Blog 🍎 School 14th February 2022

6 Reasons Why Your Students Are Considering Higher Education in Asia (Or Should!)

Profile image of James Leach
James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

With the explosion of exciting opportunities for higher education in Asia, some of your students may already be keen to apply to universities in this incomparable continent.

Others might not have looked far beyond more traditional paths. Perhaps they plan to stay in their country of residence. Or maybe they’re set on applying to very established destinations like the UK or the USA.

But sticking to these well-trodden paths could be a mistake! They might miss out on their ideal academic experience, and even their most fulfilling future.

So in this blog post, we’ll look at why higher education in Asia is such a popular option. We’ll begin by thinking about the academic experience and what makes it unique. We’re also looking at affordability and employability as well as the more personal appeal of studying in Asia.

1) Higher education in Asia combines academic excellence with innovation

The first point might be the most important, and it’s certainly the most obvious. Asia is home to institutions at the very forefront of vital fields. They’re doing cutting-edge research and providing unparalleled teaching.

Let’s look at some of the things that make higher education in Asia so special.

Academic excellence

For centuries, Asia has been associated with intellectual and academic rigour. And in recent years, this reputation has come to the fore with regard to higher education in Asia.

You only need to look at global league tables: 14 of the top 50 spots in the QS World University Rankings for 2022 are Asian universities. An incredible 82 are in the top 300 – almost a third of the world’s very best universities!

Students can also find cutting-edge technologies and research in Asia. It’s unsurprising given the reputations of countries like Japan for being ultra-modern, innovative and tech-savvy.

Even for students not pursuing STEM, Asian countries offer dynamic and compelling experiences. They have some of the most ancient and rich literary traditions, fascinating histories, influential and intricate artistry and architecture… Everything a student of the Arts could want.

Higher education in Asia is unique

While academic rigour is important, it’s not always the best way to narrow students’ geographical search. After all, there are excellent options all over the world.

But what isn’t available around the globe is the unique blend of eastern and western traditions that Asian higher education can provide.

Asian higher education is developing a new, hybrid model

The region’s complex history means that ancient academic principles and modern Asian cultures have melded with western teaching traditions. For example, Hong Kong’s history of both British and Chinese rule means students can engage with perspectives from eastern and western critical thought.

And in Singapore, universities have created their own degree structure which offers a sweet spot between the USA and the UK. There, the common curriculum is similar to the USA’s general education. However, it makes up only around a third (or less) of students’ degrees.

 “In the 19th century, the world was Europeanised. In the 20th century, it was Americanised. Now, it is being Asianised – and much faster than you may think.”

Jonathan Woetzel and Jeongmin Seong: McKinsey Global Institute

What’s more, as higher education in Asia makes a name for itself on the global stage, it’s borrowing more selectively and thoughtfully from western traditions. The result is a truly unique model of higher education.

You can see this in action in the growth of liberal arts in Asian higher education. It marks a shift from the focus on specialisation brought by British colonial influence. Instead, there’s a growing appreciation of breadth and originality.

In practical terms, it’s translated to a move away from traditional lectures and rote learning, which had until recently been so dominant in many Asian countries. Now, learning is becoming much more interactive. Your students can expect to participate in engaging tutorials, symposiums and seminars. They’ll really develop their creative and critical thinking!

higher education in asia is embracing seminars
A new learning experience

For example, the general academic ethos in Hong Kong has moved away from more structured and strict instruction and become much more holistic. There’s a strong focus on helping students to develop practical skills and transferable soft skills alongside their subject-specific studies.

And while there’s still a strong emphasis on exams, there is now a lot of importance given to explaining why students are learning something, rather than just expecting them to memorise facts and figures to pass an exam.

“Asian universities have changed the paradigm for developing a university. Many have achieved a standing, a stature and a maturity much more rapidly than had previously been thought possible.”

Professor David Eastwood: Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham

2) Higher education in Asia has links to global universities

While higher education institutions in Asia may be unique, they’re certainly not isolated. In fact, many universities have strong ties with other prestigious institutions around the world. For your students, that can mean wider academic options, more variety in course content and teaching styles, and great opportunities for studying abroad and networking.

A number of renowned universities also have satellite campuses across Asia, offering exchange and transnational education programmes.

For example, students could look to the programmes run by New York and Shanghai Universities, or those by Xi’an Jiatong and Liverpool Universities. Australian universities like Monash and James Cook also have strong links across Malaysia and Singapore, as does the UK’s University of Reading.

shanghai is an example of global offerings in higher education in asia

3) Higher education in Asia is becoming more accessible to international students

As well as academic experience, your students need to think about the practicality of applying to and studying in different destinations. And one thing that’s boosting international student numbers in Asia is the growing accessibility of its programmes.

For starters, many of these universities now recognise international qualifications like IGCSEs and A-Levels, the International Baccalaureate, and AP programmes. That can really simplify applications!

Plus, a growing number of universities in Asia offer courses (spanning from humanities and social sciences to medicine and engineering!) taught partly or entirely in English, opening the door for many international applicants.

4) Higher education in Asia is often more affordable

And of course, there’s the all-important question of financial accessibility. This is an incredible strength of higher education in Asia. Tuition fees tend to be much lower than at other world-leading destinations like the USA and the UK.

Take, for example, Japan or South Korea. Fees are generally less than 5,000 USD per year – a fraction of what international students pay for American universities.

