New Technologies Lead to New Opportunities in Higher Education
Innovation and technological capacity is fundamental to diversifying and upgrading product lines, but this capacity is still under-developed in much of East Asia. With the exception of Japan and Korea, most East Asian countries are struggling to develop the innovation potential of their higher education system. Governments across the region are devising strategies to support research centers and universities are offering specialized studies.
However, much more remains to be done in building partnerships between governments, universities, and industry to support applied research and technology transfer that meets R&D needs. According to the international ranking compiled by Webometrics1, only China manages to have one university within the top 200 universities, and only China, Thailand and Korea make it to the top 500 with at least two of their universities.
Supporting higher enrollment in hard sciences and Ph.D.-level research, and developing skills for innovation such as creative thinking, are additional ways to grow innovation. Case studies are taking a closer look at where the innovation-related gaps are, with special attention to the advantages and disadvantages of a supply vs. demand approach.
From Technological Mastery to Innovation (Added July 21)
As economies develop and move up the ladder of technology, the need for education and skills at all levels grows. In particular, tertiary level institutions take on larger responsibilities and they can help accelerate industrial change. –Because universities are the source of an increasing share of the entrepreneurs, managers and skilled workers, their shortcomings with respect to the supply of graduates, quality of skills imparted, lack of focus on the STEM disciplines, and inadequacy of lab and testing facilities, can be a serious brake on growth that is increasingly reliant on technology. The purpose of this paper is to review and assess the performance of tertiary education systems in East Asian countries in promoting growth by helping to build technological capabilities and the capacity to innovate in the business sector. The paper divides the countries into three technology clubs with reference to a number of criteria and the analysis is complemented by policy suggestions tailored for the circumstances and development aspirations of each club.
Innovation and Technological Capability in Indonesia (Added July 21)
This paper examines Indonesia’s innovation and technological capabilities, with special reference to its higher education sector, and in the context of the country’s economic development dynamics and major policy settings. Section 2 is scene setting, drawing attention to the country’s generally strong economic performance and to the significant changes in policy settings in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. Section 3 surveys the major factors shaping the country’s innovation and technological capabilities, including trade and investment policy, education policies, and formal R&D programs. Section 4 examines the country’s education sector and its achievements in comparative international perspective. Section 5 presents and interprets the results of a detailed firm-level survey. Section 6 provides a summary and policy discussion. We draw attention to the country’s late-comer status with respect to its investments in education and R&D, the weak standing of almost all its universities, the very limited formal R&D effort, and in consequence the country’s low rankings in most comparative indicators of innovation and technology. We also conclude that there is little firm-level innovation on any significant scale, that government R&D efforts have historically concentrated on ‘prestige’ projects, and that the linkages between universities, government research institutes and the private sector are poorly developed. We conclude with a set of policy recommendations, ranging from a general overhaul of the government’s R&D program and the university sector through to a set of specific recommendations in the field of education and training.
Higher Education Innovation in China
China has the world’s largest higher education sector and has made impressive gains in making sure that such education is widely accessible. Government investment in the sector has been high, with total expenditures on higher education increasing six-fold from 1997-2005. Nonetheless, notes this study, universities in China have yet to become key drivers of innovation. China has also seen solid growth in R&D spending, but the bulk of this spending (70%) goes to industry, with universities performing less than 10% of R&D. Still, universities in China find themselves having to operate in an increasingly market-oriented environment and a handful of elite universities are creating university enterprises, or entering into technology transfer contracts with firms. The author evaluates the basic characteristics, scale and performance of Chinese universities, while outlining their interaction with the other elements of the innovation system and assessing their ability to contribute effectively to the creation, adaptation and diffusion of technology and knowledge. The paper concludes with policy suggestions on how the contribution of higher education to the national innovation system could be enhanced both in China and possibly in other developing countries.
Innovation and Higher Education in Five Asian Societies
Besides coping with a larger number of student enrollments and delivering quality teaching, universities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan have been under pressure to engage in entrepreneurial and research activities that foster economic and social development, and to cement closer ties with industry and business. This role is beyond the “comfort zone” of some higher education institutions. While the author chronicles the various efforts being made to develop national innovation systems and more university-industry linkages, he also asserts that the university sector in Asia has been a “late-comer” to these tasks and has yet to play a very important part in the promotion of innovation. In terms of policy recommendations, the author suggests that governments play an economy-wide integrating role, that regulatory frameworks be loosened, and that education systems build a culture of innovation. He also identifies good practices adopted by the selected cases for other developing countries.
Philippine National Innovation System
This paper assesses the state of the Philippines National Innovation System (NIS) and analyzes the plans in place to reform and strengthen the system. The NIS is defined as a conglomeration of high-quality academic and research institutions and their linkages with private industries. The paper finds the NIS to be underdeveloped, with respect to both world-class research institutes and research outputs, measured in terms of doctorates, publications, scientists produced and technology development and transfer. The paper implicates the failure to develop a strong NIS on the populist education policy, adopted at the turn of the 20th Century by the American colonial regime and sustained by successive post-independent administrations. Poor infrastructure along with a lack of stable and rational macro policies, rule of law and good government have all contributed to the neglect of the NIS. The government has authorized the use of unprecedented sums, by historical standards, to enhance research, scholarship and infrastructure development of S&T units of the University of the Philippines and a consortium of six other engineering schools. The paper suggests, among other things, that the Department of Science and Technology, the newly created Commission on Science and Technology and the university consortium draw up an operational plan for accelerating and sustaining the development of the NIS and the role of higher education within it.
Higher Education and Thailand's National Innovation System
Thailand has achieved impressive and consistent GDP growth over the past half-century in large part through extensive economic diversification. The country has become one of the world's leading exporters of products ranging from rice, to sugar, to rubber, to prawns, to garments, to pickup trucks, to computer components. Despite these gains, there is growing evidence that Thailand suffers from a significant gap between the advanced nature of its export structure and the much more modest technological levels of its own firms and labor force. The country’s weak national innovation system is a key contributor to this disparity. The Thai bureaucracy, especially the line ministries, exhibits fragmentation and competition that in turn discourage fruitful interaction with the country’s firms and associations, financial institutions and, most critically for this paper, educational institutions and their links to the private sector. The authors trace these weaknesses to a development strategy that focuses largely on jobs and foreign exchange; divisions among political elites; and a set of structural factors – weak external threats, demobilized popular sectors, and easy access to resources and revenues – that underpins this strategy and the political divisions. The overall result is an environment that discourages both the demand for and the supply of innovation-promoting institutions. Analyses of autos, hard disk drives, and rubber flesh out this general picture and demonstrate cross-sector and even intrasectoral variation in the strength of innovation systems. In so doing, they suggest specific parameters within which more progress is possible than is evident from a purely national perspective. They also suggest that sector-specific successes constitute useful models for replication.
Higher Education Faculty in East Asia
Government support for higher education in East Asia is high and there has been rapid expansion in this sector. But, as demand for access to postsecondary opportunities has grown, it has outstripped the supply of qualified college and university personnel. Weak instruction and inadequate infrastructure has led to poor quality. Meanwhile, instructors are being asked to teach larger classes, do more research, teach across a broader range of abilities, take on more responsibilities even as they hold second jobs to make ends meet, and ensure that graduates have more relevant, higher quality job skills when they graduate. Solutions vary by country, but the paper surveys the size and composition of the faculty across East Asia, how they are trained and recruited, their conditions of employment, and evidence of their effectiveness. The paper concludes with strategies for recruiting, compensating, supporting, and evaluating college and university instructional staff.
1 Produced by the Cybermetrics Lab, a unit of the main public research body in Spain, the National Research Council