The British Council has released a new report titled “The Shape of Global Higher Education: National Policies Framework for International Engagement,” that evaluates countries’ education policies on international higher education and identifies areas that are supported by national governments.
Governments around the globe are recognizing the importance and value of deepened international engagement. Such engagement can be achieved through countries’ higher education sectors, which have the potential to import scores of foreign students, educators, and specialists. The study evaluated more than 100 pieces of legislation and national strategies employed by 26 countries to promote international education.
The report reveals a steep rise in the number of countries trying to promote international education. Thus, most countries exhibit strong readiness to engage internationally and support higher education alongside the development of their economies. Of all the countries evaluated, Germany and Malaysia have the most balanced approached to supporting international higher education.
Generally, a country’s financial support for international higher education focuses on three elements: student mobility, equitable access, and brain-drain prevention. Countries want to export their students while importing talent from abroad, and they want these mobile students to be drawn from a linguistically, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse mix. In the end, however, countries do not want the talented young people they send overseas to employ their knowledge and expertise abroad only.
Conversely, countries also want to benefit in some measure from the talent they invite in. Thus, countries must strike a balance from extrapolating the skills of foreigners and preserving and incentivizing the talent within their borders. Some countries that strongly finance international education are China, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Turkey.
Of the 26 countries evaluated, 23 performed strongly in terms of student mobility. The vast majority of countries have introduced student-friendly visa policies and even a few have increased access to their labor markets for foreign students, including Australia, Germany, and Russia.
An issue of concern in international higher education is quality assurance, as the focus in international education has been its expansion rather than its quality. Many countries’ education sectors are accessible to students, but lack the record of delivering quality education. The countries that delivered education best were those with established records of strong transitional education such as Australia, Malaysia, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Similarly, another area that necessitates further development is the recognition of transnational degrees. Only a small number of countries have formalized policies at the national level that recognize various degrees from abroad. Countries have considerably different education systems and award their degrees by assessing students differently. These degrees and certifications often do not translate when a student returns home.
The report also finds that higher education institutes are the major drivers of international higher education, not the government. To maximize the outcomes of international higher education, governments must work alongside existing universities to develop policies that would be mutually beneficial. In many cases, higher education institutions spearhead their own internationalization efforts to counteract the lack of national support for their goals.
The report notes that global university rankings are having an undue influence on universities themselves; this influence should not become too burdensome, the report advises.
The report calls for increased coordination between governments, educational institutions, and international bodies to set standards, reduce bureaucracy, and increase mobility. If there exists greater synergy between these entities, the outcomes of international education will be maximized for students and their host countries and institutions. “Policy coordination is likely to counteract some of the unintended consequences of international higher education, such as brain brain,” the report reads.
For interested readers, the full report on international higher education is available online.