AUSKAR SURBAKTI, PRESENTER: Asian universities have begun to rise-up the global rankings.
Top institutions in China, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan have all made gains in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
But other parts of the region are falling behind.
And as Bill Bainbridge reports, it will take a huge investment of time and money to catch-up with the rest of the world.
BILL BAINBRIDGE, REPORTER: There's a power shift in the latest world university rankings; Where once the West dominated, the East is taking over.
PHIL BATY, TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS: Governments in Asia have started putting real money behind their universities to make them more competitive. So NUS (National University Singapore) Singapore, the Chinese universities, the Korean universities, to a certain extent the Hong Kong universities; they're all creeping up these tables, challenging the traditional Western elite.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: World rankings are becoming more and more influential as globalised universities compete for top talent and the lucrative foreign student dollar.
Australia's new Education Minister told an education conference about the new Government's push to restore Australia's slide in revenue from international education.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE, AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION MINISTER: One of the Coalition's key priorities will be restoring international education to its rightful place as one of our most valuable exports.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: At stake is a dramatically expanding market in international student enrolment, an industry that's already worth more than $14 billion a year to Australia.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: By 2030, the size of the Asia Pacific middle class is expected to reach 3.2 billion people from about 500 million today. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has forecast that the number of internationally mobile students will double from 4 million in 2010 to over 7 million by 2020.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: But Australia will be trying to hold its own in an increasingly competitive market.
PHIL BATY: There is a challenge now for Australia in keeping hold of its share of the student market, the international student market. Australian universities have been well ahead of the game in recruiting international students but other nations now are competing more.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: But the billions of dollars in cuts announced by the Gillard government, which will be implemented under the Abbott administration, won't help.
PHIL BATY: We've seen huge amounts of money being put into universities to support them, to make them remain world class and, in Australia I think the funding cuts that are coming, that have only just been implemented, could hurt for years to come.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: And that funding trend is true of some Asian universities too. Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines did not manage to get a single institution inside the top 400.
PHIL BATY: The Malaysian universities really not worked hard on building a research infrastructure. So they're not there at the forefront of new ideas and new knowledge which is in stark contrast to Singapore. Singapore have really put their money into the research infrastructure, into the talent pool, drawing in international talent, and have had huge success but Malaysia is some way behind on that.
SHARIFAH HAPSAH, VICE-CHANCELLOR, MALAYSIA NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Ranking is very important to us. But we are not obsessed with ranking because there are indicators that are very useful to us as a research university. So we look at it very closely, particularly publications and citations, but we know we are a long way from getting very high up.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: For Malaysia, the problem is particularly stark, with one in five educated Malaysians leaving the country to further their careers.
SHARIFAH HAPSAH: I don't subscribe to brain drain to start with because I believe that when conditions are good in your country, those who leave when they are young, they eventually will come back.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: Thailand's KMUTT (King Mongut's University of Technology Thonburi) is one university that managed to improve its position in the rankings, entering the top 350 for the first time. But the government there wants to see it joined by other Thai institutions.
ANAK KHANTACHAWANA, KING MONGUT'S UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY THONBURI: We have totally 150 universities in Thailand right now. The government select nine of them to be the national research universities, and then they grant the funding, that is special funding, for that nine universities to push up the output, the research output, and then to become the world class university.
BILL BAINBRIDGE: Phil Baty says, with high rates of economic growth, South East Asia is poised to create many more world class universities, if it invests in education.
PHIL BATY: It's really stepping up your globalisation, finding new global partnerships from within the Asia Pacific region and beyond, certainly out to the West. That's the key to success in so many ways and rankings, because it drives up your performance, your standings, brings in the talent, gives you a critical mass of talent.