Asia joins competition for excellent students

Nieuws | de redactie
5 januari 2012 | 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 tomassively expand their own international student populations. A report by Nuffic, the Dutch public agency forinternationalization in higher education, shows that “with theeconomic and political balance of power shifting east, mobilitypatterns are beginning to change in this direction as well”.

In this context, China stands out as it aims to more than doublethe number of foreign students studying at its universities from230.000 in 2009 up to 500.000 in 2020. South Korea follows asimilar internationalization strategy with the goal to boost thenumber of international students from 22.500 in 2005 up to 100.000in 2012. Main targets are mostly neighboring countries which wouldcontribute to a “regionalization of international studentmobility”.

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

Attracting international students to counter skillshortages

The internationalization landscape in Europe, meanwhile,diverges significantly. While most governments have recognized thatforeign talented students might boost the economy by counteringskill shortages, only few nations translate this potential intoreal policies.

Here, Nuffic points out Germany and Switzerland as the twoexceptions. “[In these countries] attempts are made to channelinternational student flows into the STEM subjects (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”

Through its public agency, DAAD,Germany is particularly targeting students from Brazil, India andChina that want to follow a study related to one of the four STEMareas. Overall, Master and PhD students pay low fees and have wideranging access to scholarships which makes the Germany the thirdmost popular overseas student destination right after the U.S. andU.K.

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