Malaysian in­sti­tu­tions on the rise in world ed­u­ca­tion

New Straits Times - - Letters -

FOR Malaysian stu­dents seek­ing to study abroad, ex­ec­u­tive orders signed by United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump have raised con­cerns about their ed­u­ca­tional op­tions.

The change in per­cep­tion comes at a time when two other forces are driv­ing change in in­ter­na­tional stu­dent mo­bil­ity trends: shift­ing cur­rency ex­change rates, and the im­proved rank­ing and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of global higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions out­side of the US.

Un­der such con­di­tions, the best strat­egy is to fo­cus less on na­tional des­ti­na­tion and more on which uni­ver­si­ties, de­gree pro­grammes and en­vi­ron­ments are best suited to meet the needs of stu­dents.

The US higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is the world’s best, ac­cord­ing to the 2016 QS Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Sys­tem Strength Rank­ings, but this does not mean that, de­spite the re­mark­able diversity of Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tions, it is the best fit for ev­ery­one.

Not only stu­dents and fam­i­lies, but also Malaysian uni­ver­si­ties, should be re­search-ori­ented and se­lec­tive when it comes to choos­ing their fu­ture ed­u­ca­tional part­ners.

In higher ed­u­ca­tion cir­cles, there are con­cerns that Trump’s en­try ban will have a chill­ing ef­fect on in­ter­na­tional study in the US.

There is also the per­cep­tion that more and more Amer­i­cans op­pose glob­al­i­sa­tion and are di­vided along racial and class lines.

The re­al­ity is that glob­al­i­sa­tion of the work­force, not in­ter­na­tional study per se, is the main dilemma faced by many gov­ern­ments. This is a trend that is also ev­i­dent in other de­vel­oped coun­tries be­sides the US.

Stu­dents and fam­i­lies for whom in­ter­na­tional em­ploy­ment con­sid­er­a­tions loom large should look at changes in work visa lot­tery sys­tems and the types of path­ways avail­able to stu­dent visa hold­ers.

In this area as well, the US seems to be hold­ing up al­beit with mild per­tur­ba­tions: mod­i­fi­ca­tions are ex­pected to the H1-B lot­tery sys­tem, for ex­am­ple, and, last month, leaked plans ap­peared that seemed in­tended to re­duce the num­ber of Op­tional Prac­ti­cal Train­ing pro­grammes avail­able to for­eign stu­dents, to pro­tect Amer­i­can work­ers and for­eign work­ers in the US from com­pe­ti­tion.

These are com­pli­cated, but know­able and man­age­able, sce­nar­ios.

Those of us re­spon­si­ble for ad­vanc­ing in­ter­na­tional higher ed­u­ca­tion are in­vested in pro­vid­ing the best op­tions pos­si­ble for stu­dents in Malaysian univer­sity and de­gree trans­fer pro­grammes.

The world’s higher ed­u­ca­tion land­scape has be­come in­cred­i­bly di­verse and, in this land­scape, in­sti­tu­tions out­side of the US, in­clud­ing sev­eral in Malaysia, are on the rise.

This is a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment that we should em­brace.

How­ever, it also means that con­ven­tional wis­dom, which sees higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in rigidly na­tional terms, no longer ap­plies.

As mo­bil­ity, in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, en­trepreneuri­al­ism and col­lab­o­ra­tive prob­lem-solv­ing in­creas­ingly de­fine for all of us what higher ed­u­ca­tion means, is­sues of choice and “fit” will come to the fore as well.

How we ap­proach these is­sues, whether as in­di­vid­u­als or in­sti­tu­tions, will shape fu­ture out­comes, mak­ing this an op­por­tune mo­ment for Malaysian stu­dents to take a broad and in­formed view of the range of uni­ver­si­ties, lo­ca­tions and ped­a­gog­i­cal mod­els avail­able.

DR MATTHEW D. JOHN­SON,

Head of School, School of Lib­eral Arts and Sciences, Tay­lor’s Univer­sity

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