Chonnam National University to engage with the Yeosu National Production Complex, as well as the nearby POSCO steel mill (the site of the world’s largest single producer of steel, with some 17-18 million tons rolling out per year, enough for the production of 22 million cars).
  • Facilitate the development of new forms of knowledge (via research), knowledgeable people (via education), jobs, and firms regarding sectors and fields of such as marine science, tourism, renewable energy, gerontology, and so on.
  • Facilitate life-long learning opportunities for an ageing society.

What are the options for developing higher education and research capacity, perhaps located on the waterfront Expo 2012 site (pictured here, courtesy of Courtesy of Organizing Committee for EXPO 2012 Yeosu Korea)? There are many, assuming the Korean state was willing to sanction such a policy shift, and that the City of Yeosu (under the guidance of Mayor Kim Chung-Seog). To assist in some brainstorming, here are some modes of capacity building that are partially based on some case studies of new campuses in cities around the world:

  1. Expansion of Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. This could occur on the existing campus site or else via the development of an additional complex on the Expo 2012 site.
  2. Expansion of Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus, though in partnership with a national or international higher education institution. This could occur on the existing campus site or else via the development of an additional complex on the Expo 2012 site.
  3. Establishment of new national (Korean) university branch campus in Yeosu. This could be done independently or in partnership with other national or international higher education or research institutions. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  4. Establishment of a new autonomous (Korean) university with the support of 1-2 existing national (Korean) universities, or else a number of international higher education or research institutions. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  5. Establishment of a new autonomous (Korean) university. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  6. Establishment of an international branch campus on the Expo 2012 site.

It is important to note that other modes of capacity building exist and that I have not outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each mode. A more thorough contribution would also identify key stages of the planning and implementation process, as well as case studies that have been both successes and disasters. Rather, this brief entry is merely designed to stimulate some further discussions and debates.

The expansion of higher education capacity in Yeosu clearly complements efforts to diversify the city-region economy, support the emergence of new or emerging sectors and related employment opportunities, and alter Yeosu’s reputation as the location of a massive national petrochemical complex. One of the key legacies of Expo 2012 is a large and very attractive waterfront space in the heart of the city, which is about to be vacated. The opportunity to expand higher education capacity one such an appropriate and attractive site is worth deliberating about, and quickly so that the site is not allocated to uses that may play a less relevant developmental role.

Kris Olds

Pacific Rim views on global education: Hong Kong+Seattle

Editor’s note: this guest entry was kindly produced by Gray Kochhar-Lindgren (pictured to the right), Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, as well as Director of the First Year Experience, at the University of Washington, Bothell. During 2009-10, Gray served as a Fulbright Scholar in General Education based at the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong America Center. With Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, he is currently working on a book entitled Designing the Global University. Our sincere thanks to Gray for a tantalizing entry that sheds light on some of the opportunities and challenges of fashioning deeper forms of internationalization, especially those of a partnership nature.  This is an issue that Nigel Thrift also addressed in a recent blog entry (‘Internationalization is difficult‘) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as via recent comments he made in the Times Higher Education (‘Global future: together alone‘), and one that I will deal with via a series of entries about international collaborative (e.g., dual and joint) degrees this coming September.   Kris Olds

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Having spent September 2009-June 2010 serving as a Fulbright Scholar in General Education in Hong Kong , I have now returned to my responsibilities at the University of Washington, Bothell, as a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Director of the academic side of our First Year Experience. All the universities in Hong Kong are moving from three to four year degrees and UW Bothell started first and second year programs in 2006 and is now rapidly expanding its degree options. On both sides of the Pacific, curricular and administrative structural reform are moving forward at a sometimes dizzying, but always invigorating, pace. What are the connections and asymmetries involved in such an effort?

As in other parts of the world, a very similar language is emerging in both Seattle and Hong Kong around curricular reform, including the familiar rhetoric of student-centeredness; outcomes-based assessment; interdisciplinarity; writing, quantitative, and IT literacies; cross-cultural competencies; interactive pedagogies; and the development of new administrative structures that can serve the university as a whole instead of reproducing only department or College level concerns.

The most difficult challenges include how best to shape faculty participation in governance, teaching, and administration of the curricular shifts; how to change the culture of the university so that teaching is valued as highly as research productivity in promotion and tenure decisions; how to change faculty behavior toward more interactivity in and beyond the classroom; what forms trans- or interdisciplinarity teaching and research take; and, of course, how best to resource the curricular changes in terms of money and people.

