International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder

International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder

It is perhaps both risky and foolish to predict future international student recruitment patterns and trends. Fast-moving political, economic, and technological worldwide developments make it impossible to predict with certainty the impact of these developments on higher education and future international recruitment and enrollment.

However, I do think it is important to recognize that world events have had, and will continue to have, an impact on future generations of international students. The destinations of future foreign students cannot be isolated from changing worldwide geopolitical and economic realities. There are messages for international enrollment managers and deans on the front pages of our newspapers today.

Few would argue that 2017 was a year of worldwide change and disruption. Players in the geopolitical chess game seem to be constantly changing, creating new alliances – political, economic and societal.

In his recent book, A World in Disarray, Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, quotes a former United States director of national intelligence, who wrote: “Emerging trends suggest that geopolitical competition among major powers is increasing in ways that challenge international norms.” Disruption on the world stage.

Rob Brown of the global education group Navitas, in addressing a conference in September, 2016, wrote “Disruption will happen in higher education like nothing we have seen before and first world institutions are going to suffer the hardest. The real opportunities exist in the developing world.” Disruption on the international higher education stage.

In the Price Waterhouse Coopers report, The World in 2050: Will the shift in global power continue?, the authors estimate that in just a few decades, the world will be very different from what it is today in terms of global ranking of national economies and the major drivers of economic growth. The report notes that China overtook the United States in 2014 to become the world’s largest economy on purchasing power parity and by 2028 the authors project that China will surpass the United States’ GDP in market exchange rate terms.

Countries with the fastest growing economies, populations and growing middle classes in Asia, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam will dominate economic growth in the region. The Asian middle class is expected to increase from 600 million in 2010 to more than 3 billion by 2030 to represent 66 percent of total global middle class population.

International student mobility, by extension, will be impacted by this new economic reality. I think it is safe to predict that regional mobility will grow in importance and the major importers of student today, the United States and the United Kingdom, will continue to lose their share of internationally mobile students. While China will remain a leading exporter of students, it will increasingly become a major importer of students with a goal of enrolling 500,000 international students by 2020.

According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, the stage is set for a new level of competition among international study destinations. National visa and immigration policies, coordinated regional and national marketing campaigns, and the availability of scholarships and employment after graduation will be some of the factors countries can leverage to increase their market share of international students.

Demographic and income growth and expansion of the middle class will set the dial for future international student mobility. As long as the middle class continues to grow across the globe, demand for postsecondary education will continue to outpace supply.

The impact of populism on international student mobility cannot be underestimated and has already been realized in the United States and in Britain. Enrollment statistics for the fall, 2017 term for both countries revealed changes and in certain cohorts, declines in the number of international students.

In contrast, the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore have made education a priority and have invested heavily in the sector. The result has been the creation of a political and economic “infrastructure” in those countries that supports higher education enrollments and academic and research collaborations.

There will probably be no greater impact on worldwide higher education than the integration of technology into education delivery methods. The internet has rendered geography irrelevant and digital options, especially in India and in some African countries, are changing the way higher education is consumed in those countries. The numbers are staggering and change daily, but according to the report, Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017, 30 percent of students worldwide are enrolled in at least one online course.

The jury is still out on the potential and sustainability of online education. But the major MOOC providers, Udacity, Coursera, edX in the United States, FutrureLearn in Britain and Iversity in Germany, among others, believe that MOOCs have the potential to educate millions of students, democratize higher education and build global communities.

I believe that the greatest promises of online learning and MOOCs, as well as the greatest threats, have yet to materialize.

The intersection of disruption with unpredictability demands a new way of thinking and planning. Successful international student recruitment and enrollment in the future will require international deans and recruiters who are both curious and courageous and engage in what Amit Mrig, the President of Academic Impressions, calls “horizon thinking.”

No one has a crystal ball. No one knows for certain how international higher education will evolve over the next year and in future years. The only thing we know for sure is that change will be our constant companion and political, economic and technological trends have, and will continue to have, an impact on where students enroll and why they select one country over another.

Seth Odell, a higher education writer, wrote: “The safe creative seldom achieves the momentum” Successfully embracing and managing change will be the currency of successful schools in the future.

