The Impact of Nationalism on Future International Student Recruitment

September 26th, 2017 by

The Impact of Nationalism on Future International Student Recruitment

All of the numbers are yet to be recorded but what we know today is that many of the predictions about international student enrollment for the fall, 2017 term, have become reality.  This is what we know so far:

In a report published by ICEF, a survey of US colleges and universities revealed that only about a third expected to meet their enrollment targets for September. And 40 per cent expected declines in international student numbers for the fall. 85 percent of senior admission staff reported being very concerned about reaching their institutional targets for the next academic year. Early reports reveal a decrease in the number of applications from Chinese and Indian students, two of the most important markets for US colleges and universities.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, Canadian colleges and universities report an increased number of applicants and enrollments from students from China, India, South Korea, France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Japan and Brazil.

While there are no final enrollment numbers for schools in Great Britain, Australia, Germany, China, Japan, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, early application numbers indicate an increase in the number of international student applications in all of the countries listed with the exception of Great Britain.

At least in the United States, in an attempt to increase international enrollments for 2018, international enrollment managers and recruiters will probably engage in attending more international fairs, hire more agents, create new social media outlets and host more webinars.

I will not argue with the validity or productivity of this type of international student outreach. However, I believe there are other factors in play that will impact future international student recruitment and enrollment. One such factor is the rise of nationalism around the world and specifically in the United States, Great Britain, China and certain European countries, like Hungary, Turkey and Poland.

I believe that before embarking on doing more of the same, international enrollment managers and deans should first consider the impact of nationalism on future international recruitment plans.

The impact of nationalism on international higher education has already been felt in the declining number of applications from international students to the United States and European Union students to Britain. It would be easy to blame the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote for the reasons for the declines. But both the election and the vote were outcomes, not causes, of the votes. People around the world fear they are losing out because of free market globalization. People around the world believe their borders are too porous, and people around the world fear losing their sense of national identity.

In his book, Ruling the Void: the Hollowing of Western Democracy, the author, Peter Mair, makes the case for current populist sentiments. Elected governments, he writes, have conceded powers to non-elected agencies, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

In many countries in the Middle East, political turmoil and changing alliances have created new higher educational partners. While the United Arab Emirates continue to enroll increased numbers of international students, the tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, do not bode well for the future of international recruitment in those countries. And then there is the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to consider.

China is flexing its nationalistic muscle not only politically and economically but also in higher education. President Xi, since coming to power, has intensified efforts to build what he refers to as “cultural confidence,” beginning with a nationwide education program to preserve traditional Chinese culture and minimize “Western values” influence on Chinese society.

In April of this year, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, called for an amendment to the National Higher Education law which would make it impossible for the Central European University to operate. CEU, founded in 1991 is a private graduate school with 1,000 students from over 100 countries. The Prime Minister wants to change its U.S. accreditation so that it can become free of “nefarious liberal influences.”

There are too many other examples of global nationalist movements to list in this article but I believe that growing nationalist movements have the potential to threaten and disrupt the global and collaborative nature of higher education.

International enrollment managers should carefully calculate how nationalism may impact their future international recruitment plans. The best plans of 2017 may not be valid next year because of the political and economic changes fueled by nationalism.


Parts of this article are excerpted from my new book, International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder, to be published in December, 2017.





China and the New World Order

August 27th, 2017 by
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 numbers are dazzling.In 2017 more than 700,000 Chinese students will study abroad, some to study in high schools and colleges, others to study abroad 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. The 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 in January at the 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 dream 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.
On May 14th of this year the first Belt and Road Forum was held in Beijing. This initiative boasts spending $150 billion in infrastructure projects in countries south and west of China, along the historical 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, on April 29th 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 predicted 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 initiatives are good examples of making “soft power” investments that really
are expressions of hard power.
What does this mean for the future of international student enrollment in the U.S.? It is my opinion that if, and when, U.S. 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 will be opportunities for U.S. 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 uncertainy
Beyond the corridors of today lies a new world order.

International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder

August 1st, 2017 by

International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder

It has been some time since I last posted an article about some aspect of international trends and international student recruitment and mobility. I have a good reason.

For the past several months I have been researching and writing a new book, “International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder.” The book is finally finished and I would like to share some of its information, including:

Part 1

World events have had, and will continue to have, an impact on future generations of international students. The destinations of future international students cannot be isolated from changing worldwide geopolitical and economic realities. The book outlines some of the political, economic, societal and technological trends that are shaping our world and correlate those trends to future international student recruitment and enrollment. The impact of the Brexit vote and the election of President Trump on future international student mobility is presented in detail.

