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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
Updated: 7 hours 31 min ago

Australia abolishes popular 457 skilled worker visa

11 hours 28 min ago

The Australian government has reassured international students they are still welcome in the country, after announcing changes to its temporary worker visa last week caused concerns among prospective and current students.

The changes, which will see the 457 temporary skilled work visa replaced with a more stringent Temporary Skill Shortage visa in March 2018, will not directly affect student visas or the post-study work rights visa scheme. However industry stakeholders have reported a level of confusion from overseas colleagues.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unexpectedly abolished the scheme last week and said its replacement will ensure that “Australians, wherever possible, where vacancies are there, where job opportunities are there, Australians will be able to fill them.”

Several providers have identified uncertainty among students and education agents regarding how the changes will affect students’ work opportunities after study, while several overseas media outlets have been identified as providing inaccurate information on the changes.

“Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection clearly did not see it as their role to communicate who would not be affected by the changes to 457 visa settings,” IEAA chief executive Phil Honeywood told The PIE News.

“Wherever possible, where vacancies are there, where job opportunities are there, Australians will be able to fill them”

“It quickly became apparent that international students were making extensive use of social media to express their concerns about possible impacts,” he added.

Honeywood said those concerns prompted education minister Simon Birmingham to tweet, “Fact. Australia is open to educating the world,” with an accompanying graphic which has been circulated by Australian educators’ accounts.

At this stage, the minister has not released a formal media statement on the impact of the changes to international students.

Indirectly, fewer international students will be eligible for the upcoming TSS visa than for the 457 skilled worker visa program, as the upcoming scheme requires applicants have a higher level of English, a minimum two years’ work experience in their skilled occupation, and the list of eligible occupations will also be reduced.

The move remains in line with the Australian government’s efforts to separate ties between its overseas study visa program and skilled migration, after concerns of widespread fraud at the turn of the decade.

“It is a very responsive approach, but the fundamental difference is, it is focused relentlessly on the national interest and on ensuring that temporary migration visas are not a passport for foreigners to take up jobs that could and should be filled by Australians,” said Turnbull.

But educators aired their concerns that any changes could have a mild dampening effect on student enrolments.

“While the reforms do not have a direct relationship to education, international students do consider future employment opportunities in choosing study destinations,” ACPET chief executive Rod Camm said in a statement.

“Any perceived tightening of migration conditions may discourage some students from choosing Australia as their study destination,” he added.

While the abolition of the 457 visa system has caused anxiety among students, the number of student visa holders moving to a 457 visa has been gradually decreasing over the past three years.

Since 2012/13, the number of student visa holders who moved onto a 457 visa shrunk by almost 35% to 11,696 in 2015/16, despite student numbers hitting a record 554,179 in 2016.

Conversely, the post-study work stream of the 485 temporary graduate visa, which provides up to four years work depending on level of qualification completed, saw a marked increased in 2015/16, more than doubling from 9,400 to 21,300 from the previous year.

It is unclear if the removal of the 457 visa could mean fewer international students move in the opposite direction, converting from a temporary skilled worker visa to a student visa, as DIBP does not publicly provide those figures, but Honeywood estimated the numbers would be low.

“Australia has a competitive advantage right now amidst uncertainty in many other parts of the world – we need to safeguard that advantage and not undermine it in any way”

Meanwhile, Universities Australia also expressed concern the TSS could affect Australia’s university system and prevent them from recruiting “the best and brightest minds from around the world.”

In particular, UA said the work experience requirement would prevent universities from recruiting recent PhD graduates and also requested university lecturers and tutors be restored to the medium term skills list.

“Australia has a competitive advantage right now amidst uncertainty in many other parts of the world – we need to safeguard that advantage and not undermine it in any way,” UA chief executive Belinda Robinson said in a statement.

“The ability of our universities to bring brilliant minds into Australia is crucial to the global research collaborations that will help us to create new jobs and new industries for Australians.”

Immigration minister Peter Dutton subsequently vowed to take a broad view of what constitutes work experience, with his office telling the Australian Financial Review experience may vary depending on occupation, “such as research and teaching experience accumulated by PhDs.”

The post Australia abolishes popular 457 skilled worker visa appeared first on The PIE News.

Taiwan makes regional power play with bold education investment

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 07:14

Last month, Taiwan’s government unveiled a NT$1.3bn ($42m) program to attract and develop talent. In a country where the population growth rate is less than 1% and 70% of people are over the age of 25, setting up strategies to secure a fresh flow of skilled labour will be crucial to its future success.

The New Southbound Talent Development Policy – part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, announced last year– will also aim to solidify Taiwan’s influence with its neighbours in the region, with the exception of one: China.

“It emphasises the new thinking of people and connections with Taiwan”

International higher education sits at the heart of the strategy. Though many Taiwanese universities have longstanding ties with their counterparts around the world, a recent circular from the Ministry of Education stressed that the project is “different from the educational industry that has attracted students to come to Taiwan in the past”.

“It emphasises the new thinking of people and connections with Taiwan,” the notice read.

The circular invited submissions from both individual universities and consortia to take part in a seven-pronged plan. The ministry has promised financial support for initiatives ranging from straightforward student recruitment from the region to overseas internships and branch campuses, and expects to spend around NT$430m every year over the next three years.

Why look south?

Known for punching above its weight in the global economy, the New Southbound Policy shows Taiwan is no less ambitious when it comes to solidifying its strategic position in the surrounding region.

Though Beijing – and the rest of the world’s governments – see it as a territory of China, Taiwan is functionally independent from the PRC. President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in January 2016 set back still further Beijing’s ambitions to bring Taiwan under its control, and already tense relations between the two soured even more after the newly-elected US President Donald Trump’s call to Tsai in December recognised her as a sovereign leader.

Tsai was voted into power by an electorate anxious about Taiwan’s economic reliance on China, and vowed to bolster trade and diplomatic links with its neighbours.

It was this strategy that led to the birth of the New Southbound Policy: a move to strengthen ties with the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), six south Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.

“Taiwan is trying to be the hub among Asian countries”

“Since the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen, the government has been working very hard to implement several new initiatives in order to revitalise Taiwan’s economy and enhance relations with its neighbouring countries,” reads a statement from the Office of Trade Negotiations at the Executive Yuan, the Taiwanese government’s executive branch.

“With actions ranging from loosening visa restrictions to providing a more suitable environment for businesses looking to expand, the NSP provides a focused approach to enhance the effectiveness of such ongoing efforts.”

Education cooperation and training are an obvious area for these relations to be built. Though only a handful of countries recognise Taiwan’s sovereignty as a nation (mostly those to which Taiwan has provided aid), academic links have long existed where formal diplomatic ties have not.

The Talent Development Policy is divided into three goals: to cultivate a deep understanding of Southeast Asian languages, cultures and industries among university teachers and students; to cultivate professional, practical and Mandarin language skills of ASEAN and South Asian students; and to equip new immigrants’ children with Southeast Asian language skills and internship experience.

“Our government is focusing on the Asian countries because the relationship between Asian countries and Taiwan has a long history dating back to many years ago,” comments Tsai Pei-Shan, dean of Taipei Medical University’s office of global engagement.

“To foster the relationship, Taiwan is trying to be the hub among Asian countries,” she explains. “By procuring students from these countries, they might identify with Taiwan more than with other countries, and hopefully they will have some goodwill to foster the relationship between countries.”

“Like salmon swim back to home, our government looks at this as a way to bring talent back to students’ home countries”

“Sort of like salmon swim back to home, our government looks at this as a way to bring talent back to [students’] home countries, to help them to develop their science and education, and to build a partnership.”

The government’s aims of expanding its soft power in the region is clear in a recent MoE circular. “After graduation, students return to their home country to become a backbone cadre of overseas Taiwan business enterprises,” the document states.

“Taiwanese businessmen in Southeast Asia also have the task of assisting the government to expand economic and trade relations, promote international cooperation and cultural and educational exchanges.”

Seeking new talent

Even outside of this political context, internationalisation in higher education has a critical role to play in attracting foreign talent to Taiwan. The ageing population crisis means the student-age population is rapidly depleting, making international student recruitment a more urgent task than it is for other countries.

But the country has some way to go until it can offer students a lean and high quality higher education system. Taiwan has 168 universities – “way too much”, says Chiang Hsaio-Wei of National Tsing Hua University’s office of global affairs. “Many universities, especially private universities ranking in the second half will have problems, including attracting students,” he predicts. Some will be forced to merge or close in the next few years.

And of course, it’s not just universities that are in need of fresh entrants, but the workforce. “The talent needed for a revitalised economy has to come from higher education,” Taiwan’s then-President Ma Ying-jeou said in 2014, announcing a target to attract 150,000 students from overseas by 2020, accounting for around 10% of higher education enrolments. In 2015, the number stood at 110,182.

Mobility imbalance

In 2015, there were 28,550 students from New Southbound countries in Taiwan. In contrast, only 16,104 Taiwanese students studied in those countries the same year, with the lion’s share going to Australia (13,582), according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

By contrast, 21,127 Taiwanese students headed to the US in 2015/16, according to IIE’s Open Doors data.

