The politics of the great brain race: public policy and international student recruitment in Australia, Canada, England and the USA

Abstract

As the number of globally mobile students has expanded, governments are assumed to be consistently and intentionally competing for talent, in what has been called a “great brain race”. While the notion of competition has become dominant, there is little evidence on long-term policy dynamics in this field, not only across jurisdictions but also over time. We seek to address this gap in this paper through a longitudinal analysis of the politics and public policies impacting international students in four major recruiting countries—Australia, Canada, England and the USA. Through this comparative analysis of the period 2000 to 2016, we demonstrate that international student numbers across the jurisdictions have grown steadily but that this appears to be decoupled from political and policy changes. We also discuss how “internationalization” initiatives provide an insufficient policy umbrella for policy action on the recruitment and retention of international students. Public policy impacting international students spans multiple government agencies or ministries, encompassing different policy fields. This requires greater policy coordination, which remains elusive for the most part.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    Japan and the Russian Federation also both host 3% of all international students. Other major recruiters include France, hosting 6% of all international students, and Germany, with 5% of the total (OECD 2015).

  2. 2.

    Whereas in the past, higher education policy applied to all four UK nations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), since 1999 processes of devolution in Scotland and Wales mean that policy made in London is now only applicable for England and Northern Ireland. However, where materials analysed for this study refer to the UK as a whole rather than just England, national findings are presented.

  3. 3.

    International students are classified as those from outside the European Union, at least for fee purposes where there is a two-band fee regime with lower fees for EU (including British) students and generally higher rates for international students.

References

  1. Adams, T., Leventhal, M., & Connelly, S. (2012). International student recruitment in Australia and the United States: approaches and attitudes. In The SAGE handbook of international higher education (pp. 399–416). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

  2. Altbach, P. (2013). The international imperative in higher education. Boston: Sense Publishers.

  3. Australian Government. (no date). Higher education statistics (uCube). Retrieved January 7, 2016aa, from http://www.highereducationstatistics.education.gov.au

  4. Australian Government. (2015). Future directions for streamlined visa processing. Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved from https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/reviews-and-inquiries/future-directions.pdf

  5. Australian Government. (2016). National strategy for international education 2025. Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from https://internationaleducation.gov.au/International-network/Australia/InternationalStrategy/Pages/National-Strategy.aspx

  6. Banks, M., & Bhandari, R. (2012). Global student mobility. In The SAGE handbook of international higher education (pp. 379–398). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

  7. Barnett, R. (2016, June 24). EU referendum: will UK HE become less global, more parochial? Retrieved June 25, 2016, from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/eu-referendum-will-uk-he-become-less-global-more-parochial

  8. Becker, R., & Kolster, R. (2012). International student recruitment. The Hague: Nuffic.

  9. Béland, D. (2005). Ideas and social policy: an institutionalist perspective. Social Policy & Administration, 39(1), 1–18. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9515.2005.00421.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bhandari, R., & Blumenthal, P. (Eds.). (2011). International students and global mobility in higher education: national trends and new directions. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

  11. Birrell, B., & Perry, B. (2009). Immigration policy change and the international student industry. People and Place, 17(2), 64–80.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Canada. (2014). International education: a key driver of Canada’s future prosperity. Advisory panel on Canada’s international education strategy final report. Retrieved from http://international.gc.ca/global-markets-marches-mondiaux/education/strategy-strategie.aspx?lang=eng

  13. Canadian Bureau for International Education. (2015). A world of learning: Canada’s performance and potential in international education 2015. Ottawa: Canadian Bureau for International Education.

  14. Chen, L.-H. (2007). Choosing Canadian graduate schools from afar: East Asian students’ perspectives. Higher Education, 54(5), 759–780. doi:10.1007/s10734-006-9022-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Chiose, S. (2015). New immigration rules risk leaving international students behind. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-immigration-rules-risk-leaving-international-students-behind/article22886693/

  16. Chiose, S. (2016). Ontario halts residence program for international students amid backlog. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-halts-residence-program-for-international-students-amid-backlog/article30054500/

  17. Chirkov, V. I., Safdar, S., de Guzman, J., & Playford, K. (2008). Further examining the role motivation to study abroad plays in the adaptation of international students in Canada. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32(5), 427–440. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2007.12.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Ciolli, A. (2007). International students in a post-globalization world: a critical analysis. Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, 5(2), 415–426.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2015). Express entry system: information for skilled foreign workers. Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/express-entry-presentation-immigrants.asp

  20. Commonwealth of Australia. (2013). Australia—educating globally: advice from the International Education Advisory Council. Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from https://internationaleducation.gov.au/International-network/Australia/InternationalStrategy/theCouncilsReport/Pages/The-Council’s-Report.aspx

  21. Custer, S. (2015). Australia releases international education strategy draft. The PIE News. Retrieved from http://thepienews.com/news/australia-releases-international-education-strategy-draft/

  22. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. (2016). Success as a knowledge economy: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice. UK Government. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-success-as-a-knowledge-economy-white-paper

  23. Dommett, K. (2013). A miserable little compromise? Exploring Liberal Democrat fortunes in the UK coalition. The Political Quarterly, 84(2), 218–227.

