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Higher Education Cooperation in ASEAN: Building Towards Integration or Manufacturing Consent?

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The triad of cooperation, international exchange, and integration among institutions of higher education has become the new norm in the global experience of learning and academic training. The goal of improving and standardising the academic experience across countries is now typically also associated with fostering cultural and political ties and complementing processes of cultural integration and economic growth. Behind the rhetoric of many new initiatives, however, is a competition of geopolitical proportions, in which various national or regional systems of higher education try to shore up their positions or conquer new territory. In this paper we assess these discursive and material battles over institutional hegemony in Southeast Asian higher education by drawing on the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse. We critically address the competitive negotiation over higher education taking place between international and Southeast Asian educational players, asking whether these contribute more to integration than reinforcing dominant higher education domains.
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Higher education cooperation in
ASEAN: building towards integration or
manufacturing consent?
Hart N. Feuerab & Anna-Katharina Hornidgebcd
a Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), Siem Reap, Cambodia
b Center for Development Studies (ZEF), University of Bonn,
c Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT), Bremen,
d University of Bremen, Germany
Published online: 15 May 2015.
To cite this article: Hart N. Feuer & Anna-Katharina Hornidge (2015): Higher education cooperation
in ASEAN: building towards integration or manufacturing consent?, Comparative Education, DOI:
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Higher education cooperation in ASEAN: building towards
integration or manufacturing consent?
Hart N. Feuer
*and Anna-Katharina Hornidge
Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), Siem Reap, Cambodia;
Center for Development Studies
(ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany;
Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT),
Bremen, Germany;
University of Bremen, Germany
The triad of cooperation, international exchange, and integration among institutions
of higher education has become the new norm in the global experience of learning
and academic training. The goal of improving and standardising the academic
experience across countries is now typically also associated with fostering
cultural and political ties and complementing processes of cultural integration
and economic growth. Behind the rhetoric of many new initiatives, however, is a
competition of geopolitical proportions, in which various national or regional
systems of higher education try to shore up their positions or conquer new
territory. In this paper we assess these discursive and material battles over
institutional hegemony in Southeast Asian higher education by drawing on the
sociology of knowledge approach to discourse. We critically address the
competitive negotiation over higher education taking place between international
and Southeast Asian educational players, asking whether these contribute more
to integration than reinforcing dominant higher education domains.
Higher education cooperation: cultural and political integration or
Cooperation, international exchange, and integration among institutions of higher edu-
cation have become the new norm in the global experience of learning and academic
training. In the light of its role in various international relations, educational
cooperation has moved beyond the national and bilateral levels and is increasingly
becoming a platform for regional and international agenda setting (World Bank
2000). The broader goals of this agenda, however, are not limited to improving and
standardising the academic experience, but typically now extend to fostering cultural
and political ties and complementing processes of cultural integration, development,
and peace-building. In this sense, higher education is increasingly viewed as an
arena in which ideas about reconciliation of cultures and peoples are incubated and
implemented. Behind this type of rhetoric, however, lies a conict of geopolitical pro-
portions, in which various national or regional systems of higher education try to shore
up their positions or conquer new territory in order to maintain nancial and academic
competitiveness. In this sense, cooperation initiatives can also be viewed as platforms
of negotiation for institutional hegemony over global higher education. The result of
these machinations is that the hoped-for by-products of international education inte-
gration, such as cultural development, economic growth, and peace-building, are
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
*Corresponding author. Email:
Comparative Education, 2015
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contingent upon their instrumental value in facilitating the spread of various national or
regional domains of higher education.
This cold war of higher educationis hardly a new phenomenon. The US govern-
ment used its political leverage in the 1950s to promote elements of its university
system in East Asia and Europe (Altbach 1973,920; Huang 2007;deWit2002,
16ff.). West Germany instrumentalised higher education reform in the post-reunica-
tion era to facilitate the social integration of East Germany (Boatcã 2012). Western
powers have used higher education as an ideological entry point into post-Soviet
countries (Naidoo 2011). Elite universities from the USA, UK, and Australia are
busily vying to establish international branch campuses in foreign countries (Lane
2011; Wilkins and Huisman 2012). The expansion of the European Higher Education
Area (EHEA), under the aegis of the external dimensionof the current Bologna
Process, is a recent expression of an inherently competitive basis of higher education
In part, expanding one countrys or regions educational system and the associated
institutions into another country or region has a very practical orientation: it makes the
degrees, standards, and languages of one higher education domain more widely
accepted, and it facilitates academic and labour exchange and mobility. It also invari-
ably has a sociopolitical orientation, becoming a struggle over different visions of
knowledgeand knowledge creation. Insofar as various schools of thought, political
orientations, and economic systems are embedded in the mechanisms of various higher
education domains, integration leads to legitimation and global tie-in to that domains
education ideology, market, and academic corpus. This dynamic has invariably invited
claims about the hegemonic orientation of higher education integration by a number of
academics (see Figueroa 2010; Hartmann 2008; Naidoo 2011; Robertson 2008),
whereby capturing or absorbing territory facilitates extraction of fee-paying students,
skilled workers, and high-level academics, as well as the impact scores and inter-
national reputation they bring with them.
In this formulation, higher education expansion is somewhat akin to Wallersteins
World Systems Theory, in which cores(or domains, in our parlance)
win over semi-periphery strongholds and periphery outposts in order to bolster the core
system (Robertson and Keeling 2008). Even if one is not ready to accept this grand
theory as applied to education, one has to question the altruistic intentions of various
nations, regions, and consortia embarking on the international journey of higher edu-
cation integration. To that end, in this paper we assess these discursive battles over
institutional hegemony in the eld of higher education by drawing on the sociology
of knowledge approach to discourse (SKAD), developed by Keller (2005,2011a,
2011b). Specically, we address how the practices of higher education integration
are adjudicated in the rapidly advancing region of Southeast Asia by looking at three
lines of confrontationthat include (a) dominant international players (i.e. the Euro-
pean Union (EU), USA, and Australia); (b) dominant regional players (i.e. Singapore,
Malaysia, and supranational agencies); and (c) vulnerable regional players (i.e.
Myanmar and Cambodia). In looking at these practices, we maintain that hegemonic
predilections of higher education integration can and should be assessed not only as
an avenue for critique, but also as a way to uncover the potential synergies between
international competition and the fullment of various higher order goals, such as cul-
tural exchange, academic excellence, and peace-building.
To preliminarily answer this question, one has only to look at the increasing role of
higher education as an arbiter of diplomacy, social integration, and conict
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reconciliation. National, regional, and international programmes aimed at fostering
international exchange have witnessed a steady increase in support in the past two
decades by making light of these goals. The continuing unication of the European
higher education system under the Bologna Process is a recent example of a regional
effort to not only level the playing eld dominated by US education standards
(Boatcã 2012; Hartmann 2008), but also facilitate and encourage intercultural contact
and mobility within and beyond EU member states (Slantcheva-Durst 2010). It has
also set the stage for European universities and institutes of higher education to more
assertively expand their domain of engagement outside of Europe (ACA 2005). Discur-
sively, this has emerged from a series of crisis narratives, which had suggested that
European higher education was falling behind (European Commission 2001,2005a;
Robertson and Keeling 2008). This led to the inevitable conclusion that European
countries needed to redouble and unify their efforts. Other policy domains of higher
education have gradually taken note of the new assertiveness of the European
Bologna Process, with the USA (Douglass 2006; Goodwin and Nacht 2009; Margaret
Spelling, US Secretary of State, quoted in Hartmann 2008, 212) and Australia (Depart-
ment of Education, Science and Technology [DEST] 2006) producing crisisnarra-
tives of their own to justify better coordinated responses.
Although this response plays out differently in each domain, actors from the various
strata of the university, professional, and policy-making levels have come to more stra-
tegically value the overall competitiveness of their respective domains. Regardless of
the degree of educational consolidation in Europe, Australia, or the USA, regions
such as Southeast Asia are being increasingly engaged through channels provided by
embassies, academic exchange services, and development agencies. While it is tempt-
ing to fall into methodological nationalism when observing this tooling up(Aufrüsten)
for global competition, it is worth noting that the nation state (i.e. various governments)
is actually devolving as the core actor (and therefore as the main unit of analysis) (Shah-
jahan and Kezar 2013), leaving a wider open arena of contestation for players such as
universities, consortia, multilateral quality assurance agencies, and regional blocs. In
particular, trans-regional partnerships, bilateral cooperation, and university-level
exchange are becoming more common (Academic Cooperation EuropeSoutheast
Asia Project [ACCESS] 2010). With the increasingly consolidated EHEA representing
the newest entry into the fray, it becomes clear that this is already a terrain crowded by
other education domains that are not eager to give up their territorial claims. Since the
actors involved in higher integration vary by region, we will revisit the characteristics
of the dominant players after setting the stage in Southeast Asia.