“In the past, Taiwanese universities tended to collaborate with universities in the West”

“In the past, Taiwanese universities tended to collaborate with universities in the West, such as schools in the US or the UK, for example,” observes Tsai Pei-Shan of Taipei Medical University. In recent years at TMU, collaboration has also grown with Japanese universities in areas such as pharmacology and pharmacotherapy, she adds.

Despite historic links, building collaboration with countries closer to home – particularly exchange partnerships and student mobility – has come with some challenges, she says.

“Students were often reluctant to go abroad to these so-called Asian countries in the past, because they think that they don’t have anything to learn from these countries,” she explains. “But our government tries to convince students that isn’t the case.”

The New Southbound Talent Development Policy targets not only inbound movement, but also outbound. Universities are being encouraged (through financial support from the Ministry of Education) to form transnational alliances, as well as to set up internships overseas for their students.

“We indeed actively choose to work with Southeast Asian countries, because there will be several advantages: the first is the policy is an encouragement,” comments Liu Wei-te, deputy dean of the office of international affairs at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology.

YunTech already has internship links with Vietnam and Malaysia, and intends to forge more, he says.

“We indeed actively choose to work with Southeast Asian countries: the policy is an encouragement”

But the policy goes further than just telling students to spend time overseas, notes Liu. The MoE is also providing funding for language training to prepare students – both to encourage them to do so and to make sure they get the most out of the experience.

“We need more students who have language skills before they go to Southeast Asian countries,” he explains. “We have opened [courses in] Indonesian, Vietnamese and Malaysian languages for our students – therefore they will have good preparation before they go there.”

New Southbound students in Taiwan

While the outward flow of Taiwanese students to New Southbound countries is nascent, Taiwan has a strong history of attracting students from the region.

Students from the target countries made up just a quarter (25.9%) of the overseas students in Taiwanese higher education in 2015, though this share has dropped slightly – from 27% in 2014 and 28.2% in 2013.

The great majority of students (26,756) come from within ASEAN, and Malaysia is the biggest source of inbound students by a huge margin. It accounted for more than half of New Southbound students in Taiwan in 2015 (14,946) – more than triple the number from the second and third largest cohorts, from Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Taiwan has been very actively recruiting students out of Malaysia”

Research commissioned by Taylor’s University in Malaysia, sourced from the Taiwanese Embassy together with independent data, suggested that this number had climbed to around 16,000 by 2016, more than doubling in five years and making it the third most popular destination for Malaysian students.

“Our research has been showing that Taiwan has been very actively recruiting students out of Malaysia,” notes Perry Hobson, pro vice-chancellor (global engagement) international relations at Taylor’s.

“Where historically Malaysians went to the UK and Australia, Taiwan has now come in as a very strong contender.” Australia is still comfortably ahead as Malaysians’ top study destination, attracting some 21,000 a year, but Taiwan is gaining on the UK, which attracted around 17,000 in 2016 but whose market share has dropped in recent years.

Like Indonesia and Vietnam, Malaysia is one country where a large proportion of the students who come to study in Taiwan are of Chinese heritage – referred to by universities as ‘overseas Chinese’. Unlike Mainland Chinese students, whose numbers are restricted for political reasons by the Taiwanese government, these students are not subject to caps.

In fact, the number of overseas Chinese students studying across all levels of education in Taiwan tripled from 8,343 in 1997 to 24,649 in 2015. The vast majority – 21,782 – were in higher education.

“The so-called overseas Chinese, they may not speak Mandarin but because their parents are from China they like to send their students to Taiwan,” adds Hsiao Wei-Chiang at NTHU, where around 400 foreign students enrolled have Chinese roots.

Widening the net

Of course, Taiwanese universities are keen to increase their student recruitment from across the New Southbound markets – not just those who have Chinese roots.

Universities are building their English-taught offerings to target not only Anglophone markets but also students within Asia who’ve studied English, and others are introducing facilities such as prayer rooms and Halal catering for Muslim cohorts from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We’ll try, I hope, some structural changes so we can adapt more,” says Chi Lee Pei-Wha, dean of the international and cross-strait affairs office at Tamkang University, Taiwan’s largest private university.

“We can have some specialised course, some Chinese courses for those who don’t speak Chinese; and to have more quality English taught programs,” she suggests.

“Our government would like to enlarge or globalise the viewpoint of our higher education students”

The talent development policy looks to lay this kind of groundwork both in and outside of Taiwan. One of its aims is to set up in-country centres through universities to enable students in the target countries both to learn about Taiwanese culture and to learn the language skills that would help them to study in the country.

This is not an altogether new strategy. Tsing Hua University opened its first Taiwan education centre in India around six years ago with the help of the Ministry of Education, and now operates six across the country.

“That was six years ago and the government at the time was also thinking about Southbound,” explains Chiang. “We can teach Mandarin, we can promote Taiwanese culture, and also recruit Indian students.”

Though not all of the students the centres teach come to study in Taiwan, many do. Tsing Hua now has 200 Indian students enrolled – the most of any university in Taiwan. The initiative has made it “the champion for Indian students”, Chiang says, demonstrating that the Ministry of Education is learning from its past successes by pushing to create more.

The Talent Development Policy arm of the New Southbound Policy’s central aim is “people-oriented, two-way communication and resource sharing”, according to the Ministry of Education.

With the financial backing and political will of the MoE behind them, universities are embracing the policy wholeheartedly.

“Recently, our government would like to enlarge or globalise the viewpoint of our higher education students, especially for Southern Asia,” reflects Liu at YunTech. “So we participate several times in educational exhibitions to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and also Myanmar, places like that.

“Almost all of the universities, not only the national but also private universities, are trying to join, like us, in these activities.”

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England assures EU student funding, fees through 2018

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 05:38

EU students studying at an English university or further education institution in 2018/19 will continue to pay the same fees as domestic students for the duration of their degree as well as accessing loan funding and grants, the government has confirmed.

The announcement came as part of a tumultuous week for the UK higher education sector, during which Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election and rumours swirled that May is willing to soften her long-held stance on non-EU students being included in net migration figures.

“This announcement gives EU students the certainty they need as well as giving our universities clarity to plan ahead”

Announcing the tuition fee assurances for EU students today, Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said: “We have been clear about our commitment to the UK’s world-class higher education sector.”

“This will provide reassurance to the brightest minds from across Europe to continue applying to study in the UK, safe in the knowledge financial assistance is available if needed.”

Johnson also confirmed that EU nationals remain eligible for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions in 2018/19.

The announcement will come as a relief to the education sector, which has been pushing for funding assurances as the UK prepares to exit from the EU. It follows a similar guarantee from the Scottish government last month.

“This announcement gives EU students the certainty they need when considering studying in the UK as well as giving our universities clarity to plan ahead,” commented Tim Bradshaw, acting director of the Russell Group.

Alistair Jarvis, deputy chief executive of Universities UK, also welcomed the announcement but stressed: “It is now vital that this announcement is communicated effectively to prospective students across Europe.”

 

“Moving forward, we need to see a new post-Brexit immigration policy that encourages all international students to choose to study in the UK coupled with welcoming messages from government, recognising their hugely positive social and economic impact on the UK,” he added.

Higher education stakeholders also expressed cautious optimism this week amid rumours that Prime Minister Theresa May could be softening her stance on including non-EU students in net migration targets.

The sector has lobbied for international students to be counted not as migrants, to ensure they are not targeted by the government’s efforts to reduce inbound migration.

The House of Lords has tabled an amendment to Johnson’s Higher Education and Research Bill – a sweeping package of reforms that aims to open up degree granting powers to more private providers and enable universities to raise tuition fees based on teaching quality – to remove students from net migration figures.

The amendment has yet to be discussed in the House of Commons and its inclusion in the final bill is not guaranteed.

However, there is speculation that the government will offer a “regulatory compromise” on how non-EU student numbers are calculated in order to ensure the bill passes before the general election in June, The Times reported this week.

“Any decision to take international students – not out of the statistics but – out of the drive to cut net migration would obviously be hugely welcomed and would send a powerful signal both in the UK and around the world that we really do want to welcome all those who can benefit from a great British education and to see these numbers once again grow,” commented Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

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ELT expenditures in Malta slip as enrolments stall

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 05:19

The contribution English language students make to Malta’s tourism sector has dropped on the back of stagnant ELT enrolments. According to an annual report from Deloitte, ELT students accounted for 8.1% of all tourist expenditure last year, down from 9.8% of total tourist spending in 2015.

ELT students in Malta spent around €139m last year, down from €161m in 2015, and accounted for 10.7% of all total guest nights in the country.

Profitability of the ELT sector fell for the second year in a row as well. Profit per student week was predicted to have dropped to €35.86 per student, a fall from €42.2 in 2015.

Last year, the country welcomed 76,730 students to the country – a minor increase of 1.6% on the previous year.

“The international scene in 2016 has not been without strife”

This cohort of visitors accounted for 3.9% of all tourist arrivals. The country’s ELT body, FELTOM, argues that the sector is facing challenges as a result of visa policy for long-stay students outside of the EU.

