The Political Economy of Higher Education Governance in Asia: Challenges, Trends and Trajectories

Darryl S. L. JARVIS, Ka Ho MOK

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Asia’s rapid economic transformation is the defining event of the twenty-first century, popularly held to be restructuring the locus of global economic activity and with it the contours of the international geo-strategic and political order. But beyond Asia’s rise as ‘factory to the world’, there has also been sustained effort to develop higher education in the region and to evolve research and knowledge capacity that will reposition Asia at the forefront of the global knowledge-economy, driving research and scientific innovation. Investment in the region’s higher education systems has thus grown enormously in the last three decades, with governments increasingly motivated to position their economies competitively and develop higher education systems of world-class standing. Despite these ambitions and the provision of enormous resources, however, this chapter argues that there remain substantial barriers to reform and to the emergence of higher education systems able to meet the rising expectations of the region’s policymakers. To demonstrate our argument, we survey several higher education systems across Asia, grouped by region (Southeast and Northeast Asia) and analysed in relation to a series of qualitative institutional, political and social contexts: firstly, what we term higher education governance indicators such as merit-based recruitment, promotion and remuneration, censorship, institutional and academic autonomy (among others); and secondly, quantitative performance-based indicators such as bibliometric and research performance, reputational and esteem rankings. We draw upon the comparative conceptual framework developed by Dobbins, Knill and Vögtle (Higher Education 62:665–683, 2011) that sees governance of higher education (HE) as interrelated processes of control, coordination and the allocation of autonomy between three levels—the state, professoriate and university management—and broadly reflected in three typologies of governance: (a) state centred; (b) market-oriented; and (c) academic self-governance (Dobbins et al. in Higher Education 62:665–683, 2011), and highlight the continuing dominance of state-centred (often political) governance of higher education in Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransformations in higher education governance in Asia : policy, politics and progress
EditorsDarryl S. L. JARVIS, Ka Ho MOK
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9789811392948
ISBN (Print)9789811392931
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Publication series

NameHigher Education in Asia: Quality, Excellence and Governance book series (HEAQEG)
ISSN (Print)2365-6352
ISSN (Electronic)2365-6360


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