In the wake of the global financial crisis, the emerging nations of South East Asia are attracting international attention on account of their booming economies and the increased business opportunities to be found there.
With the emergence of a middle class in many of these countries, this increased affluence has extended to the region’s universities, and institutions in these countries are becoming increasingly respected places to study.
There are currently 30 member institutions within the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) University Network, or AUN, an organisation which was set up twenty years ago to establish academic ties and promote collaboration and solidarity among teachers and researchers across various academic institutions in ten South East Asian countries.
Higher education is seen as playing a crucial role in supporting the continuing economic integration of the ten ASEAN countries, and its burgeoning economy is being increasingly accompanied by a blossoming of its academic institutions. Indeed, there are already 17% more Asian universities in the global top 200 since the start of the financial crisis.
A particular case that is emblematic of this rapid rise of Asian universities is that of the National University of Singapore (NUS), which was ranked as Asia’s top university in the most recent 2014 QS Asian University Rankings. Since these rankings were first compiled in 2009, NUS has quickly progressed up the charts, from an original 10th position to second in 2013 and finally top Asian university last year. Along with this, it is also ranked 22nd in the world.
Other universities which are making rapid progress and attracting an increased level of attention include the University of Malaya (UM), which last year achieved its best ever ranking of 32nd in Asia; UM has consistently been ranked the top university in Malaysia in terms of academic reputation, employer reputation and its exchange programmes.
Nowhere is this rising reputation of South East Asian universities more evident than in the quality of their engineering courses. According to the recent QS University Rankings, South East Asian countries account for nearly a third of the top 50 engineering institutions in the world. Various engineering courses available at NUS, for instance, including Chemical, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, feature in the top 10 globally. The NUS Faculty of Engineering is recognized as one of the top technological schools in the world and draws students from across the world. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is another Singaporean university which has climbed quickly up the rankings, a whole ten places in two years to its current position of 7th in Asia for engineering.
Thailand is also an emerging country in which it is proving popular to study engineering. The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) is a leading international institution which specialises in engineering in technology, and focuses on promoting technological change and sustainable development in the Asia and Pacific region as a whole, typical of many institutions in this region.
Those choosing to study in any of these South East Asian countries will find themselves entering into a truly international system, where credit transfers are available, and where there are a significant number of English-language programmes. In a globalized economy, and in one in which these South East Asian nations are playing an ever more dominant role, anyone lucky enough to be connected to the ASEAN countries on an academic level stands to reap significant rewards.
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