Five facts challenging leadership of US higher education in attracting international students

Nov 22, 2014

Here is the excerpt from my blog "Attracting International Students: Can American Higher Education Maintain its Leadership?" originally published on Huffington Post.
Studying in the U.S. is a dream of many international students. More than 75 percent of international students indicated motivation to "expand career and life opportunities" and "quality higher education options" as the top two reasons that motivated them to study in the U.S., according to a recent survey of nearly 5,000 international students by World Education Services.

With 886,052 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2013/14, the number of international students has increased by 55 percent from 2003/04, according Institute of International Education. It is easy to infer that U.S. has been hugely successful in attracting international students. However, what is lost in the positive growth are some of the acute challenges that can threaten American leadership in attracting and retaining global talent. Here are five facts about international students enrolled in American higher education:

1. Share of U.S. in international student enrollment has decreased
American higher education system is the leading destination for international students, according to OECD. However, post-9/11, destinations like the U.K. and Australia have attracted an increasing number of international students, which has resulted in a decline in market share for the U.S. - from nearly 23 percent in 2000, to 16 percent in 2012.

2. New destinations are further fueling the competition
Emerging markets are offering increasing opportunities for students who want to be part of their growth story and at the same time earn a foreign degree at a lower cost. For example, the number of Korean students going to China has been consistently increasing and at the same time it has been decreasing for the U.S.

3. U.S. institutions have the capacity to enroll more international students
International students account for only four percent of total enrollment in the U.S. higher education as compared to 18 percent in the UK and 19 percent in Australia, according to OECD. Given the size, scale and diversity of the U.S. higher education system, there remains untapped potential to attract more international students.

4. Many institutions are struggling to attract international students
Nearly two-thirds of international students in the U.S. are enrolled in just 300 universities. Given that the U.S. has 4,500 post-secondary degree granting institutions, this concentration implies challenges for rest of the institutions for a variety of controllable (e.g. lack of know-how to recruit and retain students) and uncontrollable reasons (e.g. location).

5. Others are struggling to diversify international student source countries
While overall number of internationals students has increased most of it was driven by growth from a few countries. For example, students from China now form nearly one-third of all international students in the U.S. and their growth have contributed nearly 60 percent of total growth in enrollment in 2013/14.

These five facts illustrate that maintaining U.S. leadership in attracting and retaining global talent will require a lot more to be done in an proactive, informed and collaborative at the policy and institutional levels.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

As Predicted, Number of Indian Students Studying in the US Increase

Nov 16, 2014

In my previous article, "Universities need to get ready for India’s high fliers", I had predicted that the number of globally mobile Indian students will increase and the US higher education will be the biggest beneficiaries. (Related story "Enter the Dragon" in BusinessWorld)
Latest data from Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), reported enrollment patterns of international students as on October 2014. It confirms the overall trend and increase with Indian numbers:
- Since October 2013, the number of students studying in the US from India increased 28% as compared to 9% for all international students
- US higher education institutions enrolled 134, 292 students from India
- 79% of them were enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, which offer 29-Optional Practical Training (STEM-extension) option
- 65% of all Indian students(~87,000) were enrolled in only two majors 1) Engineering and 2)Computer Sciences
- 73% of all Indian students were studying for a master's degree
 Dr. Rahul Choudaha (Author)

How rankings impact institutional strategies and processes? research report from European University Association

What is role of rankings in university strategies and processes? This is the central question of the recent research report released by European University Association and authored by Ellen Hazelkorn, Tia Loukkola and Therese Zhang.  The report entitled "Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?" is based on the survey of 171 higher education institutions from 39 European countries. It is a comprehensive and insightful report that shows that perceived impact of rankings is very high among different stakeholders despite their public denials.  More than half of all the respondents identified that they "have one or several persons at institution level who monitor(s) our position in the rankings regularly." Here are couple of data points indicating that institutional representatives perceive rankings to be of very high importance to prospective students:

The report asserts "...when an institution is analysing the importance of one ranking or another for its activities, it should consider the objective of the ranking, what it measures and whether the indicators are meaningful or useful for the institution’s purposes. Does it make sense to align the institution’s strategies and policies with a particular ranking? What are the implications of doing so? What are the implications of not doing so? And if the indicators or the weightings change – as they so often do – should the institution respond?" (p. 45)
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Financial depedency on nonresident and international students: Case of University of California

Nov 9, 2014

University of California is considering to increase tuition by up to 5% in each of the next five years. This was inevitable as the public funding continues to decrease. Here are couple of previous blog posts from 2012:
According to the University of California, "The new long-term stability plan for tuition and financial aid proposes that tuition will not increase more than 5 percent annually for five years. For 2015–16, that would mean an increase of $612. Tuition may increase by less than 5 percent — or not at all — depending on the level of state support."
Given that the number of nonresident, including international students at UC campuses have increased at a clipping rate, there is a feeling among residents that they are being displaced. The UC highlights the value addition from nonresident fee that adds to the experiences of the resident students. It asserts that "Each nonresident student brings in approximately $23,000 more per year than in-state students, funds that help support the additional California students and enhance the quality of the education program. Nonresident students also bring a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives that enhances the educational environment of our campuses."
UC Budget for Current Operations provides detailed information on the funding changes in a post-recession environment where nonresident and in particular international student enrollment has become an integral part of the academic and financial equation. Here is an interesting chart comparing the nonresident tuition fee among different public universities. It shows that:
- UC nonresident graduate fee at ~$28,000 is still 70% of Michigan's ~$40,000--indicating UC is still not expensive in comparison to peers
- UC nonresident fee at undergrad is nearly 30% more than graduate nonresident--indicating more revenue potential at undergraduate level