The world is changing. And there are some segments of international higher education plans that are not changing fast enough to meet the headwinds of change.

We can either succumb to change or manage it. The choice is ours.



China and the New World Order


China and the new world order




The worldwide political changes of 2017 will benefit China by increasing its political and economic influence in Asia and around the world. China’s new dominance and strategic alliances will influence the future of international student mobility.

It would be easy to focus an article about the impressive rise of China’s higher education system and the impact of Chinese students on international mobility patterns.

The nu

mbers are dazzling.

In 2017 more than 700,000 Chinese students studied abroad, some in high schools and colleges, others for a shorter period of time, perhaps for language study. According to an April 22, 2017 article in “The Economist,” 57 per cent of Chinese parents would like to send their children abroad for study.

But this is not an article about increasing Chinese student numbers. This article is an attempt to see to tomorrow and how China may and can emerge as a higher education superpower in the coming years.


U.S. columnist Ian Bremer predicts that American international leadership, a constant since 1945, will end this year. The U.S. has become the single biggest source of international uncertainty, creating a void that China is eager to fill.

Xi Jingping, China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping, has been called the chairman of everything. His policies have ushered in a new territorial assertiveness as evidenced by recent events. The fawning reception given him at the January, 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos signaled the importance of the Chinese president on the world stage. And the chairman did not disappoint. He presented himself and his country as champions for globalization and open markets and he suggested that China should guide economic globalization in the future. Mr. Xi’s frequently refers to the “Chinese dre

am of the great revival of the Chinese nation.”

Contrast these sentiments with the inward-looking policies of the U.S. and it is easy to understand why Xi’s comments were not lost on the attendees of the World Economic Forum. Nor were they lost on the countries in Asia and Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.

In May, 2017 the first Belt and Road Forum was held in Beijing. This initiative will spend $150 billion in infrastructure projects in countries south and west of China, along the historic Silk Road. The overarching aim of the project is to construct a network of ports, railways and pipelines that will plug China into economic hubs across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The founding

of the Asian Universities Alliance, with an initial membership of 15 universities from across the region, has initial funding of $1.5 million from Tsinghua University and is an example of China flexing its higher education muscles.

Joining Tsinghua University are several academic powerhouses in the region, including Peking University, the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Malaysia.

In addition to promoting student and faculty mobility within Asia, the organization also aims to promote collaborative research among member institutions. Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony and predicte

d that the Asian Universities Alliance will “Resolve regional and global problems and bring together outstanding talents with an international perspective to serve regional development.”

According to Yoichi Funabashi, chairman of the Tokyo-based think tank, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, China can and will use its economic pull to draw Asian nations into its geopolitical orbit. Inevitably, political and economic ties eventually translate into educational ties.

Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” in 1990, certainly would agree that China’s initi

atives are good examples of making “soft power” investments that have the potential to directly impact the political and economic future of the region.

What does this mean for the future of international student enrollment in the United States? It is my opinion that if, and when, United States’ policies change, it will still take a long time to untangle current perceptions and realities. International deans and recruiters will have to accept the reality of the increasing importance of China’s educational prowess and adjust future strategic plans accordingly.

There wi

ll be opportunities for American colleges and universities in the new world order. But these opportunities will demand a different way of recruiting from today’s standard procedures. International deans and recruiters will have to think differently and will have to focus more on collaboration and less on the go-it-alone strategies many schools use today.

Strategic plans written last year or this year, should be scrapped in full or in part. New plans should be written taking into account that what was once certain with regard to international student mobility patterns, are now uncertain.

Beyond the corridors of today lies a new world order.

Artificial Intelligence and College and University Recruitment, Admission, Progression and Retention

Artificial Intelligence and College and University Recruitment, Admission, Progression and Retention





In a previous artificial on AI and its potential impact on higher education I cited a report, Artificial Intelligence Market in the United States Education Sector, that listed an expected 47.5 percent AI increase in U.S. education from 2017 to 2020.

Many of the articles written about the potential impact of AI on higher education focus on the teaching and learning tasks that will be disrupted by the fourth Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution. This article will examine the potential impact of AI on recruitment, admission, progression and retention of college and university students as well as some of the potential pitfalls of AI on college administration.

