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

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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

Are we witnessing a key moment in the reworking of the global higher education & research landscape?

ACEissuebriefOver the last several weeks more questions about the changing nature of the relative position of national higher education and research systems have emerged.  These questions have often been framed around the notion that the US higher education system (assuming there is one system) might be in relative decline, that flagship UK universities (national champions?) like Oxford are unable to face challenges given the constraints facing them, and that universities from ’emerging’ regions (East and South Asia, in particular) are ‘rising’ due to the impact of continual or increasing investment in higher education and research.

Select examples of such contributions include this series in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

and these articles associated with the much debated THE-QS World University Rankings 2009:

EvidenceUKcoverThe above articles and graphics in US and UK higher education media outlets were preceded by this working paper:

a US report titled:

and one UK report titled:

There are, of course, many other calls for increased awareness, or deep and critical reflection.  For example, back in June 2009, four congressional leaders in the USA:

asked the National Academies to form a distinguished panel to assess the competitive position of the nation’s research universities. “America’s research universities are admired throughout the world, and they have contributed immeasurably to our social and economic well-being,” the Members of Congress said in a letter delivered today. “We are concerned that they are at risk.”….

The bipartisan congressional group asked that the Academies’ panel answer the following question: “What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?”

Recall that the US National Academies produced a key 2005 report (Rising Above the Gathering Storm) “which in turn was the basis for the “America COMPETES Act.” This Act created a blueprint for doubling funding for basic research, improving the teaching of math and science, and taking other steps to make the U.S. more competitive.” On this note see our 16 June 2008 entry titled ‘Surveying US dominance in science and technology for the Secretary of Defense‘.

RisingStormTaken together, these contributions are but a sample of the many expressions of concern being expressed in 2009 in the Global North (especially the US & UK) about the changing geography of the global higher education and research landscape.

These types of articles and reports shed light, but can also raise anxiety levels (as they are sometimes designed to do).  The better of them attempt to ensure that the angsts being felt in the long dominant Global North are viewed with a critical eye, and that people realize that this is not a “zero-sum game” (as Philip Altbach puts it in the Chronicle’sAmerica Falling: Longtime Dominance in Education Erodes‘). For example, the shifting terrain of global research productivity is partially a product of increasing volumes of collaboration and human mobility across borders, while key global challenges are just that – global in nature and impossible to attend to unless global teams of relatively equitable capacities are put together. Moreover, greater transnational education and research activity and experience arguably facilitates a critical disposition towards the most alarmist material, while concurrently reinforcing the point that the world is changing, albeit very unevenly, and that there are also many positive changes associated with a more dispersed higher education and research landscape.

We’ll do our best to post links to new global mappings like these as they emerge in the future.  Please ensure you let us know what is being published, be it rigorous, critical, analytical, alarmist, self-congratulatory, etc., and we’ll profile it on GlobalHigherEd.  The production of discourses on this new global higher education and research landscape is a key component of the process of change itself.  Thus we need to be concerned not just with the content of such mappings, but also the logics underlying the production of such mappings, and the institutional relations that bring such mappings into view for consumption.

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.

QS.com Asian University Rankings: niches within niches…within…

QS Asia 3Today, for the first time, the QS Intelligence Unit published their list of the top 100 Asian universities in their QS.com Asian University Rankings.

There is little doubt that the top performing universities have already added this latest branding to their websites, or that Hong Kong SAR will have proudly announced it has three universities in the top 5 while Japan has 2. QS Asia 2

QS.com Asian University Rankings is a spin-out from the QS World University Rankings published since 2005.  Last year, when the 2008 QS World University Rankings was launched, GlobalHigherEd posted an entry asking:  “Was this a niche industry in formation?”  This was in reference to strict copyright rules invoked – that ‘the list’ of decreasing ‘worldclassness’ could not be displayed, retransmitted, published or broadcast – as well as acknowledgment that rankings and associated activities can enable the building of firms such as QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.

Seems like there are ‘niches within niches within….niches’ emerging in this game of deepening and extending the status economy in global higher education.  According to the QS Intelligence website:

Interest in rankings amongst Asian institutions is amongst the strongest in the world – leading to Asia being the first of a number of regional exercises QS plans to initiate.

The narrower the geographic focus of a ranking, the richer the available data can potentially be – the US News & World Report draws on 18 indicators, the Joong Ang Ilbo ranking in Korea on over 30. It is both appropriate and crucial then that the range of indicators used at a regional level differs from that used globally.

The objectives of each exercise are slightly different – whilst a global ranking seeks to identify truly world class universities, contributing to the global progress of science, society and scholarship, a regional ranking should adapt to the realities of the region in question.

