International students play an important role in Irish higher education and may be worth up to €2billion to the economy.
But despite their importance, ICOS points out that international students are a low political priority as they have no vote, except for in the local elections.
“A big part of our success is our reputation for high-quality education”
Speaking at the launch of the manifesto, ICOS executive director Sarah Lennon said it is easy to measure the economic impact of international students, but the benefits go beyond financial ones.
“In today’s globalised world, academic and social interaction with students from around the world can be enormously beneficial to all students on campus and provides not just educational benefits, but also career benefits,” said Lennon.
The country’s current International Education Strategy, which expires this year, focuses primarily on the financial impact of international students.
ICOS is now calling for the incoming government to take a range of measures to protect international students, who are often exposed to more hurdles than their domestic counterparts as a result of being in an unfamiliar country and without a natural support network.
Among the requests outlined in the manifesto is financial support for HEIs to improve their mental health services, the introduction of a pathway for highly-skilled international graduates, and for resources to be made available to commence the International Education Mark.
“Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world, and a big part of our success is our reputation for high-quality education and a warm welcome for international visitors,” Lennon continued.
“Without adequate investment in services such as mental health, accommodation and the long-awaited hate-crime legislation, that reputation is at risk and with it, all of the benefits that international students bring.”