In a day-long event jointly organised by IPPTN (Institut Penyelidikan Pendidikan Tinggi Negara, or the National Higher Education Research Institute (NAHERI) and The HEAD Foundation on 5 August 2016, and held in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang, Prof Philip Altbach (Center for International Higher Education, Boston College) was the guest keynote speaker.
In the morning public lecture graced by Prof. Dato’ Dr Muhamad Jantan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) of USM, Prof Altbach delivered a lecture on “Massification, globalisation, and the global knowledge economy”, attended by the fellows of IPPTN and USM, among others.
The emergence of the global knowledge economy and the development is contradictory to massification, Prof Altbach pointed out. Countries, including those in Southeast Asia, need viable, effective education systems for mass enrolments, as well as globally competitive research universities at the apex of the system. Indeed, it is the design of a well-diversified system that is most important for all countries.
Prof Altbach also highlighted how all universities exist in a global academic ecosystem. A like Brexit, the impending exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, will affect the global higher education – in how institutional collaborations will or will not continue, for instance. In the United States, the state university systems have had their budgets cut quite substantially, and this especially affects state research universities negatively.
The panel of discussants responding to the points raised by Prof Altbach included Prof S. Gopinathan (Academic Director, The HEAD Foundation), Prof N.V. Varghese (Director, Centre for Policy Research in Higher Education [CPRHE], New Delhi), and Dr Wan Chang Da (Senior Lecturer, IPPTN).
A policy forum with invited participants included key stakeholders in higher education in Southeast Asia and beyond, including invited guests such as Dr Wang Libing (UNESCO Bangkok), Dr Chantavit Sujatanond (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation, Regional Institute of Higher Education and Development [SEAMEO RIHED]), Dr Le Truong Tung (FPT University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) and a representative from the Department of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education, Malaysia.
Participants at the policy forum, held in roundtable format, further discussed the challenges and opportunities of the rapid expansion of higher education access in Southeast Asia – delving into deeper exchanges of ideas following the morning public lecture. The linkages between a well-design national higher education system and the economy – both at the local and global level – and society at large, were examined.
The HEAD Foundation will be publishing, in due course, a policy brief arising from the issues discussed at the forum in Penang.