Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

September 19, 2012

EAIE Conference 2012: Research, recruitment and collaborations

4000+ professionals in international education administration attended EAIE conference in Dublin. Overall, the conference had some interesting sessions, excellent keynotes and opportunity to network.
I co-presented three sessions at the conference on the themes of research, recruitment and collaborations:

1. Journeys of discovery in researching internationalisation of higher education:
This workshop was chaired by Hans de Wit, director of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation (CHEI) of the Catholic University of Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy. Other co-presenters were, Laura Rumbley, associate director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College and Gabriele Bosley, director, International Programs at Bellarmine University.

This was the workshop for practitioners who would like to integrate research in improving their work or even engage with doctoral work. It provided an overview of the state of research in internationliasation of higher education with emphasis on challenges and opportunities in developing and pursuing a research agenda.

My key message for aspiring researchers was "think different" as there is no dearth of content and research in this world of information overload. It takes a skill to find that unique angle and gap and then executing that research agenda with project management skills.

2. International recruitment strategy: defining priorities, delivering results
I charied this session on developing and executing international recruitment strategy with Andrew P. Disbury  Director of the International Office,  Leeds Metropolitan University; Julian Longbottom Director, Marketing and International University of Canberra and Martin Bickl Director, International Office Goethe-Universität.

This session was a full-house with nearly 200 participants. The purpose was to provide a comparative perspective on how institutions in different parts of the world are responding to a competitive environment and shaping their recruitment strategies. It ranged from aggressive outreach to students with a "customer service" mindset at the Leeds to recruiting "not for cash but for talent and diversity" with limited resources at Goethe.

3. Engaging with Asia: proven practices and strategies 
I chaired this session on Asia partnerships with experts in building partnerships including  Dr. Stephen Dunnett, Vice Provost for International Education, University at Buffalo-SUNY; Dr. Robert Coelen Vice-President International, Stenden University and Dr. Duleep Deosthale, Vice President - International Education, Manipal International University.

It highlighted that Asian education systems have varying levels of maturity, diversity and complexity which in turn presents unique opportunities and challenges for foreign institutions interested in collaborations. Dunnett mentioned that forging collaborations is "not for the faint-hearted: prolonged negotiations are required, with a major investment of time and effort." Coelen quipped that inter-instiutional partnerships need to go beyond "two-glasses of wine" which usually conclude with "...the more wine, the more similar we are." Deosthale suggested that your partner's partner could be your partner is one way to expand the network. Ed Porter mentioned that working with Indian institutions could require lot of patience especially due to regulatory complexity, how can one achieve it? I answered--join Yoga.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 10, 2012

Impact of London Met trouble on international student mobility

London Met is now the poster-child of how frequently changing immigration policies coupled with institutional desperation for recruiting foreign students for revenue rationales could hurt future of many. Student are disillusioned and frustrated, London Met has lost its reputation and the UK has put at risk its credibility to attract international students in the immediate term. After tightening of student visa norms and requirement of interviews for international students, London Met fiasco is too detrimental for the UK higher education.

This in turn is going to financially hurt London Met and the UK higher education. "In 2010-11, English universities increased their income from overseas student tuition fees by 16 per cent to £2.5 billion. Fees paid by overseas students made up 10.9 per cent of the sector's income, 'the highest on record', according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.  The loss of its licence will likely cause great financial pain for London Met. In 2010-11, some 15 per cent of its £157.8 million income came from foreign student fees."

At the same time, there is no doubt that visa system had been abused and a nexus of some institutions-agents have worked to make some international students find way in the country by using education as a pathway to immigration. Late last year, 450 private colleges, which recruited nearly 11,000 international students were banned from recruiting international students due to  failure to meet immigration standards.

Even in the case of London Met "The UKBA found 'serious and systemic failures' in systems to weed out fraudulent applications by those trying to get around immigration rules and enter the U.K. on student visas", according to the Wall Street Journal. Here is BBC analysis on why London Met University been banned from recruiting non-EU foreign students?

A study by World Education Services, noted that "Strugglers" are more likely to be academically under-prepared and lack financial resources. This is also the segment which uses external support of third-party agents to as they need help in navigating the application process and in making their aspiration to immigrate at any cost. Here is my earlier post "Degrees at Any Cost" and "Are Student Recruitment Agents Creating More Dickinson Universities?"

In the case of London Met, recruitment agents have "washed off hands", according to Times of India. London Met had a representative office in India which was closed in July and it had been working with a network of agents. Of course, now no one wants to take ownership and blame others for deficiencies.

