Are you prepared for the arrival of 'glocal' students?

By 2015 nearly 100 million people will enter the ‘consumer class’, denoting those with an annual income of more than $5,000, in six South East Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

Another report, by the McKinsey Global Institute, asserts that between 2005 and 2025, China and India alone will see their aggregate urban consumption increase seven-fold and six-fold, respectively.

This expanding consumer class in Asia will give rise to a new segment of students who are willing to pay for a global educational experience while staying in their home country or region. I call this segment ‘glocals’ – people who have global aspirations, but need to stay local.

‘Glocals’ are characterised by aspirations that usually outstrip both their ability to afford a full fee-paying overseas education and their academic merit to gain admission to an overseas institution with financial aid.

Traditionally, international students go abroad for a combination of reasons, including career advancement, the search for quality education, immigration purposes or to experience living abroad.

‘Glocals’ are different from this traditional group as they are looking for career advancement and quality education without having to go very far from home.

In addition to the limitations they face financially and academically, there is another reason why ‘glocals’ may decide to stay within their country or region. The current increase in regional mobility initiatives and the emergence of new study destinations may retain more talent mobility within the region.

By 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community aims to transform the Southeast Asian region into a common market promoting the free flow of goods, services, investment and workers.

Despite several challenges, the region is expected to see greater mobility of qualified service professionals through mutual recognition arrangements in seven professions, including medicine and engineering.

In addition, countries like Malaysia and Singapore are expected to attract more foreign students through their higher education internationalisation strategies.

For example, Malaysia recently announced that it received applications from 25 foreign universities to set up branch campuses. It plans to reach a target of enrolling 150,000 international students by 2015.

Malaysia is already the second most popular destination for Indonesian students, attesting to its emergence as a regional hub. Likewise, high-quality collaborations such as the partnership between Yale and the National University of Singapore, are likely to draw international talent.

Undoubtedly, the number of students who seek an overseas education will continue to grow, and will do so at a faster pace. It is the ‘glocal’ segment, however, that is likely to present the next big opportunity for institutions that want to increase their global profile.

The needs of ‘glocal’ students, combined with a changing institutional, demographic, economic and political landscape in an emerging Asia, demand an innovative and strategic approach to engaging with internationalisation in Asia.

Changed internationalisation strategies needed

Internationalisation strategies need to move beyond student recruitment and target collaborative relationships of varying complexity and intensity, ranging from research collaborations to short-term exchanges to in-country branch campuses.

Undoubtedly, strategies will vary according to the priorities and resources of institutions, but all higher education institutions need to be prepared to adapt to a major shift in student profiles, and corresponding engagement strategies with Asia.

To sum up, a new group of students is emerging and they have global aspirations but will find more opportunities for education and employment mobility within their regions.

This presents a vital opportunity for foreign institutions, who need to understand ‘glocals’ and strategically engage with them through innovative institutional collaborations.

As the US psychologist Arnold Glasgow rightly said: “The trouble with the future is that is usually arrives before we're ready for it.”

Dr Rahul Choudaha is the co-founder and CEO at DrEducation and He researches, speaks, writes, and consults on international student trends and its implications for institutional strategies and student success. Choudaha holds a doctorate in higher education from the University of Denver. He is reachable at and @DrEducationBlog.