Imagine an admission office and staff that were able to answer the thousands of inquiries received during the normal admission cycle. Imagine a potential applicant, receiving on a regular basis, interactive website materials and answers to common admission questions asked within hours after making a request for information. Imagine an admission office with the ability to customize the process from inquiry to application to acceptance to enrollment for each potential student. Imagine an admission office that can predict which applicants are most likely to enroll, allowing admission staff to focus on this cohort of potential students.

What we are imagining is an admission process that has the capacity to personalize the college application process without adding extra staff or departments. We are imagining administrative functions that have the potential to be both cost effective and efficient. We are imagining an admission office with fewer publications, fewer trips to different states or countries, and fewer staff doing routine admission tasks.

Imagine student success and retention deans able to identify, before enrollment and during the critical first semester, students who are most likely to experience academic difficulty. Imagine algorithms that enable deans and counselors to create effective tutoring and retention intervention techniques.

What we are imaging is a college or university that will improve its financial bottom line by retaining more students. What we are imagining is a school that has reduced the pressure on the “front end,” the admission office, to enroll additional students to replace the students who withdrew.

The implications for a school’s financial bottom line, are obvious.

What about the potential pitfalls of AI on college admission and retention? Pascal Fung, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology cautions: “A high level of ethical principles cannot be integrated into algorithms.”      

In 2015 Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warned about the potential negative impact of AI in making ethical decisions. In recruiting students, for example, AI information could be used to limit or control the number of students from a particular state, region, or country who are admitted not because of academic ability but because of other considerations like ethnicity or ability to pay tuition and school fees.

While computers excel at accumulating knowledge, computation and pattern recognition, they cannot replace human administrators. The data is only as good as the data sources. And we should remember that students are more than just data sets. Overreliance on AI research and applicability in the recruitment and retention of students is neither a wise nor creative administrative decision.

While there is a great amount of information on the potential of AI to reduce or eliminate jobs currently performed by humans, I believe admission and retention functions will change, not disappear. Admission and retention staff may perform different administrative tasks based on AI data.

In a July 8, 2018 article in The New York Times, Erik Byrnjolfssin, an economist at MIT and Tom Mitchell, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, wrote that jobs, in their opinion, will be partly automated rather than disappear altogether.

I agree with this opinion as it relates to the future of AI in recruitment, admission, progression and retention plans and programs. I also believe that administrators charged with the responsibility of enrolling and graduating students cannot ignore the role AI will play in the future.


Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education

Artificial Intelligence and Higher education



“The country that controls artificial intelligence will control the world.”

Vladimir Putin

Hardly a day goes by without some reference to the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence in our lives. I believe that universities both in the United States and around the world will also experience significant change brought about through AI.

This is the first of two articles examining the promises and potential pitfalls of AI on higher education. The first article will define AI and give examples of how AI can impact college and university administrative processes. The second article will examine some of the pitfalls of AI. Both articles will focus on AI as it relates to administrative processes, especially in recruitment and retention, and not teaching and learning.

AI was founded as an academic discipline in 1956. It is defined as the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally done by humans. AI uses algorithms that can predict everything from picking stocks to diagnosing diseases. Higher education administrative processes will not be immune from the impact that AI can have on how students are recruited, admitted, enrolled and graduated.

Alana Dunagan, a higher education researcher at the Clayton Cristensen Institute, envisions AI as a powerful tool fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in colleges and universities.

According to the report, Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector, AI will grow by 57.5 percent from 2017 to 2021. Several technological and educational powerhouses including Google, IBM, Pearsons, Content Technologies and Carnegie Learning are committing substantial resources and personnel to develop digital platforms that use AI to provide testing and feedback for students from pre-K to college and university.

How will AI influence national and international recruitment, admission, retention, and graduation? The examples are many; too many to list in one article. but let’s focus on a few.

AI has the potential to change how colleges and universities recruit domestic and international students by creating algorithms that can predict the applicants most likely to be accepted and enroll, from which states and countries, and the enrolled students most likely to progress and graduate and become engaged alumni.

