International Education: Research Findings
From APEC HRDWG Wiki
Mapping Qualifications Frameworks across APEC Economies, June 2009
Summary of Report Findings
- The NQFs in operation in the member economies of APEC are diverse in their structure, coverage, operational purposes and governance. They aim to provide greater transparency for qualifications, support for skills standards systems, a means of managing quality assurance, and facilitate the international recognition of qualifications. Some economies use the NQFs as a basis for credit systems for transfer across education and training levels and institutions.
- Seven APEC economies—Australia, Hong Kong SAR China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have NQFs. The Republic of Korea is in the process of implementing one and five others have them under development or consideration. Of the seven with frameworks:
- Five have NQFs covering senior secondary, vocational education and higher education qualifications, but there are differences in the framework across the sectors. In Singapore the framework applies only to vocational education and in Thailand to higher education.
- Five of the economies have explicit levels of qualifications and two have them implicitly.
- Most NQFs contain descriptors of qualifications and units, and the descriptors are based on a taxonomy of learning outcomes at least for the VET sector.
- Competency standards are the basis for qualifications and units in the VET sector. Most of the NQFs include measures of the volume of learning, and a formula for estimating the amount of learning required to achieve a qualification.
- Credit frameworks have been developed in New Zealand and Singapore and they are under development in some other economies.
- All the NQFs have an associated public register of qualifications.
- Recognition tools are being introduced in Australia and are under discussion in New Zealand.
- The NQFs in each economy are managed by a national agency.
- Compliance with the NQF is supported by systems of quality assurance though its operation tends to be shared by a number of agencies.
- The frameworks have been supported by legislation or by government regulation.
- To date the NQFs are not linked to regional or international frameworks.
- It is the education and labour departments of government that have been responsible for qualifications. In several economies NQFs have emerged from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET or VET) sector associated with the developments of industry skills standards and competency standards-based qualifications. The introduction of competency based training has been associated with a relative shift in control of the content of training from providers to industry.
- The autonomy of universities, who generally wish to retain the major influence on the content of their courses, has in some cases been a barrier to the development of an NQF, especially where the frameworks are accompanied by quality assurance and accreditation systems that are external to the education providers. However, as was the case with the Bologna processes in Europe, the diversity of higher education systems also creates pressure to establish qualifications frameworks.
- The agencies that conduct the oversight of quality assurance include qualifications authorities, government departments, and more independent bodies—commissions, councils, boards and institutes. Quality assurance also takes several forms and improved registers of courses and providers can be considered part of this.
- This report on qualification frameworks was undertaken for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG) Education Network Subgroup (EDNET).
- The project aimed to facilitate increased transparency and reliability of information about qualification frameworks across the APEC region, share knowledge and skills and identify future areas of collaboration.
- A qualifications framework is an instrument for classifying qualifications according to a set of criteria for levels of learning outcomes. Considerable benefits are expected of national qualification frameworks (NQFs). If backed by a good system of quality assurance, they can support the development of workers’ skills, facilitate educational and labour market mobility, and help improve the access of individuals to higher and different levels of education and training over their lives.
- Education and training providers and authorities are able to design more consistent and linked qualifications when descriptors of qualifications are developed within NQFs. Employers benefit in their recruitment and training of staff when they can understand and have confidence in qualifications. The international recognition of an economy’s qualifications can be enhanced by the transparency of qualifications to which an NQF can contribute.
- This report is based on desktop analysis of qualification frameworks, contacts made by members of the project team and on a survey of APEC member economies carried out in the project.
- Details of Project Proposal can be found on AIMP database.
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Measures Affecting Cross Border Exchange and Investment in Higher Education in the APEC Region, May 2009
Summary of Report Findings
- The report findings suggest that the economies with the highest recorded restrictions on institutions are those that do not allow private for-profit or foreign-invested institutions to establish at all. Economies with the most liberal regimes include major exporters of higher education services. They also include economies that do not have any legal restrictions on foreign-invested institutions, other than those that apply to local institutions, although they do not yet have any such institutions operating in their economy.
- The types of institutions where restrictions are most prevalent are private for-profit and foreign-invested institutions. Nevertheless, government institutions also face relatively frequent restrictions. This is evidence of the phenomenon that institutions that are in receipt of significant government funding are likely to face relatively high standards of scrutiny and accountability, some of which will be manifest in regulatory restrictions.
- The institutions facing the lowest prevalence of regulatory restrictions are private nonprofit institutions, those in a partnership arrangement with a foreign institution, and institutions delivering online and distance education. The education authorities in some economies do not recognise online and distance education institutions, and their regimes are accordingly relatively restrictive. Others, such as New Zealand, take a relatively relaxed approach to such institutions. Lack of recognition appears to be the main barrier affecting online and distance education.
- There is an interesting relationship between the prevalence of restrictions on higher education institutions and the breadth, depth and transparent of quality assurance processes. Some economies use bans on certain institutions instead of quality assurance processes for them, even when their quality assurance processes for other institutions are relatively extensive, at least in terms of process.
- Across all the responding economies, restrictions on the movement of individual students are about as prevalent as restrictions on institutions. Restrictions on the movement of instructors are notably less than on students.
