Tucked away in the stories accompanying the release of the THE World Reputation Rankings 2016 is a thought-provoking comment from Paul Blackmore, professor of Higher Education at King’s College London’s Policy Institute.

Reflecting on the strong performance of Asian universities in their continuing climb up the rankings, Professor Blackmore noted:

We’ve had a highly Anglo-Saxon view of higher education for many years, and that can’t be sustained for much longer.”

Could he be right? On the one hand, the Anglo-Saxon model (a disputatious term in itself, but we won’t get into that here) seems to be doing nicely thank-you-very-much: after all, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxbridge and UCB stand atop the summit of Mount Rankings. Plenty more western universities are also enjoying the view from their slightly less lofty positions.

Further, lots of people from outside the Anglosphere are demonstrably keen to study and work there: in Australia alone, overseas students (many from Asia) contributed $5.3 billion to the economy in the March quarter, the highest figure ever recorded.

But … underlying trends could be heralding a slow and inevitable shift in direction.

Joshua Mok Ka-Ho, vice-president of Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, told THE that Asia’s performance in the rankings reflected heavy investment in higher education from governments across the region. Universities themselves were also strengthening their research capabilities and publishing in international journals:

“Such self-enhancing and advancing trends will continue, particularly when an increasing number of governments in Asia have recognised the importance of research, knowledge transfer, innovation and technology in transforming the economy and society.”

Not only that, the economic balance of power could be moving away from North America and Western Europe towards Asia, to China in particular.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has reported that China could well surpass America as the world’s largest economy by 2028. Further, according to PwC, India may be the world’s second largest economy by 2050, with also significant growth in the economies of Indonesia, Vietnam and Nigeria.

And according to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) by 2030, China is expected to spend 12.5 per cent of all consumption growth on education for those under 30 -higher than any other country apart from Sweden (12.6 per cent), noting that:

This group has the potential to reshape global consumption just as the West’s baby boomers, the richest generation in history, did in their prime years.”

No-one knows how any of this will play out and what will become of the “Anglo-Saxon view”, but it’s safe to say that we do live in interesting times.

DM