Despite the government support for internationalisation policies, some institutions told the researchers that they were not internationalising to the fullest, attributing this to lack of resources or government investment.
“I think I will not go to UK because I don’t want to have those problems”
Lack of government investment was also blamed for a general feeling that Ireland is not adequately promoted abroad as a study destination.
Indeed, some of the non-EU students interviewed said they didn’t think about Ireland when they were considering their study abroad destination.
Among the factors that made them finally choose Ireland, students cited its high-ranking institutions and reputation for safety and friendliness.
But its European identity and the availability of English medium courses at a lower cost than in the US and UK were also crucial.
One of the students, from Poland, said that beyond a partnership agreement between her university and an Irish institution, Brexit had weighed on her decision.
“You heard about Brexit and I know there’s a lot of Polish there and I heard a lot of people feel insecure. So, I think I will not go to UK because I don’t want to have those problems,” she said.
As for the challenges international students experience in Ireland, students mainly mentioned cost and finding accommodation.
Both international and domestic students also acknowledged that integration is not automatic and societies or activities tend to be better places to foster intercultural dialogue and friendships than the classroom.
The report found that a range of factors are driving internationalisation in Ireland – the most prominent, according to the report, being increasing student mobility, funding incentives and government policy.
While most institutions acknowledged the role of funding incentives for internationalisation, some said a focus on revenue diverts from the real policy objectives.
“That is not what we are doing here, generating revenue is important but what we really want to do is diversify the student body. We are working very hard to get a more sophisticated approach as to how we describe our policy objectives around internationalisation,” said one university international office director.
Commissioned by the Higher Education Authority and funded by the Irish Research Council, the report was carried out by Marie Clarke and Linda Hui Yang of University College Dublin and David Harmon of Insight.
“The authors of this landmark report…have produced a document which is a most timely contribution to the national debate in this area,” HEA chief executive Graham Love stated in the introduction to the report.
The survey results were based on responses from 35 institutions, while interviews included 7 international office directors, 33 international students, and 18 Irish students.