Sheer Ambition: How the connectivity of China’s Belt and Road Initiative will change international higher education
Marguerite J. Dennis
In his book, China Versus The West The Global Power Shift of the 21st Century, the economist Ivan Tselichtchev presents a comprehensive picture of the changing balance of power between China and the economies of the West.
Statesmanship and vision are the hallmarks of the current Chinese government and leadership. The country has ambitious goals. Perhaps the most ambitious goal is the Belt and Road Initiative.
Often referred to as the Project of the Century, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to impact a substantial portion of the world’s infrastructure, transportation and finance, and unravel the geopolitical order in place since World War II. Because of the connectivity of Belt and Road projects, the potential to unravel international higher education and current international student mobility cannot be underestimated.
Announced in 2013 as a global trade strategy, based on China’s ancient Silk Road’s trading routes, Belt and Road initiatives are estimated to cost more than one trillion dollars and include 68 countries south and west of China, creating a network of connected railways, ports, tunnels and other infrastructure projects and plugging China into economic hubs across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. When complete, Belt and Road projects will connect approximately 65 percent of the world’s population. A recent World Bank study concluded that the transportation projects alone could lift global GDP by 3 percent.
No one can predict with certainty where commerce ends and international higher education collaboration and research begins. But the magnitude and integration of the initiatives will inevitably strengthen Chinese economic, political, and maritime power throughout the world, and by extension, Chinese higher education dominance.
What likely impact will China’s Belt and Road Initiative have on international higher education? The Chinese Ministry of Education has its own Belt and Road Initiative plan to develop joint education, training and research programs throughout the countries in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative Education Action Plan, released in 2016 by the Chinese Ministry of Higher Education, outlines China’s determination to play an influential role in the future in shaping higher education worldwide. Romi Jain, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, wrote: “China is determined to play an influential role in shaping future educational architecture. Chinese education Belt and Road proposals are based on a three pronged framework of ground-laying, support-building, and forward-thinking actions.”
There are many examples of China’s progress in meeting its stated strategic educational goals, including:
Nearly 500,000 overseas students studied in China last year and 65 percent of the students came from countries in the Belt and Road Initiative.
In 2015, Jiaotong University launched the University Alliance of the Silk Road, to create a platform for educational cooperation. According to Liu Xn, writing in the Global Times, the Alliance has, so far, 151 member universities from 38 countries.
In 2017, China founded the Asian Universities Alliance with the goal of promoting student and faculty mobility within Asia and promoting collaborative research. Fifteen universities joined this Alliance.
In 2018, Xi’an Jiaotong University enrolled 2,804 overseas students from 136 countries and regions. Seventy percent of the students are from Belt and Road countries.
Chang’an University, one of China’s best schools for road, bridge, and automobile engineering, has increased the number of overseas students from 409 in 2013 to 1,600 in 2019. Lu Weidong, director of the International Student Affairs office at the university, wrote the following: “Many large construction engineering companies that are participating in Belt and Road construction projects came to us for cooperation. Cultivating local student talent is our responsibility.”
China doles out thousands of scholarships to attract international students. There are more than 50,000 African students studying in China and in 2018, more than 1,000 Pakistanis students received scholarships to study in China.
The Chinese Academy of Science has created centers for research and collaboration with researchers in colleges and universities in South America, Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
While Europe wrestles with political infighting, Britain wrestles with Brexit and the United States wrestles with protectionism, China is marching ahead with clear objectives and strategic plans to connect the world politically, economically, technologically, and educationally.
The country’s economic, political and technological goals, as well as its educational objectives, are driven by sheer ambition.
International higher education as well as international student mobility are in flux. The headwinds of change are evident in almost every current international statistic and report. The international higher education landscape, in my opinion, will not resemble tomorrow what it is today.
The dark alchemy of change and disruption make this inevitable.
Artificial intelligence is one of the most talked about topics in both the United States and around the world. New breakthroughs are frequently revealed and people in industry and higher education are eager to learn more about this technological achievement.
However, when AI is mentioned, most people instantly think about sentient humanoid robots that will take over the world. Not many people realize that this is just one type on artificial intelligence. There are others.
According to our informative infographic, href=https://techjury.net/stats-about/ai, there are two types of artificial intelligence: weak AI and strong AI.