In this article, empirical data from Southeast Asia are drawn from eldwork con-
ducted in the mainland in 20122013 (Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia)
and the islands (Singapore and Indonesia) in 2005 as well as 20062008, and include
government and organisational programming material, agenda setting meetings and
reports, documentations of negotiations, (web-accessible) process documentations,
and interviews with ofcials and everyday people.
The contested knowledge society: the emergent higher education discourse
In order to begin excavating the overlying trends and underlying discourses behind con-
temporary higher education reform in Southeast Asia, we draw on Kellers(2011a,
2011b,2013) SKAD. Already a number of papers in this eld have looked at insti-
tutional discourses and the school as a place of discursive practice(Keller 2013,
Comparative Education 3
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65). These papers have variously taken on methodological concerns (Rogers 2011), his-
torical-evolutionary views on education (Ricken 2006), and the question of internal
learning or the dynamic of reexivity in education (Wrana 2006). The analysis in
this paper puts a wrapper around a number of these works, extending the subject
area to a living debate.
SKAD aims to examine the discursive construction of symbolic ordersconstitu-
tive in processes of social, discursive, and communicative constructions of reality. It
does so by studying the interaction and continuous shaping of diverse (potentially over-
lapping, mutually strengthening, or conicting) conceptualisations and the resulting
politics of knowledge (Keller 2011b, 48). Discourses are thus regarded as the identi-
able ensembles of cognitive and normative devices(Keller 2005, 7), which communi-
cate, legitimate, objectify, and socially construct platforms of meaning with social
consequences on the institutional, organisational, and social actorslevels.
Keller therefore emphasises the study of discourses as knowledge/power complexes
that existboth through and in practice(s)and dispositifs.Practicesare broadly
dened as conventionalised patterns of action, based on collective stocks of knowledge
about the properway of acting. Yet, in more detail, a distinction is made between dis-
cursive practices and non-discursive practices constituting the social processing of dis-
courses, as well as model practices (i.e. templates for action) constituted in discourses for
the respective addressees (Keller 2011a, 255257; 2011b, 55). Dispositifsare dened
as infrastructure established by social actors in order to solve a particular situation, with
the more detailed distinction made between dispositifs of discourse productionand
dispositifs from a discourse. With regard to the relationship between discourse (as
structure) and singular discursive events and practices, Keller refers to Giddens
duality of structure(1992) and the mutually reinforcing relationship between social
practices and the structures in place. He suggests that discourse as structure offers (a)
normative orientations and rules for saying things; (b) rules of attesting to the consti-
tution of meaning; and (c) social and material resources for action (Keller 2005, 6).
In this paper, SKAD guides analysis with regard to (a) the socio-historic embed-
dings of the higher education and integration discourses as well as the local rationales
of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries for sub-
scribing to them; (b) the construction of higher education integration as social imagin-
ary for a better future; (c) the social and material resources for action mobilised with the
aim to foster integration; and (d) some of the (un-)intended power effects. To this end,
we focus on the actors determined by and determining the discourse of higher education
integration as well as on discursive, non-discursive, and model practices. The empirical
sources we analysed, which are listed previously, include both ofcial and unofcial
texts, oral material, and other analyses. The different actors and their practices emerging
from these resources, and thus the discourse on higher education integration itself, are
in consequence assessed as performative statement practices which constitute reality
orders and also produce power effects in a conict-ridden network of social actors
(Keller 2011b, 48).
ASEAN: the new knowledge battleground
Many of the same pressures driving the Bologna Process in Europe are being faced in
the regional bloc of the ASEAN, making it a dynamic and competitive area for higher
education reform. Having already bought into the Western-oriented knowledge
societydiscourses underlying the Bologna Process since at least the 1990s aim to
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ostensibly improve the quality of tertiary education through standardisation and by
encouraging mobility and intercultural exchange (Carter et al. 2011), the disparate
initiatives in higher education integration in ASEAN have already been invested in
the relevant dispositifs in the form of consortia and quality assurance mechanisms.
Although lacking an overall banner such as Bologna, such dispositifs underlie
several initiatives to expand regional higher education cooperation, most notably
cooperation and quality assurance networks such as the AUN, AQAN, or
It is this ongoing internal education integration process that
makes the 10-country bloc so attractive for higher education domains from the
outside. Indeed, it is largely a region yet to identify a dominant higher education
model, but one that is, nonetheless, pushing swiftly towards economic and political
integration. Getting a foothold in ASEAN would make almost 9% of the world popu-
lation from a rapidly developing region into potential students, faculty, and cultural dip-
lomats for an existing education domain such as the EHEA, the USA, or Australia.
However, in order to maintain or establish symbolic order over education in a region
like ASEAN that is undergoing a more general process of integration, external
parties have to simultaneously tie the dominant dispositif of internal (economic) inte-
gration to external(higher education) integration while fending off competitors.
Education exchange, mobility, and other types of international programmes are
already in progress, both in a decentralised way and through some formal channels.
Cooperation between Asia and Europe is already picking up through programmes
such as AUNP, ACCESS,
Asia-Link, and the Erasmus Mundus programme. Var-
iously, the USA and Australia have established and continued cooperation and cultiva-
tion programmes such as APRU, ACODE, UMAP,
and the ASEAN Youth Volunteer
Program. These programmes support interregional and international mobility and inter-
national accreditation, and often form direct institutional links between various aca-
demic domains and target areas. However, like all forms of (development)
intervention, higher education integration as a technical endeavour is subsidiary to
national and regional politics and social issues. Indeed, Hornidge (2013, 409410)
referred to these as (un-)intended power effectsimplicit in the model dispositifs of
the major education domains. Although the programmes listed above nominally
avoid questions of political economy and internal conicts in ASEAN, these questions
are not only lurking in the background, but may also represent certain opportunities for
added engagement and thereby further expansion of power.
While ASEAN faces challenges in the same vein as that of the continuing Bologna
Process, namely the integration of higher education in countries with high diversity,
most notably in culture, language, and legacy systems of university education (Iskandar
2009; Selvaratnam and Gopinathan 1984), Southeast Asia faces other challenges and
opportunities: (1) resolving drawn-out violent conict in a number of subregions and
(2) overcoming the extreme differences in economic prosperity and social development
between member countries. This is a region that includes both discordant and economi-
cally disadvantaged countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia, as well as stable econ-
omic powerhouses such as Singapore and Malaysia. Because of these differences, it is
inevitable that external higher education domains adapt their discourses and practice to
the unique situation of each country. To this end, external higher education domains,
much like development agencies, are looking for strategic points of entry to higher edu-
cation at both the regional and national levels. One emerging entry point for a number
of ASEAN countries is the arena of conict resolution (Feuer, Hornidge, and Schetter
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For Southeast Asia managing existing or residual violent conicts, higher education
integration raises the question of how comprehensively these and other initiatives, and
their regional counterparts facilitate cultural tolerance, integration, and peaceful coex-
istence (Selvaratnam and Gopinathan 1984). This type of international cooperation has
the potential to help overcome obstacles in the integration process arising from human
security and persisting conicts within and between member states (Kuroda, Yuki, and
Kang 2011). One assumption underlying this paper is that the regional and international
platform of higher education reform is understood as much more than its impact on edu-
cation quality, extending not only to questions of cultural understanding of regional
stability, but also to power relations between the member countries of ASEAN.
