Internationalisation ‘increasingly seen as revenue driver’ in US

Proportion of universities saying making money is a key motivation doubles in five years

June 14, 2017
Money and passport in back pocket
Source: Alamy

Almost a third of US universities have cited making money as a key reason why they undertake internationalisation activities, up from less than one-sixth of institutions five years ago.

A survey of 1,164 US universities conducted by the American Council on Education found that improving student preparedness for a global era was the main reason why institutions internationalise, selected by 71 per cent of respondents, compared with 75 per cent in 2011, when the previous survey was carried out.

However, other factors are becoming increasingly important. When asked to select up to three main reasons for internationalisation, more than half (56 per cent) of US universities chose the diversity of students, faculty and staff, up nine percentage points in the past five years.

Thirty-eight per cent said becoming more attractive to prospective students at home and overseas was a key factor (up from 28 per cent in 2011), and 32 per cent said they wanted to generate revenue for the institution (up from 16 per cent).

The study, Mapping Internationalization on US Campuses, caveats that the data are not fully comparable owing to changes in some of the answer choices.

Increasing study-abroad opportunities for US students and recruiting international students were the highest internationalisation priorities for universities, selected by 54 per cent and 51 per cent of institutions respectively (respondents were asked to select up to three answers).

This question was new to the 2016 survey so the data do not show how this has changed over time. But the report states that there has been an “increasingly sharp emphasis” on student mobility relative to other aspects of internationalisation as reflected by a marked increase in the proportion of universities that engage overseas student recruiters (30 per cent, up from 11 per cent in 2011).

However, just 29 per cent of respondents said that their institution had formally assessed the impact or progress of its internationalisation efforts in the past three years.

The study also found that state funding for internationalisation activities has plummeted over the past 15 years, with universities now relying more heavily on alumni and donors for fundraising in this area.

Just 5 per cent of respondents said they had received state government funding specifically for internationalisation programmes or activities, slightly up from 4 per cent in 2011 but down from 10 per cent in 2001.

The most common source of funding for institutions was philanthropy income from individual donors who were not alumni (33 per cent, up from 21 per cent in 2011), followed by alumni and foundations (both 28 per cent).

Of the 58 per cent of universities that said that their student recruitment plan specifies geographic targets, the majority (73 per cent) said that China was one of the key countries. However, this was a drop from 86 per cent in 2011.

Mexico is the country that has received the greatest rise in interest, selected by 26 per cent of universities in 2016, compared with 16 per cent in 2011.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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