Fear of Brexit and Trump ‘eases graduate brain drain’ in Asia

‘Students who would have gone abroad for their studies are already staying back in India and joining us,’ says vice-chancellor

February 8, 2018
Grounded plane

The UK’s vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency in the US are already helping to ease the graduate brain drain in Asia’s emerging economies, according to university leaders.

Speaking to Times Higher Education at its Asia Universities Summit, Raj Kumar, vice-chancellor of O. P. Jindal Global University in Delhi, said that his institution had already seen a trend in bright Indian students opting to stay at home who might otherwise have gone abroad for their studies.

“Clearly Brexit and unfavourable immigration visa policies will create disincentives for students considering higher education overseas,” he said. “They will look to other countries and societies for institutions that can provide a more congenial environment for them to pursue [their studies] fastidiously.

“This is good news for us – students who would have gone abroad for their studies are already staying back in India and joining us.”

Even top students who are still determined to travel are choosing to take up their studies in other “globally facing” Indian cities such as Delhi, rather than seeking visas and going abroad, Professor Kumar said.

In a panel discussion at the THE summit on how research universities seek to “break boundaries” in the modern world, vice-chancellors from Australia, Hong Kong and Israel as well as India were asked how “three devils” – Brexit, Trump and global university rankings – had created challenges or opportunities for their home institutions.

Paul Tam, acting president and vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, said that influencers the world over “simply have to live with devils”. In fact, he added, barriers to immigration and international relations can even act as a “stimulant” to advances.

“So Brexit and Trump, for us particularly, the Asian universities, there’s a certain degree of…not quite satisfaction, but I would say we look at it with a wry smile,” he said.

In terms of securing higher numbers of international students, he added: “This is an opportunity for universities in those countries that are not as inward-looking...I will take advantage of this and reach out because now we can be proactive and engage with this debate.”

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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