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Global Mobility in Higher Education: Students Apply Where They Are Encouraged

Posted March 14, 2018 by Timothy Mescon - Executive Vice President and Chief Officer - AACSB International

A new analysis from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) examined U.S. student visas issued last year and found that they were down 17 percent. The decline was particularly notable for students from India (28 percent), one of the major sources of international students in the U.S. Additionally, there were substantial drops in visas issued for students from Brazil (down 32 percent) and Saudi Arabia (down 13 percent) because of economic and higher education funding issues in these countries.

On the other hand, the analysis shows that in the current 2017–18 academic year, at least 122,000 international students are studying in the Dutch higher education system. This is the highest number ever recorded and indicates a growth of 8,301 students, compared to the 2016–17 academic year. Further, the Netherlands currently hosts almost 5,000 foreign PhD students.

Overall, 14.8 percent of all new enrollments for study programs in the Netherlands came from international students. Nearly 3 out of 10 (29.4 percent) of all new enrollments at research universities (RU) at the master’s level were by international students, versus 1 in 4 (26.3 percent) at the university of applied science (UAS) master’s level. At the RU bachelor’s level, 1 in 5 (20 percent) of new enrollments were by international students, while those at the UAS bachelor’s level was 1 in 12 (8.4 percent).

Maastricht University remains the university with the highest number of international students in the Netherlands, followed by the University of Amsterdam and the University of Groningen. At the Amsterdam Business School, Executive Dean Han van Dissel has actively encouraged the development and deployment of a suite of bachelor’s and master’s programs in English and has seen dramatic growth in international students and professors over the past five years.

At the same time, universities in Sweden are making a similar play for international students, capitalizing on the perceived changes in policies in the U.S. and the unknown mobility environment in the U.K. as a result of the Brexit vote.

At Sweden’s Lund University, founded in 1666, there are 15 Master of Science programs in the business school delivered in English. At Jönköping University, home to Jönköping International Business School (JIBS)—AACSB’s first accredited business school in Sweden—a separate residential campus accommodates international students who spend one to two years in residence at the university in English study before transferring to an academic program.

At AACSB we proudly accredit schools offering degree programs in many different languages. We have no expectation of English language program delivery, and this is as it should be. The fact that we now have close to 1,600 educational member schools in 100 countries and territories reflects the enormous diversity of our reach.

It is clear, however, that many schools globally are embracing English language modules, courses, and programs as a means to grow international enrollment. At the University of Ljubljana Business School in Slovenia, Dean Metka Tekavčič and her team have pioneered a summer international business school for close to two decades that now attracts nearly 700 international students for business courses in English, delivered by dozens of international faculty. The program represents a conduit through which many of these summer students return to the university and the business school for graduate study in future years.

The same is now true at RANEPA in Moscow, one of Russia’s largest universities where the faculty of its Institute of Business Studies, led by the school’s vice rector and dean, Sergey Myasaedov, operate a summer school in Kazan that gives hundreds of students a wonderful taste of Russia and the prospect of returning for graduate study.

Students and their families show remarkable resiliency and flexibility in international study. While many factors influence university and business school selection decisions, students tend to migrate to where they are encouraged, embraced, and supported. We will see dramatically increasing numbers of international students in the years to come, and those students represent diversity, inclusiveness, and economic impact for schools anxious to include them in their bachelor’s and master’s programs.

Follow Timothy Mescon on Twitter @timmescon.