This Special Issue was conceived and developed following a series of international conferences held in Asia, with a particular focus on critically reflecting upon higher education development in the region from broader social and political economy perspectives. Some of the papers in this Special Issue were selected from presentations in the East Asia Social Policy (EASP) Research Network Conference successfully held in Taiwan in 2018, while others were chosen from international events held at Lingnan University in Hong Kong presenting critical reviews and reflections on internationalization, marketization and graduate employment of higher education in Asia. This introductory article puts the discussions of the selected papers in this issue in context, with critical reflections on the key issues being examined in these papers. The Special Issue is published when the world is still confronting the unprecedented global health crisis resulted from the outbreak of the COVID‐19 pandemic. This article discusses the higher education development trends in Asia through the massification, diversification and internationalisation processes in transforming the higher education system and examines how these development trends are affected by the COVID‐19 crisis.

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