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  • OECD on International Student Migration

    - 2,3 million international students study in the OECD area. The OECD now published its comprehensive report on migration emphasizing academic exchange.

    The data collected from 2006 until 2009 show that the financial crisis dealt a serious blow to international labor migration, decreasing it by 7%. Free-circulations movements within the European Union Schengen area declined even more drastically by 36%, comparing numbers from 2009 and 2007. This has primarily to do with the economic slump.

    Overall, international student flows to OECD members grew in the majority of countries. Between 2007 and 2008, this number rose by 5% which is a notch higher than the average 3% increase between 2004 and 2008.

    The Netherlands are an exception to this phenomenon. The number of international (non-European) students remained stuck at 10.000 while influx growth slowed from 18% to 9%. If you put the share of international students in relation to population size, the Dutch score even lower on internationality, well behind countries like Germany, Czech Republic and Greece.

    The number one source of foreign students in OECD countries is China (410.000, or 18%), followed by India (163.000, or 7%) and South Korea (110.000, or 5%). Authors of the report state that "in principle, international students can serve as a source of high skilled migrants".

    17-33% of international graduates stay

    Data show that between 17% and 33% of foreign students stay in their host country upon graduation. This insight is especially important for the ever-ageing countries in the European Union who are in desperate need for highly qualified workers bolstering their economies.

    In this area, the Netherlands does quite well. 27% of all international graduates extend their stay to find a job at Dutch businesses. Other countries such as Austria perform much worse with a "stay rate" of merely 17%. France and Canada lead the pack with 32% and 33%, respectively.

    The British, meanwhile, experienced the largest increase of migrants changing their status to permanent residence (14%). According to the OECD analysts, this primarily has to do with students deciding to stay in the UK after graduation and consequently does not indicate a sudden influx of immigrants.

    Main obstacle for foreign graduates looking for a job remains the language barrier. Especially countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Austria who offer tertiary education in English need to look for ways to educate international graduates to speak the domestic language.

    In France and Spain, this is not an issue since most study programs are in French and Spanish. This suggests that impactful internationalization of the Netherlands' higher education sector then goes hand in hand with integrating Dutch language courses with study curricula.

    Incoming International Students

    Source: OECD Migration Report 2011

    Liberate or Restrict?

    The OECD report further outlines the different policies its members adopted towards migration. Finland took a more liberal approach by introducing changes to its Nationality Act effective from September 2011.

    International students will then be eligible to gain Finnish citizenship within 5 years of staying in Finland.Half of the time they spent studying there will count for this rule as well. Similarly, other countries like Norway, Switzerland and Japan by now grant foreigners at least 6 months to look for a job after they graduate in their host country.

    Great Britain, by contrast, is depicted as implementing most restrictive measures. This insight is not surprising. Seeing masses of immigrants arrive at London Heathrow is definitely a horror vision to David Cameron and in particular his supporters.

    Only last year, Prime Minister Cameron introduced a migration cap that will cut the number of visas given out to international students by approximately 88.000. Next to the migration caps, the UK made language requirements tougher and limits possibilities of foreign students to stay and work after graduation.

    Other English speaking countries follow suit. In Australia, this takes the form of increasing compliance controls fighting spreading document fraud of visa applicants. Even Canada tightened the issuing of work permits. Previously, it was sufficient to have studied one year at a Canadian university. Now, one's specialization is required to be on a skills shortage list unless you already have a final employment offer.