Sure, the ‘regional niche’ allows QS.com to package and sell new products to Asian and other universities, as well as information to prospective students about who is regarded as ‘the best’.

However, the QS.com Asian University Rankings does more work than just that.  The ranking process and product places ‘Asian universities’ into direct competition with each other, it reinforces a very particular definition of ‘Asia’ and therefore Asian regionalism, and it services an imagined emerging Asian regional education space.

All this, whilst appearing to level the playing field by invoking regional sentiments.

Susan Robertson

Global higher education: what alternative models for emerging higher education systems?

ghefposterHigher education systems in Asia, Latin America and Africa bear prominent similarities to those in Europe.  Historically, Latin America, Asia particularly Southeast Asia, and Africa had adopted the systems of their respective colonizers who also provided the major part of the funding mechanism, teaching staff, and ideologies on higher education at one time in history.  The very obvious imposition by the colonizers is the language with a large part of Latin America using Spanish, Asia using English and Africa using French.  The American higher education system became more influential after the early twentieth century with the stress on research as the main activity of universities.  Apart from that, the American system was the first to introduce massification of education which had been adopted by many countries around the world.  Higher education institutions of today emphasize on mass higher education which results in increasing access to tertiary education.

Arguably, emerging countries are in dire need of a forum to deliberate on possible models for higher education for countries of the South, in particular the Commonwealth countries where a majority of the bottom billions resides.  Countries from the South, particularly Asian countries have been adapting models from Europe and US for decades, be they sprung from voluntary adoption or influenced by external factors.  Instead of borrowing from western models and putting them to test by going through the whole process of adaptation, evaluation and experimentation, the same amount of time and effort can be utilized to examine the prospect of identifying a model in a South-South context.  This model will be made up of elements of locality, taking into consideration of the persisting cultural and scholarly values. Globalization and internationalization of higher education should not be adopted at the expense of local knowledge.

Notably, the effort to break away from the clutches of the dominating Western model is not new as evidenced by the implementation of national language in post-secondary education by Malaysia and Indonesia. However, fundamental models practiced in Asian countries remain biased towards European/American model. This factor has contributed to the peripheral status of Asian higher education institutions and with the rapid globalisation, the so-called central higher education institutions in Europe/America would remain dominant, more striking in the context of higher education internationalization. Indeed, lately Malaysia has once again beginning to embrace the English language after so many years experimenting with the Malay language as the medium of instruction in public higher education institutions. Whither Asia/indigenous models of higher education development?

The Asia models that we have in mind is deeply entrenched in the belief that even within the context of the globalization process that every country is unique; this provides ample reason to relook or reassess the higher education systems which are very much inclined towards the European/American models.  The present higher education models adopted by many countries in the South, characterized by the Western ideologies may have been tailored to suit local needs, but the extent to which the adaptation serves the emerging need to strengthen the standing of each country demands a rethinking.  There has never been a time when higher education in the South faces more opportunities and challenges than in this current global economic downturn.  We are in urgent need of models that can handle Asia’s peculiar situation with respect to quality and accountability as well as funding mechanism with shrinking public funding.  To this date, the responses to these challenges are typically European/American in character: corporatisation/privatisation of higher education, management of higher education based on entrepreneurial approach, competition within the higher education sector and the evident rise of higher education as a commodity.  Major issues mentioned above may come under the same umbrella across the world higher education systems, nonetheless a more thorough inspection would indicate varied issues faced by different regions which are subject to social, political, economic and national pressures.

The appropriateness of the growth trajectories of existing higher education systems, dominated by European/American models poses the challenge of how far the present models are justified in a South-South context, one with much greater diversity from those of the North.  In essence one may want to view that the world ranking system of universities and the notion of world class universities as proposed by the North more as concepts or attempts at standardizing universities rather than appreciating the distinct elements of each university within its national socio-political context.

ghef20091The Second Global Higher Education Forum (GHEF2009) to be held in Penang, Malaysia from 13 to 16 December 2009 will serve as a platform for debates and discussions on higher education that recognise the different characteristics of higher education institutions and systems in different regions.  It will encompass topics ranging from the current trends to the future perspectives of higher education with the present global economic downturn as the main backdrop.  GHEF2009 will consider and examine the possible effects and offer alternate avenues for mitigating the global financial and economic effects, particularly for countries of the South.  Furthermore, the current and future challenges faced by the nations in the South require different models for the development of higher education institutions and systems. There is also an urge to attempt exploration of the possibilities as well as opportunities for regional harmonisation of higher education. Apart from that, discussions will also explore how the North and South will be able to have bilateral collaboration to weather global issues with the emphasis on serving and promoting sustainable development for the cause of humanity.

Morshidi Sirat and Ooi Poh Ling

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