Weak AI, also known as narrow AI, is an intelligent system that is trained to perform one task. Examples of narrow AI are virtual assistants such as Siri or Cortana. They assist with certain tasks and answer specific questions.
Strong AI is defined as a generalized intelligent system that has human-like cognitive capabilities. When strong AI is presented with a new problem, it should be able to find a solution even though it has never encountered such a problem before.
Other ways of classifying artificial intelligence are as reactive machines, limited memory, theory of mind, and self-awareness.
Reactive machines are AI that can observe a situation and make decisions based on the input it receives. Deep Blue, the AI that plays chess, is one example.
Limited memory AI such as autonomous vehicles, are able to remember previous experiences and make future decisions based on them.
Theory of mind is the ability of AI to understand that each individual has their own feelings, belief and desires. Unfortunately, this AI still does not exist.
Artificial awareness with self-awareness also does not exist. In theory it is able to understand its current state and view itself as an individual.
I have often written about the importance of artificial intelligence is the recruitment, admission and retention processes. The more we understand about AI and its potential applications in higher education administration, the more effectively we will be able to manage the future.
For further information:
Tech Jury is a website run by a team of software experts and tech enthusiasts focused on creating timely reviews of the latest software.
“Yesterday’s answer has nothing to do with today’s problem.” Bill Gates
One of the most challenging aspects of being a college administrator today is the fast pace of change. Understanding market forces, changing demographics, and economic and political re-alignments worldwide, make it difficult to match facts with fallacies.
What are some of the fallacies?
Ten Higher Education Fallacies
Demand for higher education is inelastic
Higher education will always be consumed the same way
International students will always enroll in the UK and the United States
The promise of MOOCs and online education will never be realized
Chinese higher education enrollment will never surpass the enrollment of international students in the United States
Current business models are sufficient to meet financial problems
If enrollment goals are not met, change the marketing and enrollment staff
Administrative bloat is not a problem
Artificial intelligence is not important; has no place in higher education
Competency-based credits will never be accepted.
What would you add to this list?
“The future? The things that got her here will not get us there.”
How to recruit international students in the future
Few higher education deans and administrators would argue that 2019 has been a year of change both in the United States and worldwide. Economic and geopolitical disruptions have created a new world order with implications for most aspects of society, including future international student mobility and enrollment.
The stakes are high for countries and colleges and universities who recruit international students.
Consider the following:
Since 2,000, the number of overseas students has increased by 80 percent.
International students contributed $42 billion to the U.S. economy last year.
By 2025, global demand for seats in higher education is projected to be 200 million students.
The four international recruiting recommendations, outlined in this article, is an attempt to encourage international deans and recruiters to consider the following ways of recruiting international students in the future.
Use data analytics and predictive modeling to determine why applicants enroll (or do not enroll) in your college or university.
Creatively use technology to offer students year-long semesters with several options for reaching degree completion.
Partner with national and international colleges and universities, even competitor schools.
Recruit entire families, not just applicants.
Use data analytics to write and implement international strategic plans
Are your school’s international recruiters able to answer the following questions:
What is the prime motivator for prospective applicants to apply to your school?
At what point in the application process is a decision made to enroll? What is the main reason for this decision?
These questions should also be asked of applicants and accepted students who did not complete the application process.
Data analytics can help your recruitment team know, in real time, what is making prospective applicants apply, and accepted students, enroll.
I am defining data analytics as databases and algorithms that can provide international strategic planners and recruiters with speedy, actionable information in order to make smart recruitment decisions and re-allocate staff time and resources.
What behavioral information can be applied to better recruit and enroll international students? Data analytics can shed light on the parts of your school’s branding proposition that are resonating with prospective international students and which are not. This information can be used to create evidence-based international strategies in real-time as opposed to waiting for end-of-the-year analysis. Data collection and a commitment to insight and discovery are key to crafting meaningful international strategic plans.
Flexibility will increasingly become the currency of higher education this year and in the years to come. Data analytics and predictive modeling are two tools that can bring flexibility into strategic international plans and create data-driven hypotheses to inform strategic decisions.
Creatively use technology to offer students year-long semesters with several options for reaching degree completion
According to the report, Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017, 30 percent or 6.3 million students worldwide, were enrolled in at least one online course in 2016.
