The money agenda in international education

Here’s something I have been saying for a while: if we present international student recruitment primarily (or possibly even at all) as an export-led, money-making activity, we won’t be very successful at it. Over the past couple of years Australia’s reputation as a destination for international students has been compromised somewhat because of the perception that it’s all about securing money for higher education.

Now a similar point is being made in the UK, as reported in Times Higher Education. Sir Drummond Bone, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, is reported as issuing the following warning:

‘UK universities are universally seen overseas as money hungry and not terribly good partners, and we have got to … break that. One way to do that is to send our students overseas..’

Partly this is about the imbalance between students recruited from overseas on the one hand, and students leaving to study in overseas countries on the other. Partly it is about the apparent lack of interest some universities demonstrate in the countries from which they recruit.

In order to make international student recruitment sustainable and ethically sound, such recruitment should form part of a much broader strategy of engagement with the countries concerned, including strong research partnerships and genuine exchanges. Without that, it all looks like what the Indians call ‘body-shopping’, and once it appears that this is what we are doing our reputations will be at risk.

In Ireland there have been repeated calls for a massive increase in international student recruitment. Such calls show a high level of naivety when unaccompanied by a much clearer understanding of the limitations in numerical terms, and of the need for a much more comprehensive engagement with partner countries. Certainly international students are not the answer to public funding problems.

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3 Comments on “The money agenda in international education”

  1. Dublinjack Says:

    Broadly, Ireland Inc takes responsibility for students from the BRIC countries – but with noticeable, and diffrent agendas.

    Brazil may want its young people to learn English and gain from work experience for a year. Schools of English are popping up to harvest this market. Less academics, and more school leavers looking for romance.

    In my experience Chinese students are abundant eg at UCD where there is a Chinese Cultural Institute, reaching out to Dubliners, and numerous post graduates in programmes where they excel and compete diligently. One apprached me to become a Catholic convert. I know one young woman who took the reverse route to Hong Kong for an MA in Law.

    Two diffreent programmes for two market socio-economic segments. The Brazilians spend their own money in schools more cultural intermediaries, if not exploitive of young people looking for a visa.

    The Chinese are world class students savouring the Irish Culture.

    In my opinion, though tuition fees are lucrative, they operate equally as Irish culture offering a welcome across the water.

    I also met a Canadian who could not matriculate in Montreal, who enrolled for sunstntial fees in Vetinary science and carried his weight to the top of the class. Maybe mercenary but also useful.

    Ireland Inc is makeing friendship strategic.

  2. ViaBoston Says:

    I think you’re right – Irish universities appear to show a cluelessness about recruiting international students. As one of these so-called cash cows, the problem is that many times, once a student agrees to come there is a serious lack of support when it comes to housing, banking, immigration, as well as a basic orientation to the city and university. The Graduate Students’ Union at my university is tackling that, and the concerns of international students have finally found a place in the strategic plan.

    That being said, I can’t help but think that the Irish system is short-sighted when considering how to bail themselves out of the current economic fiasco using the international student’s purse. Non-EU students may consider tuition fees here as less than at home, but the total cost is greater than or equal to that high price at home once you factor in the costs of getting here, setting up, and maintaining a basic standard of living. In addition, I come from a place that has seen high job losses over the past few years. If I was starting university now with a parent out of work and another parent disabled, I’d be lucky to go to college out of state, never mind across the pond. That’s a point that I don’t think universities have grasped- the financial crisis is not just happening in Ireland!

    Ireland needs to do better at not only recruiting people because the university needs them for their euro value, but also in supporting that student once they have made the choice to commit to an education in Ireland. Seeing international students as year-long, high-fee-paying tourists is not the way forward.

  3. M. Says:

    If anyone is considering Waterford Institute of Technology to study as an international student please do cross tit off your list.There is no support for international student here at all.Been here for 2 years so far and soffering a lot due to lack of support available for overseas students.Once they get your money you will be treated justa a cash cow.Going to my 3rdout of 4 year degree here but regreat very much for coming here as an international student.Please do not make the same miostake i`ve made.


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