In addition to these similarities, each site has its material and cultural specificities. It is, for instance, much easier to do student projects on different moments of urbanization in Hong Kong and on biodiversity of wetland habitats in Bothell.  The University of Hong Kong, where I was based last year, is an English-language institution, but the language politics of Hong Kong as a whole, which has Cantonese as its primary language and the use of Putonghua growing quickly, involves issues quite different than in the Pacific Northwest of the US. The global position of the US and the “one country, two systems” of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, create different sets of questions for teaching, learning, and university reform in each case.

As an outsider-insider in Hong Kong there were always, and inevitably, blind spots I did not even recognize as well as a torrent of learning from daily life, reading, conversation, teaching, and the curricular work itself.  As we all learn to work more effectively across global sites, we would do well to think much more rigorously about our theories of cultural translatability.

Finally, there is the formation of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research groups. I am in the very beginning of this process, so I am immensely curious about how it will unfold. I am collaborating with scholars in Hong Kong, Seattle, Macau, and elsewhere to collect a series of essays on Global Noir, with its affiliations with cities, political economy, the tradition of the genre, and a reconceptualization of the concept of noir.

On a larger scale, I, along with Robert Peckham, the Co-Director of the Centre for Humanities and Medicine at HKU, are forming a research project called “Transnational Asian Cities: Health, Virtualities, and Urban Ecologies” that will involve scholars from multiple disciplines in Hong Kong, Seattle, Shanghai, and Mumbai.  How will we construct the object of study? How will we stay in touch? What types of new understandings will we produce and in what media? How will such effort be judged and assessed? Such questions must, in our globalized but still localized contexts, be asked time and time again.

All of these efforts, which are part of redefining the contemporary globalized university, require leadership, visibility, inventiveness, collaboration, faculty and staff development, and consistency of effort over time.  We will all have to learn to articulate spatial-temporal consistencies and asymmetries, a host of rapidly shifting variabilities of culture and language, and a series of nodes of Intensity where we collect, share, and move our work ahead. What, in other words, does “Seattle+Hong Kong” signify? How do we actualize the links as new curriculum and new university structures? How do we move back and forth across the Pacific? As with any organizational change at such basic levels, there are difficulties, frustrations, and successes, but the necessity for change is clear.  Ready or not.

Gray Kochhar-Lindgren

East Asia Summit calls for the revival of Nalanda University: thinking and acting beyond the nation?

The emergence of new supra-national movements with respect to higher education and research continue apace.  From the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), through to international consortia of universities, through to bits of universities embedded in others within distant territories (e.g., Georgia Tech’s unit within the National University of Singapore), the higher education landscape is in the process of being reconfigured and globalized. Yet, is it really that novel in an historical sense?

Today’s call at the East Asian Summit for the revival of Nalanda University (see below) draws upon development outcomes in higher education that took place well before the establishment of medieval universities like Oxford, Bologna, or Lund. As Sashi Tahroor notes:

Founded in 427 A.D. by Buddhist monks at the time of Kumaragupta I (415-455 A.D.), Nalanda was an extraordinary centre of learning for seven centuries. The name probably comes from a combination of nalam (lotus, the symbol of knowledge) and da, meaning “to give”, so Nalanda means “Giver of Knowledge”. And that is exactly what the university did, attracting prize students from all over India, as well as from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Persia, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Turkey. At its peak, Nalanda played host to more than 10,000 students — not just Buddhists, but of various religious traditions — and its education, provided in its heyday by 2,000 world-renowned professors, was completely free.

The establishment of new types of universities in like Nalanda University, Øresund University, or the recently opened Universidade Federal da Integração Latino-Americana (UNILA), remind us that there is an emerging desire for novel spaces of knowledge production that think and act beyond the nation.  A related question, then, is how effective will these new configurations be, and can supporting stakeholders (including nation-states) really act beyond the nation?

NalandaUstmt

Kris Olds

Debate: Asia vs Europe: which region is more geopolitically incompetent?

LKYdebate

Can regions think and act strategically? In which ways are Europe and Asia geopolitically (in)competent? How does one speak for “Asia” and “Europe”? Why do Mahbubani and Emmott seek to speak for “Asia” and “Europe”? Link here for a National University of Singapore (NUS) webcast of this recent debate, and here for a lecture synopsis.

International education activity in Australia up 23 per cent from previous financial year

Australia is continuing to see rapid growth in the export of education (including higher education) services, and the associated generation of export income.  Today’s Australian Education International‘s AEI eNewsletter, which is well worth subscribing to if you are interested in GlobalHigherEd (which you must be if you are visiting this weblog!), includes a link to a new Research Snapshot (November 2008) that notes:

International education activity contributed $14.2 billion in export income to the Australian economy in 2007-08, up 23.4 per cent from the previous financial year. Over the 10 years to 2007-08, education exports have grown at an average annual rate of 16 per cent, compared with an average annual rate of 7 per cent across all services exports.

