The fu­ture of in­ter­na­tional stu­dent mo­bil­ity

The first of a twopart se­ries looks at the chang­ing global ed­u­ca­tion sce­nario and how the top coun­tries are far­ing

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Rahul Choudaha

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 mak­ing 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.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dent en­roll­ment in higher ed­u­ca­tion in Aus­tralia and the UK grew by 81% and 47% re­spec­tively be­tween 2002 and 2009, as com­pared to 18% in the US.

The US hit its low­est point in 2005-06 when in­ter­na­tional stu­dent en­roll­ment de­clined by 21,500 com­pared to 2002-03 fig­ures.

In con­trast, en­roll­ment in­creased by 85,000 for Aus­tralia and the UK. A lot of this growth was at­trib­uted to com­mis­sion-based re­cruit­ment mod­els.

Then 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. A Reuters ar­ti­cle in 2009 noted that Aus­tralia’s in­ter­na­tional stu­dent sec­tor “could be more at risk from within, with ed­u­ca­tion agents and col­leges rip­ping off stu­dents, than from re­cent at­tacks on In­dian stu­dents”. Like­wise, The Tele­graph in 2009 “...ex­posed a host of scams of­fered to for­eign na­tion­als des­per­ate to come to Bri­tain as bo­gus stu­dents”.

These prob­lems led to a tight­en­ing of visa con­trols by Aus­tralia and the UK. Re­cent visa data from the two coun­tries al­ready shows a steep de­cline in the numbers of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. Stu­dent visa al­lo­ca­tion for the UK de­clined by 6% in 2010. In Aus­tralia, the off­shore grant­ing of visas, an in­di­ca­tor of new in­ter­na­tional stu­dent en­roll­ment, de­clined by 20% in 2010-11.

THINKSTOCK

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