Since many of the conicts within member states of ASEAN derive fundamentally
from social and identity politics (Smith 2010; UNESCO 2011; World Bank 2005),
the challenge at hand would be to nd the right balance between promoting the parallel
discourses of standardisation and international exchange while not disrupting practices
that undergird diversity in cultural expression and local governance. Some commenta-
tors (such as Beech 2011; Beerkens 2008) are generally more optimistic about this,
noting the relative agency of many countries in adapting global models to suit local
needs, while others are more pessimistic (see Figueroa 2010; Takayama 2014), under-
standing the practice of assembling integrated knowledge societiesas overly hegemo-
nic. At least discursively, the disparate processes underway in higher education reform
in Southeast Asia are aware of this challenge and offer a few pilot programmes, but
have not institutionalised or conceptualised their agency. In this paper, we address
various ways in which both economically powerful countries and weak ones actively
steer reform processes and passively exert agency in the context of external
As an arena for internal and external higher education integration, it is as important
for various education domains such as the EHEA, the USA, and Australia to facilitate
harmonious integration through their programmes in Southeast Asia as it is for ASEAN
member states. In a European consulting document unabashedly titled Strategies to
strengthen collaboration in Higher Education between Europe and South East Asia,
this strategy is outlined as follows:
The signicant differences among SEA countries, also in terms of Higher Education
systems, should not be underestimated and the difculties encountered in the Regional
and sub-Regional integration processes are a clear indicator of the complexity of the
task; but waiting for regional integrationto be accomplished before accelerating the
international integration process might reveal to be a losing strategy: the two processes
should progress in parallel. (ACCESS 2010, 4, emphasis in original)
Here, proceeding in paralleldoes not mean that international integration is necessarily
discrete from regional integration. Within ASEAN, the early concerns have been to
align the educational system of each member state to support the ongoing regional inte-
gration, which is mainly driven by economic processes (Beerkens 2004). For inter-
national actors, integrationbecomes a discursive arena, in which external
intervention in the symbolic order of power in Southeast Asia is encouraged and legit-
imised. In practice, economically stronger partners have the upper hand in the social
processing of these discourses and negotiations, while weaker economies may have
their own agency in regard to buy-in or hybridisation of these various practices. The
fault lines in this debate, unsurprisingly, become apparent in regional higher education
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meetings. As one Cambodian ofcial condently remarked to one of the authors in a
2013 higher education integration conference,
There is no doubt that the Singaporean and Malaysian higher education representatives
are the strongest players in the meetings. But the Thai are also strong now; since they
have similar concerns as us, we can cooperate together to have legitimacy in mainland
Southeast Asia too. (Anonymous, personal communication, International Conference
on Education Reform (ICER), Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2324 February 2013, translated
by authors)
Indeed, even as bilateral tensions between Thailand and Cambodia were simmering due
to a pending ruling from the International Court of Justice about a sensitive border
dispute (Preah Vihear temple), Thailand and Cambodia tended to view themselves as
natural allies in the interest of the mainland. The discursive bundling of higher edu-
cation cooperation with political power suggests that certain countries already have a
broadly strategic orientation towards protecting national interests in the regional plat-
form. International players form an additional layer in this debate. A higher education
ofcial from Myanmar, speaking on the occasion of a European Commission-spon-
sored higher education integration event, raised this question of sovereignty:
I agree that we need to catch up with the standards. But is there space to have our own
standards? (Anonymous, personal communication, Quality of Higher Education Work-
shop, Yangon, Myanmar, 89 February 2013)
In Southeast Asia, the poorer countries are often lumped together with the acronym
CLM or CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam),
which represent countries
that receive extra support from the Asian Development Bank. While this makes them
eligible for nancial assistance, being on this list is something of a moniker. Acknowl-
edging the alienating effect of explicitly dening potential partners in this way, higher
education functionaries in elds (such as quality assurance) dominated by relatively
advantaged countries have expressed the need to (nominally) adopt a more bottom-
up approach (Fahmi 2013). Often the message is bordering on patronising, as with
one Singaporean ofcial suggesting the need to
establish QA [quality assurance] systems to leverage the quality of education management
in CLM countries. (Tan 2013, slide 32)
Paying lip service to the capacities of the economically weaker countries using such
discursive practices is often part of the friendly dialogue in ASEAN-wide meetings,
but does little to practically shift power relations or adjust the reigning knowledge
societydispositif put in motion by advantaged countries. Putting it more practically,
a New Zealand professor of educational psychology stated at a higher education
event in Cambodia,
Notwithstanding the debate in regard to rote learningin Asian countries, there has been a
strong move towards teaching and learning practices that have been espoused by the Sin-
gaporean Ministry of Education, and that are practised in many Western countries, and
increasingly in non-Western countries. (Chapman 2013, XL)
Indeed, among other challenges, fundamental differences in the orientation and make-
up of the knowledge society in each ASEAN member country suggest that convergence
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will inevitably entail coercion and consensus building. We now turn to the nature of the
dialogue in higher education integration, looking at the relative capacities and motiv-
ations of the actors at the international and regional levels.
Proselytising models: the international domains of higher education
As a sector embedded in a broader national or regional space, higher education systems
are dependent on two factors outside of their direct sphere of control: competitiveness/
attractiveness of the home country/region and legitimation of their degree system. As
ambassadors representing the interest of their nation, region, or domain, consortia
and other bilateral and multilateral actors attempt to improve these terms. Succinctly
put by Adelman (2009, 168), the imperative of the Bologna Process is in increasing
the odds of cross-border labour market ow as a by-product of common qualication
frameworks and recognition of degrees. This characterisation can be applied to other
higher education domains, such as the USA and Australia. We elected to use the term
domain(over policy area, system, polity, or sphere) because it connotes a type of
statesociety intervention over geographical territory while also existing as a suprana-
tional form of (membership) organisation. Domains can also overlap, which is to say
that we accept that the competition for higher education dominance is not a zero-
sum game (Hartmann 2008) and, indeed, can often accommodate or benet from
overlap of certain domains. In practice, higher education domains always overlap in
terms of their representation (i.e. draw of students, presence in standard setting) in
each country or region, although this is governed to some degree by a global hierarchy
of higher education systems (see Verbik and Lasanowski 2007).
This will be illus-
trated in more detail in the descriptions of the domains in the following.
The European Higher Education Area
With its renewed push for consolidation since the Lisbon Convention in 1997 and the
formal beginning of the Bologna Process in 1999 (both model practices in Kellers
understanding), European members have focused primarily on expansion, harmonisa-
tion, and mutual recognition of higher education degrees. Since its inception, 48
countries have ofcially joined the EHEA (see Figure 1, which is still up to date).
The rapid expansion in Western Europe can be understood as an extension of inte-
gration processes under the EU, but the extension to Central and Eastern Europe and
beyond is part of its more recent expansionary logic. Indeed, the Bologna Process
should be seen as distinct from the EU, being aligned more ofcially with the UN Edu-
cational, Scientic and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) under the Lisbon Convention
(Hartmann 2008). This multilateral footing has helped add a global orientation to the
original establishment of this new higher education area. The fact that Bologna has
come to symbolise the outgrowth of a centralised model to satellite areas is,
however, perhaps ironic, as the historical Bologna University model has historically
been associated with control by students, or a very locally adapted approach to uni-
versity governance (Altbach 1973, 5).
Inscribed in the Bologna agenda in 2005, but informally acted upon beforehand, is
the External Dimension, which elaborates and justies the global engagement of the
EHEA (see Zgaga 2006). The results have come quickly. The Catania Declaration of
2006 established a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education Area, while the Asturias
Declaration of 2006 (between the European University Association and the Spain-
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based Consejo Universitario Iberoamericano) outlines Bologna-inspired reforms under-
way in Latin American and Caribbean higher education systems (EUA and CUIB 2006,
2). Various declarations have aligned, separately, Chile and Mexico with the Bologna
Process (Figueroa 2010), as well as starting programmes in Africa, North America, and
Asia. Concrete regional integration with Southeast Asia, a bastion of American and
Australian inuence, is perhaps still too early to denitively conclude.