- Among the various types of restrictions, the broad pattern seems to be that regulatory restrictions on establishment are more prevalent than regulatory restrictions on ongoing
operation. But some are associated with regulations that are applied to all institutions by the government education authorities, and rarely operate on a discriminatory basis.
The most prevalent discriminatory restriction is on the ability of foreign institutions to access government funds and/or support normally given to institutions.
- There are similarrestrictions on the ability of the students of foreign institutions to access government funds and/or support normally given to local students. In many cases, both these restrictions are at least partly for budgetary reasons.
- Another common restriction is a requirement that institutions must establish in a particular form, reflecting those economies that require higher education institutions to be non-profit. Arguably, in some cases this restriction has the effect of offering protection for domestic institutions, even if the stated rationale is philosophical.
- The most common restriction on operation is limits on the number of students that can be enrolled. Mostly, this is for budgetary reasons. It is also relatively common for there to be
restrictions on the ability of institutions to charge fees. But in some economies, there are fewer restrictions on charging international students than local students, reflecting the
growing commercialisation of cross-border exchange.
- Licensing conditions apparently vary enormously from one economy to another, and different economies take different approaches. Some respondents provided very little information, perhaps reflecting a lack of transparency in their licensing regimes.
- There is also noticeable variation in the breadth, depth and transparency of quality assurance regimes. But most go beyond assessing inputs and processes, to also assess
outputs and outcomes.
- There are relatively few restrictions on the recognition of qualifications for the purposes of employment or further study. However, this is one of the most unsatisfactory parts of the survey, because of limited responses.
- More open exchange and investment in higher education can contribute greatly to economic growth and development. This study is designed to facilitate cross-border exchange and investment in higher education by identifying positive and negative measures affecting that exchange. It offers:
- a survey of actual policy measures affecting cross-border exchange and investment in higher education services across all modes of supply for APEC economies;
- a comprehensive and up-to-date reassessment of policies and practices affecting cross-border exchange and investment in higher education services;
- recommendations for facilitating the expansion of free and open cross-border exchange and investment in higher education services in the APEC region.
- The study has used the Education Network of the APEC Human Resources DevelopmentWorking Group, with support from the APEC Group on Services, to complete a survey of actual regulatory policies currently affecting the delivery and exchange of higher education services in a number of APEC member economies. Reasonably complete responses have been received from nine of the 21 APEC economies — Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Chinese Taipei and Thailand. Incomplete
responses were also received from Brunei and Canada.
- The survey questionnaire goes further than previous surveys by covering some of the newly emerging methods by which higher education services are being exchanged. These include the twinning and other partnership arrangements that have developed, partly as a response to the bans or foreign equity limits placed in the establishment of foreign
campuses in some economies.
- The survey also goes further than previous surveys by including more detail on measuresthat inhibit exchange and investment, measures that facilitate it, and measures that
constitute part of the general regulatory environment governing the provision of higher education in each economy. In this respect, the survey goes further than measures that
would be regarded by trade experts as trade barriers, in a narrow sense.
- Details of Project Proposal can be found on APEC AIMP database.
APEC and International Education, January 2008
Summary of Report Findings
- Education is a fundamentally important economic activity. It is both large — accounting for around 6.7 per cent of GDP in APEC economies — and makes a crucial contribution to ongoing productivity and economic growth.
- Cross border exchange of education services is an increasingly important means of delivering the quantity, quality and diversity of education services that fit the needs for modern growing economies.
- All APEC economies are involved in cross border exchange to varying degrees. This exchange in all its modes of delivery — through the movement of students between economies or through the movement of provider or educators from one economy to another — has grown rapidly in APEC in recent years. This growth is expected to continue.
- There are significant benefits from this cross border exchange, including some unique benefits such as the rapid transfer of ideas and increases in cultural understanding that can only come from cross border exchange in education.
- Government policies of various kinds — but particularly those related to quality assurance, accreditation of providers and recognition of qualifications — can have a major influence on cross border exchange.
- There is considerable scope, therefore, for cooperation between APEC economies to improve understanding and enhance systems for quality assurance, accreditation, qualifications recognition and data collections to enhance policy development.
- Such cooperation would directly contribute to APEC’s endeavours to improve economic outcomes for all its members.
Background - Policy paper on trade in education services
- At the suggestion of the HRDWG Lead Shepherd in 2007, Australia independently commissoned the Centre for International Economics to prepare a policy paper on trade in education services in the APEC region in order to raise awareness amongst APEC HRDWG of the trade policy issues related to education services.
- The aim of the policy paper was to raise awareness amongst the membership of the APEC HRDWG of the policy issues related to the trade in education services in the APEC region.
- The policy paper researched and analysed the ways in which education contributes to economic outcomes and the ways in which APEC wide cooperation in education exchange can enhance both educational outcomes and economic and social outcomes for all member economies. Findings from the project report was presented to APEC education officials at a three-day policy and research symposium held in Xi’an, China, 15-17 January 2008.
- The report complements an Australian-led APEC HRDWG research project on Measures Affecting Cross-Border Exchange and Investment in Higher Education in the APEC Region, completed in 2009.