Speaking to The PIE News earlier this month, Genevieve Abela, CEO of FELTOM, said the country does not have “enough valid government policies to encourage length of stay.”

Non-EU students who wish to enrol in a language program for longer than 90 days need to change visas in-country, but the process is reportedly challenging for students.

Abela said at the Deloitte report launch that the association is currently looking at policies to ease the accessibility of the visa process, including “the introduction for work-study permit and walk-in applications – all of which would give an essential boost to local intake opening up for international students from different markets”.

A 4% decline in student weeks was in part attributed to the visa situation.

“The international scene in 2016 has not been without strife and, as indicated in these statistics, this has unfortunately had, and will continue to have, a backlash on the local industry,” said Abela.

“This is why it is important that Malta is prepared to counter this with diversified, unique, and collaborative measures.”

Despite the fall in profitability, gross revenue has grown consistently since 2013, reaching €322.7 per student week in 2016. However, expenditure has risen alongside the revenue, increasing to €286.85 per student week last year.

Direct cost elements rose by 6.1%, according to the report, and overhead costs increased by 4.5% “driven mainly by increases in marketing spend, rent and non-teaching payroll cost”.

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English skills increase workplace perks

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:05

Ukraine, China and Iraq are the three countries where employers are most likely to offer a better starting package to employees with good English skills, according to a new survey that highlights an English language skills gap at businesses worldwide.

The vast majority of employers in Ukraine (83%) said they would offer additional benefits to English-speaking employees, along with 80% in China and 79% in Iraq.

Around two-thirds of employers in Saudi Arabia and Chile also said they would make a more attractive job offer in exchange for English skills.

In fact, more than half (57%) of the businesses in non-English speaking countries that took part in this year’s QS Global Employer survey said they provide a better starting package to potential employees with good English skills – including a higher salary, faster progression or more senior roles.

The top 10 non-English speaking countries where employers said they were most likely to make a better offer to a candidate with good English skills

They survey by QS and Cambridge English of more than 5,300 businesses worldwide, showed that nearly seven in 10 (69%) of employers based in countries and territories where English is not an official language said that English is nevertheless significant for their organisation.

More than 40% of these employers reported a skills gap when it comes to recruiting employees with good English skills. This reduces to 25% across middle and upper management.

The findings were consistent across all industries, noted Blandine Bastié, country head, UK and Ireland at Cambridge English Language Assessment: “In every industry, there is at least a 40% skills gap between the English language skills required and the skills that are available, irrespective of business size.” 

Large enterprises employing more than 2,500 people were more likely to value English than micro-businesses of fewer than 10, but the gap was not significant – across all business sizes, between 67% and 78% of employers valued English.

The extent to which English is considered important varies greatly by country. In Germany and Portugal, for example, employers were unanimous; whereas in Chile, just under half (48%) said English was an important skill for the business.

Aerospace and defence was the area of business where English was most valued, with 89% of employers in non-English speaking countries rating it as important, followed by law, energy and telecoms.

Meanwhile, just half of those in the construction industry said the language is important.

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H-1B review needed, but ‘Hire American’ is the wrong approach, say educators

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 05:07

‘Buy American, Hire American’ rhetoric risks eroding the attractiveness of the US as a study destination, educators warned as Donald Trump’s newest executive order marked the administration taking its first steps towards H-1B visa reform.

Though they acknowledged that a review of the skilled worker system is necessary, stakeholders labelled the surrounding rhetoric wrongheaded and populist.

Overhauling the skilled worker route is a key tenet of the executive order that Trump signed yesterday. In it, he instructs the heads of the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to suggest ways to curb abuse of the system.

“The statement has a racist tone and it will surely affect the future of America as an attractive study destination”

“Widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay,” Trump said ahead of signing the order yesterday.

Trump took aim at the lottery by which H-1B visas, a key route to post-study work for foreign graduates, are allocated.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery – and that’s wrong,” he said.

“Instead, they should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.”

Addressing reporters at a press briefing later in the day, a senior administration official said the lottery allocation favours large companies flooding the system with applications for “a very large number of visas… and then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas”.

Proposed reforms should also take into account wages in order to return the H-1B visa program to its “original state of intent” as a skilled labour program, the official said.

“Many people will be surprised to know that about 80% of H-1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields,” they noted.

Speaking with The PIE News, Sonya Singh, managing director of India-based SIEC, is one of many in the sector who have long understood the flaws in the H-1B system.

“In my opinion, the changes are required in the H-1B visa program to address the issues of abuse and misuse of the visa program, but to link it to the Trump Slogan of ‘Buy American, Hire American’ seems to be a sweeping populist statement rather than a deeply assessed or thought about policy,” she commented.

“The statement has a racist tone and it will surely affect the future of America as an attractive study destination,” she continued. “Genuine students who look forward to some work experience in the US after finishing their studies are being put off every day by these statements.”

Eddie West, director of international programs at UC Berkeley Extension, echoed that the system “deserves review”.

“What’s more, adopting a more merit-based approach to adjudicating applications doesn’t strike me as a bad idea per se,” he said.

“Adopting a more merit-based approach to adjudicating applications isn’t a bad idea per se”

“However, in terms of international student mobility to the US, the executive order could deal another negative blow, at least in the short-term,” he added. “The executive order is introducing more uncertainty… that’s likely to deter students from opting to study in the US, and make them look toward more hospitable and stable destinations, like Canada.”

Sushil Sukhwani, director at India-based Edwise, said the real problem at the moment is the fear of the unknown.

“Announcements such as this, which are not clear, create anxiety amongst students as they are unable to understand the factual position,” he said. “This has a negative impact on the prospective student applications.”

The medium- to long-term impact of the executive order will depend to a great degree on the policies federal agencies implement in response. A policy that favours graduates from US universities, for example, would likely be good news for the higher education sector.

In the current system, 20,000 visas are reserved for international students with master’s degrees, which are exempt from salary thresholds. International students seeking their first graduate job may miss out if this exemption is lost or if the salary threshold rises, said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder and CEO of interEDGE.org, which specialises in international student career success.

However, Roger Brindley, vice president of the University of South Florida’s USF World division, pointed out that the executive order appears to be targeting “lower paid foreign nationals who are alleged to be denying employment to American workers”, and so may not directly affect foreign postgraduate students.

“The students who are graduating with a postgraduate or doctoral degree in engineering are looking for those middle, upper management jobs that we do not believe will be directly affected by that executive order,” he said.

“The students we are bringing to the University of South Florida, we expect, will have ample opportunity to seek H-1B visas in those higher skilled categories,” he added, given that foreign talent is needed to fill skills gaps in the US labour market in some industries, such as IT.

Still, Canada and Australia are likely to benefit from the policy as students who are seeking post-study work or immigration opportunities “consider other options”, predicted Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Global Reach.

However, he was nevertheless optimistic the US will remain an attractive study destination.

“The US will remain the first option for students seeking research and high end universities,” he explained. “We must remember that the best universities are in the US.”

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UK: int’l students top NUS’s Brexit platform

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 09:45

Around two thirds of students want to vote on the terms of the Brexit deal, according to a survey by the National Union of Students.

The union has placed ensuring international students are welcome in the UK as a top priority in its Brexit negotiations campaign.

The survey, which was conducted this month, found that out of 2,685 students between the ages of 16-24, 63% said they would like a referendum on the terms of the UK exiting the European Union.

Following the prime minister’s decision to trigger Article 50 last month, the union set out four priorities for education which it will push for in the run up to the negotiations, with safeguarding entry for international students topping the list.

“We are fighting to shape the terms on which Brexit takes place”

“A hard Brexit will continue the hostile approach to international students, who have become easy targets – both on campuses and through government policies,” the statement said.

“We believe urgent action is needed to show that international students are welcome.”

The deal must also provide clarity for EU nationals, according to NUS, and maintain student mobility.

“The Erasmus program or alternative programs like it should be a priority in negotiations,” said the statement.

“For Britain to develop a “truly global” approach we will need internationally literate graduates.”

The fourth priority is to preserve UK-EU academic collaboration.

Malia Bouattia, president of NUS, said the union is committed to making sure students do not suffer as a result of the referendum result.

“We are fighting to shape the terms on which Brexit takes place,” she said. “This comes with a certain difficulty, because of the lack of clarity coming from Westminster, but it is our collective task as a movement to fight for better education, to fight for students, for migrants, and for all those who are faced with adverse circumstances.”

“The way we rise to these challenges will shape the future of our sector and our society for years to come.”

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Riley Batchelor, EduGrowth, Australia

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 04:23
At its 2016 launch, business accelerator EduGrowth set itself the ambitious target of helping Australian providers reach 100 million learners by 2025. CEO Riley Batchelor talks to The PIE about how his company plans to support Australian edtech innovation, connect start-ups and traditional education providers and what defines a learner in the 21st century.

The PIE: What is your background in edtech?

RB: I’ve been working in edtech for the last five to six years. I previously worked in technology start-ups, so I knew the technology space. I got into education technology through General Assembly, a US-based education technology company that focuses on teaching people the 21st-century skills that are needed in today’s economy: software engineering, web development, user experience design, digital product manager, digital marketing, all that stuff where there’s a huge demand for people working in those specific fields. They teach through in-person and online courses.