  24. Douglass, J. A., & Edelstein, R. (2009). The global competition for talent: the rapidly changing market for international students and the need for a strategic approach in the US. Center for Studies in Higher Education.

  25. Geddie, K. (2015). Policy mobilities in the race for talent: competitive state strategies in international student mobility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40(2), 235–248. doi:10.1111/tran.12072.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Gil, N., & Wakefield, L. (2015). Are international students in the UK getting a raw deal? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/apr/23/are-international-students-getting-a-raw-deal

  27. Glaser, B. G. (1965). The constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Social Problems, 12(4), 436–445. doi:10.2307/798843.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Graycar, A. (2010). Addressing violence against international students. The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-07-15/35354

  29. Green, M. (2014). The best in the world? Not in internationalization. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://www.nafsa.org/Explore_International_Education/Trends/TI/The_Best_in_the_World__Not_in_Internationalization/

  30. Gribble, C. (2008). Policy options for managing international student migration: the sending country’s perspective. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 30(1), 25–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Group of Eight. (2014). International students in higher education and their role in the Australian economy. Group of Eight. Retrieved from https://go8.edu.au/publication/international-students-higher-education-and-their-role-australian-economy

  32. Gürüz, K. (2011). Higher education and international student mobility in the global knowledge economy (2nd ed.). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

  33. Haddal, C. C. (2007). Foreign students in the United States: policies and legislation. DTIC Document.

  34. Hawthorne, L. (2012). Designer immigrants?: international students and two-step migration. In The SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education (pp. 417–436). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

  35. Helms, R., Rumbley, L., Brajkovic, L., & Mihut, G. (2015). Internationalizing higher education worldwide: national policies and programs (CIGE Insights). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

  36. Higher Education Statistics Agency. (no date). Free online data tables—students, qualifiers and staff. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from https://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/1973/239/

  37. ICEF Monitor. (2016). Canadian government eases citizenship process for international students. Retrieved from http://monitor.icef.com/2016/02/canadian-government-eases-citizenship-process/

  38. Institute of International Education. (2015). Open doors data. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data

  39. Kim, D., Bankart, C. A. S., & Isdell, L. (2011). International doctorates: trends analysis on their decision to stay in US. Higher Education, 62(2), 141–161. doi:10.1007/s10734-010-9371-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Knight, J. (2012). Student mobility and internationalization: trends and tribulations. Research in Comparative and International Education, 7(1), 20. doi:10.2304/rcie.2012.7.1.20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lawley, M. A., & Yau, O. H. M. (1997). International university education: an Australian perspective. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 8(1), 25. doi:10.1300/J050v08n01_03.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Lebeau, Y., Stumpf, R., Brown, R., Lucchesi, M. A. S., & Kwiek, M. (2012). COMPARE forum: who shall pay for the public good? Comparative trends in the funding crisis of public higher education. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 42(1), 137–157. doi:10.1080/03057925.2012.635418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lee, J., Maldonado-Maldonado, A., & Rhoades, G. (2006). The political economy of international student flows: patterns, ideas and propositions. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: handbook of theory and research (Vol. XXI, pp. 545–590). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Macdonald, M. (2016). Canadian government signals renewed openness to international students. Retrieved from http://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/canadian-government-signals-renewed-openness-international-students/

  45. Malkin, B. (2009). Australia must protect foreign students from attacks, say China and India. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/5444944/Australia-must-protect-foreign-students-from-attacks-say-China-and-India.html

  46. Marginson, S. (2015). UK international education: global position and national prospects (Occasional Paper No. 10.2015). London: UK Council for International Student Affairs.

  47. Mas, S. (2016). Express Entry review to ease path to permanent residency for foreign students. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/express-entry-international-students-1.3483347

  48. Murray, D. (2013). Internationalisation: where to from here? In S. Marginson (Ed.), Tertiary education policy in Australia (pp. 113–122). Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.

    Google Scholar 

  49. NAFSA Association of International Educators. (2007). Why America needs an international education policy. Washington, DC: NAFSA Association of International Educators.