Here is a copy of a relevant table from the new Research Snapshot:

ausserviceexports

This document updates some data we profiled in our 24 June 2008 entry titled ‘Analysing Australia’s global higher ed export industry‘.

The international comparability of export earnings data is something we intend on focusing on this year. If readers of GlobalHigherEd entry have insights on this topic, or would like to prepare a guest entry on it, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kris Olds

Towards harmonisation of higher education in Southeast Asia: Malaysia’s perspective

The idea of harmonising higher education systems in Southeast Asia was inspired by the development of regionalism in higher education in Europe, specifically the establishment of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The idea of regionalism in higher education in Asia or Southeast Asia is a very exciting idea, indeed. Is this idea feasible?

Higher education systems in Southeast Asia are very diverse, and even within each nation incompatibility is to be expected.  In the case of Malaysia, the Malaysian Qualification Framework (MQF) was introduced to ensure compatibility of qualifications and learning outcomes within and outside of Malaysia. More importantly, harmonising the highly diverse systems of higher education in the region is seen as an important step towards the regional integration objective. But, it is important to appreciate that in the context of Southeast Asia, with its diverse systems, harmonization is about comparability; not standardization or uniformity of programmes, degrees and the nature of higher education institutions.

Admittedly, there are benefits in creating a common higher education space in Southeast Asia. The more obvious ones are greater mobility, widening access and choices, academic and research collaborations, enhanced collaboration on human capital investment, and the promotion of ASEAN and/or Southeast Asian within the fast changing global higher education landscape. The immediate advantage of such a harmonisation in higher education system is presented as easier exchange and mobility for students and academics between nations within Southeast Asia.

Arguably, the model that is most desired and considered most feasible is that which does not require all higher education systems to conform to a particular model.  The general consensus is that a system that become a reference or one that can be fitted into without jeopardising cultural diversity and national identity is considered most feasible and desired.

The likely scenarios of higher education landscape in Southeast Asia as a result of such a harmonisation of higher education systems are generally perceived as follows:

  1. Students from different countries spend at least a year studying in other countries
  2. Students in different locations are offered the same quality of education regardless of  higher education institutions
  3. Graduates from one country are recruited by the employment sector in other countries
  4. A multi-national workplace
  5. Close collaboration  between faculty in creating and developing new knowledge
  6. Close collaboration between students in creating and developing new knowledge
  7. Close collaboration between employment sectors in creating and developing new knowledge
  8. Larger volume of adult students in the higher education system

The implementation of the harmonisation idea is not without challenges. Steps should be taken in order to increase student readiness. Barriers to language and communication must be overcome and there should be serious efforts to reduce constraints that are very ‘territorial’ in nature. Admittedly, students involved in mobility program may be faced with adjustment problems particularly with respect to instructional practices, curriculum incomparability, and cultural diversity. Then there is the language problem: differences in languages post a great barrier for inward and outward mobility of students at the macro level. ‘Territorial’ constraint, whereby each country hopes to safeguard the uniqueness of their educational programs, which in turn, may ultimately constrain the implementation of regional harmonization efforts is a major consideration to be factored in.

In so far as Malaysia is concerned, it has to be recognised that harmonization is not about ‘choice’. It is a global movement that now necessitates the involvement of all Malaysian higher education institutions. There are benefits to the private players. Initially, we need a state of readiness at the macro level, whereby the aims and principles of harmonization have to be agreed upon by all stakeholders and players in the local higher education scene.

In conclusion, familiarisation with the idea and concept of harmonisation, as opposed to standardisation, of higher education system in Southeast Asia is indeed an initial but a critical step towards the implementation of a meaningful and effective harmonisation of higher education system in the region. While managers of higher education institutions and academics are not ignorant of  the idea of harmonisation, they tend to talk of it with reference to the Bologna process in Europe and the creation of the EHEA. Other stakeholders (particularly students) however are not very familiar as to how this concept could be realised in the context of Southeast Asia, which is culturally and politically diverse. Generally, students failed to appreciate the positive aspects of harmonisation to their careers, job prospects and, of equal importance, cross-fertilization of cultures.

The task of creating a common higher education space is insurmountable in view of the vast differences in the structure and performance of the various higher education systems and institutions in Southeast Asia. Admittedly, we need to harmonise the internal structure of the higher education systems in the first instance before attempting a region-wide initiative. More importantly, the determination to realise this idea of harmonising higher education in Southeast Asia should permeate and be readily accepted by the regional community. Typical of Southeast Asia, directives should come from the political masters. Thus the role of Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) is very critical to a successful implementation of this idea of harmonisation of the higher education systems. Equally important, national prejudices and suspicions need to be put aside if we are to realise regional aspirations and goals.

Morshidi Sirat