Part 2

In this section of the book I offer the reader practical guidelines and recommendations for dealing with the new realities of future international student mobility, the elements of a successful and unsuccessful international strategic plans and recommendations on how to increase international student enrollment.

The basic theme of the book is to present information to international enrollment managers, deans and recruiters of worldwide political, economic, societal and technological trends in order to assist them to write not just strategic international plans, but innovative strategic international plans. The book marries research with actionable suggestions for how to plan now for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

No crystal ball. No one knows, for certain how international higher education will evolve over the next year and in future years. What I have researched and written is what I know to be true today. Tomorrow’s research could point in a different direction. The chess players in the international student mobility game are changing and are constantly moving.

Even though I did not take his advice the late movie mogul, Sam Goldwyn, once said “Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

New Chinese International Student Market

June 27th, 2017 by

New Chinese International Student Market

A short while ago I was in Seattle for my daughter’s wedding. Staying in our hotel was a family from China. They were in Washington state to enroll their 15 year- old son in a local high school. I spoke with the family about why they would choose to separate their son from the family at such an early age. The father assured me that they were one, on many Chinese families, who have decided to better prepare their children for college enrollment in the U.S. by sending them to the U.S. for one or two years of high school.

So I decided to do a little research on this trend.

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of Chinese students enrolling in high schools either in the U.S. or Canada. According to an article by Mini Gu, Advanced Evaluation Specialist, there are more than one million millionaires in China and an estimated 83 percent plan to send their children abroad for high school.

According to a report published by IIE in 2013, there were nearly 25,000 Chinese students enrolled in U.S. secondary schools. Two years later, “The Wall Street Journal” reported that number was almost 35,000.

The Canadian Bureau for International Education reported more than 21,000 Chinese students enrolled in Canadian high schools.

What are some of the reasons for this early student migration?

For many Chinese parents graduating from a respectable American or Canadian university is better than graduating from a second or third tier Chinese university. A recent Chinese government crackdown on teaching western ideas in university classrooms is another reason. Finally, many families have come to understand and appreciate the value of a liberal arts education as opposed to the rigid teaching methods, a hallmark of Chinese university lectures, based on strict memorization.

Key Takeaways

College and university international deans and recruiters should partner with local high schools to create a pathway program from high school to university admission.

International recruiters and agents should market a combined high school and university placement.

College and university deans should begin to “re-recruit” the Chinese high school students in the partnership program by including the students in school events and through a focused student services outreach program.

Outreach to Chinese parents should begin while the Chinese students are in high school and should continue throughout college enrollment and graduation.


Please note: This will be my last blog posting until September, 2017. I need a break from writing. And you need a break from reading. Happy summer.


International Student Recruitment “Winners” 2018

June 13th, 2017 by

International Student Recruitment “Winners” 2018

Time to take another snapshot of international student  mobility patterns a year after Brexit and six months after the U.S. election. I don’t think we will have to wait until September to learn which countries have already emerged as international student “winners.”

Consider the following.

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. and UK are reporting declines in international student applicants.

Clearly most Canadian colleges and universities have experienced an increase in applications from international students. The University of Toronto, for example, reports a 20 percent increase in undergraduate applications and a 41 percent increase in graduate student applications.

International undergraduate applications have increased nearly 30 percent at the University of Alberta; a 120 percent increase in applications from India and a 50 percent increase from U.S. applicants.

The number of international applicants to Irish universities has increased by 17 percent this year with significant increases of applicants from China, India and Southeast Asia.

In 2016-17 a record 112,000 international students attended Dutch colleges and universities. Courses offered in English, low tuition costs and post-graduate employment opportunities contributed to the increase. The highest number of students came from Germany, China and Italy.

In a recent UNESCO report, Malaysia has emerged as one of the top 10 destinations for post-secondary education. Currently there are 11 foreign branch campuses in Malaysia and the Malaysian government has set up two education zones as sites for additional branch campuses.  

“The Jakarta Post” recently reported that Indonesia will have one of the largest college-age populations in the world by 2020. Government policies are poised to make the country an educational hub for students in Southeast Asia.

Key Takeaways

The international higher education student market is poised to grow by almost 5 percent by 2021.

Regional educational hubs, rather that distant locations, will realize an increase in international student enrollments.

The largest increase in international, college-age students will come from Asia.

Government policies, including streamlined visa processing procedures, low tuition costs and favorable employment opportunities after graduation, will determine, in part, future international student mobility patterns.