I brought the company to Australia, set it up in Sydney and expanded to Melbourne, then later into Singapore and Hong Kong, where I cut my teeth in running an education company in multiple locations. General Assembly as a whole had 15 to 20 locations around the world.

“The big difference between education and technology is there’s a huge focus on quality in education, as there should be”

The PIE: What were the noticeable differences between the technology sector and the education sector?

RB: There’s some pretty big differences to what I was in before. I ran some fashion tech companies, media tech and advertising tech; they’re all consumer focused. Retail, commerce, those sorts of verticals, which is quite transactional. You’re selling one thing to one person and hoping they’re going to come back.

The big difference around education is there are much higher levels of regulation. There’s a huge focus on quality, as there should be. Quality of education, quality of delivery, quality of teaching methods, teachers and instruction, and heavy emphasis on outcomes. Significant investment, as well. You’re taking a A$15,000-20,000 course where a student’s putting their life on hold for three months to six months. It’s a bigger commitment than buying a piece of fashion online.

All of those differences in the business model were new things for me to get used to, but I want to stay in the edtech industry for the next 20 years. The idea of helping someone gain new skills that they can use to get a job to change their life, it’s great to be a part of that instead of a more transactional type of business.

The PIE: Do those differences present more opportunities?

RB: I think so. I think the [legislation around] quality and regulation create some barriers to entry for people coming into the market, but generally, there’s a huge amount of opportunity in the space. I think there is a lot of change happening in the education market, as everyone in the industry knows, so there’s a huge amount of opportunity there. And combining education and technology – one can’t survive without the other, so bringing those two together is a huge opportunity as an industry.

The PIE: How did you get involved with EduGrowth?

RB: I was asked to get involved through a contact of mine in the industry, [Navitas Ventures chief executive] Patrick Brothers, who was the chairman of EduGrowth at the time and was getting it off the ground. He pitched the idea of a billion learners by 2025 learning from companies and education institutions from around the world. There’s this huge global, borderless education opportunity and we need to bring the start-ups together with the traditional education players.

“There’s this huge global, borderless education opportunity and we need to bring the start-ups together with the traditional education players”

I was sold on the vision from the start. I’ve built individual businesses many times before. I wanted to have a go at building a community organisation working on building an industry.

The PIE: What are the goals of EduGrowth?

RB: The top level goal we have is to build an Australian education industry ecosystem that can serve a percentage of that billion learners by 2025. We want to get 10% for Australian education companies: 100 million learners by 2025.

The sub-level goal is we need a strong educational technology industry. You can’t go and set up campuses all around the world to serve 100 million people, it’s just not going to work. It’s going to be done through scalable systems and through technology. It’s already there, there’s about 350 edtech start-ups in Australia. We want to double that as quickly as we can and continue to grow the industry.

The other big goal we have is to create a collaborative network of all the people within the education industry ecosystem. We want the start-ups talking to the universities, the school principals talking to the start-ups, teachers involved in the equation, international locations and partnerships and students: just trying to create a network for everyone to come together to achieve that goal.

The PIE: The one billion learners statistic comes from a Deloitte Access report referenced in the AIE2025 Roadmap which accompanied the National Strategy. The roadmap only identified a potential 1% of that population for Australia, 10 million learners, so you’re really targeting that market?

RB: I think 1% sounds too easy. We want to set ourselves a bit of a bigger goal that the industry could get behind as well.

What we first need to work out is how far we are towards that goal right now. If we include a start-up like [learning management software] Moodle into that equation, we’ve only got four million left [of the 10 million target]. So, you see, those numbers are quite achievable. Out of those 350 edtech companies, they’re serving millions, tens of millions of learners already through not just traditional education models but online learning through apps, through iPad games. There’s a huge amount of activity already happening, so we want to push a little bit further and go for 10%.

The PIE: What do you define as a learner?

RB: To be honest, we’re still working out the exact definition in terms of working up towards that goal. But it’s someone interacting with or being serviced by a company that’s delivering educational content. That could be micro-courses or several minutes on an iPad game for a primary school student, all the way through to a four- or five-year online MBA degree.

“We’re getting into the area of informal learning or casual learning, at-home learning. It doesn’t have to be in the classroom”

The PIE: So you’re also repositioning what education and learning is?

RB: Yeah, we’re getting into the area of informal learning or casual learning, at-home learning. It doesn’t have to be in the classroom, accredited learning. There’s a huge amount of change that’s happening in the education space so we’re looking at of that.

The PIE: So how is EduGrowth working towards those goals?

RB: We want to create that network, so we run events, we have an online platform, we’re connecting with as many people in the industry as we can. We’ve got this map of stakeholders that are made up of start-ups, universities, teachers, school principals, investors, mentors, everyone that’s interested in working in that space. We want to bring them together in person through events and through our online platform.

Then we have some actual programs that are aligned with our goal of building the edtech industry. We have several acceleration programs that are focused on edtech companies that are in different stages: the early stage, the mid-stage and the late stage. There are launch, full-time and scale accelerator programs.

The PIE: How has EduGrowth been received by institutions and people who have been in the industry for quite a while in a more traditional capacity?

RB: It’s been pretty well received. We have the six founding members that’ve each put in $300,000 for the next five years. We’ve signed up some amazing partners.

“We have the six founding higher education members that’ve each put in $300,000 each for the next five years”

I think it depends on the sector. The higher education sector, I think they’re realising this education technology is really important. It’s going to help them deliver better quality education, it’s going to create some efficiencies for them in all parts of the business, it’s going to make teachers’ and academics’ jobs and lives easier. So we’ve seen some great reception there.

There’s a little lower level of understanding of education technology and its benefits in the K-12 space. There’s a lot of innovation that’s happening; there’s at least half or maybe more edtech companies in Australia focused there. Some of the schools can be inundated by all of the potential solutions they can go to, so we’re also trying to act as a bit of a filter, to be that representative of the edtech companies in the industry, to help those schools understand those opportunities.

The PIE: What are the next steps for EduGrowth after this?

RB: We’ll continue to do more of these programs; we’ll build our network. We want to bring on some more founding partners from other parts of Australia. We have founding partners in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and we’re looking to bring some partners in South Australia and Western Australia, to allow us to extend that network.

Keep running these programs; increase the amount of people we’re interacting with through the programs; grow the volume in the capacity of the events we’re running, just to make that network bigger and bigger.

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Taiwan makes huge investment in building regional HE ties

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 03:42

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has announced a three-year, multi-million dollar program of higher education internationalisation initiatives as part of its New Southbound Policy – the national policy to strengthen ties with 18 countries within the ASEAN community, South Asia and Australasia.

The ministry’s Higher Education Department has issued a call for participation in seven internationalisation initiatives that form part of the education and training arm of the policy, the New Southbound Talent Development Policy, including overseas internships and summer schools for international students.

It will allocate a projected NT$430m (US$14.1m) each year for the next three years to initiatives set up by both individual universities and consortia.

“We actively choose to work with Southeast Asian countries: the policy is an encouragement”

The funding will encourage universities to deepen their internationalisation efforts and links with Southeast Asia, Wei-Te Liu, deputy dean of office of international affairs at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, forecasted.

“We indeed actively choose to work with Southeast Asian countries, because there will be several advantages: the first is the policy is an encouragement,” he told The PIE News.

YunTech already has internship links with Vietnam and Malaysia, and intends to forge more, he said.

The ministry has pledged funding in seven areas. Individual universities can apply for financial support for their international recruitment efforts; to set up summer schools for international students; and to establish overseas internships for domestic students in specified areas such as agriculture, engineering and medicine.

Institutions also have the option of forming consortia to develop Southbound initiatives.

By teaming up, they will be able to apply for subsidies in four areas: creating academic alliance organisations with ASEAN; regional academies for economy and trade, culture and industry in ASEAN or South Asian countries; regional teaching centres to teach Southeast Asian languages; and regional talent schemes to develop expertise in culture, economy and trade.

Each of the initiatives aims to foster longstanding relationships with students or businesses in the target countries, and have detailed criteria for how to carry them out.

Summer school courses, for example, must be longer than 14 days and teach at least 25 students. They are intended not only to enable students from the region to enjoy a “cultural experience” in Taiwan, but also to introduce them to the idea of pursuing a degree in Taiwan in the future, it says.

“The core objective is people-oriented, two-way communication and resource sharing”

“In addition to optimising the current policies and measures, the core objective of the New Southbound Talent Development Policy is people-oriented, two-way communication and resource sharing,” the circular reads.

It aims to cultivate “substantive education exchanges with South Asian countries, deepen the interaction between the two sides to achieve mutual benefit, win-win talent cultivation cooperation and a vision for regional economic development vision.”

Universities that wish to receive support from the ministry will also need to provide match funding for their chosen initiatives, Pei-Shan Tsai, dean of Taipei Medical University’s office of global engagement, told The PIE News.

TMU is currently discussing plans to open some form of transnational teaching centre in Southeast Asia, Tsai said.

