Currently only 18% of Hong Kongers and 26% of Singaporeans go to university. This is in stark contrast to the figures for Europe where, for example, 63% of Finnish school leavers go to university, as do 50% of Polish and 47% of Britons.
The Singaporean Ministry of Education wants to increase the proportion of its young people studying at degree level to 30% by 2015, and it has recently opened four new publicly funded universities to achieve this. It also runs a recruitment programme to attract foreign talent.
Two of Singapore´s publicly funded universities – The National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University – are ranked inthe world top 50. The National University of Singapore (NUS) is 25th in the chart.
Just a short hop by plane from Singapore, Hong Kong universities are taking the radical step this year of lengthening their degree courses from three years to four in a bid by the government to make university more accessible. Its school leavers will now study a wide variety of subjects in their first year before specialising in their second.
Hong Kong has an excellent reputation for its existing higher education provision. Of its eight publicly funded universities, two are in the QS university rankings world top 50, and four are in the top 200. Most prestigious among them are the University of Hong Kong, ranked 23rd, and HKUST, ranked 33rd. HKUST is also ranked first in the Asian university rankings.
Malaysia is the regional trendsetter, having set out its stall as early as the mid-90s. In 1995 the Malaysian government, faced with the fact that 20% of its students left the country and went abroad to study at huge cost to Malaysian families and the Malaysian economy, decided to put all its efforts into reversing this trend.
Since then they have set about building up their network of universities in a bid to keep Malay students at home and attract foreign students into the country. In 2009 alone Malaysia increased its intake of foreign students by 26%, taking in 69,154 international students. By 2011 that had increased to more than 93,000. The target is to reach 150,000 by 2015.