Maximising diversification is not always the best policy


Diversifying with data: insights for higher educationa recent report by Studyportals provides an overview of the study origins and goals of international students and ranks the countries according to the diversity of their international student profiles.

The report calls on universities to diversify recruitment efforts to include students from countries with growing demand.

A diversification of enrollment seems to be a sensible step. Academics and administrators have long warned of the risks of universities concentrating their recruitment efforts in a handful of countries like China or India. This approach not only creates fiscal vulnerabilities for universities, but also negatively impacts the student experience.

But diversification is about more than smart investments by governments and institutions. The effects on the quality of education must also be considered: a more diverse student body does not necessarily mean better education quality and inclusion of international students.

As such, the report provides fascinating and relevant data on the issues of diversification in international student recruitment, but does not address critical dimensions of the data and methodology, while rightly acknowledging difficulties with the UNESCO, OECD and national databases it has produced At.

Our commentary provides additional context to the report’s data and a more nuanced look at the complicated dynamics affecting the past and future of student mobility.

forces of diversification

The ranking of countries based on diversification does not take into account clear definitions and variety of types of international students, nor barriers to mobility and inherent handicaps such as geographical distance.

Several factors affect student mobility, including proximity to multiple countries, historical connections, rankings and reputation, language of instruction, use of agents, visa policies, and affordability of higher education due to exchange rates and volatility.

For example, Western Europe, ranked as the “most diverse” region on the list, attracts a significant number of undergraduate students from the US and loan-seeking students from the region through the Erasmus+ programme.

Countries like Italy, France, Portugal and Spain all benefit from the same benefits. They also benefit from international students seeking degrees from their former colonies (this applies to France, Portugal and Spain) and the diaspora (this applies to Italy) on the basis of a common language, but these two different types of mobility should not be used as one category, to address diversity.

Read  How to Watch/Stream Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs | Week 3

When it comes to diversification, countries such as Austria, Switzerland and South Africa rely primarily on neighboring countries. On the other hand, the US, Canada and Australia are popular due to a combination of reputation and the dominance of the English language, as is the UK, which can also build on its colonial past but lacks high study and living costs due to other aspects of diversity.

This is increasingly the case in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, which have made access more difficult for students from low-income countries by introducing full tuition fees for students from countries outside the European Economic Area.

A flawed approach

Ranking countries based on diversification is a flawed and potentially harmful approach. Rankings assume that all countries have equal opportunities and reaffirm established norms of dominant powers. Wealthy countries have the advantage of favorable policies, funding and resources to build their reputation and pursue diversification.

In contrast, low-income countries struggle to develop diverse student profiles due to the lack of these advantages. Furthermore, not every country benefits from maximizing the number of countries from which it attracts students. In some cases, diversification can even hinder academic exchanges within a region. Focusing on diversification rather than promoting exchanges between regional partners could potentially harm international recruitment efforts.

For example, India has not been able to effectively recruit international students from around the world. Instead, the international student enrollment consists mainly of students from neighboring countries in South Asia, such as Nepal and Bhutan.

The same is true of Egypt, which has a long history of higher education and a number of prestigious universities. The international student enrollment is mainly made up of students from neighboring countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

If international student enrollment diversification became a normative goal for Egypt, it could result in limited resources being focused on increasing enrollments from countries where Egyptian universities may be less competitive, yet at the same time less inclusive to students from neighboring low-income countries Incomes are, instead of being focused on building deeper connections with existing countries where there is potential for growth and exchange.

Read  Five Key Best Practices to Community Energy Planning | News

The lasting effects of colonialism must also be taken into account. For example, the report illustrates the enrollment of more Nigerian first-year students in the UK than the EU, possibly reflecting the difficulties British higher education is facing post-Brexit. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the historical context and not overlook the colonial legacy in their relationship.

Geopolitical shifts in diversification

Macro trends and geopolitical shifts shaping the field must influence universities’ diversification efforts and help determine whether diversification is the appropriate goal for their recruitment strategies. Marketing efforts alone cannot guarantee diversification. Over the past 20 years, geopolitical forces have dramatically changed the landscape of international student mobility.

A recent longitudinal network analysis of 20 years of UNESCO data, conducted by one of us and Natalie Cruz, shows the emergence of a multi-polar pattern for international student mobility, with new centers of learning in Asia and the Middle East playing a more prominent role.

In summary, more and more countries are exchanging students at equal rates. Core-periphery dynamics continue, but core country composition has diversified and expanded. This analysis is consistent with the report’s view that countries with more connections exert more influence in the network. However, maximizing diversification may not be the best strategy for every country or institution, and ranking by diversification is incorrect.

New mobilities

The report draws on data from UNESCO and the OECD, which focus on long-term mobility and is constrained by the inconsistent definitions and methodologies of self-reporting countries. In addition, UNESCO and OECD data, as well as other prominent reports, do not take into account diversity and new forms of mobility, such as B. virtual mobility, short-term exchanges and enrollments at international branches and franchises worldwide.

Read  Readers select Judi's Lounge, Duff's & Imperial Pizza as 'WNY's Best'

In addition, the type and level of education are also important considerations when it comes to diversification. For example, more students from middle-income countries, particularly in Asia, are pursuing tertiary education in high-income countries as access to undergraduate education and the number of research universities in these countries increases.

The report highlights critical issues for US universities: Despite a surge in international student enrollments following the COVID-19 pandemic, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have low diversity and are mostly tuition-paying students from a limited number of countries dependent high-income families.

Cost as a key factor

The cost of attending, including tuition and living expenses, is a major factor contributing to this problem. Many top-tier universities are in cities with skyrocketing housing costs, leading to student protests as they struggle to find affordable housing. The rising cost of groceries and other necessities add to the financial strain.

In uncertain economic times, families who see the value in paying a premium for higher education in these destinations may question the return on investment as affordability and career prospects become uncertain. Although the Studienportale report provides a useful comparison between higher-ranking and other universities, the family income of the students is likely to be more important.

Nations and institutions play a crucial role in shaping student mobility, and the data in this report, as well as that from UNESCO and the OECD, provide valuable insight into trends and patterns. However, there are many other actors and factors that influence why, what and where students study. In order to create a more diverse and inclusive international student body, it is important to recognize and understand the rich diversity of these factors.

Chris Glass is the Editor-in-Chief of the Magazine for international students and Professor of Practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Higher Education at Boston College, USA. Email: [email protected]. Hans de Wit is Distinguished Fellow and Emeritus Professor at the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, USA. Email: [email protected].

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button