Import/export focus puts Germany on top

Concern over lack of outward study as UK comes third in international index. John Morgan reports

March 25, 2010

Germany's "comprehensive" support for students studying abroad puts it top of a new index for promoting international higher education, in which it outranks the UK and the US.

The study is part of a research project, conducted for the British Council by the Economist Intelligence Unit, to create what is billed as "the first detailed measure of the international higher education activities of countries across the world".

The British Council's Index for International Education, to be unveiled in full on 26 March at the organisation's "Going Global" conference in London, looks at national policies, student mobility and international collaboration.

The first of those three subjects is covered by the report's National Policy Index, which ranks 11 countries. Germany tops the table, followed in order by Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia, the US, Japan, Russia and Nigeria, with Brazil and India in equal 10th position.

The study says that the top three countries have the "most open environments, supported by well-defined and ambitious internationalisation strategies".

"However, what sets Germany apart is its fairly even focus on both importing and exporting elements. While it targets 20 per cent growth in the number of inbound students, it also has the most comprehensive outbound-support programmes of any country in this study," it says.

It adds: "Observers have at times accused the UK and Australia of focusing too narrowly on the direct monetary gains of recruiting foreign students, and it is true that both focus more on attracting students in, and are comparatively weaker at promoting outbound student and academic mobility."

Pat Killingley, director of higher education at the British Council, said of the lack of international study opportunities: "If you were to talk to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, it would certainly say that this is of political concern to the government."

She added that British students are put "at a disadvantage in their future careers".

The National Policy Index draws on reports from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.

The three categories judged were quality assurance; openness (including internationalisation strategy and visa policies) and degree recognition; and access and equity (including the size of scholarships and whether policies are in place to ensure that marginalised domestic students are not displaced by their overseas peers).

Looking at the UK, the index notes that the prime minister has initiated a five-year strategy to make Britain a leading destination for international students.

But it says the "new points-based visa system for non-European Economic Area students may be overly complex".

It also notes that there are few programmes beyond Erasmus to support UK students and academics to travel abroad, and states that the government "has no policy in place" to tackle the possible displacement of domestic students by overseas ones.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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