The “Push” and “Pull” of International Education…

This is something that we wonder all the time. What drives a student to seek overseas education? I have often challenged those who think that setting up foreign campuses in India will lead to students staying on in India and have commented that they are totally out of touch with the reasons for the “wings”. Now am sharing an interesting article that lists the “push” and “pull” factors for overseas education. Having said this, I still find one “push” missing… : the role of the education counsellors and education agents…

The following article is a cut-paste from this link (University World News).

GLOBAL: Who goes where and why for education?
Caroline Macready and Clive Tucker*
15 May 2011
Issue: 171

Our recently-published research report for the Institute of International Education and the AIFS Foundation aims to answer questions about students’ international mobility. It covers all physical movements across national boundaries for educational purposes, at all education stages, short-term as well as long-term. We find that international educational mobility is in good health with strong growth potential, but mobility patterns are changing and will continue to change.

International mobility for tertiary education lasting at least a year is well documented by UNESCO, the OECD and others. Information on other levels and shorter periods is patchy at best. The US and Australia are the only major countries to document all incomers for educational purposes. Our report presents the first full picture of international educational mobility into the US, thanks to unique access to the US State Department’s exchange visitor visa statistics.

Analysing educational mobility more widely sheds new light on international students’ university choices and motivations. Previous studies identified two main ‘push factors’ driving young people to go abroad for higher education: lack of suitable opportunities at home, and the wish to experience another country’s life and culture.

We identify a third ‘push factor’: ‘positioning’, or moving at one education stage to be well-positioned for a later stage of education or employment in the same country. Examples include: secondary schooling abroad to facilitate tertiary entry; undergraduate study to qualify for postgraduate study; postgraduate study to ‘position’ for academic posts; and higher education or vocational training to qualify for employment. ‘Positioning’ is most evident among students from Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Vietnam.

We also identify ‘anti-push’ factors that may deter aspiring international students, including financial barriers and obstacles to leaving their home country.

The ‘pull factors’ that draw students to particular destinations include high quality, specialised study opportunities, tuition in a language mobile students speak or want to learn, traditional links and diasporas, affordable cost, internationally-recognised qualifications, prospects of high returns, post-study career opportunities, good prospects of graduating within a predictable time, effective marketing by destination country or institution, home country support for going there to study, and helpful visa arrangements for study and work while studying.

Our report confirms that competition to attract internationally mobile students is intensifying. As more countries and institutions get into the game, international students have a wider range of options, more of them closer to home. They are getting smarter and sharper in the quest for the higher education destination that is right for them, and their choices and motivations are becoming more diverse.

Countries and universities can no longer rely just on quality, or just on marketing, to attract students. As education opens up to a wider range of students in each country and careers go global, international students increasingly care about affordability, value for their money and post-education prospects.

In the past, universities wishing to attract international students have focused on deciding their USP (unique selling point) and promoting it. In the future, it will be more important to understand what international students want and demonstrate that the institution can provide it.

Some things international students want are not within universities’ control, but depend on national policies. Our report benefited from pre-publication access to the latest report from the Institute of International Education’s Atlas Project, which describes national policies in major destination and sending countries.

Bringing together information on national policies and student motivations, our report identifies policies that are helpful in attracting international students and policies which are unhelpful. Unhelpful policies include overcharging, providing inadequate care and support, and introducing discouraging visa and immigration regimes.

Leading destination countries Australia and the UK now combine helpful education policies with unhelpful immigration policies. Both are introducing student visa changes which risk cancelling out their other attractions to international students, by cutting off entry rungs on the education ladder and reducing the chances of post-study work.

To ensure that immigration and visa rules are student-friendly, the case of international students should be considered before, rather than after, general immigration principles are established. Governments also need to appreciate that education is a ladder. If internationally mobile students can get onto the lower rung of the ladder they are more likely to move to a higher rung within the same country.

Will international student mobility grow as strongly in future as it did in the last decade? The report sees reasons for optimism and for caution.

Developing countries with rising birth rates have an increasing demand for education and limited capacity to provide it themselves. Demand should also be fuelled by developments in the global economy and the emergence of China, India and others as major economic powers. Students will continue to attach importance to tuition in English, and other world languages, which they may need to travel to access. And mobility below tertiary level has untapped growth potential.

However, concerns over ‘brain drain’ may increasingly drive today’s major sending countries to build up their own tertiary systems. The rapid growth in transnational education means that many students can get at least some international education benefits without leaving home. And there are early signs from key countries like the US and Australia that the bumper years of mobility growth ended in 2009-10.

The report concludes that international student mobility should continue to grow, if not as fast as previously. There may well be radical changes in global patterns of supply and demand and in the market shares of today’s main destination countries.

* Caroline Macready and Clive Tucker are independent education consultants based in the UK. This article is based on the authors’ bookWho Goes Where and Why? An overview and analysis of global educational mobility, published by the Institute of International Education and the AIFS Foundation in their series of Global Education Research Reports.

* The latest report from the Institute of International Education’s Atlas Project is Student Mobility and the Internationalization of Higher Education: National policies and strategies from six world regions – A Project Atlas® report, edited by Rajika Bhandari, Raisa Belyavina and Robert Gutierrez and published by the Institute of International Education


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