Indeed, Southeast Asia appears to be a region in which the higher education
domains are predestined to lock heads. The European Commission (2001, 20) has
acknowledged its need to raise the prole of Europe in Asianow that the concept
of Europe as a destination is more concrete under the EHEA. Despite the illusion of
its unied front, or strong organisational dispositif, in the background is the reality
that the EHEA is itself still long from being consolidated (Robertson 2008). As
noted by an EU higher education representative to an ASEAN meeting,
Notwithstanding the overall positive development, the European dimension of quality
assurance is still limited. National regulations are still driving the majority of [quality
assurance] agenciesactivities. (Lugano 2013, emphasis in original)
Despite this backlog in Europe, countries and regions around the world have pre-emp-
tively begun aligning with or incorporating some of the Bologna standards. The World
Education Service (2005) (largely representing the USA) has acknowledged that the
three-year (or occasionally four-year) bachelors degree espoused in the Bologna
agenda will be largely considered equivalent to a US bachelors degree. Incorporation
has also begun in competing education domains such as the USA and Australia, where
individual standards or institutions have aligned with Bologna. In the state of Utah and
in a few universities in Australia, the Diploma Supplement component of the Bologna
Figure 1. Bologna Process membership. Source: Olds and Robertson (2011). © Kris Olds &
Susan Robertson. Reproduced with permission. Permission to reuse must be obtained from the
Comparative Education 9
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accreditation has been adopted (Adelman 2009, 169; Hartmann 2008). In other relation-
ships, the pressure to adopt Bologna standards is driven by the practical need for access
to well-funded higher education initiatives. For institutions participating in Erasmus
Mundus, the extra-European student exchange programme, institutions have largely
adopted (83%) the EHEAs credit transfer system (ECTS) in order to facilitate
implementation and funding (Maiworm 2006). In regions where Bologna is still
being preliminarily set up, less coercive measures predominate. The Asia-Link pro-
gramme (mostly in Southeast Asia) does not demand alignment with the ECTS, but
requires co-nancing as a way of encouraging solid inter-institutional collaborations
that more effectively anchor European partnerships (European Commission 2005b;
Robertson 2008). Nonetheless, observers from certain regions have begun to
comment about the passively coercive tendencies and unintended power effects of
This abstract spaceof higher education symbolises the exportation of a European model
through which others will come to understand, conceive, plan and organise the functional,
structural and content dynamics of the universities outside of Europe. (Figueroa 2010,
And indeed, Croché and Charlier (2012) document how the policy exibility still
found in national higher education systems in Europe proper is often lost through rei-
cation when the Bologna standards are exported to other regions (in their case, Fran-
cophone Africa), but that the resulting simplicity makes education integration with
Europe more transparent and accessible for policy-makers grasping for concrete
measures to take.
As the inheritor of the most dominant higher education system of the twentieth century
(Altbach 1973), the rst destination of students studying abroad (NAFSA 2014a), and
still the home to some of the top universities in the world (Times Higher Education
2015), the USA has built up the strongest passive and active presence in higher edu-
cation exchange and integration. After the Second World War, the USA was the rst
to develop a model of mass higher education and set up democratic institutions that
were able to bring in new branches of knowledge faster. As a result, the USA basically
became the paradigm in the 1970s, a position it exploited to expand its higher education
domain abroad and bulwark its reputation:
[the] major reason for the impact of American patterns of higher education overseas is
Americas political and economic power throughout the world. Not only is the U.S. a
wealthy and technologically advanced nation, and therefore a natural model to other
countries, but the large amount of foreign aid in terms of educational assistance and
advice provided to developing countries by the U.S. is a very strong inuence. American
universities have been deeply involved in assisting institutions of higher education in
other countries, and it is common that the models provided by American planners are
similar to those found in the U.S. (Altbach 1973,9)
As noted by scholars examining the latent strategies in the Bologna Process, the USA
encouraged a global market in QA agencies [ ] dominated by countries with well-
established agencies such as the USA(Hartmann 2008, 215). And through the present,
the USA has continually increased the amount it benets from international students,
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totalling USD 26.8 billion in 20132014 as calculated by the US-based Association of
International Educators (NAFSA 2014b). However, the share of international students
received by the USA has declined by 28% between 2001 and 2012 (OECD 2014, 201)
and the general tone in American university circles has become more sombre since the
heyday of the 1970s.
Due to its limited cohesiveness as an education polity, high cost, and growing
competition from other education domains, the USA has struggled to maintain its dom-
inance in international education integration. Internal, self-critical pieces describing the
decline in the American education system are no longer rare (Douglass 2006; NAFSA
2008), while reports describing how to respond to Bologna, and what the USA can
learn from Bologna, are increasingly visible in academic policy circles (Adelman
2009). Over time, a decidedly inward orientation to accreditation may have limited
the expansion of the American system (Altbach and de Wit 1995) while protecting
the exclusivity of domestic universities. In summarising a debate in which Philip
Altbach refers to American accreditation as academic invasionor academic coloni-
alism, Brittingham (2003) argued that some accreditation abroad was necessary to stay
competitive abroad, especially for outposts of American-style education. While some
of the international branch campuses of American universities have done this, and stan-
dardised tests like the American Student Achievement Test still hold sway, the incen-
tive for accessing the European Register of quality assurance agencies is notably
clearer: it requires parties to adopt European norms if they want to accredit universities
under the Bologna aegis.
While on a practical level, it is the lower tier universities in the USA that are begin-
ning to struggle, and which will face the brunt of shifting priorities to Europe, Australia,
or other regions. Their concerns have begun to take the wind out of critics who decry
any losses to the uniqueness of the American system.
As the localeducational powerhouse in Southeast Asia, Australias internal student
mobility has predominantly come from Asia (around 60% through 2009),
makes it more reliant on its performance in maintaining and attracting student ows
from the population-rich ASEAN countries. And contrary to the USA, Australia has
reacted proactively to the increasing presence of Bologna activities in its geographic
home turf, although it ultimately elected not to align itself overly with European stan-
dards. As described by Adelman (2009, 171),
In terms of student mobility, Australia is in the position of balancing gravitational pulls
from Europe, the U.S. and the major Asia-Pacic higher education systems, and, like
other systems outside of the Bologna universe, maintaining the integrity of its own enter-
prise and traditions.
The original interest in aligning with Bologna came with a 2006 working paper from
the DEST, soliciting input about the extent to which the sector should adapt. As
seen in those formative years,
not only European but also non-European agencies have signalled their interest in
being registered in Europe in order to ensure that their evaluation of a European study pro-
gramme is accepted by the European countries, which in turn increases the value of their
quality labels. Again the inuence is most visible in Australia. (Hartmann 2008, 215)
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While Australia feared losing the sizable student population from Europe, it also needed
to maintain enough distinctiveness to retain its competitive edge with North American
and Asian institutions. The reactions to the 2006 working paper were largely ambivalent
to large-scale adoption of Bologna, viewing Australias already-dominant position as a
competitive market for students to be insulated from this threat (Donaghue 2008, 70).
Indeed, Australia viewed Bologna as a marginal way of xing ailing university
systems rather than, as would be the case of Australia, reforming well-functioning
ones. As a result, most of the critical elements in the Bologna Process were rejected
in subsequent discussions over higher education reform (Donaghue 2008, 65).
Even though adoption of Bologna was not widespread (it was mostly limited to taking
up the Diploma Supplement and certain changes made at the University of Melbourne), it
led to frantic comparisons indicating that the Australian system, modelled after the
British, was not far from Bologna in most respects. In other words, Australia was inter-
ested in maintaining the existing perception about its unique system but eagerly wished to
prove functional equivalencein degree recognition so as not to threaten student ows
from Europe. In the meantime, Australia redoubled efforts to consolidate its hold over
regional standard setting in Asia-Pacic so as to ensure that other important ows
from its core region were also not disrupted (Stella and APQN 2008).
Strongholds and outposts: higher education agency in Southeast Asia
Although smaller in scale and bearing less notoriety, a number of the more economi-
cally dominant countries in Southeast Asia are also in the process of expanding their
higher education domains and strategically positioning themselves within the broader
higher education hierarchy. Most notably, these include Singapore and Malaysia. For
these countries, ASEAN economic and political integration is the key conduit for
raising their prole and cementing their position as regional powerhouses. Standing
to prot from tighter regional integration, Singapore and Malaysia have been most
vocal and engaged in the everyday business of higher education integration. Their
ideals are visible in communiqués from quality assurance agencies (largely dominated
by them), such as:
If the countries do not reect collectively now on what is good for regional development
and agree on the regional approach, after a few years of un-coordinated development,
maximizing the benets of the various national initiatives for regional development
will prove to be even more difcult. (Stella and APQN 2008, 25)
By creating an imperative for higher education integration, they also position them-
selves as the most likely candidates to bring about, and fund, the regional coordination.
