ASEAN Economic Community and its impacts: Opportunities, challenges, and implications for higher education


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The vision of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) envisaged as a global ASEAN has impacts on all sectors, including higher education (HE), a key driver to the goal. However, it is still debatable whether HE can achieve it. This study aimed to draw insights into its impacts with a focus on opportunities, challenges, and implications for HE. This study employed qualitative, comparative, interpretive, and in-depth analysis of documents. The findings revealed that the progress of AEC has a great impact on HE in three areas. Prospective opportunities comprise the services sector and internal cooperation and collaboration. The sector accounted for approximately 50% of the real output in 2018. The top three countries were Singapore (68.9%), Thailand (59.9%), and the Philippines (57.8%). However, a crucial challenge is an inequitable access to digital-driven education due to inequitable access to the Internet among member countries. The gaps of subscribers and cellular phones lie between 94.6 and 33.1 and between 180.2 and 51.9 respectively. Singapore, the regions’ best education and labor mobility destination, has the highest rates of subscribers (100) and cellular phone usage (88.2). For implications, policymakers should foster interconnectivity and digitalization through innovation-driven education. A feasible roadmap for strategic management is also proposed for AEC engagement.

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    • Figure 1. Framework of the study
    • Figure 2. Data collection and analysis process
    • Table 1. A summary of progress of the post-2015 AEC
    • Table 2. Output of real GDP (2018) and employment in ASEAN sectors: agriculture, industry, and services
    • Table 3. Services sector in ASEAN and selected indicators
    • Table 4. Universities in ASEAN University Network (AUN)
    • Table 5. Top ASEAN universities in publication growth rate and in-region collaboration in selected countries
    • Table 6. Digital connectivity in AESAN countries
    • Table 7. Proportion of Internet access in education selected countries
    • Table 8. Opportunities, challenges, implications for HE
    • Conceptualization
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool, Kittipol Wisaeng
    • Data curation
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool
    • Funding acquisition
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool
    • Project administration
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool, Kittipol Wisaeng
    • Software
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool
    • Supervision
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool
    • Writing – original draft
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool, Kittipol Wisaeng
    • Writing – review & editing
      Amporn Sa-ngiamwibool, Kittipol Wisaeng
    • Formal Analysis
      Kittipol Wisaeng