“It won’t be to teach languages as we have a healthcare focus, but we are considering setting up branch campus in these countries, like a nursing school or even a nutrition school,” she commented.

Funding for the seven higher education initiatives comes from a NT$1bn fund overseen by the Ministry of Education’s cross-departmental New Southbound Talent Development Policy taskforce.

The taskforce’s expansive remit covers three objectives: to equip new immigrants’ children with Southeast Asian language skills and internship experience; to cultivate a deep understanding of Southeast Asian languages, cultures and industries among university teachers and students; and to cultivate the professional, practical and Mandarin language skills of ASEAN and South Asian students.

Announced last year, the New Southbound Policy is part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s push to “revitalise Taiwan’s economy and enhance relations with its neighbouring countries”, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It aims to build social and economic cooperation with the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam – along with Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Australia and New Zealand.

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Brazil unveils new HE internationalisation scheme

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:13

The Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), the Brazilian federal government HE funding and assessment body, recently announced the introduction of a new international mobility financing regime to replace the Ciências Sem Fronteiras (“Sciences without Borders”) initiative.

Mais Ciência, Mais Desenvolvimento- Johanna Döbereiner (“More Science, More Development”) will bring about profound changes in the structure and functioning of Brazilian federal funding and will grant more autonomy to Brazilian universities.

As a result of the political and economic upheaval of the past two years, Brazilian and international observers have had to pass through a period of intense uncertainty as to the future of higher education funding.

This confusion appears to be lifting now with the announcement of the new program, which is due to be published in full in July, in time for the second semester of the Brazilian academic year.

“The role that will be played by HEIs is the main advancement of the new program”

Compared to the centralised structure of CSF, where control over decision making was retained at the federal level, giving little autonomy to the university and therefore little contact between hosting and sending institutions, MSMD will require each individual university to form a coherent elaborated internationalisation strategy together with international partners in order to gain access to mobility funding.

The scheme represents a major departure for Brazilian public science funding, which has typically tended towards centrally administered funds going to individuals or individual departments.

It will undoubtedly be a test of many universities’ policymaking capabilities, but it will mean that in future universities will be much more able to engage in consistent and strategic way.

Universities have welcomed the new responsibility the program allots them. “The role that will be played by HEIs is the main advancement of the new program,” José Celso, president of Brazil’s international education association, FAUBAI, told The PIE News.

“The program will stimulate more comprehensive strategies and collaboration,” he added. “HEIs will have to be more proactive and more involved.”

The program has three primary goals: to improve Brazilian internationalisation, to enhance bilateral relationships with overseas partners, and to upskill graduate students who can bring their knowledge back to Brazilian higher education.

Although the final details are not yet published, it is expected that the guidelines for the quadrennial reports will contain plans for internationalisation of curricula (including English language delivery), staff attraction and retention and the development of strategic partnerships with foreign institutions.

Universities must submit their proposals by October, according to Celso. Funding for the scheme is expected to be finalised with Brazil’s 2018 budget.

In contrast with the CSF program, the bulk of funding for mobility will be specifically targetted towards postgraduate students and early career researchers looking to develop research abroad.

At FAUBAI’s annual conference this month, director of international relations at CAPES, Connie McManus Pimentel, explained, “Now, we will invest in institutions instead of investing in individuals. Universities will be the focus.”

She went on to say, “We will finance what they need to be better, thinking of different ways to do internationalisation.”

“Now, we will invest in institutions instead of investing in individuals”

In the short-term, this means that foreign universities wishing to form research partnerships would be well advised to contact Brazilian partner institutions in order to assist their attempts to gain funding.

They can also look forward to more structured and deeper relationships with Brazilian universities, albeit with a likely reduction in the number of incoming students compared to CSF.

In the medium to long-term, this should encourage Brazilian universities to coordinate on an institutional level, making them easier collaboration partners looking to engage in sustained inward and outward mobility programs.

Celso is optimistic it will improve those symmetrical partnerships with overseas institutions.

“Mobility should be framed through a bilateral partnership and seek to modernise the curricula of the Brazilian courses,” he said.

“This situation will require the foreign institutions to approach the Brazilian ones because, in the future, the financing for the internationalisation activities will be given mainly through these partnerships.”

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Russia’s outbound program extended to 2025

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 00:59

The Russian government has granted an extension to its federal study abroad scholarship fund, which supports students to go abroad for postgraduate degrees provided they return to Russia to work.

The Global Education Scholarship Program was established in 2014, and carried out its pilot phase until 2016. Last month, the Russian government signed a decree to guarantee its continuation until 2025.

The total number of students who can study abroad through the program is 718, said Ksenia Ivanenko, program manager, but due to the popularity the program has garnered, and the 25,000 registrations currently on the website, the quota is expected to be met soon.

“The program initially was designed to develop the regions, especially in Siberia, and remote areas”

“Once the quota of 718 students is filled, the project office is expected to monitor the current students and help them with job placement,” she told The PIE News.

“For instance, if a student starts the study program in 2017 and studies up to five years, he or she comes back in 2022. With the three-year home residency and job requirements, we have 2025.”

The scholarship program funds each student a fixed amount of $47,000 for their studies, which can be put towards tuition fees and living expenses.

Initially, it had planned to fund 1,000 postgraduate students, but the currency crash at the end of 2014 reduced the number, according to Ivanenko.

To be eligible, students need to be accepted into one of 288 top universities across 32 countries.

The program also requires that upon completing their studies overseas, the students must return to Russia to work for a minimum of three years.

The recently signed decree has increased the proportion of returnees who will be able to work in Moscow or St Petersburg to 25%. When the program was first implemented, only 10% of returnees were able to work in these cities in a bid to aid progress in less central regions.

“The program initially was designed to develop the regions, especially in Siberia, and remote areas, so we can talk about equal access, so citizens of the Russian Federation no matter where they are located they can get opportunities to study abroad,” said Ivanenko.

Among the 495 students selected for the program to date, the UK has been the most popular destination, chosen by 176 students, followed by Australia and Germany.

The scholarship program also has a job placement service which helps the returnees secure employment on their return, at one of over 600 companies.

“Our department starts helping them with some training, how to write résumés, how to get through interviews,” said Ivanenko. “And they’re also in touch with HR departments of those companies, so it means we provide as much assistance as we can.”

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UK: 74% of public value int’l students when economic worth revealed

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 09:56

Around three-quarters of the British public would like to see the same amount – or more – international students in the UK, after finding out the economic contribution they make to the country, according to a recent poll.

The survey of 4,043 respondents also found over three-quarters would agree with the statement that international students should stay and work in the UK before returning home.

Conducted by ComRes for Universities UK, the research crucially found that people’s attitudes towards the amount of international students in the country were different before realising their economic contribution and the jobs they generate.

“The general public … can see the benefits from letting students from the across the world to enter our workforce”

Twenty-four per cent said they would like to see more international students in the UK, which reached as high as 30% for respondents in London.

Meanwhile, just over one in 10 (13%) respondents wished to see less international students in the country.

However, more than 20% of respondents held that belief before they were told the economic impact of international students to the country. Similarly, just 12% of those surveyed wanted to see more international students in the country before knowing the economic gains.

The latest figures from Universities UK illustrate international students are worth over £25bn to the UK economy, supporting the equivalent of 206,600 full-time jobs across the country.

Only a quarter of total respondents said they consider international students to be immigrants – 25% for EU students and 26% for those outside the EU.

More respondents considered academics and researchers coming to work at UK universities as immigrants – 38% if they’re from the EU and 41% if they’re not.

“While the UK government continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its target to reduce migration, there is a continued pressure to reduce their numbers, adding to the perception that they are not welcome here,” said Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK.

International students’ inclusion in the net migration figures has been a widely-debated topic in the UK higher education sector, with many UK politicians supporting the call to have them removed from the count. Prime Minister Theresa May, however, has remained firm on the issue.

On the topic of post-study work, the survey found that three quarters of respondents believe international graduates should stay and work in the UK before returning home, in order to contribute to the economy, as opposed to 25% who said they should immediately return home.

“Why wouldn’t we want Scottish employers to receive the benefit of their skills for a few years?”

The highest proportion of those who agree with post-study work options for international students were from Scotland, where 83% of respondents agreed with the statement.

Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said this figure should “give the Home Office something to reflect on”.

“The general public, like everyone in the higher education sector and business community can see the benefits from letting students from the across the world to enter our workforce,” she said.

“We spend years educating international students, why wouldn’t we want Scottish employers to receive the benefit of their skills for a few years?”

The research was conducted online across five days at the end of March.

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Duolingo English Test gaining in US admissions

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 06:33

More than 60 higher education institutions are now using the English language proficiency exam developed by leading language learning app, Duolingo, to test applicants’ English language skills.

The Duolingo English Test (formerly called Duolingo Test Center) has been adopted by universities across the US and South America including Colgate, UCLA and the University of Notre Dame as a cheaper and more convenient alternative to traditional exams.

The exam can be taken on demand on a mobile phone or personal computer for $50. Students’ exam results, including a 90-second video interview, are sent to admissions offices within 48 hours of completion.

