The international experience

Earlier this week the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Tánaiste (Deputy PM) launched a report on Ireland’s international education strategy. The purpose of the report is explained in the Tánaiste’s foreword as follows:

‘The interests of students are at the heart of our concerns. We must continue to offer international students a high-quality education and a unique student experience that is based on strong integration with their Irish peers. An education in Ireland should be a transformational experience that adds significant value to the career outcomes and personal development of students.’

Given that previous interventions by politicians have tended to present international student recruitment as a key  mechanism for raising cash to compensate for public funding cuts, this report is a major and positive departure, in part because it looks in some detail at the steps that should be taken to internationalise the curriculum and improve significantly the student experience for those recruited from overseas.

It is important that even though we may want to recruit international students as part of a financial strategy, this should never become the main reason. Internationalising education can and will provide huge benefits, but it needs to be done for the right reasons. In that sense, I have always been uneasy about numerical targets for such recruitment, as they rather hint at base motives; and indeed such general targets don’t pay enough attention to what may be appropriate (beyond simple capacity) in each institution.

I am also a tad concerned that the understandable desire to impose a quality assurance framework for international recruitment will in the end only have one major result, the major bureaucratization of higher education. That would be one reform that we do not need.

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5 Comments on “The international experience”

  1. I hear your concern that quality assurance may lead to bureaucratization. Do you have any suggestions on how to ensure a high quality product for the overseas student that avoids bureaucracy?

  2. teknophilia Says:

    “I am … concerned that the desire to impose a quality assurance framework will … result in the major bureaucratization of higher education.”
    I have seen this happening already in several universities in the U.S. and U.K. These efforts start out with admirable goals, but all too often wind up changing little, while adding to the paperwork that needs to be done. That being said, I have seen successful programs, and perhaps we could model these instead.

  3. kevin denny Says:

    I don’t see that targeting international students as a source of cash in necessarily a bad thing. After all if it allows you to provide a better education to domestic students that would be good, wouldn’t it? Doesn’t sound like a base motive to me. There are dangers, mainly I suppose, that one might compromise standards in a rush to recruit rich foreigners and secondly that domestic students may get crowded out.
    A third potential issue is that if universities are successful in raising foreign cash that the state withdraws funding as a result.
    It should be possible for intelligent people to get round these problems.

  4. […] see for example the post and comments on In his response, outgoing DCU President Ferdinand von Prondzynki is wary of numerical targets and the signals they might send. Key diaspora website,, was less than impressed with the overall strategy, […]

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