International students: Why should we care?
Direct benefits for the host society
Increase of quality of higher education
The international students contribute to the increase of quality of the universities in several ways. Firstly international students question the existing system and do not take it for granted. This can lead to the improvements of the organization and programs’ content. They can also bring new angles into the discussed topics based on their previous education and life experience. In higher levels of education (master and PhD programs) the students can also import contacts in their field of expertise from previous university studies. These contacts can for instance be important for gaining new partners for research projects and for staying in touch with the up-to-date research. Finally, as the University of Glasgow illustrates, the international body of students improves the employability of the graduates as they gain experience in multicultural and multilingual environment, which is the environment they will face once on the labour market. The employability of the graduates from the schools with international classes can be enhanced also by what Renc-Roe and Roxa (2012) found out in their analysis. The classes with international students are taught in English, use English textbooks, exams, and practices. Therefore, the students of these classes enjoy also innovative teaching methods that can enhance their learning. They also improve their knowledge of English language, which is today’s Esperanto. High quality at a university level does not mean only better education and science. As universities are one of the key players in developing knowledgeable society then higher quality universities mean also more developed society in terms of public education.
Effects on host economy
What is further important is that the international students form an important part of high-skilled migration (Ritzen and Marconi 2011). Graduates tend to stay in the host country. For example according to OECD (2011) almost half of the immigrants who enter Australia through schemes supporting high-skilled immigration obtained a degree in Australia. Similarly 27 % of EU students in UK remained in 2005 employed in their host country six months after graduation while 18 % of students from outside of European Economic Area studying in Norway remained working there after graduating (Suter and Jandl 2006).
High-skilled migration, which is partly formed by international students after their graduation, brings a number of benefits for host economy. Ritzen and Marconi (2011) note that cultural diversity stimulated by migrants brings into the work environment a new range of skills and abilities, experiences, and perspectives. These then stimulate innovation and creativity, which are engines of the knowledge economy. Furthermore, migrants are more mobile than the local work force, therefore improving the allocation of human resources on the labour market (Kahanec and Kralikova 2011). The high-skilled migrants also bring with them their social capital in form of contacts. These can then allow for cross-border exchange of ideas and improve possibilities for international trade (Bonin et al. 2008). What is important is that the immigrants are not only good workers but they are also job creators. In 2007, the US immigrants employed 4.7 million of people. High-skilled migrants are also crucial for the US science with 29 % of American scientists being immigrants as well as 57 % of PhD-s in engineering and 50 % in math and computer sciences-based occupations (ibid.). Around 25 % of US companies are backed by venture capital including Google, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel2. Finally, the immigrants enhance demographic situation of aging Europe as well as other parts of the Western world where the working force is diminishing (Ritzen and Marconi 2011).
In fact, international students are the best part of the high-skilled migration from the point of view of the host country because they have a chance for more successful integration than other high-skilled migrants. During their studies they have a chance to get to know the education and administration system of the country as well as the local culture. They are young so it is easier for them to build connections with their peers and it is likely that they will establish families in the host country.
Indirect but Perhaps More Important Effects
The international students and other well-integrated internationals are then the best instrument for opening up the country to other groups of immigrants. Thanks to them the people in the host country get used to bigger diversity and learn that diversity is not a danger for them but a benefit. They will understand that being a Muslim is not a synonym for a terrorist and that everyday life can look differently in different parts of the world and one can learn from it. For example that in Malawi the interests of family and community are more important than individual needs, that in Mexican culture it is more important to live in the present than to worry about tomorrow all the time, or that one has to be proud of himself/herself and it is not dishonest to point out one’s strengths as they do in the USA. In other words internationals can help to open the eyes for new ways of living.
What is even more important is that the
immigrants can make local people more sensitive to problems taking place
abroad, because these problems become something that bother people who are now friends
or family members of friends and who are just like them. Thus the host society
can become not only more open to different people but also more ready to help
them and their co-patriots back in the home countries. By becoming helping
society, the host country also becomes stronger. It is not anymore the one that
needs to receive help but one that is able to help. This can further increase
the self-confidence of the society. Hence the biggest asset that can enrich a
host country is when it becomes tolerant, self-confident society, ready to help
those in need, because, in the end, all its citizens benefit. They will now live
in a country where people are not self-centered and they care about what is
happening around them, open to what is new and different, because they know
that this can make their life more interesting and rich.
Bonin, H., W. Eichhorst, C. Florman, M. O. Hansen, L. Skiöld, J. Stuhler, K. Tatsiramos, H. Thomasen, K. F. Zimmermann (2008) „Geographic Mobility in the European Union: Optimising its Economic and Social Benefits“, IZA Research Report No. 19, Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.
Kahanec, M. and Kralikova, R. (2011) „Higher Education Policy and Migration: The Role of International Student Mobility.“, CESifo DICE Report - Journal for Institutional Comparisons 4, 20 - 27.
OECD (2011) „Education at the Glance: OECD Indicators“, Paris: OECD.
Renc-Roe, J.and Roxĺ, L. (2012) „Internationalisation of a university as policy and as educational practice: a sub-institutional case study“
Ritzen, J. M. M. and G. Marconi. 2011. „Internationalization in European Higher Education”, International Journal of Innovation Science, 3(2): 83 – 100.
Suter B. and M. Jandl (2006) „Comparative Study on Policies towards Foreign Graduates: Study on Admission and Retention Policies towards Foreign Students in Industrialised Countries“, Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
The article has been written as part of the project Migration to the Centre supported by the by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union and the International Visegrad Fund.
This article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Renata Kralikova is an analyst of the Slovak Governance Institute and PhD student at Central European University in Budapest