But they must also compete with the global powerhouses, which often means making
strategic alliances. In the following, we describe the current situation and strategic con-
siderations of these two players.
Singapore and Malaysia
Both inheritors of the British system of education, Singapore and Malaysia have made
use of their relationship to England and membership in the Commonwealth, in addition
to their economic growth, to advance and legitimise their higher education systems.
While a one-to-one comparison of Singapore and Malaysia might disadvantage Malaysia
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(Marginson 2011), among ASEAN countries, both are regional economic and political
powerhouses in the context of higher education (Evers and Hornidge 2007; Hornidge
2007,2010,2011). Malaysia is the top country for transnational education provision
of UK qualications in the world, with around 60,000 students (UK Trade & Investment
Malaysia 2013). Singapore, in comparison, is home to the highest-ranked university in
Southeast Asia (the National University of Singapore) and is a high-demand destination
for intraregional student exchange. The Singapore Scholarshipprogramme for funding
international students from within the region has been a particular success.
Furthermore, Malaysia and Singapore are the regional leaders in quality assurance
frameworks for the ASEAN platform, with professionals from both countries consist-
ently making up a high proportion of the membership in regional quality assurance and
accreditation agencies.
Universities in both countries are also prominent members in
regional higher education associations, such as the APRU, as well as international
higher education associations, such as the International Alliance of Research Univer-
sities (IARU). Both countries use English as the dominant medium of instruction
and in general, both countries can simultaneously be regarded as careful arbiters of
external standards and internal drivers of regional standards.
These two countries differ in the ways in which they accommodate foreign higher
education institutions. Singapore is highly international and management driven, using
programmes such as Global Schoolhouseand Singapore Educationto bring foreign
campuses to Singapore and set up world-class partnerships (Ka Ho Mok 2011). In this
selection, however, Singapore is proactive and highly selective of international part-
ners, particularly when one compares to lower income Southeast Asian countries that
are targeted by development interventions. In 2005, a Singaporean higher education
leader outlined the long-term focus on ASEAN and the short-term goal of establishing
international legitimacy:
Regional cooperation is still far away. Of course ASEAN is trying to push it but ASEAN
is still too divided and too diverse. So what will actually happen is education and research
networks between cities worldwide. (Paul 2005, in an interview with Anna-Katharina
In Malaysia, national universities were granted statutory status, which not only enabled
them to compete for outside funding but also forced them to prove to the state through
their performance that they deserve internal funding. Unlike Singapore, Malaysia has
struggled to attract and negotiate the same elite partnerships as Singapore. This has
been blamed, variously, on the extent of bureaucratic oversight in Malaysia (which
includes a separate Ministry of Higher Education), the requirement for foreign univer-
sities to incorporate as majority-Malaysian-owned companies, more complex linguistic
criteria, and curricular demands (Ka Ho Mok 2011). The result is that while Singapore
has positioned itself widely both extra-regionally and within ASEAN, Malaysia has
remained primarily an outpost of the British education system and as a superior desti-
nation within the nascent ASEAN higher education area.
Higher education reform and standardisation in ASEAN: a new entry point for
In many of the signicant regional events on the subject of higher education, there is an
implicit consensus that wide-ranging higher education reform is necessary; these events
are usually bundled together with workshops on standard setting and quality assurance
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that take place in an atmosphere of apparent solidarity. Practically speaking, this seems
to be a logical way forward one which is espoused by external experts with superior
university systems and presents itself as a no-brainer: after all, who does not want high
(er) quality education? Even to sceptics, higher education reform appears to be an inevi-
table aspect of globalisation that the region might as well benet from. The ASEAN
University Networks Quality Assurance (AUN-QA) programme was initially recog-
nised by ASEAN+3, which includes China, Japan, and Korea.
Financial support
and training for the poorer CLMV countries were supported by the Japan-ASEAN Inte-
gration Fund (JAIF) (Tan 2013), giving these initiatives a developmentveneer as
well. As a result, higher education reform is discursively connected with regional inte-
gration, which is to be overseen in a de-politicised manner by external parties who can
objectively guide and conrm the reforms. This is captured neatly in reports by regional
monitors, such as the Asia-Pacic Quality Network (APQN):
With due regard to diversities in the national contexts, the region should promote the pol-
icies and practices that are strong points of the region. However, it is not always clear
which policies and practices should be promoted in the region. To steer the regional devel-
opment in QA towards most valuable practices, there is a need to look at the external
points of reference. (Stella and APQN 2008, 20)
Within three sentences, the report shifts away from respect for national systems to
regional and to international (external) intervention. Navigating back and forth along
this axis is a discursive strategy employed in many higher education reform documents
and at many high-level meetings, as it suits the needs of external parties very well. In a
presentation by a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) representative to
Myanmar on quality assurance, the following point was suggested:
Enriching intra-regional dialogue and cooperation by European avor: exchange with
European experts and trainers. (Wilde 2013)
This single line embodies a number of the discursive contradictions in trying to simul-
taneously play the role of neutral observer and shaperof political dialogue in a foreign
region. By exchange, the representative implies that constellation of power relations
within and outside of the region are equal, despite the fact that, by rule, experts and
trainersdo not learn from their trainees. The verb enrichingmight be read by
some as hijacking intra-regional dialogue. The power relations between and outside
the region are further glossed over with terms such as harmonisation, which suggests
that compromises in regional policy and alignment with external standards are mostly
technical, rather than political, questions.
If higher education reform becomes synonymous with standard setting, adoption of
quality assurance frameworks becomes the medium by which higher education
domains can exert their inuence in third countries. What is good (preferred) for the
region, the logic goes, will also be good for each member country in ASEAN:
By using the lens of regional, comparative analysis, presentations from the UNESCO
experts allowed participants to weigh options for policy reform in Myanmar by drawing
on best practices and lessons learned from other ASEAN countries. (UNESCO 2013)
Best practices from ASEAN were, in this case, extracted by a committee made up of
experts from Hong Kong (1), Singapore (3), the UK (1), and the UNESCO Bangkok
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Ofce (2). The region, in this case, is more or less a proxy for external policy-makers
and dominant players in the region who consistently buy into internationalisation. If
countries try to go it on their own (as Thailand had for the previous decades), and
do not buy into the regional solidarity discourse, they can be criticised for not
having leadership, as one regional document implies:
there is a lack of leadership for respective countries to strengthen their national quality
systems. Further collaboration on developing the regional quality assurance framework
will address these issues. (SEAMEO-RIHED 2012,5)
In the rush to achieve meaningful economic integration by the self-imposed deadline of
2015, many poorer ASEAN countries have been compelled to buy into the regional sol-
ution without much of a domestic debate, a position boldly called out as akin to
modern slaveryby a Cambodian representative to an education forum in Nagoya,
Japan (Seng 2014). To go further, we look at the case of Myanmar to illustrate some
of the risks that this entails.
In a 2013 article, the New York Times described Myanmars university rectors as
reaching outto the world (Farrar 2013) and highlighting the buzz of university
partnerships being signed and the assistance owing to Myanmars higher education
sector. Other observers would suggest that it is not Myanmar reaching out, but
expansionist higher education sectors reaching in. The Deputy Minister of Edu-
cation of Myanmar, Myo Mint (2013), suggested that universities that want auton-
omy must seek their own funding, by which he implied create private/public
partnerships. A commentator in the audience questioned whether this simply
meant trading one slave master off for another, but was relieved to nd out that uni-
versities usually deal with multiple external institutions, thus diluting dependency
on any one source. Signing deals with every foreign entity that comes along may
actually further autonomy, perhaps even allowing resources and qualied staff to
ow in, but it also threatens coherence and sovereignty over higher education
The disarray that can be generated is evident in the new International Center of
Excellence at Yangon University (YU), which preliminarily opened its doors in
January 2013. It is organised by a national NGO cooperating with John Hopkins Uni-
versity, but with additional funding from the Korean International Cooperation Agency
(KOICA). In practice, Chung Ang University in Korea has provided the most direct
logistical support. Later in 2013, the University of Cologne also signed an exchange
partnership with them. At a similar time, the YUs anthropology department began col-
laborating with Hanyang University, Korea. The law department, together with the Uni-
versity of Nagoya, established the Japan Myanmar Legal Research Center. Additional
memoranda of understanding have rapidly come in from the Australian National Uni-
versity, Thepsatri Rajabhat University (Thailand), and Hankuk University (Korea),
among others. Additionally, collaboration for an e-library with Cornell University
started in 2013, sponsored by the Open Society Foundation (also known as the
George Soros Foundation). At the time of writing, a consortium of American univer-
sities was receiving funding from the US Agency for International Development
(USAID) to set up shop in Yangon as well.
