In one of our previous posts we started discussing the concept of diversity in education: how universities can nurture a diverse international student mix while answering the needs of students coming from different countries and sometimes widely different cultures.
Another side of this topic that is often barely touched upon is the reasons behind universities’ motivation to seek and recruit increasing numbers of international students. It is not just about having a larger volume of students overall: if it was about that, universities wouldn’t have budgets allocated towards international student recruitment and would instead simply focus on attracting new talent locally. And we all know that for the large majority of universities around the world, this is simply not the case.
So, why do universities need to have international students?
A study from the Sheffield University in United Kingdom called “The Economic Costs and Benefits of International Students” lists a number of reasons why having international students in a real asset for any university.
For one thing, international students bring similar value to the local community as international tourists. They are not just spending money on study-related costs (tuition, books) and living expenses (rent, food, transportation, entertainment). Their families and friends who come to visit on a regular basis are also bringing a lot of money to the local economy. Noteworthy is the expenditure by international students towards local public services: the study concludes that on average, international students spend just about the same amount of money on all public services as any local person.
Overall, international students were found to bring value not only to the university but also to the local region. As a result of becoming familiar with and attached to their surroundings, students were very likely to come and visit the town after graduation, thus making a positive impact on local tourism. The prestige and influence of the region and its educational opportunities were boosted by foreign alumni who came back to their home countries and occupied skilled positions thanks to their degrees. Brand familiarity with local products on the other hand brought value to exports, because international students who returned to live and work in their home countries were more likely to purchase all the various products they got to know and use during their student years.
An interesting correlation between rise of innovation and the amount of international students and skilled migrants in the host country was established as early as 2005 by scholars Chellaraj, Maskus and Mattoo. Their found out that a 10% increase in the number of international students in the U.S. brought about 4.7% more university patent grants and 5.3% more parent grants not related to universities. The conclusion is that the innovation boost was directly caused by clusters of international students working together.
The Economic Costs and Benefits of International Students by Phil Vickers and Bahram Bekhradnia agrees on the claims discussed above, adding the example of the United Kingdom in support of the economic and cultural value of international students.
Economic Analysis for Academic Year 2013-2014 by The Association of International Educators states that for every 7 international students, 3 jobs either in education or in the service sector are created in U.S. The report further states that not only innovation, but also intercultural learning was happening due to migration, bringing a global perspective to classrooms.
Benefits for universities and local economies created by international students:
- Financial gain to the local community through personal spending, spending related to studies and spending related to visits from relatives and friends from abroad.
- Innovation: according to the papers discussed above, skilled immigration has a direct impact on innovative practices spreading in the region.
- Tourism: international students are very likely to come revisit the place where their alma mater is and recommend their relatives and friends to do the same, bringing a positive impact on local tourism.
- Global perspective: Young people who have the opportunity to study together and collaborate with peers from abroad gain much broader perspectives on different cultures, traditions and behaviours. This leads to a more diverse, open and inclusive local society.
- Tolerance and inclusion: Knowledge about other cultural practices, customs and religions develops a sense of cultural sensitivity in local students. Spending time with people coming from different backgrounds than their own makes them appreciate diversity and understand both their own and other cultures better.
- Learning opportunities: Learning is happening only on a cultural level: this is especially true with language learning when students can practice their language skills with people who are native speakers.
And while the needs of international students usually align very well with the needs of hosting universities, making those students stay can prove to be a very difficult task. But we will discuss the topic of international student retention in a future post, so stay tuned!
ETN Focus Workshops are educational events aimed at diversifying your international student body. We connect local student recruitment experts with universities and institutions from all over the world.
If you are interested in recruiting international students from less explored markets, check out our events.