Higher education institutions (HEIs) are critically important to the well-being of the countries in which they are situated. In most nations in Asia, higher education is rapidly expanding, a development that promises economic and social benefits. At the same time, expansion is accompanied by challenges and issues that require innovative thinking and policy decisions, dedication from the academic staff and institutional leaders who carry out the work of the HEIs, and thoughtful wrestling with vexing challenges that have no easy solutions.
HEIs in Asia are situated in a dynamic environment in which they face an array of expectations. They must meet these expectations while holding costs down and keeping quality high.
Internal educational efficiency concerns both quality and cost-effectiveness. Internally efficient educational institutions optimally allocate and use available resources to improve the quality of education and increase the products of the educational process. Efficiency is greatest when the inputs to an educational organization maximize the outputs produced. Inputs relevant to internal efficiency include human and physical resources, such as facilities and equipment, while outputs refer to student learning outcomes and achievement. Qualitative internal inefficiencies may be lowered by such issues as weak preparation and teaching effectiveness of instructional staff, inappropriate or outdated curricula, inadequate availability of instructional materials and resources, and employment systems in which expectations and rewards are out of alignment. Quantitative internal inefficiency may be evident in low student completion rates, low student/instructor ratios, and low evidence of student achievement of intended learning outcomes.
The central argument of this publication is that the internal efficiency of HEIs in Asia is not sufficiently robust to enable nations' goals to be fully met. In recent years, access has widened, resulting in significant enrollment growth. However, emphasis on access (maximizing the student flow) to higher education is not enough to ensure internal efficiency and the production of desired outcomes. The challenge remains to increase the quality and quantity of the products of higher education - well-educated graduates and productive, relevant research - without an infusion of higher levels of funding. In response to this challenge, a key priority for governments and HEIs should be enhancing instructional quality by improving the capacity of instructional staff. HEIs must not only provide wide access; they must offer those admitted a high-quality learning environment and produce graduates with the abilities and skills needed for employment and citizenship.
This publication focuses on the internal efficiency of HEIs in Asia, examining their work; the efficiency and effectiveness of that work; and the problems, dilemmas, and barriers they are facing in fulfilling their missions. It also offers recommendations for ways in which governments and HEIs themselves can improve internal efficiency, as well as suggestions for the role that development agencies, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), might take in supporting such efforts.