Will China dominate international higher education in the near or distant future?
This question may be redundant. The question to ask may be when will China become the dominant player in international higher education. China is already a major player in international higher education.
Twenty years ago there were 3.4 million students in China. Today there are more than 26 million. In 2017 nearly 490,000 international students studied in China, an increase of 10.5 percent from the previous year. Since 2004, the number of international students enrolling in Chinese colleges and universities has increased by nearly 300 percent. China is currently the third most popular destination for international students and could overtake the UK next year in terms of international student enrollment.
China has made a long-term investment in higher education. The country’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative has enrolled, and will continue to enroll, students from the countries along the ancient “Silk Road.” Last year 317,000 international students enrolled in China were from “Belt and Road” countries and two-thirds of all international students studying in China are from “Belt and Road” countries.
China has significantly increased enrollment of African students by offering generous scholarship and employment opportunities. In 2017, 12 percent, or nearly 59,000 students, studying in China received scholarship assistance.
It is by design, rather than accident, that the number of international students continues to significantly increase each year. Chinese tuition and fees are lower than in most other universities. Tuition and fees for one year of study in China is approximately $3,200. The number of English taught programs has increased by 63 percent in the last five years and that element has attracted students from around the world.
A new visa policy allowing international students to work and remain in China after graduation is also another factor attracting a global international student population. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, 89 percent of international students plan to pursue short-term internships and 95 percent plan to take advantage of China’s policy of allowing foreigners to work after graduation.
In 2017, China was the most popular destination for Asian and Southeast Asian international students, including students from South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Laos.
In October 2018, “The Jakarta Post” reported that there are currently 68,000 Indonesian students studying in China and the Chinese government has set a goal of increasing that number to 100,000.
China is now the leading host for international branch campuses. China has edged out the United Arab Emirates as the top host country.
In 2015, Xiamen University, in collaboration with the Malaysian government, opened up its first international branch campus abroad.
Will China dominate international higher education in the near or distant future? The statistics speak for themselves.
In a subsequent article I will examine the rise of Chinese universities in global ranking lists and China’s purchases of schools throughout the world.
Brexit and the future of international recruitment and enrollment in Great Britain
In 1900 the British Empire covered two-thirds of the world. By anyone’s estimation Britain today is a shadow of that former empire. The Great Britain of today, with its sixty-five million people and with the second-largest economy in Europe, is a divided nation with a shrinking influence in the world.
In 1973 Great Britain joined what was then called the European Economic Community. In 2017, 17.4 million British people, or fifty-two percent of voters, chose to take the country out of the European Union.
Between 2016 and 2017 the United Kingdom moved from being the fastest-growing major economy in the world to the slowest. Some of Britain’s economic growth can be attributed to its partnership in the European Union. The European Union is Britain’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 44 percent of all of Britain’s exports. And nearly 30 percent of all of the food imported into Britain comes from European Union countries. As a member of the European Union, Britain enjoys free trade and zero customs restrictions with the 27 other members. That will no longer be the case after Britain leaves the European Union.
Current government estimates indicate that the impact of the Brexit vote will make people worse off than before the vote was taken. In the Septrember20, 2018 issue of The Guardian, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warned cabinet members that leaving the European Union could cause an economic collapse in England similar to the 2008 recession. He called the level of risk “uncomfortably high.”
On March 29, 2019, Britain will leave the European Union with or without trade and customs agreements in place. On August 1, 2018, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, told his Australian counterpart: “At the moment we are heading for no deal by accident.” The director of the Asian Institute, Ian Bremmer, predicts that the U.K. will leave the European Union next March without an agreement in place. That will impact both sides, but the British people, he predicts, would be hit hardest.
Officials at the Bank of America, Airbus, Siemens and Jaguar have warned government officials that a hard Brexit exit may prompt them to shift operations out of the U.K.
It would be too simplistic to blame the current state of the country’s inward-looking and fearful view of the world on the vote to leave the European Union. The Brexit vote was a manifestation, not the cause, of the British people’s dissatisfaction with their government and their economy. Economic growth has been slow since 2015. The outsourcing of public services to incompetent private companies, the aftermath of the recession of 2008 that plunged Britain into a recession over which the British people felt they had no control, and regulations imposed on the British people by bureaucrats in both in London and Brussels all contributed to the referendum results in 2017.
The current administration’s lack of imagination and progress in resolving the issues related to the country’s exit from the European Union have created a sense of frustration and uncertainty throughout the country.