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The breathtaking speed and diversity of the organisations involved would be both
exciting and bewildering to any university recovering from decades of neglect. The
question to ask of these initiatives is whether they are driven by specic and outlined
needs in Myanmar or whether they are supply driven. A quote in the New York Times
article from Jacque Fremont, director of the international higher education programme
at the Open Society Foundation, suggests the latter:
Many, many major international universities would like to have a piece of the pie. (quoted
in Farrar 2013)
The extent to which these partnerships are supply driven can be understood when
looking at the distribution of new higher education deals in Myanmar. While Mandalay
University has begun cooperation with a number of French universities, in addition to
their longstanding relationship to the University of Cologne (Kraas 2013), most part-
nerships are signed in Yangon, with YU (King 2013). Given the international
concern over conicts in less metropolitan areas of Myanmar, one would expect
support to target some of the more than one hundred universities outside of the capitals
metropolitan area. This is largely not the case. And even the funding that is slated for
increasing capacity and resources at YU is diluted by parallel funding for higher edu-
cation fairs attempting to raise the proleof university systems outside of Myanmar
and Southeast Asia (ACA 2005).
Negotiating higher education models: integrationism and conformism
The scenario outlined earlier suggests that the economically weaker ASEAN countries
will have no choice but to participate in the rapid regional and international higher edu-
cation integration process. In light of the 2015 deadline for economic integration in
ASEAN, this inevitability only becomes more pronounced (Feuer 2014). However,
looking at the extent to which stakeholders connect higher education reform processes
across ASEAN with national imperatives gives an idea about the way in which this dis-
course is being adapted from its originally Western agenda. From this perspective,
ASEAN has a decidedly regionalistculturalist orientation. A Malaysian higher edu-
cation ofcial noted that ASEAN needs to learn from the EUwhile avoiding the emer-
gent disputes in the EU (Fahmi 2013), and in doing so keeping a cautious distance from
the Bologna Process. More stridently, faculty and high-level ofcials from Cambodia
and Thailands respective ministries of education have, in recognition of their fears
about 2015, argued for a more sensitive approach. Nith (2013), the Deputy Director-
General of Higher Education from Cambodia, suggests the need for an ASEANization
to combat the Americanization and Europeanization of education. The round table that
he participated in entitled ASEAN Educationat the International Conference on Edu-
cational Reform, held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, had a very regionalist orientation, with
one participant from Thailand stressing that, everyone wants to be unique, ASEAN
wants to be unique(Kanyajananiyot 2013).
This response in ASEAN was predicted as far back as the 1980s by Selvaratnam and
Gopinathan (1984, 78), who predicted the nature of the contestation between intraregio-
nal and extra-regional actors:
Regional exchange of experiences and expertise however, is going to play an increasing
major role in future strategies for improvement. One reason is that Asean models of higher
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education are essentially non-Asean; they are French, Dutch, American, Spanish and
English. [ ] A second observation that may be validly made is that the roles these
models play in their countries are different. Similarly, the context in which they have
to operate differs. In using higher education for development purposes, experience
within the region is necessary.
These authors acknowledge that external inuences are a fundamental part of existing
ASEAN systems of education, but that they have co-evolved with each of these
countries in different ways since colonisation. As Robertson and Keeling (2008)
observed, any territorialising strategiesof the EHEA that threaten retention of stu-
dents and the ability of national university systems to deliver cultural content (i.e.
art, literature, language, and philosophy) will be met with the kind of culturalistregion-
alist reactions displayed earlier by the Cambodian and Thai delegates. This is a more
general reection of the concern about retaining the social purpose of national cultural
institutions in the face of globalisation (Currie and Subotzky 2000, 124). This becomes
apparent in conference presentations and high-level meetings, in which the importance
of cultural sensitivity in any ASEAN Education Communityis routinely referenced;
however, the extent to which current activities (such as quality assurance, harmonisa-
tion, and foreign partnerships) can achieve a basis different from the neo-liberal, com-
petitive models imported from abroad is questionable. Navigating these waters as an
economically weaker ASEAN member (i.e. CLMV) requires more careful strategic
engagement. The case of Cambodia presented in the following is suggestive of a few
ways this can be implemented.
Like most countries in ASEAN, Cambodia experienced an explosion of private higher
education institutes (HEIs) when the demand for tertiary education began outstripping
the capacity of public institutions in the mid-1990s. From a base of 10 in 1990, the
number of HEIs grew to 97 by 2012 (Sen 2013). Nith (2013, personal communication)
describes the past international engagement in higher education in Cambodia as similar
to the post-Paris Peace Accords NGO boom, except that private investment and inter-
vention in education are still proceeding unabated, primarily in the context of ASEAN.
Because more than 60% of students are now served by private institutions, it is impor-
tant to understand their potential role in higher education reform and integration. Ford
(2006) notes that commentators of this process generally fall into two camps: the neo-
liberals (unashamedly pro business types) and the idealists, who focus on education
quality and social justice. The moral fault line separating these two camps is centred on
the issue of whether one believes that higher education reform should be driven by the
boom and bust of university models (a business approach) or should be incrementally
improved through democratic regulation that achieves societal goals and competitive-
ness simultaneously. For those in the latter category, however, time may be running out
as the deadline for ASEAN economic integration (in 2015) is rapidly approaching,
which will draw the Cambodian higher education sector out into more open and
erce competition with neighbouring education systems.
This is an approach taken by Cambodian researchers Sen and Ros (2013) of the
Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), who acknowledge that debates
about the ideals of higher education will become subsidiary to adaptation imperatives
after 2015. Feuer (2014) has argued that institutes of higher education which
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proactively manage the inevitable integration while applying their own distinct social
policy are in a better position to muddle through the post-2015 era. Private institutes
typically operate on a competitive basis, which assumes that prospective students (i.
e. customers) know what the most useful and highest value-for-money courses will
be. Evidence from Cambodia (Tan 2007) and across ASEAN noting high graduate
unemployment contradicts this (World Bank 2012). Due to language lock-in and
travel restrictions, many one-building Cambodian universities have got away with
offering minimalist business and management programmes (Locard and Ang 2010).
Faced with the international transparency of higher education integration, and increased
mobility, many of these institutions will not survive economic integration. For Cambo-
dian HEIs to survive and prosper in a context of higher education integration, they will
need to serve a broader focus by providing encouraging campus environments (see
Section 4 in Sam, Zain, and Jamil 2012) and extracurricular engagement for developing
soft skills (Heng 2014) as well as a wide range of job-focused social science and natural
science training. Here it is instructive to look at the longest running universities, or
those that have co-evolved with the long-running international presence in Cambodia.
The Royal University of Phnom Penh has around 122 active memoranda of under-
standing (most of which have been renewed continuously since Cambodia opened up in
1991), signed mostly with foreign universities. Of those, 50 are from East Asia, 29 from
the EU, 12 from North America, 28 from Southeast Asia, and 3 from Australia. The
number is not as impressive as the measured and decisive way in which these MoUs
were cultivated: balancing regional inuence (increased autonomy), garnering nan-
cing for difcult-to-fund subjects (such as architecture, history, sociology, and archae-
ology), expanding laboratory capacity, and improving faculty exchange for capacity
building. This can be compared to the hurried, supply-driven way in which Yangon
University has drawn up partnerships, which we described earlier.
Another example of proactive negotiation comes from Meanchey University, a per-
ipheral university in Banteay Meanchey province catering primarily to the children of
demobilised Khmer Rouge soldiers. As a public university developed with private
assistance, including Thai support on an intra-ASEAN basis, it also has secured partner-
ships with China, Vietnam, Korea, and Israel for various programmes that it needs.
While the university is by no means competitive at the international level, it serves a
unique social duty in the conict resolution while providing employable skills, and
negotiating its partnerships strategically (Seng 2013, personal communication).