AI has the potential to customize and personalize the admission process, speed up administrative processes for domestic and international students, including admission decisions, visa processing, student housing selection and course registration. AI also holds out the promise of assisting retention and student success deans by identifying students who are most likely to struggle academically in the first semester and year. Early warning signs and red flags will allow progression and retention plans to anticipate, rather than react, to students’ difficulties.

The implications for a school’s financial bottom line are obvious. Also obvious is the anticipated fear that AI may replace recruitment, admission and retention. staff.

AI may also assist college admission deans with dealing with the phenomena of the “summer melt,” a term used to describe the group of students who although they have paid a deposit in May to secure a place in the incoming class, do not actually enroll in September. The financial impact of this cohort of accepted students who do not become enrolled students has caused havoc for many colleges and universities, especially several tuition dependent, private schools. AI by providing personalized and frequent text messaging and communication, can identify accepted applicants who may fall into the “summer melt” category and allow staff to create intervention strategies. Again, the implications for a school’s financial bottom line by enrolling some percentage of this cohort, is obvious.

AI also has the potential to create rapid interventions for students suffering from home sickness or social isolation and thereby becoming an important tool for student engagement.

Identifying and targeting applicants and students who are the best fit for a school and then personalizing the experience from the time of inquiry, to application, to acceptance, to enrollment, to progression, to graduation, and to alumni engagement, will increase not only the bottom line but also increase the reputational value of the school.

In the next article I will examine some of the potential pitfalls of AI on higher education.

Factfulness and Future International Student Mobility

Factfulness and Future International Student Mobility


I recently read an article about Bill Gates making a gift of the book Factfulness to every graduating senior from U.S. colleges and universities in 2018. My curiosity was peeked. I bought and read the book.

Factfulness by Dr. Hans Rosling, founder of the Gapminder Foundation in Sweden, is based on 18 years of research. The book did indeed, as the jacket cover promised, change my mind about the way I perceive the world and how I will conduct research and write articles in the future. Dr. Rosling wrote the book to fight what he calls devastating global ignorance and to present data and statistics to challenge prevailing perceptions.

What relevance could such a book have for those of you reading this article who publish, conduct research or are responsible for creating international strategic plans and recruiting and enrolling international students? In the opening chapters of Factfulness the author states emphatically that the one thing we cannot do without is international collaborations. That certainly has relevance in your day-to-day work. The author further states that the most important thing we can do to avoid misjudging something’s importance is to avoid lonely numbers, or using a single statistic to make a point. That certainly has relevance when planning future internationalizing programs or future recruitment.  He urges readers never to leave a statistic by itself. For example, there is abundant data to suggest that in addition to Asia, a significant opportunity to recruit international students in the future lies in Africa. One set if statistics may discourage international deans and recruiters from recruiting in Africa based on the perception that most people in Africa are living below the poverty line and wars and droughts have rendered many African countries unsuitable for recruitment. But another set of statistics reveal that in a continent of 54 countries and one billion people, half of all Africans are living middle class lives. Most have cell phones and statistics on the number of African students enrolled in online courses is staggering.

There is abundant data in this book to prove that most of the world’s population lives in Asia. The United Nations forecasts that 20 years from now Asia and Africa will be at the center of gravity and world markets will shift from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.  Many profitable investments will no longer be made in western capitals but in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa. That information surely has relevance to international recruiters and deans. Taking the long view means planning beyond next year’s incoming class of international students. It means challenging perceptions.

There will be, I believe, some nasty enrollment surprises in the fall term. There will also be some pleasant surprises. One thing for certain is that there will be changes in why and where international students enroll. Shifts have has already occurred.

Big change is always difficult to imagine. But instead of fearing change, international deans and recruiters should prudently use data to better understand the world’s globalized markets. As Dr. Rosling makes clear in his book globalization is not a one-off. It is a continuous process. He urges readers to develop a fact-based worldview and base future decisions on the facts.

After reading this book I thought that it should be given to all incoming first year students in September. As the book’s introduction states: if you are ready for critical thinking to replace instinctive reaction, if you are feeling humble, curious, and ready to be amazed, this is the book for you.