International higher education around the world

International higher education around the world

Even with all the globe-trotting we do in our profession, it’s not often we get the chance to do a world tour in just 60 minutes. The session ‘Exploring hot topics in international education through World café’, held at the NAFSA conference last week in Denver, gave participants just that opportunity. It was a tour of the globe, facilitated by the leaders of six international education associations, all members of the Network of International Education Associations (NIEA). Each speaker was given three minutes to present the issues, challenges, and trends in their specific region of the world.

Following the initial presentations, the ‘World café’ part – an interactive room set-up where each table discusses a single topic – really started. Participants were able to visit different corners of the globe to hear more about the issues that had been presented or, indeed, introduced to others.  Here is a sneak peek of some of the regional topics.

Brazil (FAUBAI)

In May 2016, the president of Brazil was suspended amidst an impeachment process and an interim president was named. This complicated political situation directly impacts international education from a financial perspective. As a result, Science Without Borders, Brazil’s flagship academic mobility scholarship programme, is currently on hold.

South Africa (IEASA)

The South African higher education system is in transition. A student-led movement and the ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum have impacted all 23 South African universities. In response to a proposed higher education fee increase in October 2015 by the government, student-led activism resulted in the formation of the #feesmustfall movement. While the movement was born to contest the proposed fee increase, the demands have been broader, addressing the deep inequality felt at the higher education level. At the same time, all institutions have started working to decolonise and redevelop the curricula.

Europe (EAIE)

The ‘Brexit’ vote on 23 June will determine if Britain stays in or leaves the European Union. The Universities for Europe campaign strongly advocates for the UK to stay. If the UK votes to leave Europe, the implications for international education are widespread because of European funded mobility, cooperation, projects, joint research, and also tuition fees for student mobility. The refugee crisis continues to impact higher education, as refugees seek out opportunities to begin or continue their studies in Europe. Higher education institutions are responding in various ways and at the same time discussing more collaborative solutions. A new EU directive eases rules for non-EU students and researchers to enter, and stay in Europe for work.

Australia (IEAA)

International education in Australia has a good amount of political will behind it, as it is now the country’s third largest export. Each of the seven states has named Ministers for international education. Approximately 25% of students in Australia are international students, which means that higher education institutions are continually developing practices to accommodate this core of the student body. The employability of international students is also at the forefront of national discussions since many find it difficult to land jobs after graduation, even with a two-year work permit.

Mexico (AMPEI)

One of the biggest challenges impacting Mexico’s international education sector is the low percentage of Mexican students studying abroad. Only 1% of Mexican students are internationally mobile. The economic barrier to studying abroad is the largest obstacle, as the government grants are insufficient, thus leaving families to subsidise the high costs. There is discussion in Mexico about how to reach the remaining 99% of students by internationalising the curriculum.

United States (AIEA)

Although globalisation and specifically the movement across borders is clear and present in the USA context, there is still a great need for making a case for international education. The political climate and the unfavourable financial environment that some higher education institutions are experiencing make it even more important to connect local learning and research to the international arena. Comprehensive internationalisation continues to be a hot trend. In addition, a discussion that is gaining increasing traction is identifying ways for students and graduates to operate in a global environment.

With this whirlwind tour around the world, we can see that: with more or less government support and with uncertain political situations in many regions directly affecting international education, we are all doing our best to ensure that our students have the necessary opportunities to gain the skills they need to contribute as engaged citizens in an ever more globalised society.

Leasa is Knowledge Development Adviser at the EAIE and Laura is President of the EAIE.

Leasa Weimer
EAIE, the NetherlandsLeasa is Senior Adviser for Knowledge Initiatives for the EAIE.