In the immediate short term, student mobility traffic from the UK will redirect to Australia, US and Canada. This will help Australia to gain back some of the the loss in last couple of years due to safety and immigration issues, while US will gain numbers at the master's level programs driven by more aggressive outreach by institutions and Canada will attract more students with immigration intent.

While the UK is expected to start recovering in a couple of years, London Met case has impacted many--directly and indirectly. It is a lesson for international higher education professional that not knowing student segments and delegating recruiting to third party-agents at the cost of rigorous standards can have serious implications of the future of your institution.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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September 06, 2012

How China Saved International Student Enrollment in the US?

Growth of Chinese students enrolling in global higher education systems is no news. In my earlier post, I estimated that nearly 750,000 Chinese students apply to study abroad every year. However, the dramatic growth and increasing dependence on China becomes striking when put in perspective of enrollment change in the last decade.  

In 2002, India was the leading source of international students enrolling nearly 67,000 students in American higher education institutions, followed by China with nearly 63,000 students. By 2011, number of Indian students grew by 55% to 104,000 and Chinese students grew by 150% to 158,000 students. This was also the period when Japanese enrollment dropped by 40% from 47,000 to 28,000. 

Chinese enrollment did not grew at a rapid pace until 2008, when enrollment grew by nearly 20% for the first time and added 13,000 students. This was also the time when India was still the leading source country by a margin of 14,000 more students as compared to Chinese; Korea was growing at a healthy pace and Japan was continuing to decline. 

Another couple of years of robust growth of Chinese students made it the largest source country in 2010, surpassing India. It was the time when Korea was also stagnating and Japan was sliding further. 

American institutions have benefited greatly from the unprecedented and surprising growth of Chinese students in the campus to fill the gap created by stagnant or declining numbers from other source countries. However, many now face qualitative and diversity challenges on their campuses. This also means that institutions need to be aware of the marketplace changes in a more proactive manner.

Going forward, with the upcoming IIE Open Doors report in November, I expect continued trend of growth of Chinese students. 
Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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September 01, 2012

Transparency for a Change in Higher Education

Given below is my recent article published in the Economic Times Blog on the need of a transparent and accountable higher education system to enhance quality and foster competition.

Indian higher education system has expanded at a break-neck speed. Nearly 20,000 colleges were added between 2000-01 and 2010-11 and the number of students enrolled doubled from nearly 8.4 million to 17 million in this decade, according to the University Grants Commission (UGC).

However, this much needed expansion came at the expense of quality. The number of seats remaining vacant in some disciplines like engineering, underemployment and unemployment among educated youth and incessant desire to collect more degrees for advancing career are some of the indicators of the inadequate quality of education imparted. In addition, we continue to hear cases of malpractices and corruption among regulators and institutions in compromising standards.

Minister Kapil Sibal has attempted to bring a change by proposing a dozen legislative bills including The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 and The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Educational Institutions, 2010.  Unfortunately, most are still far from seeing the light of the day. Even if they get enacted, I do not see major qualitative changes in Indian higher education. The reason is that they are still not addressing the fundamental weakness of the system—lack of transparency.

The policy reform directions are seriously limited by its political approach of using control as the way of assuring quality rather than using transparency for empowering students and fostering competition.

One specific recommendation to achieve goals of transparency is to mandate high standards of data disclosures by institutions on institutional performance and feed this data to an easy-to-use national database for students to make informed choice.

Let us consider the case of regulation in the financial system. How is transparency ensured in publicly traded companies? It is through mandatory and easily available audited financial reports coupled with the oversight by the regulator-Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

In contrast, there is no availability of parallel information of institutional performance for higher education institutions. This results in all sorts of academic, financial, regulatory and marketing malpractices.

Transparency through data reporting and information sharing is an important policy-tool enforced by the U.S. Department of Education where the National Center for Education Statistics collects, collates, analyzes, and reports on American education. It uses this mandatory data reported by institutions for a free website—CollegeNavigator—to assist students in searching and comparing colleges on various parameters.

Currently, AICTE has the mandatory disclosure requirement, however, it has serious limitations in terms of the kind of information collected and the way it is presented. It is very hard to compare information across several institutions and students cannot use it for informed decision-making.

Imagine a scenario where anyone can see information online about all the approved higher education institutions and the programs available to students with their detailed performance indicators. This information would be invaluable for students in deciding which programs to pursue and thus creating a state of enhanced competition among institutions. In addition, policy-makers and researchers will have access to rich-data for further improving system.

Indian higher education is in desperate need of reform. The political approach of using control as the way of assuring quality should give way to information-based approach to enable transparency and accountability in the system.

- Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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