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2 augustus 2011 | How open is higher education to international students? Switzerland joined the ranks of UK, Australia and Sweden limiting access of foreign students. Developing countries like Brazil push more than ever for internationalization by sending 100.000 students abroad.

The Swiss university lobby, Rectors’ Conference of theSwiss Universities (CRUS), is set to publish a report stating thatits universities are allowed to limit the number of incomingforeign students. All non-Swiss students that are accepted couldalso be charged higher tuition fees.

Elite institutes like the University of St. Gallen alreadyintroduced strict admission procedures and a 25% quota forforeigners being admitted into its programs. Doubts whether thiswas legal came up since Switzerland signed the Lisbon Convention toestablish greater international openness in higher education.

Primary reason why Swiss universities want more freedom torestrict foreign access is their fear of being overrun by Germanapplicants. Swiss education is popular in Germany and universitiesthere suffer from capacity shortages. Antonio Loprieno,President of CRUS, however, spoke of only slight increases inapplications from Germany.

Nevertheless, Swiss universities get political support. Theright-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which has a similaranti-immigrant position like Wilders’ PVV publicly supported thesemeasures. The Netherlands, by contrast, will remain open forknowledge migrants from its neighboring country as recently promised by Higher Education Minister HalbeZijstra.

International Students asPercentage of Total Enrolment

international students destination

Source: International MigrationOutlook, SOPEMI 2010, OECD.

Locking down higher education

Other developed countries start to implement similar restrictivemeasures towards overseas students, as illustrated by a recent OECD report. Until this year, Sweden offered free education to all studentsregardless of their origin. Now, a tuition fee of up to €25.000will be levied for internationals which resulted in a 90% decreasein foreign student applications.

English speaking countries like Australia, Canada and UK followsuit. As a consequence of stricter visa regulations, Australia´s foreign student numbers declinedfor the first time in a decade. UK went even further by introducingimmigrations caps  that are expected to cut internationalstudent visas by 88.000.

These aforementioned cases all represent destinations that areextremely popular among international students since they used tooffer either cheap education or highly renowned universities.

Brazil pushes for internationalization

With the new student migration policies in place, however,access to international higher education becomes more and morerestricted. Developing countries and especially the BRIC nations(Brazil, Russia, India, China), meanwhile, are pushinginternationalization of their students more than ever.

Currently, China has a total of 441.000 citizens studying abroadfollowed by India (170.000) and South Korea (113.000). Brazil isnow set to jump start internationalization of its students byintroducing a scholarship program funding 100.000 Brazilians tostudy Science and Engineering abroad.

Top Countries of origin forforeign students in tertiary education, 2008

international students origin

Source: OECD Education at aGlance 2010

Brazil´s Science and Technology Minister, Aloizio Mercadante,commented on this initiative stating that his country lacks behindin innovation and is limited in its growth by a lack of engineers.Over the past decade, the number of graduates in humanities grew by66% while engineering sciences grew by only 1%.

Only recently, Brazil made a deal with the British government. Brazil willbe allocating grants of around €21.200 to 10.000 talented youngBrazilians who want to study in the UK. This move illustrates theambivalence of international student migration. Everybody wantsforeigners to pay, and nobody really wants them to stay.

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