COVID-19: Asian universities soar amidst global pandemic

COVID-19: Asian universities soar amidst global pandemic
(Representational Image)

Among the scores of unanticipated events that took place with the onset of the pandemic, the tectonic shift in the global knowledge economy from Western to Asian countries has perplexed many. Up until recently, students worldwide pinned universities in the UK, US, Canada, etc., as their study abroad destinations. But COVID-19 changed the trajectory of the search for many. A volley of interesting factors has led to this change in preference. A close analysis of these factors also gives a preview of future preferences of students that have altered beyond imagination due to the ongoing pandemic.

The rising preference for Asian universities is not hearsay but a proven fact as many Asian universities made it to the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings 2021 from just over a quarter in 2016 to almost a third today. The data projects that the world’s youngest and most dynamic universities are situated in East Asia. The Asian continent registered astounding growth in representation in 2021, with 32% of Asian universities making it to the rankings this year. This is a huge feat as the continent’s representation stood at 26% during the 2016 rankings.

Why Asian universities are on the rise?

 Asian universities have been registering traction even before the pandemic era. The successive editions of the annual Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings bear testimony to the Western nations losing the default position for higher education.

China has been particularly attracting research talent from this diaspora. Rankings corroborate this growth, as the number of universities from mainland China that made to the world top 200 grew from just two in 2016 to seven in 2021. What’s more impressive is that the Tsinghua University in Beijing made history by entering the world's top 20 universities for the first time in 2021.

Singapore's ambitions to become a global education hub are coming together, with the country now home to some of the world's fastest-growing universities. The country’s Nanyang Technological University is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world. Adding to the impressive growth of the continent, Hong Kong's representation climbed from three to five institutions within the same period, while South Korea's increased from four to seven.

Thus, the data bear testimony to the shift from the traditional Western world of knowledge economy, such as the US, UK, etc. Though these countries still remain dominant players in the higher education space, rapidly changing choices of students reflect the shift in the balance of power from the West to the East.

The dramatic downturn in the flow of talent pool to the Western world has a lot to do with short-term physical restrictions on travel brought in by the pandemic, coupled with growing opportunities for higher education in the East. Further, the East’s cognizance towards developing a collaborative, open, and diversified global education system that addresses the pressing challenges of tomorrow - be it future pandemics, food security, safety and peace, and climate crisis - is helping the region to rise above the rest.

The Future trajectory

The Coronavirus pandemic starved Western institutions due to colossal loss of tuition fees, cuts in budgets, and lay-offs. On the other hand, it had little effect on university research in East Asia. Progress warrants a more collaborative and diverse global education system if Western power is not to lose its default position as the world's knowledge economy.

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