Comparision of Nonresident foreign student fee at public universities
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Rahul Choudaha (Author)

Foreign students in UK higher education: Mobility and enrollment trends

Nov 4, 2014

Universities UK released a research report "International students in higher education: the UK and its competition" that highlights latest enrollment and mobility trends with international (non-European Union) students. This comprehensive report provides an excellent backdrop to issues and challenges UK universities and colleges are facing in a competitive environment of international student recruitment. International students are critical to finances of the higher education sector as it gets around one-eighth of its income from international students’ tuition fees. Here are three interesting data points from the report:

1. Number of international students grew post 9/11, however, it stagnated post global financial recession.
2. China and Malaysia have high proportion of undergraduate students as compared to India and Nigeria at Postgraduate Taught (master's level).
3. Institutions continue to experience decline with India an Nigeria along with China slowing down too.

Towards improved quality standards in transnational education

Oct 29, 2014

The quality assurance mechanisms of transnational education (TNE) or cross-border education have not kept pace with the changes in the landscape of its activities and trends is the core argument of the article I co-authored with Richard J Edelstein, a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley.

TNE is offered in a range of models, including branch campuses, licensed foreign degree programs provided by local institutions, articulation agreements, distance learning degrees and online degrees.

The variety of models is reflective of diverse contexts of source and destination countries, where demand from the emerging segment of ‘glocal’ students - who have aspirations to gain a global education experience, but want to remain in their local region/country - is creating new opportunities for institutions.

The landscape of TNE gets further complicated with the emergence of new distance learning technologies, such as MOOCs, that are changing teaching and learning methods and are not easily incorporated into traditional processes and definitions of quality assurance in higher education.

For example, a recent strategic planning document from MIT forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated ‘into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials and even badges’ with the possibility that ‘the credentialing agency may be different from the institution that offers the course’.

This responsiveness to demand has also led to a wide variation in quality among these programs and models. To varying degrees, these TNE initiatives appear to operate with little regulation or oversight from governments or quality assurance entities in the participating students’ country or in the provider institutions’ home country.

Quality in higher education is not only difficult to measure (as we know from wide-ranging debates about rankings), but also involves diverse approaches to quality assurance. It takes many forms, varying from country to country. For example, terms such as accreditation, recognition and the authority to grant diplomas or degrees can have different meanings and vary by country. Likewise, definitions and processes can differ widely from country to country.

In the context of TNE, quality issues can be addressed by authorities in the country where the provider institution is located and-or in the country where student participants receive TNE programs. Unfortunately, many of the countries where the demand for TNE is high, such as Pakistan, Nigeria and India, do not have strong oversight or clearly established regulations to assure quality. This poses risks to students as well as to institutional providers. In Europe and more broadly there are efforts to establish common standards and processes that are recognized beyond national borders.

The pattern of growth in transnational education is rife with complexity and brimming with innovation. The quality assurance mechanisms of cross border educational activities are lagging behind. This has implications for all stakeholders, including students, institutions and policymakers. To eventually establish an improved quality assurance regime for transnational education that is broadly accepted as legitimate, a concerted, proactive and collaborative effort is required to better understand the nature, scope and scale of transnational education.

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Can China become the hub of ‘glocal’ students? CACIE Conference 2014

Oct 15, 2014

What are the drivers of international student mobility to China? What are the implications of these trends for Chinese Universities? Can China become the hub of ‘glocal’ students? This is the focus of the session I am chairing at China Annual Conference for International Education (CACIE) Forum on International Student Mobility on Sunday, October 26.

Mobility of Chinese students to the leading destinations like US, UK and Australia is a known trend. However, what has not gained enough attention is the increasing magnetism of China as a destination for international students. In 2009, nearly, 238,000 international students were enrolled in Chinese higher education institutions. In specific, number of foreign students enrolled in degree programs has doubled to more than 100,000 in five years.

However, what is hidden in this growth is the regional mobility of students. For example, two of our every three international students in China are from Asia. More Pakistani students are enrolled in China than they are in the US (~161,000/~238,000). These international students who have aspirations to earn a global education or experience, while staying in the region are defined as ‘glocal’ students’. And, China is emerging as a hub of ‘glocal’ students.

The overarching purpose of this session is to maximize the potential of China as the destination for international students by gaining a deeper understanding of mobility patterns and exploring effective policies, strategies and practices. In specific, the session will discuss the mobility of international students to study in China, along following three strands: 
  • Students—Who are they? Where are they coming from? What are the drivers of mobility? 
  • Institutions—What are the some of the models and strategies for attracting ‘glocal’ students to China? How can Chinese universities attract international students from more diversified source countries? 
  • Policies—What policies and strategies can further increase the attractiveness of China as a destination?
The expert panel will include following:
  • Changjun YUE, Ph.D. Dean, Graduate School of Education, Peking University
  • John Gordon Robertson, Ph.D. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, New York University Shanghai
  • Julian Chang, Ph.D. Associate Dean at Schwarzman Scholars Program at Tsinghua University
  • Youmin Xi, Ph.D. Executive President of Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of University of Liverpool
  • Nick Miles, OBE Provost and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham Ningbo China
Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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