Higher education: New frontier for investments

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Offline Ujjwal K Chowdhury

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Higher education: New frontier for investments
« on: May 28, 2023, 10:31:20 AM »


There are immense gains, some pains, and hence some cautions related to investing in the education industry. Education is a domain of gainful investments as it is always in high demand, leads to economic growth, and creates a more skilled workforce. Technological advancements, government support, a stable industry, long-term investments, and a significant social impact are some reasons that make education a lucrative investment opportunity. Similarly, higher education can be a sector of gainful investment due to growing demand, technological advancements, government support, research and development opportunities, diverse investment options, and potential for high returns.

Today, not just revenue from admissions, almost 35 to 50 per cent of revenue of good private universities in Asian nations now come from research, consultancy, development, online and continuing education. Since governments focus more on primary and secondary education, private players have a better returns in tertiary and vocational education which are more job-oriented.

Asian nations provide a viable and lucrative area of investment for higher education due to a growing middle class, high demand, government support, and the potential for international students to join the institutions. Growth of the middle class in most Asian nations is a major reason behind push to private higher education.

The cautions include market saturation, lack of quality, and regulatory and political risks, that investors should consider before investing in the education industry.


Education Market Worldwide, in Asia

The education market worldwide is a vast industry that includes primary and secondary education, higher education, vocational training, and education technology. The global education market was valued at $5.9 trillion in 2020 and is expected to reach $10.2 trillion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.23 per cent during the forecast period. The Asia-Pacific education market size was valued at $1.09 trillion in 2020 and is expected to reach $2.05 trillion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 10.35 per cent during the forecast period. The education market in South Asia was valued at $46.9 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $96.6 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 15.5 per cent.

The primary and secondary education segment is the largest segment of the global and Asia-Pacific education markets, accounting for around two-thirds and over 60 per cent of the total market, respectively. The higher education segment is the second-largest segment, accounting for around 25 per cent of the global and Asia-Pacific education markets. The vocational training and education technology segments are smaller but rapidly growing segments of the education market.

The global and Asia-Pacific education markets are driven by increasing demand for education, advancements in education technology, and the growing importance of vocational education and skill development. In South Asia, government initiatives to improve the quality of education are also driving market growth.

China is the largest education market in Asia, accounting for over half of the region’s education market, while India is the second-largest education market in Asia, accounting for around 10 per cent of the region’s education market. The education market in Asia is characterized by significant variations in the ways that education is delivered and financed across different countries in the region.

The South Asian education market is also characterized by significant variations in the ways that education is delivered and financed across different countries in the region. The primary and secondary education segment is the largest segment of the education market in South Asia, accounting for around 70 per cent of the total market. The higher education and vocational education and training segments are smaller but rapidly growing segments of the education market. The South Asian education market is driven by increasing demand for education, government initiatives to improve the quality of education, and advancements in education technology.


Right approach in investments in higher education in the developing Asian nations

Investing in higher education in smaller but developing Asian nations requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Here are some factors that should be considered when investing in higher education in these countries:

Understanding local needs and priorities: It’s essential to understand the specific needs and priorities of the local population and the broader economic and social context in which higher education operates. For example, investing in programs that address the skills gap in a particular sector or region can have a significant impact on the local economy.

Collaboration with local partners: Partnering with local institutions, organizations, and communities can help ensure that investments are aligned with local needs and priorities and increase the chances of success. For example, the Australia Awards Scholarship program collaborates with local universities and organizations in Cambodia, Nepal, and Bangladesh to deliver scholarships and training programs that support the development of local leaders.

Developing programmes with global relevance: Developing programs that have global relevance can help attract international students and build partnerships with universities and organizations from other countries. For example, the Fulbright Program in Vietnam offers scholarships and exchanges that support research and teaching in areas of mutual interest and benefit to Vietnam and the United States.

Leveraging technology and innovation: Leveraging technology and innovation can help increase access to higher education, improve the quality of education, and reduce costs. For example, the SmartEdu University in Vietnam uses a blended learning model that combines online and in-person learning to provide flexible and affordable education to students.

Supporting research and innovation: Investing in research and innovation can help drive economic development and create new opportunities for growth. For example, the Bangladesh-India Friendship Centre for Information Technology and Electronics in Bangladesh supports research and innovation in the areas of information technology and electronics, with a focus on developing solutions that address local needs and challenges.

Investing in higher education in smaller but developing Asian nations requires a thoughtful and strategic approach that takes into account local needs and priorities, collaboration with local partners, programs with global relevance, leveraging technology and innovation, and supporting research and innovation. By taking a comprehensive and collaborative approach, investors can contribute to the development of a skilled workforce and the growth of the local economy.


Government Regulations Approach

The appropriate approach of government regulations in an Asian nation to expand Higher Education includes increasing public funding, creating a supportive regulatory environment, encouraging private investment, developing a skilled workforce, and fostering international collaboration. Successful examples of government initiatives in this regard include South Korea’s Brain Korea 21 Program, China’s 211 Project, and Malaysia’s Higher Education Blueprint.

4th and 5th Industrial Revolution, AI and Education

The 4th industrial revolution technologies include automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), while the 5th industrial revolution technologies build upon the 4th industrial revolution and include advanced technologies like quantum computing, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. These technologies can be useful in the field of education, such as in creating interactive learning experiences and smart classrooms, personalizing learning experiences, and improving research capabilities.

These technologies, including AI-ML, have the capacity to revolutionize higher education in developing nations by improving access, affordability, and quality of education. AI can be used to personalize the learning experience for individual students, virtual and augmented reality technologies can be used to create immersive learning experiences, and blockchain technology can be used to provide secure and transparent verification of academic credentials. These technologies can also help address challenges such as the shortage of qualified teachers, limited access to education resources, and the high cost of education.

These technologies make gainful investments in higher education in Asian nations yet more lucrative.


The author is Executive Director of International Online University (Dubai) and Strategic Adviser and Professor of Daffodil International University (Dhaka).
« Last Edit: May 28, 2023, 10:36:59 AM by Ujjwal K Chowdhury »