Asian universities take on Oxford

first_imgA University spokesman stressed that Oxford must fight to maintain its status in the face of increasing competition from better funded international rivals.“Oxford will have to continue to evolve to attract the best staff and students from around the world, and those who will benefit the most from our unique environment,” he said.“In response to what is clearly a challenging funding environment, Oxford will continue to seek additional funding from a range of sources, including research grants, its own investments and philanthropy.”James Teasdale The boom of Asian universities could threaten Oxford’s world class status and financial security if its funding mechanisms are not radically overhauled, according to warnings from key higher education figures this week.Jan Figel, European Commissioner for Education, claims that the ambitions of institutions in India and China could see them overtaking Europe’s top universities in world rankings within a matter a years.Figel said that as Asian institutions improve, high-ranking European universities like Oxford will become less appealing to overseas students.Britain allocates 1.1 per cent of its GDP to higher education, compared with China’s plans to increase funding allocation for education to four per cent in the future.“If you look at the Shanghai index, we are the strongest continent in terms of numbers and potential, but we are also shifting into a secondary position in terms of quality and attractiveness,” Figel told The Times.“If we don’t act we will see an uptake or overtake by Chinese or Indian universities. Indian technology is seen as the third best in the world. China itself decided it wants several top universities by 2015.“Overseas students don’t come to the UK or Europe, our students are attracted elsewhere and then if you’ve got the students going elsewhere the businesses go elsewhere,” he said.The Commissioner’s warnings came as Chris Patten, Oxford’s Chancellor, stated that the University’s development was already stifled by restrictions on raising money and that British universities were falling behind their international competitors.“Universities here, and indeed in most of Europe, are left in a no man’s land in which they neither get enough funding from the state nor are they allowed to raise money themselves beyond the ridiculously low limits of the tuition fee,” Patten wrote in a Guardian comment piece. “Universities today get 1.1 per cent of GDP in this country, compared with America’s 2.6 per cent… and while we are resting on our laurels we must remember that China and India are coming up on the outside.In 2003, eight Chinese and Indian universities featured in the top 500 Academic Ranking of World Universities and this had increased to 11 by 2006, with many institutions climbing the table every year. Increased prestige of universities closer to home could provide a greater incentive for overseas students to study there. Beijing University is ranked fourteenth in the world according to the QS Top Universities ranking, which cites the University’s average undergraduate course fee as $641 per year.Dr Frank Pieke, Position Director of Oxford’s Institute for Chinese Studies, estimated that there are around 550 Chinese undergraduates studying at Oxford. Collectively, they may be contributing up to £10m in University and college funding each year.“The Chinese government has now been investing for a while in higher education after years of neglect,” he said. “The impact of an increase in standards of Chinese universities may mean that Oxford finds it more difficult to recruit Chinese students.”Shenxiao Tong, a former professor at Nanjing Shifan University in China, believes that increased investment in the country’s higher education system has caused undergraduate numbers to swell in recent years.“Chinese universities are definitely improving,” he said. “A very high percentage of young people in cities now go to university.”Although they have not yet overtaken Oxford and its leading European counterparts, Tong insists that China’s universities are developing the ambition and academic potential to rank among them.“They don’t have this ambition yet, but Beijing and Tsinghua are working very hard to be among the top universities in the world,” he said. “Beijing is ranked number one in Asia and fourteenth in the world. The competition for places is extremely high in China because of its One Child Policy. Parents want to give their children the best education possible, so they are pushed very hard. What Chinese science students learn in school is equivalent to our undergraduate level.”Lan Wu, President of the Oxford Asia-Pacific Society, predicted that the number of Asian students choosing to study at Oxford would fall in the future.“The rise of Chinese education will mean that Europe will become less attractive to Chinese students,” she said. “I think Asian students will be less attracted to Oxford as a result.”last_img read more