“It’s something students could arrange to do from their iPhone at a cost that is a fraction of the other tests”

According to the company, institutions are using Duolingo to make decisions on waitlisted candidates, but around 40 are also using it as a direct alternative to TOEFL and IELTS exams, including Yale University.

“For many years they were the only shows in town and this year we were persuaded to use DET and compared the characteristics,” said Keith Light, director of international admissions at Yale.

“We found it appealing because of its portability. Students don’t have to go to a test centre. To take the TOEFL or IELTS, they tend to have to travel some distance at a relatively high cost.

“It’s something students could arrange to do from their iPhone at a cost that is a fraction of the other tests.”

To ensure results are authentic, the exam is moderated by human proctors who verify the student’s identity and guard against cheating.

“I have a feeling test security is going to be a perpetual challenge – as it is for other standardised tests – but we feel pretty good about DET’s setup,” said Light.

Since giving applicants the option to submit DET scores in November 2016, dozens of prospective Yale students have used it, he said.

“It’s not widely known but I have a feeling interest will accelerate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge as counsellors around the world promote it.”

The exam launched in 2014 and finished pilot trials before the 2016/17 admissions period.

Jeff Brenzel, university admissions liaison at Duolingo, said the company now aims to grow partnerships and introduce enhancements to the test this summer.

“Now that we’ve been through a full admissions cycle with a significant group of partners, we’re having schools contact us because the word is getting out about how this functions in a real admissions environment,” he said.

“On the current pace that we’re taking queries from schools and also reaching out to additional schools, we’re expecting about 400-500 schools in the US to be using the DET by the end of this coming fall.”

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Research and training top the agenda in Australian state visit to India

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 04:25

Education and research collaboration were at the centre of talks during the Australian prime minister’s visit to India this week.

In his first trip to the country since he entered office, Malcolm Turnbull was accompanied by Australian education minister, Simon Birmingham, who led a delegation of 120 representatives from Australian universities, industry and training institutions.

Turnbull said in a speech that in the fields of education, training, science and innovation, “our dynamic and growing knowledge partnership can be truly transformative.”

“We will continue to ensure that we provide outstanding opportunities for Indian students,” he said. “And also that Australian students learn more about India by visiting and studying here including through the scholarships and grants supported by my government’s New Colombo Plan.”

“We will continue to ensure that we provide outstanding opportunities for Indian students”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed the importance of cooperation in education research, calling it “the most important field of engagement between India and Australia”.

The state visit took place over four days.

As well as the financial benefits, the mission focused on the potential to build education opportunities for both countries.

“On this mission we’ll be focused on making sure that we enhance the mutual recognition of qualifications, delivering increased opportunities for Australian providers to support the delivery of education in India, as well as reassuring Indians that Australia is a popular, safe, friendly destination for students to continue to come to in increasing numbers,” said Birmingham.

The Association of Australian Education Representatives in India hosted a reception in New Delhi, where the association’s president, Rahul Gandhi commended the move towards mutual recognition of master’s degrees.

Over the past year, AAERI has worked with Australia’s Department of Education and Training to extend postgraduate degrees from 1.5 years to two years to align with the Association of Indian Universities guidelines, which don’t recognise master’s courses of under two years.

Gandhi thanked Australian higher educators for their cooperation, saying: “This has helped thousands of Indian students obtain an equivalent qualification certificate from the Indian universities.”

Gandhi also praised to the country’s post-study work offering for Indian students, and Australia’s TAFE sector.

Australia has piloted a number of initiatives to help upskill the Indian workforce, in line with India’s goal to train 400 million people by 2022. During the visit, Birmingham opened the fourth Australia-India Skills Conference.

“It is a great opportunity to hear how Australia’s excellent vocational trainers can work alongside their partners in India to build the skills that India needs and to make productive and fulfilling relationships along the way,” he said.

Upskilling agreements that came out of the visit included the launch of a pilot run of the ‘training the trainer’ courses for 250 students in five cities in India.

Meanwhile, Universities Australia hosted a roundtable during the visit, with the aim of increasing research and employability collaborations between Indian and Australian universities.

“It’s clear that both countries’ universities, in areas like research and training, have a lot to offer each other”

“These are two countries that understand the value of education, research and innovation in powering future prosperity,” said Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia. “It’s clear that both countries’ universities, in areas like research and training, have a lot to offer each other.”

Education ties between India and Australia are already strong, with over 60,000 Indian students studying in Australia in 2016.

However, this number dipped in 2009/10 after a series of assaults and racial abuse against Indian students damaged Australia’s reputation in the country.

“Around one in 10 of Australia’s international students come from India and we’re the second-most popular destination for Indian students,” Birmingham said.

“We’re committed to providing Indian students who choose to study in Australia with a high quality education and safe place to study when they visit.”

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Italy: PON returns for 2017, funding language and citizenship courses nationwide

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 05:53

In exciting news for the European study travel industry, the Italian government has announced it will resume providing scholarships to enable high school students to complete short, language study abroad courses through the PON scheme after a year-long lull.

After previously hosting thousands of Italian student groups through PON, language schools have welcomed the revival of the program.

However, the scheme has undergone a major overhaul this year. Funding, previously available to schools in four regions, has been rolled out nationwide, and Italian schools sending students overseas will for the first time have two years to spend money they are awarded.

“We think that some schools will still try to organise [study abroad] programs, but not like in the past”

There are also large tranches of funding going towards domestic education initiatives, so the number of students who will study overseas is as yet unconfirmed.

Secondary schools will be able to claim a maximum of €45,000 to send a group of up to 15 students to study overseas to complete a three-week European language course within the EU, through the new European Citizenship arm of the PON scheme.

A total of €80m has been allocated to the European Citizenship ‘action’ – one of ten that now make up PON – with some of that money going to finance language and citizenship courses within Italy.

“We think that some schools will still try to organise [study abroad] programs, but not like in the past,” Lorenzo Agati, president of the Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents, told The PIE News.

“It’s not only language courses, but we see that some schools are also interested in work experience or internships, so it’s a bit different from what it used to be.”

Students participating in the study abroad component must have already reached level B1 in their chosen language.

They must then prove they have reached level B2 by the end of their placement at one of a handful of government-approved language centres.

The minimum proficiency requirements and the popularity of the language mean the majority of the study abroad funding is likely to finance trips to English-speaking destinations, according to Henry Tolley, head of business development at Trinity College London, one of the approved exam providers.

The announcement follows a year of confusion in which PON funding was expected but never released. This is despite plans to widen access to funding – which was only previously available to students in the regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia – initially announced in 2014.

“Quite a few centres were waiting for the scheme to open last year and it was very disappointing when it didn’t,” commented Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK.

PON provides an “excellent opportunity” for language schools that can accommodate groups beyond the summer months, she said. The return of the scheme, though structured differently, is welcome news to host schools for whom PON groups were previously an important source of revenue.

“In the years leading up to the temporary suspension of PON, Marketing English in Ireland schools welcomed thousands of PON students and we hope to resume those contacts now,” David O’Grady, the association’s CEO, told The PIE News.

“We are excited about this,” he added. “Some of our member schools hope to be able to welcome students as early as June 2017.”

“Quite a few centres were waiting for the scheme to open last year and it was very disappointing when it didn’t”

However, it may take time for schools to put together projects and identify courses that enable students to progress to the required level of language proficiency. “I don’t see the possibility of running any of these programs for the summer; maybe September, October,” cautioned Agati.

The announcement has also been met with a degree of scepticism from some schools that hosted PON groups in previous years, as the scheme has historically been marred by problems including late payments and over-promising by some agents selling courses.

“If the funding is indeed coming through then it will be good news. However, I have grown increasingly sceptical,” said Jimmy Hordon, director of Target English International in Hull, though he confirmed the school does plan to take students if funding is realised.

Andrew Hjort, principal of Melton College in York, similarly noted that schools have run into problems with managing expectations. In the past, some groups have made demands that have been difficult for language schools to fulfil, or chosen to spend a large portion of their budget on hotel accommodation, leaving less for teaching or extra students.

“[PON] is a tremendous idea, it does an awful lot of good. So it’s good news,” he said.

“What would be really good news is if from the outset the government said: ‘This is the amount of money and this is what you are allowed to spend it on’.”

He predicted that “honeypot destinations” such as London and Dublin will be the first to receive enquiries. “We will not get requests as quickly as the London schools, I can almost guarantee that.”

Italian schools must submit their proposals for European Citizenship programs to the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research by May 26.

“We’d encourage centres to start taking action on this now if they’re keen to take part,” advised Tolley, who said Trinity will be working with centres in the UK, Ireland and Malta to provide exams for PON participants.

“One reason to get involved early is that participating high schools must specify where they want their pupils to study when they register for the scheme, and this cannot be changed.”

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Sana Mustafa, Syrian refugee, US

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 03:27
Suddenly separated from her family four years ago, Syrian refugee Sana Mustafa has just completed her second undergraduate degree in the US. She tells The PIE News how an international education can empower an entire family and how she is dedicated to putting a human face on the refugee crisis.

The PIE: You first came to the US on a scholarship, right?

