Strategy to increase number of foreign students failing as numbers decline
on 06/09/2013 00:00:00
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn last week announced a review of an international education strategy launched by the previous government three years ago.
Among the targets in the 2010-2015 strategy was a 50% increase in full-time international students, including those at private colleges, from 17,000 to 25,500.
But the latest official figures, although they only cover one full year of that strategy, suggest the figures are over-ambitious.
HEA chief executive Tom Boland said the education system must adopt a more international focus. "Ireland is a global centre for learning and research but we clearly need to do more to attract international students. In the decade to 2008, the number of international students studying here had increased by 170%, but the stagnation in numbers is a cause for worry."
Mr Boland said it was welcome there are students from 139 countries here and there are significant increases in numbers on Erasmus and other exchange programmes. He said questions must be asked about how we can further raise the international profile of education and research in Ireland.
"Are we doing enough to integrate non-Irish students into all activities on third level campuses? It is not enough to welcome students on day one, we need to ensure they are supported right through their studies."
The marketing of this country to foreign students is now led by Enterprise Ireland, supported by the Department of Education, with input by the HEA.
As well as the valuable fee incomes and direct economic benefits of almost 7,500 full-time non-EU students, Government efforts are underpinned by the development of relations with future business leaders in expanding global economies like Brazil, India and China.
The number of full-time Chinese students has jumped from 871 to 1,412 in five years, but people coming here to study from the US are still the biggest group. However, US student numbers in Ireland have fallen from 2,416 to 2,255.
Despite rocketing college fees in Britain, the numbers studying here from the UK (excluding the North) rose by only a few dozen from 1,129 to 1,162. There have been various missions led by senior third level and Government figures to India over the last decade, but student numbers rose by just seven to 285 in five years.
The consultation paper published by Mr Quinn points to growth in priority areas, such as a 14% rise in numbers in the English language sector, and a 9% growth in overseas students in higher education which may include part-time places and students in non-HEA funded colleges.