These cases depart from the typical narrative of the growth in private HEIs, which
have contributed to problems of distribution and quality control (Chet 2006), and either
not sought international partnerships or partner haphazardly with private businesses and
anyone offering nancing. Both academic and multilateral evaluations of these insti-
tutions have noted problems with accreditation and quality assurance and their poor
track record in achieving social goals and graduate employment (Ford 2003; IIEP
and UNESCO 2011). Because accreditation was undermined by a last-minute amend-
ment placing it under central control at the Council of Ministers and not an independent
body (Ford 2003), external evaluation is the only manner of objectively determining the
quality of an institution (Ford 2006). In this case, higher education integration (perhaps
through ASEAN) would help weed out diploma mills from serious institutes. In particu-
lar, assistance could be provided through Cambodias collaboration on accreditation
with the Malaysian Qualication Authority and the Philippines Accrediting Associ-
ation of Schools, Colleges and Universities. In the short term, this might mean loss
of domestic students, but in the long term more sustainable HEIs.
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The case of Cambodia demonstrates that higher education reform and integration
can, under certain circumstances, (a) strengthen existing institutions and allow them
to survive internationalisation while maintaining autonomy, (b) discover and support
institutions (like Meanchey University) that deliver important social impacts, and (c)
expose diploma mills.
Conclusion: higher education discourse international domains, local arenas
The higher education landscape in Southeast Asia, and its socio-historic embeddings illu-
minated here through Kellers sociology of knowledge approach to discourse, comprises
many of the tensions and challenges that have, and are to some degree still being faced by,
European nations under the Bologna Process. Here, the craving to compete in the realm of
knowledge creationand to establish internationally recognised research and learning
centres often conicts with the goal of securing a tertiary education system directed by
national ideals and social imaginaries of a better, more inclusive, future. In ASEAN,
this is additionally complicated by the sheer diversity in higher education systems, econ-
omic strength, and national culture, as well as the spectre of ethnic discord and violence in
some regions. Nevertheless, the discourse around improving higher education quality
found in intraregional events is already suffused with depoliticised tasks that draw
ASEAN into the nexus of the dominant international education domains, namely
quality assurance and standardisation, harmonisation, and international partnerships
and exchange. In SKAD terms, it is these tasks that act as social and material resources
for action, in this case towards depoliticising the higher education integration discourse.
While the EHEA, Australia, and the USA use the above-depicted range of discursive,
non-discursive, and model practices (in Kellers conception) for embedding their
systems of reference into these activities, our analysis of the discourse also points to
the generalised awareness of the need for reexively managing the mobilisation of
these social and material resources to respect and benet Southeast Asia. In terms used
by Hornidge (2014), this is to say that in chasing the normative (harmonisation, inte-
gration) and factual implementation (standardisation, quality assurance) elements of
global knowledge discourse, the impact of the hegemonic elements (i.e. educational
monocultures) can be actively minimised.
As we have documented in this paper, the dominant dispositifs of discourse pro-
duction centre around the optimistic conceptual progression of integration(i.e. the
inevitability of globalisation), building a knowledge society(Western-oriented con-
stellation of academic competition), and reform(i.e. the social imaginary of a
better future). The arena of higher education in ASEAN is (historically) populated
by countries that variously prioritise certain discourses and domains that tendentially
leverage certain discourses or have pre-existing structures of symbolic and practical
power. The competitive atmosphere of higher education in ASEAN is increasingly
dened by struggles to rearrange the existing symbolic order in Southeast Asia,
especially in light of the increasing assertiveness of the Bologna Process. The different
domains are equipped differently to manage these processes. Bologna is highly centra-
lised, ordered, and transparent, but the USA and Australia have, respectively, dominant
model practices (i.e. templates for action) and regional embeddedness. These inter-
national actors strategically work with and defer to regional allies, some of which
are themselves dominant domains regionally, such as Singapore and Malaysia. Achiev-
ing broader success in ASEAN means that both international and regional actors have
to simultaneously tie the dominant discourse of internal (economic) integration and
Comparative Education 19
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development to their practice of external(higher education) integration while avoid-
ing perceived contradictions to national sovereignty.
As we have documented in higher education forums in Southeast Asia, the strident
regionalistculturalist orientation of many countries makes winning ASEANmore
complicated than implementing programmes that align the regions model practices
(e.g. credit system, exchange programmes, bilateral university cooperation) with
those of a higher education domain. Long-term dispositifs, in the form of university
consortia, standardisation agencies, and historical trends in academic mobility are
thereby recast as a continuation of an important type of international diplomacy
(namely higher education integration) that appears to be a natural parallel to globali-
sation and economic integration. However, integration has proven to be a far more con-
tentious process, balanced around dual processes of building strategic partnerships and
defending sovereignty. Some of the economically more advanced ASEAN countries
(such as Singapore, and to some degree Malaysia) are already working to uncouple
the Western integrationist and sovereignty-threatening components (here called (un-)
intended power effects), while still pushing technical standards and student mobility.
In turn, our analyses of Myanmar and Cambodia suggest that while the economically
weaker countries have agency in proactively managing the dual pressure of inter-
national and regional integration, there is also the more opportunistic and incoherent
race for the biggest piece of the pie. The case of Myanmar illustrates more prototypi-
cally the rawmanifestation of this battleground, with foreign institutes competing
with each other to inuence the form and content of the emergent university system.
Another (un-)intended power effect of this is higher education reform that outwardly
promotes a de-politicised ideal of integration linked to the inevitability of globalisation
(including the aspiration for so-called elite universities), but that pays lip service to the
sensitive social challenges facing each country.
There is, however, an important silver lining that addresses the question we posed at
the beginning of this paper, namely the potential for individual countries to leverage or
exploit the broader hegemonic battle over ASEAN higher integration to improve their
institutes of higher education. For the majority of ASEAN member countries that do not
have the negotiation power and room to manoeuver of Singapore, the international
competitionto shore up and expand the big higher education domains is at least dilut-
ingthe pre-existing power structures and discursive pre-eminence built up in Southeast
Asia by Britain, Australia, and the USA, providing more room for lesser players to
more strategically pick and choose among various contenders. The fragmentation in
quality assurance agencies worldwide challenges harmonisation with any standard
and reinforces the sense that there is not a zero-sum game afoot between higher edu-
cation domains. For example, the APQN boasts 46 members in 27 Asia-Pacic
countries, INQAAHE
has 189 member agencies in 80 countries (some overlapping),
and even UNESCO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) provide their own Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-Border Higher
Education. This is also evidenced by the many consortia with cross-regional mandates.
The International Network of Universities (INU) connects institutions from Australia,
Japan, the USA, Korea, South Africa, the EU, and Indonesia. In this environment,
higher education domains struggle to gain monopoly as there are many players and
potential higher education systems (Stella and APQN 2008, 21). ASEAN member
countries would be wise to similarly spread their risk and recognise their desirability
in the new higher education world order.
20 H.N. Feuer and A.-K. Hornidge
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Our gratitude goes to fellow research colleague Prof. Conrad Schetter for help with work pre-
ceding this and to Dr Eric Beerkens for comments on a draft of this paper.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
The authors thank the Fritz Thyssen Foundation [grant number 30700037] for their
generous support to this research project, and recognise no outstanding conicts of
interest in the publication of these ndings.
1. An alternative term, which is perhaps less useful for describing decentralised regional higher
education systems such as the USA, is polity(see the example of Europe in Beerkens
2014, 5).
2. AUN: ASEAN University Network. AQAN: ASEAN Quality Assurance Network.
SEAMEO-RIHED: Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Insti-
tute of Higher Education and Development.
3. AUNP: ASEAN EU University Network Programme. ACCESS: Academic Cooperation
Europe- Southeast Asia Project.
4. APRU: Association of Pacic Rim Universities; ACODE: Australasian Council on Open,
Distance and e-Learning; UMAP: University Mobility in Asia and the Pacic.
5. A less direct, but more polite form refers to the GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion) countries.
6. They outline the following world hierarchy of higher education actors: (1) The Major
Players: the USA, the UK, and Australia; (2) The Middle Powers: Germany and France;
(3) The Evolving Destinations: Japan, Canada, and New Zealand; and (4) The Emerging
Contenders: Malaysia, Singapore, and China.
7. Based on statistics from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics:
8. Under this programme, Singapore opens all domestic scholarships to the outside (open eli-
gibility), charges tuition for non-residents of only 10% above local, and offers favourable
interest rates for student loans.
