The harmonisation of higher education systems in ASEAN: an analysis of drivers and impediments
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Salita Soongsawang
The harmonisation of higher education systems (hereafter HE harmonisation) would enable the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to develop a more connected ASEAN Community and improve the competitiveness of local HE systems within the international context. However, progress in HE harmonisation within this highly diverse region has been incremental. To date, there are few studies of this issue. Addressing this gap, this thesis examines the drivers of and impediments to HE harmonisation in ASEAN. It provides an analysis of the key conditions for constructing a common space in HE in this regional context. The thesis employs document analysis and interviews with 40 HE leaders and practitioners from ten ASEAN member states representing the key actors in the field; the government agencies responsible for HE, higher education institutions, and regional organisations with education mandates. The findings reveal that there is considerable demand for HE harmonisation. However, there are several challenges involved in efforts to achieve HE harmonisation, and this is especially the case in examining ideational and cultural aspects. In particular, the political will of ASEAN leaders; the commitment and priorities of HE policy makers and practitioners; and societal values regarding region-building have not sufficiently progressed. Given the norms embedded in ASEAN’s cognitive priors and the diversity among the member states, there remain challenges related to structures for implementing HE harmonisation initiatives; institutionalisation: governance and leadership in driving a common space in HE effectively. In addition to seeking to contribute to policymaking regarding the significance of the ASEAN Community and HE harmonisation, the thesis proposes five interrelated key structural considerations. These are: the development of an effective regional HE harmonisation funding mechanism; the adoption of functional mechanisms contributing to regional HE policy infrastructure; the development of a public outreach strategy on HE information and harmonisation; the strengthening of the monitoring and evaluation system; and, finally, the improvement in the provision of supportive national conditions for the acceptance and implementation of HE harmonisation initiatives. While emphasising a multistakeholder approach, the thesis proposes that an enhanced leadership role for ASEAN as a regional body is an essential precondition for the construction of a common space in HE.
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