The notion that British universities are motivated mainly by money in their enthusiasm for internationalisation is misguided, according to a senior UK academic.
Christine Ennew, the pro vice-chancellor for internationalisation and Europe at the University of Nottingham, will lead a session on internationalisation at the Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters conference Building a World-Class University, to be held on 30 September in London.
She will argue against the common perception that UK universities are interested in internationalisation primarily because of financial benefits from the recruitment of overseas students, who pay higher fees than home and European Union students.
This perception is wrong because most institutions set international fees that cover only the average associated costs, according to Professor Ennew.
Speaking to THE ahead of the conference, she said the fees paid by Nottingham's international students, who make up 25 per cent of the total intake, account for 10 per cent of the university's revenue. This was "not so large a proportion that it creates an unhealthy dependence on international recruitment", she said.
Professor Ennew argued that the "soft" benefits of internationalisation, such as expanding networks and increasing research collaboration, were much more significant than fee income in the long term. She said they had the potential to boost intercultural understanding, improve political and economic ties and solve global problems. But she admitted such benefits were harder to quantify.
She said that the key to realising such aspirations was to bring together talented students, teachers and researchers, and select them on the basis of ability to succeed rather than ability to pay. "Some students will fund themselves, but others will need to be supported by scholarships," she said.
This approach was taken in the US and a number of other European countries, she said, where scholarships and favourable rates for foreign students were common.
Professor Ennew said that Nottingham had one of the largest UK scholarship programmes for students from the developing world, while any small surpluses generated by its branch campuses in China and Malaysia were reinvested locally.