The Asian studies association
The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) conducted, in 2001 - 2002, a survey of Asian Studies in Australia's tertiary institutions. It is the first comprehensive survey to have been undertaken by Australian Asianists since the 1989- 1990 Ingelson Report (Asia in Australian Higher Education).
The survey findings, and a set of recommendations that flow from them, are presented in Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge: Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset (a copy, in PDF format, can be downloaded from the ASAA home page).
The authors of this report, Professor Robin Jeffrey (LaTrobe University) and his colleagues, gave us permission to adapt the questionnaires used by the ASAA team for their survey and have been extremely generous with advice and offers of help. We are very grateful for this help and for permission to make use of the ASAA material.
2003 Survey data
Tables that summarise the data collected by the 2003 survey can be downloaded from the Survey Data page
Knowing Asia is a report that analyses the Asian Studies data collected from nine of New Zealand's tertiary institutions by means of the national survewy that NZASIA undertook in 2003 and to which more than 100 of New Zealand's Asia specialists contributed.
The survey, the publication of Knowing Asia, and a national workshop convened in early July 2004 to discuss the report's findings and proposals were generously funded by the Asia New Zealand Foundation (formerly: Asia 2000 Foundation of New Zealand). We also received valuable help from Victoria University's Asian Studies Institute and the office of Pro Vice-Chancellor (International).
The full text of Knowing Asia is now available for download in PDF format (2MB in PDF format).
Hard copies of the booklet will be available in early October 2004, will cost $20, or at the discounted price of $15 for NZASIA members, and can be purchased by contacting Laila Faisal of the Asian Studies Institute at Victoria University.
The aim of the Knowing Asia report is to identify ways in which tertiary-level Asian Studies programmes can better contribute to New Zealand’s growing political, economic and cultural relationships in the Asia-Pacific region, and to the needs of an increasingly multicultural society.
We drew on the 2003 national survey to document the strengths and weaknesses of research and teaching about Asia in the nine tertiary institutions that employ Asia specialists and teach courses about Asia. We strongly affirm the responsibility of the tertiary education sector to expand and deepen New Zealanders’ knowledge of their Asian neighbours. And we contend that tertiary-level studies of Asia, as they exist at present, require substantial strengthening and development if they are to contribute to a ‘national capability’ in relation to this country’s Asian relationships.
The 2003 survey counted more than 140 Asia specialists in nine tertiary institutions. These specialists collectively represent a very rich body of Asia knowledge and skills. Close examination of the data, however, reveals imbalances, thinness and gaps that militate against the effective deployment of New Zealand’s Asia researchers and educators. Some of the survey’s key findings are as follows:
- New Zealand has only a handful of Asia scholars who have research expertise in fields directly relevant to government and private sector connections with Asian partners – namely, the fields of economics, marketing, business management, law and communication studies (including information technology).
- In the five years since 1997, the number of Asia specialists employed by New Zealand tertiary institutions has actually declined
- Asia expertise is very heavily concentrated in the fields of Chinese and Japanese studies
- Scholars who specialise in South and Southeast Asian studies are relatively few in number, and they are thinly and randomly scattered across six campuses (three campuses have none)
- Just one academic in New Zealand has research expertise in Central and West Asian Studies
- The majority of specialists are based in Language and Literature departments and spend at least part of their time teaching Chinese or Japanese language to undergraduates.
- The imbalances and weaknesses in the area of staffing impinge directly, of course, on the teaching programmes offered by each institution.
- We found hardly any Asia-related courses in the degree programmes offered by Schools or Faculties of Commerce, Business Management and Law, or in teacher education certificate, diploma and degree programmes
- No New Zealand tertiary institution now offers a degree programme in any of the languages of South and Southeast Asia
- Although Chinese and Japanese language programmes grew strongly in the 1990s, there was no parallel growth of courses about China and Japan in the non-language disciplines; the paucity of non-language courses about Japan is particularly striking
- Teaching about Asia in the non-language disciplines is haphazard, and largely confined to a small range of disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences
- The undergraduate Asia Languages and Studies programmes are producing very few graduates who continue their studies of Asia at postgraduate level.
To begin to address and solve these problems, Knowing Asia proposes a range of initiatives and concrete actions, twenty-five in all. Some actions require new funding commitments. Others will entail little more than a better coordination of existing resources, more efficient divisions of labour and, by means of the increasingly versatile information technologies now available to us, the strengthening and expansion of ‘Asia knowledge’ links, clusters and networks.
Our most important proposal is that, under the auspices of the NZASIA Society, we set up a tertiary education action group that will function as a national policy, planning and coordinating body for Asian Studies research and teaching on all tertiary campuses. The other 24 proposals are premised on the existence of such a body, and on it working effectively. One early task for the group will be to liaise with the Asia 2000 Foundation on follow-up to its Seriously Asia project, including the Knowledge Working Group and NZ/Asia policy network proposals