  50. Nicholson, C. (2012). Tier 4 tears: how government student visa controls are destroying the private HE sector. CentreForum. Retrieved from http://www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/tier-4-tears.pdf

  51. Norton, A., & Cherastidtham, I. (2014). Mapping Australian higher education, 2014–15 (Grattan Institute Report No. 2014–11). Grattan Institute. Retrieved from http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/816-mapping-higher-education-2014.pdf

  52. Nyland, C., Forbes-Mewett, H., & Marginson, S. (2010). The international student safety debate: moving beyond denial. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(1), 89–101. doi:10.1080/07294360903277364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. (2006). Bigger, broader, better? UK launches the second phase of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education. Retrieved from http://www.obhe.ac.uk/documents/view_details?id=242

  54. OECD. (2015). Education at a glance 2015. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2015_eag-2015-en

  55. O’Malley, B. (2015, December 9). UK leads on international student satisfaction. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20151209142515567

  56. Ortiz, A., Chang, L., & Fang, Y. (2015). International student mobility trends 2015: an economic perspective. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://wenr.wes.org/2015/02/international-student-mobility-trends-2015-an-economic-perspective/

  57. Owens, D. L., Srivastava, P., & Feerasta, A. (2011). Viewing international students as state stimulus potential: current perceptions and future possibilities. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 21(2), 157–179. doi:10.1080/08841241.2011.623730.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Robbins, L. (2016). New U.S. rule extends stay for some foreign graduates. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/nyregion/new-us-rule-extends-stay-for-some-foreign-graduates.html

  59. Patton, M. Q. (2001). Qualitative research & evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Correction Form

  60. Scott, C., Safdar, S., Desai Trilokekar, R., & El Masri, A. (2015). International students as “ideal immigrants” in Canada: a disconnect between policy makers’ assumptions and the lived experiences of international students. Comparative and International Education/Éducation Comparée et Internationale, 43(3), 5.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Segal, U. A., Elliott, D., & Mayadas, N. S. (Eds.). (2010). Immigration worldwide: policies, practices, and trends. New York: Oxford University Press Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388138.001.0001.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Smith, B. (2016). Australia creates int’l ed cross-sectorial council. The PIE News. Retrieved from http://thepienews.com/news/australia-creates-intl-ed-cross-sectorial-council/

  63. Statistics Canada. (2014). Postsecondary enrolments, by registration status, Pan-Canadian standard classification of education, classification of instructional programs, primary grouping, sex and student status (table 477-0019). Retrieved June 18, 2016, from http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/

  64. Suter, B., & Jandl, M. (2008). Train and retain: national and regional policies to promote the settlement of foreign graduates in knowledge economies. Journal of International Migration and Integration/Revue de L’integration et de La Migration Internationale, 9(4), 401–418. doi:10.1007/s12134-008-0072-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Teich, A. H. (2014). Streamlining the visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers. Issues in Science and Technology, 31(1). Retrieved from http://issues.org/31-1/streamlining-the-visa-and-immigration-systems-for-scientists-and-engineers/

  66. The Economist. (2015). Immigration breaks a record. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21662591-net-migration-britain-has-never-been-higher-immigration-breaks-record

  67. Thompson, G. (2015). Key issues for the 2015 parliament. London: House of Commons Library.

  68. Tremblay, K. (2005). Academic mobility and immigration. Journal of Studies in International Education, 9(3), 196–228. doi:10.1177/1028315305277618.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. UK Higher Education International Unit. (2015). International undergraduate students: the UK’s competitive advantage. London: UK Higher Education International Unit.

  70. Universities Australia. (2015). Response to the draft national strategy for international education. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/news/submissions-and-reports/Response-to-the-Draft-National-Strategy-for-International-Education#.V2qkmmgrI2w

  71. Universities UK. (2015). Patterns and trends in UK higher education 2015. Retrieved from http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/data-and-analysis/Pages/patterns-and-trends-uk-higher-education-2015.aspx

  72. Usher, A. (2016). A new logo for Canadian higher education. Retrieved from http://higheredstrategy.com/a-new-logo-for-canadian-higher-education/

  73. Walker, P. (2014). International student policies in UK higher education from colonialism to the coalition: developments and consequences. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(4), 325–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Wildavsky, B. (2012). The great brain race: how global universities are reshaping the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  75. Williams, K., Williams, G., Arbuckle, A., Walton-Roberts, M., & Hennebry, J. (2015). International students in Ontario’s postsecondary education system, 2000–2012: an evaluation of changing policies, populations, and labor market entry processes. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

  76. Zhou, J. (2015). International students’ motivation to pursue and complete a Ph.D. in the U.S. Higher Education, 69(5), 719–733. doi:10.1007/s10734-014-9802-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Ziguras, C., & McBurnie, G. (2015). Governing cross-border higher education. New York: Routledge.

  78. Zilio, M., & Chiose, S. (2016). Ottawa looks to ease international students’ path to permanent residency. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-looks-to-ease-international-students-path-to-permanent-residency/article29242266/

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Government of Ontario, Canada, through the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Creso M. Sá.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Public policies impacting international students

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sá, C.M., Sabzalieva, E. The politics of the great brain race: public policy and international student recruitment in Australia, Canada, England and the USA. High Educ 75, 231–253 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0133-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • International students
  • Public policy
  • Student mobility
  • Immigration
  • Internationalization