Globalisation is a central concept in this paper but it is important to note that 'globalisation' is a highly contested term. Strong globalisation theory argues that the global economy is dominated by uncontrollable global forces in which nation states are structurally constrained and therefore the capacity of modern states eventually declines. Unlike strong globalists, other scholars believe even though there may be similar trends and patterns in public policy and public management domain along the line of privatisation, marketisation, commodification and corporatisation, different governments may use the similar strategies to serve their own political purposes. Hence, modern states may tactically make use of the globalisation discourse to justify their own political agendas or legitimise their inaction. The present paper sets out in this wider context to reflect upon globalisation effects on national policy, with particular reference to how the selected East Asian societies such as the four Tigers, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea as well as mainland China have transformed their higher education systems. More specifically, this paper discusses the theme of 'similar trends, diverse agendas' by examining how the selected East Asian governments have reformed their higher education systems to cope with the growing impact of the global tide of marketisation and decentralisation.