The UK, Australia and Hong Kong are among the top performers when countries are assessed on how supportive their policy environments are of international higher education, a study says.
The Netherlands and Malaysia were also singled out as leading countries based on preliminary findings of new research from the British Council, which were presented at the organisation’s Going Global conference.
All five countries were found to be “very strong” on the three areas regarded as being very important for universities: international student mobility, transnational education and international research engagement.
Metrics included countries’ visa policies for students and academics; quality assurance of mobility and TNE; recognition of TNE qualifications; and funding for academic mobility and international research collaboration.
The study, which will be published in July, builds on British Council research published last year that looked at countries’ openness to international higher education.
While 26 nations were assessed last year, this year’s research measured 38 countries.
In addition, the 37 qualitative indicators have been “tweaked” to assess how universities collaborate and to “make it more relevant to the international strategies of higher education institutions”, said Janet Ilieva, founder and director of Education Insight, who conducted the research with Michael Peak, research manager at the British Council.
Presenting the preliminary findings, Dr Ilieva said that international student mobility was on average the most developed policy area, with almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of the countries assessed having a “strong focus on this measure”.
Meanwhile, streamlined visas for international students received the highest average score across all indicators and were present in all but one of the countries, she said.
But streamlined visas for researchers and academics were less common, and present in only 26 (or 68 per cent) of the countries.
However, “countries can be a little more reluctant to open up their labour markets to students”, she said, noting that only seven of the countries analysed allow students to work during their studies and apply for a job after their degree.
The research also found that, while transnational education has seen an increase in recognition globally, standards of quality assurance are “still catching up”, she said. While the majority of the countries allow TNE to take place, 37 per cent (or 14 countries) do not recognise degrees delivered via TNE.
Dr Ilieva said that the results show that there is a significant positive relationship between the policies supporting transnational education and international student mobility. In particular, strong transnational education provision appears to be linked to major growth in regional mobility, she said.
“Maybe the growing programme mobility is supporting the regional mobility of international students,” she said.