Universities offer cultural as well as scholastic exposure as global student numbers grow, reports.
Dong Yuling is a 23-yearold student from the northern Chinese province of Shanxi studying app design at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Just down the road, at the University of Technology Sydney, another Chinese student, Chen Shulin, 25, is working on a PhD examining wireless technology.
Among students around the world, they are part of a growing trend to study outside their home country. It is a trend, especially among Chinese and Indian students, that is accelerating.
“It’s about exposing yourself to different cultures ... broadening your mind,” Dong told China Daily.
She sees this period of her life not only as a starting point in her education, but as a stage in building a close network of friends.
A network from a number of different countries, she said, will be crucial in her later working life.
Chen said his long-term goal is to become an academic at an Australian university, where he can gain expertise before eventually returning to China and continuing his research.
Chen also sees a great deal of value in studying overseas, gaining knowledge and making valuable contacts for future research projects.
Today there are an estimated 4.5 million international students just like Dong and Chen globally.
That is up from 2 million in 2000, according to a recent report by The Economist.
That figure is expected to rise to 8 million by 2025, driven by population and income growth that is occurring mostly in the developing world.
Elite universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale in the United States and Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom will all continue to attract the world’s brightest minds.
However, tertiary education has been undergoing a seismic shift over the past 10 years.
Academic partnerships have grown alongside franchises, with the opening of branch campuses and joint research facilities.
Students today have the ability to pick and choose where they want to continue their studies.
They can now choose universities using a number of different criteria that best suit their own academic requirements.
A recent report in The Economist, “Brains without borders” said more than 1 million foreign students now study in the US.
Even some countries and regions that have not traditionally hosted many foreign students are now trying to grab market share.
Hong Kong and Singapore have both grown into popular hubs for international students, offering a mixture of well-established, young but rapidly developing institutions.
According to the latest global university rankings survey by British group Quacquarelli Symonds, Singapore and Hong Kong together now have five of the world’s top 50 universities, and half of Asia’s top 10 universities.
“As wealthy, efficient and international cities, they also both score well in terms of overall living standards and desirability,” QS said in its survey last year.
Cross-border education is now becoming the norm rather than the exception, academics say.
“Universities can no longer operate in isolation,” said Abid Khan, deputy vice-chancellor and vice-president (Global Engagement) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
“The world today faces complex challenges and no single place has all the answers,” he told China Daily.
“But if you can bring people together you stand a chance of meeting some of those challenges ... such as climate change for example.”
Khan leads Global Engagement, a dedicated unit whose aim, he said, is to advance the university’s impact on the world through “international collaboration ... by forging and nurturing partnerships, and advising faculties, centers of excellence and industry on new ways to collaborate”.
Tan Tai Yong, professor of history at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, said international exposure is essential in teaching “adaptability, flexibility and the ability to see things from another person’s or culture’s perspective”.
The college, a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore, has a common curriculum drawn from both Asian and Western “intellectual traditions”, he said.
“In today’s economy, learning opportunities across national jurisdictional borders are highly soughtafter.”
The dean of the faculty of engineering and information technologies at the University of Sydney, Archie Johnston, oversees what he said is “the educational development of world-class graduates with both the technical and interpersonal skills for national and global leadership roles”.
China is moving from an economy of the past to an economy of the future, a future driven by technology, which is in turn being driven by knowledge, he said.
“The exposure to different people and cultures is an invaluable experience ... something which we cannot teach here (locally). By bringing minds together it is quite possible to solve issues common to all people, whether you live in Australia or China.”
Khan of Monash University said: “There is a saying that money follows people ... not the other way around.
“The narrative we are pushing at Monash is there are experiences, exposures and networks you can access that are different in other parts of the world. Go out there and take advantage of what’s on offer.”
Students and academics alike pay close attention to the various university rankings that are published on an annual basis, which compare the world’s universities in specific subject areas.
“These give students the ability to pick and choose where they would like to go,” Khan said.
“It is still competitive but students have choice. There was a time when universities told students what they should do and what they can gain. Now students say: ‘This is what we want to achieve and what we want to gain’.
“By studying overseas a student is career building before he or she actually starts a career.”
A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank on crossborder education said universities serve a vital function in that they train a “country’s workforce in all fields relevant to its development, including education”.
It went on to say that cross-border studies “help to expand quickly a tertiary education system and to increase the country’s stock of highly skilled human capital.
“It also gives a benchmark to academics and institutions on the quality and relevance of their services and can lead to organizational learning, thanks to partnerships, both at the institutional and system levels.
“Finally, it adds variety and choice to domestic systems, which may lead to healthy competition and quality enhancement.”
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Dong Yuling, 23, a Chinese undergraduate at the University of Sydney, represents a growing trend of students studying outside their home country.