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East meets East: the changing recruitment landscape

Most would agree that global student recruitment trends are evolving, but why and by how much can be hard to gauge. Offering us a vantage point is the latest the study from the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC), International student recruitment: policies and developments in selected countries. It benchmarks the policies towards recruitment and mobility of a group of countries, nominally to help Dutch HE policy makers, but by turns uncovering trends of use to anyone in the sector.

Students exploring pupillary light reflex at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus. A thriving regional education hub, Malaysia recruits most of its students from neighbouring Asian and Middle Eastern countriesStudents exploring pupillary light reflex at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus. A thriving regional education hub, Malaysia recruits most of its students from neighbouring Asian and Middle Eastern countries

“International student mobility directions are expected to follow global economic shifts"

First of these is a powerful shift in student mobility patterns, driven by globalisation, which threatens to change the recruitment landscape dramatically over time. Not only are a greater number of students seeking education abroad, but higher education is also improving around the world, meaning students do not necessarily have to go to the US, Europe or Australia to obtain a good degree.

“We see gradually more foreign students going to study East in Asia, whereas 10-15 years ago, most students would move from East to West,” says the report’s co-author, Dr Rosa Becker, although she indicates the phenomenon is apparent in most world regions to lesser or greater extent.

This naturally means that an increasing number of countries that previously only sent students abroad are now actively seeking international students themselves. What is more, most of these countries recruit mainly, though not exclusively, within their regions, eating into the recruitment pools of the leading host countries.

China is blazing a trail here, moving from mainly sending students abroad a decade ago, to recruiting more than 230,000 international students in 2009 – a figure it plans to boost to 500,000 by 2020. It recruits largely from Asian countries, South Korea in particular (27%), however its second highest source is the USA (8%).

“International student mobility directions are expected to follow [global economic shifts] since knowledge and experience of China will likely become important in the future labour market and trade opportunities,” says Becker.

Korea itself is also an example, having proactively raised international numbers from 22,500 in 2005 to close to 76,000 in 2009 (70% of whom are Chinese). It hopes to attract 100,000 foreign students by the end of this year.

Taiwan hopes to attract 95,000 international students by 2014

Increasingly sophisticated recruitment strategies

These are joined by Mexico, and to a lesser extent Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, states the report. All use increasingly sophisticated recruitment strategies, often mirroring the West’s (diplomacy, scholarships, mutual recognition of qualifications and investment in infrastructure and marketing being just some).

Efforts include China’s expansive scholarship programme which is aimed at every world region, from the US (with the 100,000 strong initiative) to developing Africa. Taiwan will invest US$196million in higher education over the next four years to, among other aims, help it attract 95,000 international students by 2014. Korea meanwhile has promised to lower health insurance premiums for overseas students, simplify immigration procedures and help international students find work in Korea after graduation. [more>>]

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