Overseas demand spurs foreign drive

October 8, 2004

Universities are starting to bolster their international offices in response to British Council predictions earlier this year of a huge increase in foreign demand for higher education.

Sheffield University said it was taking on an international officer to support its "international presence".

And Greenwich University was set to expand its international recruitment team as part of efforts to internationalise the university.

The Times Higher has also learnt that Leicester University plans to advertise for posts to beef up its international efforts.

An international outlook is vital because universities profit from recruiting foreign students - not only financially but also culturally.

Steve Wallis, head of Greenwich's international office, said: "Certain countries more readily fill places that UK students are not tending to go for anymore. Indians love to do engineering, for example. It keeps departments lively and alive."

Richard Taylor, Leicester's marketing director, said the university's plans to expand its international section were not just about getting "bums on seats".

He said Leicester was looking to provide a careers service to international students. The university aimed to find the students jobs in their homelands and in the UK, thereby cementing a mutually beneficial bond between the university, overseas students, graduates and their employers.

"In education, word of mouth is everything," he said. "It's not just a way of plugging a financial hole, we have to deliver a good service or we will lose them."

Leicester was targeting China and India in particular. India, along with the Middle East, was also on the list of Birmingham University, which advertised last week for a recruitment officer.

Aberdeen University is looking beyond countries such as India and China to emerging potential markets such as Vietnam, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Russia.

Joanne Purves, Northumbria University's director of international operations, said: "If you are going to be a serious university in the 21st century, you have got to be internationalised. No student would want to go to a university that didn't have an international outlook and strategy.

It's part of the globalisation of education."

International recruitment benefited the university as a whole, she said.

"We could easily just be a small regional university, but we are out there making links internationally, which then feed into our research and teaching."

Meanwhile, the Government's Science and Engineering Graduates Students'

scheme, due to launch on October 25, should smooth the way for overseas graduates to get permits to stay and work in the UK for a year after they finish their studies. When they return home, their skills become the UK's contribution to helping development in their countries.

anthea.lipsett@thes.co.uk

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