How will this situation impact international student recruitment and enrollment into British colleges and universities? Currently, international students contribute 22.6 billion pounds (29.9 billion dollars) to the country’s economy. There are 80,000 undergraduate European students and 50,000 European postgraduate students, or 30 percent of all international students, studying in Britain. These students will still be eligible to receive government-backed loans to cover their tuition and fees. Students beginning their studies in England for the 2019-20 academic year will also be charged the same tuition and fees as British students. There are no guarantees, at least none publicly stated, as to what will happen to European students wishing to study in Great Britain after 2020.
In the competitive market for international students, this uncertainty will likely result in fewer European students studying in Great Britain. Researchers at the Higher Education Policy Institute predicts that in the near future these numbers could decline by as much as 60 percent when Britain leaves the European Union.
There are other potential negatives, including:
17 percent of staff in U.K. universities are from European countries and their status to remain and continue teaching at their current universities, is unclear. In the past year more than 2,000 academics have resigned from posts at English universities.
The European Medicines Agency will relocate to Amsterdam when it leaves London in 2019. This agency brings financial and collaborative benefits to academics by supporting research projects. In an article published by World Education News, the author, Jan Petter Myklebust, reported that the Austrian Chancellor, Christian Kern, calculated that the Dutch economy stands to gain 1 billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) increase in revenue as a result of the move from England.
The uncertainty over Brexit has resulted in fewer employers recruiting graduates. One survey, reported in The Guardian, by Richard Adams and Sally Weale, revealed that several companies, including Goldman Sachs, Unilever and BP downgraded their hiring plans after the Brexit referendum vote. The same is true for accounting and professional services firms, financial services companies and investment banks.
I can’t leave this chapter without listing a few positive statistics and facts about higher education in Great Britain, including:
In March 2018, Great Britain was named the most popular city in the world for international students.
Chinese students constitute the majority of international students studying in England. One in five international students on British college and university campuses, are Chinese. There are over 100,000 Chinese students currently studying in England. Last year there was an increase of 18 percent in applications from China.
For the first time, the United Kingdom, not the United States, was the top destination for Turkish students.
There has been an increase in applications from students from Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Hong Kong, due to the drop in the value of the pound, making a British education more affordable for students from those countries.
While no one can predict with certainty what the future potential impact of leaving the European Union will have on British higher education, no one, I think, would disagree that higher education in Great Britain will change in the coming years.
Martin Sandbu, writing in the July 25, 2018 edition of Financial Times, wrote:
“It is reckless to expect the UK’s turmoil to be shortlived. Its partners in Europe above all, must hope for the best but plan for the worst. We will only know what sort of country Britain is when our UK friends have agreed what they want it to be.”
Wise words, not only for Great Britain as a whole, but for British higher education in particular.
The impact of a trade war between the United States and China future international student recruitment and enrollment
In my book, International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder, I make the claim that future international student mobility will be influenced by economic, political, sociological and technological changes taking place throughout the world. In this section of an updated white paper on my prior book and predictions, I am focusing on the potential impact of a trade war between the United states and China on the future enrollment of Chinese students in the United States.
In 2018 the United States initiated a series of trade wars with both allies and adversaries alike. In Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, the author outlines President Trump’s obsession with the United States’ trade imbalance with China, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Mexico and his desire to terminate past trade agreements and write new ones. The president considers tariffs bargaining chips in rewriting global trading rules and lists as one of his major economic successes the “new” NAFTA trade agreement reached in September 2018 with Canada, Mexico and the United States. Similarly, South Korea gave the president his first big trade deal by agreeing to accept more American imports. Japan is reviewing its trade deficit with the United States and is expected, like South Korea, to import more American products.
This report will focus on the trade war between the United States and China. Geopolitical differences and mutual distrust have been a cornerstone in American and Chinese relations for years. In August 2018, the president instructed his trade team to consider imposing 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports. Additional tariffs were announced in September, making the total number of Chinese goods affected by the tariffs $250 billion. China’s retaliation, also announced in August, was to impose tariffs of $60 billion on American imports.
In September 2018 the president accused the Chinese government of attempting to influence the November midterm elections by identifying the American states, in the south, Midwest and northeast that would be the most negatively impacted by Chinese tariffs. Almonds from California, steel from Pennsylvania, car parts from Michigan and soybeans from Iowa are the states most likely affected by Chinese tariffs.
The president’s imposition of tariffs on a number of Chinese exports has raised the level of tension and rivalry between the two countries. Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, remarked on October 2, 2018 that the current state of U.S./China relations is a “new cold war.”