SM: Yes, but it wasn’t to study really. It was a summer training with the State Department and it was about leadership skills and social engagement. Every year they bring students from all around the Middle East and North Africa to the US on leadership training for six weeks.

The PIE: And that was when your dad was detained?

SM: A week after I left to the US he got detained, on July 2 2013. That was the last we heard from him. This July, it will be the fourth year anniversary of when my dad was taken.

The PIE: Can you walk me through what happened next?

SM: His detention basically meant that I could not go back home because of the political situation in Syria and the conflict. We would have been targeted, me, my mom and my sisters, because we ourselves are activists and have been detained before.

It was very hard in my first year, I was dealing with my dad’s detention and I was suddenly in a new country alone. So that was a huge challenge for me, but I definitely made it because of the support of others.

“You always think something ends when you have a conclusion, but we don’t have a conclusion yet”

The stress has brought my mom and my sisters more together, because they had their own struggle when they were smuggled to Turkey where they are living now. They had to figure out life. And it has not passed, we still live in the same situation. You always think something ends when you have a conclusion, but we don’t have a conclusion yet, they are still refugees in Turkey and my dad is still detained, if he is alive, and I am still here.

It does not end by the borders, by leaving the country. It starts actually, because you have extra things to worry about, and now everywhere is not welcoming. Even neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, are hell for Syrians. There is a lot of racism not only in Europe or in the States, so it is not like any country is doing any better.

The PIE: Where is your family from in Syria?

SM: We are from a small town called Masyaf, it is in the countryside of the province of Hama. I was born and raised in this small village town and then I went to Damascus for my undergrad where I did four years in business and marketing. Then due to my dad’s detention while I was in the US, I couldn’t go back, so I had to stay.

When I came here, people were not really aware of the refugee crisis then and it did not mean much when I said “I am a refugee”. Yet people helped me regardless, in spite of my background. Total strangers. I lived with them and they trusted me with their kids and in their houses. It definitely was the American values we don’t see in the media anymore, we see the opposite discourse. It is a country that is built on immigrants. Every family that I lived with has some international background, from their ancestors, their grandparents or themselves.

The PIE: Have you felt a change in those American values recently?

SM: I felt welcomed in the sense they thought it was safe for me here so they were glad there was some sort of security here, which I don’t necessarily feel anymore because of the current xenophobic discourse and political climate. I definitely don’t feel as safe and secure anymore – statistically speaking, the percentage of racist and discriminatory incidents have been increasing ever since the new administration came in.

“I think idealising the refugee population is one of the most mistaken approaches towards the crisis”

The PIE: Have you continued your activism during your time in the US?

SM: Yes definitely, I mean activism outside of a totalitarian regime is so different. Here you protest legally, no one comes to detain you, you are protected. I don’t know how much I can call it activism. I feel like activism is associated with danger, that is why I am always hesitant when they call me an activist outside Syria or the conflict area. I am like ‘hmm, maybe I’m an advocate or something’.

The PIE: So what are you advocating for now?

SM: My main goal is humanising the crisis. I think idealising the refugee population is one of the most mistaken approaches towards the crisis. A refugee committed a crime in Germany last year, you feel obligated to respond and ask “Is he an ISIS terrorist?”, because you are idealising this refugee. But if you humanise this group as just another population like any other population where you have good people, bad people, criminals, lawyers, you have successes, you have losers, you see they are human beings just like me and you.

So idealising does not help anything. If a refugee committed a terrorist attack how is that my fault? He is the only one responsible for his actions and he is one person who committed this.

The PIE: A lot of our readers are trying to find ways to help refugee students like yourself. Having been through the process what would you do to improve it?

SM: One of the obstacles is that we came from a very different education background and different education system. Just the application process itself is so ambiguous and scary for Syrian students. First because it is in English, secondly it is very complicated, even for a native speaker to know what to do, what to talk about, what not to talk about, how to navigate the system.

When I applied, I got mentored by an American friend and she literally just helped me to articulate what I wanted to say, because sometimes you have the ideas but you don’t have the vocab or know-how to present it as a native speaker. So I would say help with application would help.

“Just the application process itself is so ambiguous and scary for Syrian students”

And I always say to be people do not separate the political or policy activism from giving money activism. For Americans, I say call your congressman and say we want refugees. It does make a difference in the system.

The PIE: How do you see this going forward? Are you optimistic that educators will help find a solution?

SM: Yes I am. I am very optimistic about those people who already know something and may want to be involved as educators. There are a lot of initiatives and projects that are working on different aspects of the refugee crisis, so there are ways for educators to be involved.

However, I am less optimistic about those who do not agree with us and we need to get them on board. There are people who have never met an Arab or Muslim refugee in their lives and it feels like my duty to put a human face on these numbers because they believe they are terrorists. They believe that we are oppressed women and incapable.

What changes peoples’ minds is a conversation, and we don’t listen to them enough. Tell me why I am dangerous or why you think I want to bring others here. When you make them feel like you aren’t attacking them, that you are trying to understand, that is a better approach.

The PIE: You said earlier when you empower someone educationally you are empowering their whole family. What does that mean?

SM: I was 22 when I first arrived and my mom was always extra worried for me because I was here. You can’t imagine a Syrian mom who sees her child off to the US and that is the last time you see her. She was alone worrying about survival for herself and my sisters and for me. And I couldn’t give anything back because I was barely surviving here. My elder sister had to work three jobs, almost 17 hours a day, just to be able to afford things, because there were no other financial means, they took everything.

So the moment I started studying and working on campus was when I was able to start being able to help them. I got my sister to school in Germany and I got my sister to programs in Turkey and I can even financially help them. I am kind of the pillar of the family now because I was here and because I was able to continue my education and I graduated. And during my studies I made a lot of contacts; I was out there talking with people and because I am here they also applied to come here.

“When you are in a refugee camp studying, everything is negative and everyone around you has worse stories than you”

The PIE: What do you think about the programs that are trying to take education to Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan or Lebanon? Are they effective?

SM: I think these are a very temporary solution. If that happens there with mental support then yes, it can be effective. But if I am thinking every day ‘what am I going to eat?’, I can’t focus. When you are in a refugee camp studying, everything is negative and everyone around you has worse stories than you. People do not focus much on the mental health issue so much and it is a main issue. I did counselling in my school purely just to be able to continue. It is a good temporary solution, but it is better to be in the right environment.

The PIE: Do you have hopes that you will ever be able to go back to Syria? Do you even want to go back?

SM: Oh yes, if I could go back now I would go back. But do I think I will be able to go back? Not in the near future. You know the average years for refugees living outside of their country is 17 years? Say the war stopped in Syria, the work on reconstruction and conflict resolution takes years. The reconciliation among people just to be able to go there and feel safe takes so much time.

Of course when it comes to the rebuilding process I am going to be part of it, but I don’t think I’ll be in Syria in the near future. I don’t really care about the geographical location anymore. I am more interested in where the opportunity takes me or where life takes me. I don’t feel any geographical or identity ties to any place other than Syria and I can’t be there, so let it be anywhere.

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Peking University to open business school in Oxford

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 02:38

China’s prestigious Peking University has announced it is setting up an overseas campus in the UK.

The university’s HSBC Business School will open just outside of Oxford next year, with its first intake expected in August 2018.

The largest intake to PHBS Oxford is expected to be students from the UK and Europe, but the school will also serve as an overseas campus for students from China. Visiting Chinese students will come to the campus starting the spring after it launches.

Just outside of Oxford’s town centre in Boars Hill, the Foxcombe Hall space will be the location of PHBS Oxford, which was once a regional centre for the Open University.

“It is our hope that the new initiative in Oxford will further strengthen the school’s international reputation as well as its teaching and research capabilities”

The campus will be housed over 3,600 square metres of floor space, and 15 acres of grounds.

Those enrolled at the business school will spend a year at the Oxford campus, and another year at the PHBS Shenzen campus, in the south of China.

“It is our hope that the new initiative in Oxford will further strengthen the school’s international reputation as well as its teaching and research capabilities,” commented Jianhua Lin, president of Peking University.

The new campus will offer master’s degrees in finance, management, economics and an MBA.

A Peking University news release said this development is a milestone for the university, and “for the development of China’s higher education, given its inferior position globally over the past century.”

“China is opening its higher education market to the world,” it said.

The HSBC Business School was founded in 2004, and Peking University will be celebrating its 120th anniversary next year.

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U-Multirank seeks new backers as EU likely to cut funding

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 06:29

The European Union-backed world university ranking U-Multirank – which claims to have broken the mould of international higher education league tables – has reached a milestone with its latest data release expected to be the last to be fully funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ program.

The 2017 edition of U-Multirank claims to be the largest global university rankings and showcases nearly 1,500 universities from 99 countries. However, the European Commission is considering reducing its financial support of the project and has opened the bidding process of future collaborators.

Joint project leader, Frank Ziegele, said UMR sets itself apart from other university rankings “by discovering hidden gems among the smaller and more specialised institutions of higher education which are often overlooked by traditional league tables with their focus on big comprehensive and research-intensive universities.”

