John N. Hawkins: New Book Envisions the Asian Flagship University

Expert on higher education practices and policy in Asia examines new Pacific Rim university model.

Emeritus Professor of Education John N. Hawkins has a forthcoming book, “Envisioning the Asian New Flagship University: Its Past and Vital Future” (With co-editor, John Aubrey Douglass. Berkeley: University of California Public Policy Press, 2017.) The result of a research seminar held in 2016 at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China the book focuses on the history of leading national universities in Asia with an analysis of the New Flagship University model in China, Vietnam, South Korea, India, Japan, Singapore and other Pacific Rim nations. Stephanie Kim, program director at the Center of Korean Studies at UC Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies, and Miloni Ghandi, director of International Market Research and Student Experience at the Foothill and DeAnza Community College District, contributed to the volume; they are both alumnae of UCLA’s Department of Education.

“For those who have an interest in the development and impact of higher education in the Asia Pacific region, “Envisioning the Asian New Flagship University” offers a fresh and provocative contribution to the literature,” writes Robert M. Orr, former U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, who contributed his comments to the book’s jacket notes.

“Douglass and Hawkins have assembled a comprehensive and informed set of chapters that trace the development of the flagship model in selected national settings in Asia, framing this discussion in the context of historical legacies, modern influences, and post-modern new flagship futures,” states Orr. “This volume will be important for those who wish to understand the higher education dynamism of the region, the challenges posed of a rising Asia and the contribution that the Flagship Model has made to newly arising ‘hybrid’ higher education institutions.”

Hawkins, who is the co-director of the Asian Pacific Higher Education Research Partnership, says that higher education in Asia’s leading universities has historically been grounded in national service, with a more limited vision of their role in socioeconomic mobility, economic development, and public service.

“In more recent decades, leading Asian national universities have undergone a metamorphosis, pushed by increasing expectations of a much more expanded role in society and the competitive needs of national economies,” says Hawkins. “Because their mission was primarily ‘internal,’ these universities were not initially concerned with competing with other universities outside of the national setting.

“With the rise of the complex interplay of neoliberalism, globalization, and internationalization that began in earnest in the 1990s, ministries and universities began to look externally for benchmarks of their quality and performance framed almost exclusively around the World Class University ranking paradigm, which is a worldwide phenomenon,” he says. “While the pursuit of improved rankings and a claim to WCU status continues as seemingly the primary goal for many universities in the Asian Pacific region, there has been a growing debate about the value and feasibility of this vision.”

Hawkins says that the model of the New Flagship University “challenges and critiques the WCU model and suggests other more creative ways to look at the role of teaching, community service, R&D, and scholarship in higher education.” He notes that the model creates a challenge for these institutions to search for ways to increase funding for research and publications while also creating a more holistic approach to their mission of serving students and communities in their region.

The book explores this changing role of the traditional flagship university in Asia, which has historically catered to an elite student population, taught by elite scholars.

“Is it possible to strike a balance between teaching and research in the modern university or is the ‘research model’ being blindly imitated globally?” asks Hawkins. “In the New Flagship model, these are compatible, indeed mutually reinforcing ideals; but this is not true for those focused myopically on the WCU and ranking paradigm. The efforts in Asia to broaden the goals and objectives of the Flagship University share many of the goals of this effort in the United States and elsewhere.”

Hawkins says that the model of a differentiated higher education system such as the University of California is gaining currency in Asia, including the role of one or more Flagship institutions as hubs for more interaction between localized state institutions and community colleges. The concepts of undergraduate inclusion in faculty research, rewarding faculty for community engagement, innovative teaching and assessment, and decentralized faculty governance are also being considered for the New Flagship model in Asia.

“All of this takes place in an environment of ‘massification,’ which aspires to offer all graduating high school students a place in a high quality, low cost college experience,” says Hawkins.