Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Migration, internationalisation and more

If you follow international student issues in the UK, you'll no doubt have seen this week's coverage of the latest IPPR report on the perverse consequences of including international students in the calculation of net migration.  

A less well publicised, but equally interesting, report from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US, reported by Scott Jaschik gives us some useful data about migration in the context of brain drain/gain/circulation.  Unsurprisingly, there is a high proportion of immigrant* research staff in countries like Australia (44.5%), Canada (46.9%), USA (38.4%) and UK (32.9%) - although the highest of all the 16 countries included is Switzerland at 56.7% (*defined for the purpose of this study as those who lived elsewhere at age 18).  By contrast, levels are far lower in countries like Japan (5%), Italy (3%) and India (0.8%).  The breakdown of source countries confirms the truism that the US system is very dependent on researchers from China (16.9%) and India (12.3%), but also that there is much regional mobility, as well as possible linguistic influence - not least evident in the Brits who make up 13.5% of researchers in Canada and 21.1% of those in Australia.  Meanwhile a report on a paper from the OECD suggests that babyboomer academics are retiring at a faster rate than new PhD graduates coming through the system, leading to a likelihood of growing international competition for talent.

Elsewhere in the news this week, NAFSA have published a paper on Measuring and Assessing Internationalization, which encouragingly acknowledges that internationalisation shouldn't be measured as an end in itself, and focuses mainly on the issue of assessing students' "global learning".  This reflects some of the issues discussed in the recent Warwick Integration Summit (see previous blog).  And if you think that's the way forward, have a look at the forthcoming Higher Education Academy event at the University of Glasgow on Internationalising Graduate Attributes: Buildilng an Inclusive Curriculum which will report on the outcome of some student-led research on the topic.

Another call to rethink internationalisation comes from the Vice-Chancellor of a Malaysian University.  Dzulkifli Abdul Razak points out that Singapore has rowed back on its enthusiastic policy of increasing international student numbers in the face of domestic criticism and fears that home students were being displaced (sound familiar?), leading to a possible cap on numbers, and rescinding a scheme to allow international students to stay on for a year to seek employment (sounding even more familiar?).  He echoes the concerns of the recent IAU report that internationalisation must not be allowed to become the cart driving the horse, and echoes concerns I heard from Malaysian colleagues over a decade ago that internationalisation must not be a cover for creeping Westernisation by the back door.  A useful reminder that even (and perhaps especially) such seemingly benign concepts as internationalisation can be culturally-based and biased.

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