GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Recruiting International Students: Moving Beyond Revenue

In Happy Mondays on 2010/02/15 at 09:00

Mary Churchill, writing from Boston in the USA.

Welcome to the February 15, 2010 edition of Happy Mondays here at the University of Venus.

What caught my eye (along with my mind and heart) last week was news from the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada on international students as revenue generators.

  • Why do universities recruit international students? Money – the primary consideration is financial. Higher education is big business and the profit margin – the ROI – is the overriding motive. Senior leaders are pretty open about the link between international recruitment efforts and revenue.  The International Association of Universities (IAU) recently announced a new service assisting institutions in internationalization efforts. One of the services they offer is helping institutions develop “marketing approaches to attract more exchange or fee paying international students.
  • In the current economic climate, universities in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia are  “desperate” to recruit full-paying students and for many, international students represent a growing market.
    • According to Stephen Connolly, higher education is Australia’s third-largest export earner at 17 billion employing over 100,000 people. (see Connolly’s article here)
    • Similarly, Nicholas Keung reports that international students created 83,000 jobs for Canadians last year with students contributing $6.5 billion to the local economy. (see Keung’s article here)
  • So, not only has globalization brought a “free trade of minds” to higher education but also a free trade of wallets. Generally, anyone who can pay their way is welcome. The financial winner is the country with the least barriers. In higher education, this has been Australia. However, “winning” has its consequences as witnessed by the rash of attacks against Indian students/taxi-drivers in Australia. (see Ziguras’s excellent post on the GlobalHigherEd blog).
  • As Meg wrote in last Friday’s post: “Students need support in understanding the differences in order to cope with culture shock and to ensure academic success… the differences themselves can create big problems if they are not identified and ways to cope with differences provided.”  I would add to that – Institutions also need support in understanding these differences.
  • If we do not change the mindset of the faculty and staff at the universities recruiting international students, we will not create an environment that facilitates the success of the students. If faculty and staff do not embrace international students as part of their core constituency, the students will not succeed. International students typically move halfway around the globe, leaving their support structures of friends and family thousands of miles away. We become their new home – their new family and friends.
  • If we do not work on changing the mindset of the cities and countries receiving these students, we are creating an environment filled with “big problems” – a xenophobic society filled with hate crimes. As a society, we have an obligation to see international students as more than revenue generators. If we bring them here, we have an obligation to embrace them.
  • While the IAU is willing to help institutions attract “fee paying international students” their focus should also be on helping institutions develop the capacity for ensuring the success of those students.
  • I believe that we are obligated to facilitate the success of all of our students, not just our domestic students.  They are more than merely revenue-generators; they are human beings making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives…and ours!

Mary Churchill


“Cash-strapped universities desperate to recruit foreign students.”  Peggy Curran. Feb. 12, 2010. The Gazette

“Understanding What’s Up Down Under.” Pramit Pal Chaudhuri. Feb. 12, 2010. Foreign Hand Blog on Hindustan Times.’s-up-down-under/

“Visa rules change but the door remains open.” John Morgan. Feb 10, 2010. Times Higher Education.

“International education needs fixing.” Stephen Connolly. The Sydney Morning Herald. Feb. 10, 2010.

IAU Internationalization Strategies Advisory Service

“New rules help draw foreign students. Colleges laud move to speed visa process.” Nicholas Keung. Feb 8, 2010. Toronto edition of TheStar.Com–new-rules-help-draw-foreign-students

“Indian students in Australia: how did it come to this?” Christopher Ziguras. August 11, 2009. Global Higher Ed blog.

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