9. Based on the authorstabulation of available records from AUN, AQAN, and SEAMEO-
10. In 2005, Johnson Paul was the Deputy Director of Research Services and Publications of the
Singapore National Library Board. By 2014, he was the Senior Associate Director at the
Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.
11. Specically, the ASEAN Plus Three Senior Ofcials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED+3)
and the ASEAN Plus Three Education Ministers Meeting (ASED+3).
12. INQAAHE: International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education.
Notes on contributors
Hart N. Feuer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), Cambodia,
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ology of food, with a focus on food education and ecological agriculture.
Anna-Katharina Hornidge is a Professor of social sciences at the Leibniz Center for Tropical
Marine Ecology (ZMT) and the University of Bremen, Germany. Before that, she was the Direc-
tor and Professor of the Department of Social and Cultural Change, Center for Development
Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany.
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In the context of the construction of the “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (here in after referred to as GBA)” by the Chinese government and the launch of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao development plan, higher education institutions in the GBA have ushered in favorable opportunities brought by policy support. By sorting out the advantages, potential problems and the development history of higher education in the three regions, this study found that Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong have certain advantages in higher education resources, economic and trade environment and industrial foundation respectively. In view of the significant differences in the historical traditions, management systems, educated groups, and development levels of higher education in the three regions, building world-class universities in the GBA requires deeper collaboration and integration, which includes the resource integration, the talent-research-industrial cooperation mechanism and the internationalization of higher education.
In the era of globalization, higher education acts as a player in the game, presenting a vivid picture of how the system manifests the globalizing process of a nation. This chapter takes a critical look at quality assurance of higher education in a country, Vietnam, under the impacts of international organizations. Drawing on Marginson and Rhoades's glonacal agency heuristic, the chapter aims to argue that quality assurance has been prioritized as one of the core stepping stones for Vietnam to participate in international and regional educational space. It further explains while international organizations as global actors have set the foundation for quality assurance in Vietnam and introduced neoliberal ideas into the system including institutional autonomy, decentralization and social accountability, the national tradition of state-eccentric power, and the discrepancies among local institutions divert the quality assurance system away from such neoliberal ideas. The organizations that are the focus of the chapter include the World Bank, ASEAN, and ASEAN University Network.
The meso dimension of the Regional Human Resource Development (Regional HRD) ecosystem in Southeast Asia consists of networks of actors that influence HRD policy and practice in the region. This content dimension includes components such as educational institutions like universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions that influence HRD primarily within national boundaries but by extension influence the region’s workforce. This dimension also includes a host of networks related to HRD such as professional networks like the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource Management and the ASEAN Human Development Organization as well as family, peer, and consultant networks. This chapter also describes the role that international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, and the Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas play in influencing HRD policy and practice in the region.
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Years of neglect and political turmoil have left Cambodia with diminished cultural capital as countless people responsible for the transmission of cultural and educational heritage were wiped out, all educational institutions were closed, and the traditional links between the different layers of the Cambodian society were broken. Today, Cambodia seeks to rebuild these connections and restore its capacity to participate in the regional and global economies as a valuable contributor. The adoption of English as the working language of Southeast Asia was a key policy decision aiming to build connections between the member countries and the rest of the world. The policy has resulted in Cambodia issuing a directive for all primary and secondary students to learn English. While the directive is in step with the recent internationalisation policies of Cambodia, it is not clear what assumptions, needs and factors help advance or hinder its realisation. To identify these, the present study engaged the stakeholder community in perspective sharing, while also preserving the anonymity of the participants. The study focused on upper secondary schools in Cambodia as those schools prepare students for higher levels of learning, where knowledge of English is essential. Qualitative methods of inquiry were used. The study findings demonstrated that English language education stakeholders in Cambodia do not work as a community, which vindicates the concern about the troubled past of the country and the social and cultural effects this continues to have on its people. The findings also point to a lack of leadership from the English language research community, which leaves stakeholders at all levels of the system struggling and English language education compromising the transformative objectives of the new national education policies. The study uncovered a broad range of tensions that arise when a dominant discourse that has shaped pedagogical practices of the country confronts the new education policies of “citizen empowerment” and, in addressing the tensions, the study illuminated the importance of relationality and community entanglements and cultural habitus as structural frameworks.
Harmonization of higher education institutions (HEI) has a potential to build up a cohesive South East Asia. The Kuala Lumpur declaration on higher education has provided a suggestive framework to promote collaborative activities in higher education, which can have a far-reaching impact on the geopolitical scenario of the Southeast Asia. Moreover, the growing threat of climate change, need for disaster management, promotion of lifelong learning, and the mandate for SDGs also call for increased collaborations among HEIs. A well-integrated South-East Asian region with collaborative mechanisms for student exchange, academic collaborations, collaborative research projects, and common educational programmes aimed at people to people contacts has a potential to achieve the common goal of the region. This chapter examines these possibilities, highlights some important cases, and makes recommendations.
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This article provides an overview of the governance structure of Cambodia’s higher education system and the implications of this structural design for all stakeholders and the country’s economy. It also examines the significance of the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community for Cambodia’s higher education system.
In the past few years, Cambodia has seen an explosion in the growth of Higher Education that has been, to a large extent, absorbed by the dramatic rise in the number of private Universities. There are now some 106 campuses across the country. In the academic year, 2007-8, there were 110,090 bachelor degree students enrolled, among which 46,395 were in public Universities and 63,695 in private ones, according to Ministry of Education figures. There were also 15,802 Associate Degree students and 11,209 post –graduate students (over twice the number of the previous year).The vast majority of students - even in state universities - pay fees of about $400 a year. More than half of the 5,184 postgraduate students in Cambodian Higher Education Institutions 2006-2007 took an MBA or a related financial management course. Enrolments are now over 12 times the number in 1996. Scholarships do not exist - only a few of the best students are exonerated from paying those fees. Unlike all other Departments of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), the History Department has not been renovated and is not connected to any other in the region or in the West. Recruitment is low: there are only cohorts of about 30 students for each of the 4 years. The Department is supposed to train upper secondary school teachers for the entire country. It has 11 lecturers, 5 of whom have a Master. None have a PhD. This subject is not very popular in Cambodia among students these days, as teachers are poorly paid. Ces dernières années, le Cambodge a vu une grande explosion dans la croissance de l’éducation supérieure, surtout absorbée par l’essor dramatique des universités privées. Il existe maintenant 106 campus dans le pays. D’après les chiffres du Ministère de l’Éducation, 110.090 bacheliers se sont inscrits dans les universités pendant l’année universitaire 2007/2008, dont 63.695 dans des universités privées et 46.395 dans des universités publiques. Il y avait également 15.802 étudiants inscrits dans des filières universitaires technologiques, ainsi que 11.209 étudiants de troisième cycle. La plupart des étudiants, même dans les universités publiques, payent des droits de scolarité de 400 dollars américains par an. Plus de la moitié des 5.184 étudiants de troisième cycle des institutions universitaires cambodgiennes ont étudié un MBA ou un cours d’administration en 2006/2007. L’inscription est aujourd’hui 12 fois plus élevée en nombre qu’en 1996. Il n’existe pas de bourses – seulement quelques uns des meilleurs étudiants ne payent pas. Contrairement à tous les autres départements de l’Université Royale de Phnom Penh (RUPP), le département d’histoire n’a pas été rénové et n’est connecté à aucune des régions de l’ouest. Le recrutement est peu important: les cohortes sont seulement de 30 étudiants tous les quatre ans. Le département est censé préparer des professeurs de collèges dans tout le pays mais il n’a que onze chargés de cours, dont cinq ont une maîtrise. Aucun d’entre eux n’a de doctorat. Cette matière n’est plus très populaire de nos jours au Cambodge car les professeurs sont mal payés.
'The Handbook constitutes an essential reference source for everyone interested in studying the current meaning, scope and implications of globalization. Strongly recommended.' - Higher Education Review. Higher education has entered centre-stage in the context of the knowledge economy and has been deployed in the search for economic competitiveness and social development. Against this backdrop, this highly illuminating Handbook explores worldwide convergences and divergences in national higher education systems resulting from increased global co-operation and competition. © Roger King, Simon Marginson and Rajani Naidoo 2011. All rights reserved.