In 2018, massive open online enrollment exceeded 100 million students. This was a 30 percent increase over the previous year
China’s online education market is projected to increase to 20 percent annually. This increase represents approximately a $24 billion online market.
Since 2006, more than 160 million Khan Academy videos have been viewed. There are between 14 and 15 million users each month.
While the jury is still out on the shelf life of MOOCs, I believe that learning platforms like Udacity, edX, Coursera and FutureLearn will change higher education delivery forever.
What does all this mean for future international recruiting? Offering your school’s on-line courses or accepting, for credit, a MOOC course, would allow international admission deans to offer international students “brick and click” options that extend beyond the “normal” school year.
International students could earn credits during intersession breaks or in the summer taking an approved technology-based course.
Partner with national and international colleges and universities, even competitor schools
Have you considered partnering with a peer national or international institution to offer international applicants the best of both institutions?
Have you reviewed the international student enrollment of schools in your area or region and compared that information with your own international statistics? What does your school do better than your competitors What majors or programs do your competitors offer that are better than what your school offers?
Have you considered joint recruitment trips, highlighting the best programs and majors of each school? What about collaborating and writing joint recruitment plans? Or offering dual degrees?
Does this sound like heresy? Sounds like interdependence to me and could be one way to creatively face a disruptive future.
Many colleges and universities are still recruiting in silos, hoping that past recruitment practices will continue to be relevant in the new, worldwide changing political, economic and educational landscapes.
Recruit entire families, not just applicants
Most colleges and universities who recruit international students have a communication outreach plan; an admission “funnel.” Traditional communication plans are management tools, not tools for understanding market behavior. Few schools, for example, have communication plans for parents from the time of application to the time of enrollment, even though multiple research reports indicate that parents often have the final say in which school their child enrolls.
Because so much information about colleges and universities can be found on-line by prospective students and parents, I am recommending a communication plan that focuses on outcomes, not features.
Suggested Communication Plan:
Send information about career counseling, job placement rates, graduation statistics
Letter from current international parent
Send information about student services for international students, organizations, clubs, athletics
Letter from a current student
Letter from alumni parent
Name and contact information of faculty advisor
List of first semester courses
Letter from president, board chair
Counseling services for international students
Important contact information for school administrators and services
Change permeates nearly every facet of life. The dark alchemy of disruption and unpredictability demand a new way of thinking and planning when recruiting international students. Beyond the corridors of today lie new educational delivery paradigms and new “types” of students.
The métier of flexibility, collaboration and the smart use of technology will be among the hallmarks of successful international recruiting in the future.
At the risk of being accused of being politically correct (or incorrect), I would like to share with you some of the international higher education myths I have uncovered over the past few months.
The U.S. continues leads the world in attracting international students.
Last year, the U.S. had a 10 percent increase in international students. But Canada increased its international student population by 13 percent, and Australia and New Zealand increased the number of students studying on its campuses by 12 percent.
The demand for higher education is greatest in Europe.
The demand for higher education in South Asia is exploding. With a population of more than 600 million under the age of 18, and with the rapid pace of social and economic changes taking place in the region, South Asia is poised to take over Western Europe and the U.S. as a primary choice for enrollment. This fact may not be reflected in next year’s enrollment statistics, but this is a trend that I would watch closely for future recruitment threats and opportunities.
International hubs and branch campuses will continue to increase in the future.
International hubs may increase in the future but I predict regional hubs, rather than international hubs, will grow faster.
The Asian middle class has grown faster than any other region in the world.
The Asian middle class has increased in numbers over the past two decades but the African middle class has tripled over the past 14 years from 4.6 million households in 2000 to 15 million in 2016.
The UK continues to be the number one choice for U.S. students studying abroad.
The fastest growing market for U.S. students is Germany. The number of U.S. students studying in Germany is estimated to be 10,000. Most of the students pay no tuition.
The fastest growing Chinese market will be at the graduate and undergraduate level.
Chinese teenagers, as young as 14, are enrolling in high schools throughout the world in increasing numbers. Last year, for example, the number of Chinese high school students was nearly 50,000. This is 100 times more than in 2004.
These are but a few of the myths and facts in international higher education. More to come in the future.