International Student Mobility Trends

My article The Future of International Student Mobility was published in UniversityWorldNews.

International student mobility in the first decade of the 21st century has been transformed by two major external events, 9/11 and the recession of 2008. Today the rationale for international student recruitment has shifted from attracting talent to make the student body more diverse, to seeking an additional source of revenue.

Recruitment practices have been evolving and responding to this new competitive landscape, as can be seen in the increasing number of commercial entities offering recruitment services ranging from agents to websites.

How is this transformation going to shape the future of student mobility?

The US was an undisputed leader in global higher education until 9/11, which forced it to tighten visa requirements for students. Australia and the UK cashed in on this opportunity and were successful in absorbing most of the growth in international students.

Growth in international student enrollment in Australia and the UK would have continued, but the recession of 2008 changed things. It exposed two important issues for international student enrollment in the two countries – the high proportion of international students compared to home students and issues of quality raised by the use of aggressive recruitment practices.

In 2009, international students represented 21.5% and 15.3% of higher education enrollment in Australia and the UK, compared to less than 4% in the US, according to the OECD. This clearly shows that Australia and the UK were over-dependent on international students. This situation of overdependence was the result of aggressive recruitment practices using agents who paid little attention to quality assurance.

There were multiple incidents where fraudulent documents were used by people who were more keen on immigration than education (In the same issue of UWN, Simon Marginson, professor of higher education in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne acknowledged existence of “…migration-related education sector ‘scams’ involving education agents and students from South Asia. There was a blowout of migration-oriented international students in certain vocational programmes, and instances of corrupt practices and dubious educational provision. This triggered a belated crackdown by the federal government in 2010″).

The number of internationally mobile students grew by 1.6 million between 2000 and 2009, according to the OECD. This trend will continue to be driven by the increasing ability of prospective students in countries like China and India to afford foreign higher education. At the same time, their local higher education systems are expanding at a fast rate, but at the expense of quality. This will result in a large number of quality-hungry students who have an ability to pay for their higher education.

However, a complex interplay of variables will make it difficult to predict where this growth will go.

As we have seen, the influence of unpredictable events like 9/11 and the recession on student mobility is far-reaching and global. In addition, government policies related to visa requirements, specifically those concerning financial requirements and post-education work opportunities. Institutions and nations that can adapt to the changing environment will be best placed to make the most of the opportunities and uncertainties involved. Click here to read full article.

Comments are closed.