And students might not have to pay even those fees! Countries across the continent offer generous scholarships for international students. Many cover 100% of tuition fees plus living and travel expenses.

It’s not just in terms of the universities’ fees that Asia can be more affordable; the living costs also tend to be lower than in Europe, North America or Australia.

For example, in South Korea students could find great accommodation for just 50-100 USD per month. In the UK, on the other hand, the average cost of rent for students is around 570 USD!

In fact, students in South Korea could spend just 680 USD per month on all their living expenses (including rent!). Meanwhile, students in the UK need upwards of 1000 USD per month.

5) Diverse cultural experiences

The Asian continent isn’t just fascinating academically! It’s home to ancient and rich cultures, and breathtaking natural wonders.

From popular Thai islands to hidden gems, bustling Indian cities to buzzing Indonesian rainforests, explorers will be in their element on this wondrous continent. What’s more, travelling within Asia is often relatively cheap. Student budgets won’t be too far stretched by a holiday during their degrees!

6) Excellent employment prospects

A degree from a university in Asia can be a passport to a world of opportunity.

In fact, Asian universities rank very highly for employability. 11 take top spots in QS’s global Graduate Employability Rankings. Some highlights include:

  • China’s Tsinghua University in 6th place
  • The University of Hong Kong in 9th
  • The University of Tokyo in 23rd
  • The National University of Singapore in 24th
  • Seoul National University in at 28

So why are graduates from higher education in Asia so employable?

Students develop sought-after skills

Firstly, there are language skills. As we mentioned earlier, many programmes are taught partly or entirely in English. Optional or mandatory courses in the domestic language are common, too. That means students may have perfected their English language skills and learned another super-employable language (Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and Korean are often cited as amongst the most employable languages to know!).

Then there’s the unique perspective they’ll develop by studying at these innovative centres of excellence. Employers the world over are looking for the flexible thinking, creativity, innovation and problem-solving skills that so much Asian higher education emphasises.

And that’s without mentioning the global mindset which is so vital in today’s world of work. In fact, global competence is becoming one of employers’ most sought-after skills.

According to the OECD’s Global Competence Framework:

“Global Competence is a multi-dimensional construct that requires a combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values successfully applied to global issues or intercultural situations.”

In light of this, it’s a good idea to study abroad generally. In fact, a large-scale employer survey by QS found that international experience is one of the top 5 priorities when recruiting employees.

And studying in Asia, where internationalisation is happening rapidly and with huge effects, is a sure-fire way to cultivate global competence by the bucket-load.

After all, Asia is home to half the top 20 institutions with the most international outlook according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings!

It can also be especially beneficial to study in a country whose culture differs significantly from students’ own. It shows adaptability, flexibility and open-mindedness. All of these are highly valued!

higher education in asia teaches language skills

Employment opportunities

Asia isn’t just home to influential languages, but influential people. Here, students can meet key figures in all kinds of industries. There are also many placements at big-name organisations and exciting start-ups.

For example, in Japan, many businesses are looking for skilled engineers. Given Japan’s technological advancements, companies like Toyota, Sony, Nintendo offer great opportunities for graduates.

Over in Singapore, even just the Singapore University of Technology and Design has connections with a staggering 1200 companies providing internships for its students!

Plus, the many innovative and excellent academic institutions attract bright minds for your students to mix with. That means they’ll build relationships that will stand them in good stead as they embark on their professional journeys.

And once students are ready to start those journeys, they’ll find exciting employment opportunities across Asia. Impressive growth in many sectors is driving demand for well-educated graduates.

These world-leading companies are increasingly working with Asian universities to find the best talent the world has to offer. In turn, lots of universities are embracing industries and enterprise. Governments, too, are incentivising universities and employers to collaborate more than ever.

All this means even closer ties to great employers for students!

Applying for higher education in Asia

You’ve seen why studying in Asia is so popular amongst international students. Now let’s think about how you can help your students secure places on these exciting programmes.

Of course, any guidance on applying to an entire (and very varied!) continent is always going to be generalised. If you want more specific and detailed information on applications – and much more – in Asian countries, download our Ultimate Guide to Studying in Asia.

But there are some general points to know:

  • Applications for higher education in Asia are almost always made directly to specific universities, rather than through national centralised platforms like UCAS
  • As a result, deadlines vary within as well as between countries
  • Degrees taught in English or the native language generally require proof of linguistic proficiency
  • Many Asian universities have their own entrance exams. Some of these are also standardised across individual countries.
  • Higher education institutes in Asia generally emphasise entrance exams and final assessments more than longer-term academic transcripts
  • Visa applications can be lengthy and time-consuming. Students should prepare as early as possible
  • Enrolment dates vary quite a lot across Asia. Some countries start the academic year in September, others in July, and some as early as February

Help your students find their perfect higher education in Asia

You’ll have noticed that higher education in Asia is not only excellent, it’s incredibly varied and dynamic. That’s why it’s so important to give students the right research tools. With such a diverse and exciting region, they’ll need a really personalised university research journey.

And that’s what the BridgeU platform provides!

It has information on over 28,000 global universities for students to explore. But don’t worry! Students won’t be overwhelmed with an unwieldy amount of data. Instead, the platform provides personalised content feeds of the resources that will be most useful to them.

And the entire platform is completely free! To see your students get onto their perfect Asian degree programme, create your free account today.

Book a free demo

Learn how BridgeU can help deliver better outcomes for your students and improved results for your school