Transnational Education for Regional Economic Development? Understanding Governmental Strategies in Singapore and Malaysia

Authors: Marc Schulze*, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Topics: Economic Geography, Higher Education, Asia
Keywords: universities, foreign direct investment, regional economic development, Singapore, Malaysia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Education and skills are of fundamental importance for economic development. Southeast Asian economies, in particular Singapore and Malaysia, have imported foreign higher education providers that offer international degrees in situ. We examine how governments have strategically enabled and restricted foreign higher education providers’ investments in offshore subsidiaries to support regional economic development. Using the economic geographic concept of strategic coupling, generally used for global production rather than education, we analyse dynamic phases of coupling and de-coupling between foreign higher education providers and domestic education systems.
Based upon qualitative interviews conducted with higher education institutions and stakeholders in Singapore and Malaysia, we argue that both states have used substantially different policies for regulating foreign direct investment and the delivery of transnational higher education at subsidiaries. A key finding is the differences in the two governmental approaches’ temporalities and regulatory shifts, for instance with regard to how foreign investors have become embedded within existing public and private higher education sectors. These findings cast a new light on the role of transnational education, envisioned as both an economic sector on its own and a source of skilled human resources for the broader regional economic development in the global knowledge economy.

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