Since the imposition of tariffs Chinese stocks have fallen sharply. In September 2018, the stock market was down almost a quarter from its peak in January 2018. The Economist reports that since April the yuan is down 8 percent and there was a current-account deficit in the first half of 2018, China’s first such gap in two decades.
Like the United States, China is seeking other trading partners, including Russia, certain European countries, the countries in its “Belt and Road” project and the countries in the new Trans-Pacific partnership to increase trade. Zhiwu Chen, director of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong, predicts the emergence of “different trade blocks based on geography and values.”
Global trade, like global student mobility, has been shifting eastwards and southwards for some time. Still there are more Chinese students studying on American colleges and universities campuses than from any other country. Trade tensions between China and the United States could easily spill over into future international recruitment of Chinese students. Many colleges and universities in the United states are heavily dependent on the revenue from Chinese students to meet both enrollment and financial goals. The Chinese government could impose a limit on the number of students it allows to enroll on American college campuses. This is not as farfetched as it may first appear. I was a young admission officer at Georgetown University in Washington, DC when the Iranian revolution resulted in all of the enrolled Iranian students ordered home immediately. This summer the government of Saudi Arabia recalled all of its students studying in Canada because of a statement made by a Canadian government official that was offensive to the Saudi government. I realize I am citing political events that resulted in shifting international student mobility enrollment. But I believe that economic events, like a trade war between the United States and China, could also result in fewer Chinese students studying on American college campuses. Do many American schools have a plan B should this happen?
Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, predicts that a trade war between the United States and China, will last two decades. A sobering prediction.
Africa: The Next International Student Recruitment Frontier
For ten years I helped to manage a university in Dakar, Senegal. One day, in the breakfast room of my hotel, I noticed that I was the only person having breakfast who was not Chinese. China has made a huge investment in Africa and other countries are doing the same. There are several reasons why I believe that Africa will be the next area of the world to support international student recruitment.
Consider the following:
Six of the world’s fastest-growing economies between 2001 and 2012 were in Africa.
Goldman Sachs recently issued a report, “Africa’s Turn,” comparing business opportunities in Africa with those of China in the early 1990s.
Google is the single biggest private sector influence in Africa. Its internet search and email services are transforming the continent. The company is also attempting to help African governments digitize information and make it freely available and is improving translation software to bring more Africans who speak only one language online.
Online Africa is developing faster than offline Africa. According to the May 12th issue of “The Economist,” undersea cables reaching Africa on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts, plus innovative mobile phone providers, have raised internet speeds and slashed prices. This connectivity is making Africa faster and more transparent in almost everything it does.
China will implement the African Talents Program to train 30,000 personnel, offer 18,000 government scholarships and build cultural and vocational training facilities. China will also continue to implement the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan to sponsor 100 programs for research, exchange and cooperation between colleges and universities and research scholars.
On July 17, 2012, Australia launched an expanded Australia-Africa Universities Network, a consortium of 17 Australian universities and research institutes and 30 African institutions.
Colleges and universities around the world should consider developing African recruitment strategies and begin to consider building strategic academic and research alliances. To ignore the potential of African student, faculty and administrator exchange programs is to limit a school’s ability to become a player in the next international “hotspot.”
China’s “soft power” initiatives
A little more than a decade ago China began imitating the United States, Britain, France and Germany by engaging in what Joseph Nye, a political scientist at the Kennedy School of Government, termed “soft power,” or a collection of methods used to extend a country’s influence on the world stage.
One example of Chinese “soft power” was the creation of hundreds of Confucius Institutes worldwide. The objectives of Confucius Institutes are as old as the imperial era itself when the policies and geopolitical interests of the Middle Kingdom mirrored the stated objectives of China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative.
The first Confucius Institute opened in South Korea in 2004 and the institutes quickly spread to Japan, Australia, Canada, the United States and Europe. Today there are more than 100 Confucius Institutes at public and private universities in the United States and more than that number at American high schools. An article in “The Economist” reported that the Chinese government spends $10 billion a year to promote its image abroad.
The Chinese government has made ample use of financial incentives to encourage the acceptance of Confucius Institutes on campuses worldwide. China pays $100,000 to each college or university that agrees to sponsor a Confucius Institute on its campus, making annual payments over five-years. It is not surprising that schools with institutes enroll a significant number of full-paying Chinese students.
