New World order

Conference hears that the Americas have reasons to be cheerful in the overseas-student market. John Morgan reports

June 9, 2010

The growing competitiveness of the US in the international-student market and “cautious optimism” about Latin America’s role in global higher education were among the subjects discussed at a major conference.

More than 7,000 education professionals attended the annual conference of Nafsa: Association of International Educators in Kansas City last week.

A session on trends in global student mobility heard that the balance in the overseas-student market could be shifting away from Europe.

Robert Gutierrez, senior manager of research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education, noted that the number of international students in the US increased by 8 per cent in 2008-09 to a record 671,616.

The leading three countries of origin for foreign students studying in the US were India (103,260), China (98,235) and South Korea (75,065).

Thomas Buntru, president of the Mexican Association of International Education and director of international programmes at the University of Monterrey, discussed Latin America’s traditionally low rates of student mobility.

No Latin American country figures among the world’s top 20 nations for sending or receiving international students and less than 1 per cent of the students enrolled at its universities hail from overseas.

The reasons for this include the region’s generally low academic reputation and lack of organised student recruitment, Mr Buntru said.

But he added that there was cause for “cautious optimism” about the performance of the region’s universities in the overseas market, stemming from “growing concern with quality assurance in higher education” and “affordable tuition fees and the low cost of living”.

Other attractions include specific research strengths in disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology and linguistics, he said.

During the conference, Nafsa’s members and board approved a resolution calling for the repeal of anti-immigrant legislation introduced by the Arizona state government.

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