The report looked at the methods of internationalisation and trends on TNE and student mobility in more than 50 national education systems, with a focus on Europe, and came to the conclusion that the global international education market is a crowded space in 2019.
Movement and progress within the sector, especially regarding government support for the sector, was highlighted by the seven new international education strategies developed and adopted by European governments since 2011.
“Countries with encouraging environments have clear, open policies which support mobility”
However, not all strategies are created equal – and the British Council’s analysis of which countries aim for which outcomes highlighted a clear split in intentions and attitudes.
“Countries where higher education institutions have the autonomy to charge tuition fees tend to have much more heavily export-oriented strategies,” the report concluded. This was markedly different from “those with relatively low tuition fees, or no fees at all, [which] have broader and more comprehensive international education strategies”.
This is most clearly seen via the UK’s new strategy, which set an export target of £35bn and inbound student target of 600,000 per year, both by 2030.
Germany and the Netherlands are used as examples of nations with different priorities.
The new Dutch model (updated in June 2018) focuses primarily on the post-graduation retention of international students, by aiming “to expand and support the country’s international networks and to enable international students to access the domestic labour market,” according to the report.
Germany, meanwhile, included equal and substantive support for outbound mobility rather than a weighting that gives more importance to the recruitment of high-fee paying overseas students.
“Both countries have exceeded the 20% study abroad target to complete a period of study or training abroad by 2020, as agreed by the EU ministers,” the report reads.
According to Michael Peak, head of higher education systems research at the British Council, the impact of such strategies is clear.
“Among the European countries we studied, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Poland and France score highly in terms of openness: they have all recently published international education strategies, and all have dedicated bodies to implement their strategies,” he said.
“Countries with encouraging environments for international HE have clear, open policies which support student and researcher mobility; strong frameworks that ensure quality provision of HE at home and abroad.”
“There were indications international ed was becoming important to foreign policy”
As Peak suggested, the impact of investment in international education is also linked to international research collaborations.
The report suggested some correlation between ‘ease of academic mobility and research collaboration’ and ‘funding of academic mobility and research collaboration’, and added that “there is a strong positive relationship between inbound international student mobility flows and internationally produced research output as a proportion of the total research output from the country.”
The authors of the report argued this could be the result of the impact overseas PhD students have on research output, but it also indicated a less immediate causality.
“Many of the countries with mature HE systems in this study (e.g. the Netherlands, Germany, France and Ireland) have talent-focused policies which aim to attract global students at the research level,” they pointed out.
The shape of global higher education is summarised by authors Janet Ilieva, Pat Killingley and Vangelis Tsiligiris as “hugely competitive”, with many governments giving the sector a high priority, and new policy attention.
This competition may be the result of a renewed view of foreign policy, but this important development will need more research attention, as the report made clear.
“There were also indications that international education was becoming an important consideration in countries’ foreign policy. While this is at an early stage in most countries, nevertheless, it has profound implications for the future of international education strategy and its delivery,” the report read.
“More research is needed to quantify this development.”
The report was written with support from NAFSA, and a parallel report looking at the Americas will follow shortly.