The Communist Party of China has made no secret that it considers Confucius Institutes a “soft” propaganda arm for the government. Chinese minister of propaganda, Liu Yunshan, in an article in “People’s Daily,” wrote: “We want to coordinate the efforts of overseas and domestic propaganda and further create a favorable international environment for us.” Creating a favorable international environment includes no mention or discussion of Tiananmen Square, Taiwan or Tibet. Information disseminated through the institutes follows strict Communist Party lines. It is no accident that the ruling body of the Office of Chinese Language International, a branch of the Ministry of Education, coordinates all institutes’ programs.
Within the past few years there has been pushback from several colleges and universities with regard to Confucius Institutes. In 2014, for example, more than 100 University of Chicago faculty members signed a petition citing information from the Confucius Institute that contradicts the university’s core academic values. The university did not renew its Confucius Institute contract. McMaster University in Canada also did not renew its contract. Other universities followed suite, including, Pennsylvania State University, Stockholm University, and the University of Lyon. But other schools in the United States continue to support their Confucius institutes including, George Washington University, Tufts University, Portland State University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Still the controversy continues. In February 2018 Florida Senator Marco Rubio asked Miami Dade College and several universities in Florida, to shut down their Confucius programs. Along with many other government officials, Senator Rubio considers the institutes a threat to America’s national security by institutionalizing Chinese propaganda on American colleges and university campuses. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation also raised concerns about Chinese infiltration on American college campuses and intellectual property issues.
The Chinese government, quick to recognize a problem, has promised reforms. What reforms will be implemented and when they will be implemented has not yet been determined.
Are Confucius Institutes examples of soft power becoming hard power, as enrollment of Chinese students becomes dependent on the institution hosting an institute? Are Confucius Institutes just one piece of China’s plan to be recognized as a major player on the world’s stage? Is it fair to criticize China for what many other countries have done for decades?
Each college and university already hosting a Confucius Institute or considering partnering with China to establish a Confucius Institute will have to decide how to proceed according to its culture, academic norms and international long-term strategic planning.
The term “Silk Road” was first coined in 1877 by a German geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen, to describe a connecting series of Chinese routes. Then, as now, the objective was to promulgate Chinese culture and influence worldwide.
The “One Belt Road One Road” is China’s new “Silk Road” and its major initiative to create economic and political, cultural and education influence, linking far-flung markets and energy reserves from the Arctic to the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. China’s plan calls for Europe, Asia and Africa to be connected by railways, highways and fiber-optic cables.
Chinese maps show the belt and road of ancient times as routes that traversed Eurasia and the seas between China and Africa. Today’s Chinese leaders speak about the “One Belt One Road” initiative as encompassing the entire world. The Chinese premier, XiJinping, considers the project as “great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.”
In 2016 the Ministry of Education released a document outlining the investment China will make in higher education in the 49 countries along the ancient “Silk Road.”
According to a report in September, 2016, by the Observatory on Borderless Education, The Chinese Ministry of Higher Education specifies three main avenues of education cooperation: interoperability between national education systems, including policy coordination, language teaching and degree recognition; student mobility and transnational education; and scholarships and capacity building.
A university network named “New Silk Road University League” was founded in May, 2015 by Xi’ an Jiaotong University, and encompasses nearly 100 universities from 22 countries. Another consortium, the “One Belt One Road University Strategic League,” was founded in Gansu Province in October 2015 and includes 46 universities, including Fudan University and Beijing Normal University and eight universities from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Malaysia, and South Korea.
China has educational collaborations with colleges and universities in Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.
China has a long history of exerting its “soft power” initiatives in Africa. In addition to subsidizing infrastructure projects in several African countries, China awards a significant number of university scholarships to African students to study in China. There are more African students studying in China than anywhere else in the world.
ASEAN students represent the biggest group of foreign students studying in Chinese colleges and universities. According to the China University and College Admission System, an online information and application portal, an estimated 80,000 students from Southeast Asia opted for a Chinese education in 2016.
According to Zhang Baohui, a professor and director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, “Exporting education is a way to promote China’s “soft power.” It reflects China’s quest for broader influence in the world.”
China now allows international students to take part-time jobs during their studies in China in an attempt to make the country’s higher educational system more attractive to students worldwide. Off-campus internships are also allowed with the approval of a student’s Chinese college or university.
After graduation from a Chinese university international students are permitted to start their own business in the Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone for up to two years after graduation.
A cautionary note: China’s “soft power” will last only as long as its cash reserves do. China will influence, but not entirely determine, global trends in international student mobility and enrollment.