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  • Asia joins competition for excellent students

    - China, South Korea and co. want to shift their role as biggest source of overseas students and foster internationalization at home as well. To face increased competition for talented students, European policymakers should facilitate knowledge migration, a recent Nuffic study urges.

    While Europe is debating what to do about foreign students, booming nations like China, South Korea and Mexico move to massively expand their own international student populations. A report by Nuffic, the Dutch public agency for internationalization in higher education, shows that "with the economic and political balance of power shifting east, mobility patterns are beginning to change in this direction as well".

    In this context, China stands out as it aims to more than double the number of foreign students studying at its universities from 230.000 in 2009 up to 500.000 in 2020. South Korea follows a similar internationalization strategy with the goal to boost the number of international students from 22.500 in 2005 up to 100.000 in 2012. Main targets are mostly neighboring countries which would contribute to a "regionalization of international student mobility".

    Nuffic also names a few policy instruments that are used to achieve greater internationalization. Among them is the expansion of scholarship programs, a greater offer of foreign language programs and bilateral agreements with targeted countries. Mexico, for instance, went to great lengths in order to expand its attractiveness to overseas students through financial subsidies and double degree programs.

    Attracting international students to counter skill shortages

    The internationalization landscape in Europe, meanwhile, diverges significantly. While most governments have recognized that foreign talented students might boost the economy by countering skill shortages, only few nations translate this potential into real policies.

    Here, Nuffic points out Germany and Switzerland as the two exceptions. "[In these countries] attempts are made to channel international student flows into the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)."

    Through its public agency, DAAD, Germany is particularly targeting students from Brazil, India and China that want to follow a study related to one of the four STEM areas. Overall, Master and PhD students pay low fees and have wide ranging access to scholarships which makes the Germany the third most popular overseas student destination right after the U.S. and U.K.