“UMR sets itself apart from other university rankings by discovering hidden gems among the smaller and more specialised institutions of higher education”

This year marks a turning point for the rankings, launched with €4m of Erasmus+ seed-funding four years ago.

The initial tranche enabled a consortium led by the Centre of Higher Education in Germany and the Dutch Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies at the University of Twente and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in Leiden to develop a new user-friendly multi-dimensional approach to comparing university performance in Europe and around the world.

The European Commission is now considering reducing financial support to half the annual costs, up to a limit of €600,000-a-year, and has called for proposals to take the initiative forward.

Ziegele confirmed that the original consortium had put forth a proposal and hoped to continue developing U-Multirank after winning support from philanthropic foundations to meet the funding required.

A decision is expected from the European Commission in the near future with a spokesman saying: “The initial purpose was to move from 100% direct funding to partial funding and this is work in progress.”

Today, UMR released its top 25 performers in nine of its indicators, including ‘Bilateral student mobility’ – a performance measure unique to the table. It defines student mobility as a composite of international incoming and outgoing exchange students and students on international joint-degree programs.

The results confirm that business studies is the most international academic discipline with business schools or higher education institutions specialised in business and economics comprising half of the top 25.

French business schools proved particularly popular with globally mobile students and staff, with France accounting for nine of the top 25 listed institutions for bilateral student mobility led by IÉSEG School of Management and Toulouse Business School.

German schools of management also stood out in this category, with WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Munich Business School performing strongly. So did some of the country’s universities of applied sciences, and overall, German institutions took seven of the top 25 student mobility places.

U-Multirank also listed 25 top performers for global orientation based on international joint publications, which looks at the percentage of a university’s research publications with at least one affiliate author in another country using CWTS/Thomson Reuters – Web of Science Core Collection as the data source.

Here the spread of universities was more international with the top four spots taken by University of Liechtenstein, National University of Mongolia, University of Namibia (UNAM) and King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia.

This year a new UMR ranking for ‘Applied knowledge partnerships’ was produced which highlighted Spain’s University of Deusto and Nuremberg Institute of Technology in Germany among the top performers for transferring academic knowledge and research into practical and commercial benefits.

A second ‘readymade’ ranking for publications spotlights collaborations with industry. The ‘Co-publications with industrial partners’ metric measures publications done with a for-profit business enterprise or private sector R&D unit.

“The initial purpose was to move from 100% direct funding to partial funding and this is work in progress”

The top 25 list is dominated by 16 European and seven Asian institutions including Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Telecom ParisTech and Reutlingen University of Applied Science in Germany.

 The 2017 edition of UMR has 200 more institutions than last year, which, according to Ziegle, is the result of pre-filling questionnaires sent to British and American universities using national data sources IPEDS, the federal data system for US universities, and HESA statistics for UK institutions.

It lists 244 US universities this year, compared with 168 in 2016, and a total of 151 UK institutions are ranked – up from just 48 last year.

China is another country where UMR is making inroads.  Ziegele told The PIE News: “The Chinese government now believes a good higher education system is a diverse one and signed an agreement with us to promote the differentiation of their universities.

“As a pilot, we looked at five or six very different universities, from the research excellent to universities of applied sciences like Hefei.”

UMR intends to expand its work with China’s Higher Education Evaluation Centre (HEEC) and individual universities to demonstrate the different profiles of institutions, Ziegele said.

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Philippine TNE: 10 universities to forge UK ties

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 02:01

Ten universities in the Philippines have been selected to take part in transnational education partnerships with UK counterparts through the Commission on Higher Education Development (CHED) in an initiative to boost internationalisation in the country.

Ateneo de Manila University, Bicol University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle University, Miriam College, Saint Louis University, Silliman University, University of the Philippines, University of San Carlos and University of Santo Tomas will all receive seed funding to develop joint or double postgraduate degrees or joint research leading towards research-based graduate degrees with UK partners.

The resulting programs are slated to launch in academic year 2018/19.

“They have the internal systems and processes that will ensure quality protocols, quality programs”

The project is backed by more than £1m from CHED and the British Council in the first two years, doubling the funding commitment of £500,000 when the project was announced last year.

Together with the British Council, CHED selected each of the universities to take part based on their preparedness for international partnerships.

All of the participating institutions, eight private and two public, are autonomous and “considered to be self-regulating HEIs,” Fay Lauraya of CHED told The PIE News.

“They have the internal systems and processes that will ensure quality protocols, quality programs,” she added. “What we are saying is that the UK partners are assured that the universities that have been picked to participate are quality universities.”

The UK universities taking part in the project – including the University of Liverpool, Queen Mary University of London and Cardiff Metropolitan University – were selected by the Philippine universities, following a call for interest and a meeting held in London in November.

The ten institutions have also formed Universities Philippines, a consortium that will enable them to plan collaboratively and share best practice.

The consortium will also give the group a unified voice to engage with government and industry bodies on higher education internationalisation.

“Before [the initiative began] they saw each other as competitors, they only met during sports events, there were no conversations going on in an official capacity,” Lauraya said.

“So this is the best thing that has happened, that they are talking to each other, even sharing content of how they are developing graduate programs.”

By taking part, members of the consortium have agreed to offer differentiated programs to minimise competition, even allowing their own faculty to take courses at other universities.

Priority areas for the partnerships include agriculture, meteorology, climate change, oceanography and design engineering.

In the lead-up to the launch of the graduate programs, CHED will carry out monthly ‘learning sessions’ to teach universities about how best to implement TNE programs and adhere to relevant regulations.

The consortium will attend the British Council’s Going Global conference in May 2017, during which universities will receive briefings about quality assurance systems in the UK, visit partner institutions and, in some cases, sign formal partnership agreements.

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Dutch higher education attracts record 112,000 international students

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 09:13

The number of international students on full degree programs in the Netherlands has doubled in the last 10 years to more than 81,000, bringing the total number of foreign students in Dutch higher education to a record high of over 112,000.

The Netherlands now attracts nearly 2% of all internationally mobile students, with its market share rising by 15% since 2006/07, according to Nuffic’s latest incoming student mobility report.

“International students enhance the quality of education in the Netherlands”

The report shows that international degree students not only reached their highest total to date in 2016/17 – 81,392 all told – but also showed the highest annual growth rate so far, up 6,163 on the previous year.

An additional 19,360 students came to the Netherlands from outside the EU and EEA for at least 90 days, while “at least” 11,500 came for an exchange or work placement through the Erasmus+ program.

The figure does not account for an “unknown number” of non-Erasmus, credit-seeking mobile students from within the EU or EEA, as these students are not registered at national level, the report notes.

As well as the swelling in numbers, the international degree student cohort is also becoming more diverse, Nuffic’s latest student mobility analysis report shows.

Neighbouring Germany is the biggest source of international students among the 164 countries represented, sending some 22,000 students to the Netherlands (around 27%). China follows with 4,300 students, then Italy with 3,300.

However, the report notes that since 2010/11, when German students accounted for around 40% of the total, “The relative importance of German and Chinese students has been decreasing, and other countries have become increasingly important.”

The last decade has seen the proportion of students coming from outside Europe climb. India, Indonesia and South Korea have seen particularly notable increases.

These three countries are among the 11 that have dedicated Netherlands Education Support Offices run by Nuffic, which also includes Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Turkey.

Not coincidentally, these were also the 11 countries that saw the biggest growth in international students over the last decade – up 150% collectively.

More than one in ten tertiary level students in the Netherlands (11.4%) is now from outside the country, the report shows.

Though bachelor’s programs attract a much greater number of international students (21,000) than master’s programs (13,620), the proportion of students that are international is much higher – 22.5%, compared with 9.3%.

“We welcome the large influx of students in technical master’s studies, because there is a shortage of skilled technical personnel”

And master’s programs are “internationalising faster than bachelor’s programmes”, the report notes.

One in four new master’s enrolments was an international student in 2016/17, rising to one in three for engineering and economy and business programs and one in two for agriculture programs.

In comparison, just over one in 10 new bachelor’s students was international.

“We welcome the large influx of students in technical master’s studies, because there is a shortage of skilled technical personnel in the Netherlands,” commented Beatrice Boots, director of the National Platform Science & Technology.

The University of Maastricht attracted the largest number of international students of any Dutch higher education institution, according to the report, with international students making up more than 55% of the total student population.

Having an international classroom enables students to “expand their personal perspectives and to become the global citizens of tomorrow”, a spokesperson for the university said.

“By approaching problems from a variety of perspectives, students are acquainted with different ways of seeing things that enhance the quality of the discussion,” they added. “In this way, the ‘international classroom’ serves to prepare students for the rapidly changing and globalising labour market.”

International students in the Netherlands contribute an estimated €1.57bn to the Dutch treasury annually, according to an earlier calculation by Nuffic quoted in the report, based on a 25% lifelong stay rate among international degree graduates.

“Of course, it is great that international students contribute to the state treasury, but there is another important reason,” commented Nuffic director Freddy Weima.

“International students contribute to an international classroom at Dutch higher education institutions, which benefits all students. With the knowledge, experience and networks that they bring from their own country, they enhance the quality of education in the Netherlands.”

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