Revolutionary change needed in South Asian higher education

30 April 2014

A significant transformation of higher education in South Asia is coming, concludes new research from the British Council. South Asia already accounts for more than 25 per cent of the world’s population, and population growth is leading to one million new entrants to the regional work force every month for the next twelve years. This, together with rising demand for higher education and a severe shortage of professionals, is driving a regional transformation.

The British Council has concluded that expanding the existing higher education system to meet the growing numbers of students will not be enough. Approximately 2,000 more universities will be built in the next decade, but this is unlikely to satisfy the demand, and the British Council has issued a call to action to the region’s leaders to meet the urgency of the challenge. A failure to find new solutions and to meet the demographic demand for high quality accessible education will see South Asia locked into a spiral of low value skills and even higher graduate unemployment, the research warns.

Michelle Potts, the British Council’s Director of Education in South Asia, said: “The research shows that the time is ripe for South Asia to create a new platform for higher education for the 21st Century, to create positive social and economic impact. Addressing the need to enhance the quality, accessibility, relevance and provision of higher education will take steps towards tackling some of the entrenched issues facing the region (skills, employability, social mobility, equity) and also issues of national critical importance (climate change, energy, poverty, disease).The consequences of getting it wrong are immense, not just for the individual nations, but for the region and globally.”

The research has been presented at the British Council’s Going Global 2014 conference for leaders of international higher education on Wednesday 30 April.