Universities across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are turning to English-taught programs in a bid to improve the employability skills of local students.
According to a new report by Studyportals and the British Council, 25 higher education institutions across the three countries are offering 1,188 English-taught programs.
Studyportals said the growth in English-taught programs has “significant implications for international student mobility”.
“It means that prospective students have access to more programs in a wider range of destinations than ever before,” Edwin van Rest, CEO and co-founder of Studyportals, said.
A 2021 global iteration of the report found that 15 institutions in Malaysia were running 848 programs and seven in Singapore were offering 272 courses.
“In the global report, we were quite pleased and surprised to see the 77% growth [in English-taught programs outside Australia, NZ, UK, US and Canada]. But it seems now that that growth is accelerating,” Megan Agnew, IELTS Global Partnerships manager, said during the British Council’s Going Global APAC conference in Singapore.
“It seems like English-taught programs are doing something that potentially no other part of international higher education is.”
While Studyportals acknowledged that exact growth in programs could be a result of both Studyportals listings becoming more comprehensive and more courses being added, universities adapting to teaching in English “will make global talent corridors more distributed and symmetrical”.
“[It is] good news for students, for GDP and for a more equal and connected global society,” the company said.
“The first motivation of these institutions to switch to English is actually to improve the employability skills of the local students,” van Rest explained.
“Secondarily, in particular Singapore and Malaysia are becoming prominent destinations for international students.”
The report also found that the breadth of disciplines offered in English in the region is increasing.
While business & management and engineering & technology account for 18% and 16% of available programs, respectively, other disciplines “are more prominent”, van Rest noted.
“Over the past years the region is increasingly becoming a more important hub for higher education; we see this reflected not only in the increase of program listings, but also in the increase of student interest for bachelors and masters programs across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.
“The region is increasingly becoming a more important hub for higher education”
Unlike in Europe where English-taught programs are more often offered for masters courses, bachelors programs are offered at the same rate as masters programs in the three countries.
“While there are more bachelors programs offered in English in the region than before, the demand for programs follows global trends in that there is more student interest in master’s programs. In Europe and other countries there is more political resistance against moving undergraduate-level education to English,” he added.
“One hypothesis emerging after the pandemic is that students might prefer destinations closer to home, and since most international students currently originate from Asia it is expected that Asian destinations will benefit from the pandemic in terms of global recruitment.”
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