Global Ed has seen a dramatic rise in the past two decades. Today, more than ever before, millions of students leave their shores in pursuit of higher, more enriching educational experiences. The numbers are staggering. Consider this – in the year 2000 some 2 million students left their home countries to study abroad. In 2017, that number stood at 5.3 million (as according to data published by UNESCO). By 2025 this number is set to rise to 8 million, predicts the OECD.
With such a mass cross movement across international borders, it would be worth considering what student mobility means for the countries that host them. Does it, to state one aspect, lead to job insecurity amongst the population of the host countries? Also, how do international students contribute economically, culturally and academically to the countries they move to?
There are two primary ways to look at the impact of student mobility on the host countries – the tangible and the intangible. The former can be measured in terms of the direct economic contributions made (broadly) in tuition fees, boarding and lodging. In the United States, for instance, international students contributed $45 billion to the US economy in the year 2018 – according to the US Department of Commerce. Similarly, a study conducted in Denmark found that despite state funding, international students contributed as $23.8 million to the country’s economy.
As for fears of job losses, there’s been a lot of rhetoric around the topic, the fallout of which has been the introduction of more stringent immigration policies by countries like the US. However, populist opinion aside, the truth is that immigration has an overall positive impact on the long-term economic growth of a country, as was found by consensus report titled, ‘The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration’. The study was released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – a scientific national academy based in the United States.
Then there’s the intangible, which goes beyond economic terms. International students have a profound cultural impact on their institutions and on the communities where they live. They bring a unique global perspective which provides an enriching cross-cultural experience for their peers. Students learn to not only interact with people from diverse cultures, but they also learn to listen better and form more informed opinions. These are critical life skills that go a long way in helping them become better thinkers and communicators.
These are not mere conjectures, but have been corroborated by various studies conducted on the impact of student mobility. A 2001 publication called, ‘The Impact of International Students on Domestic Students and Host Institutions’, written for the New Zealand Ministry of Education, states that growing cultural awareness in the premises of these institutions can be associated with the presence of international students. It further states that international students contribute largely towards internationalizing of the educational environment.
Another crucial intangible would be the academic impact of such mobility. International students, especially the ones who stay on in the host countries, contribute considerably to academia and research. Indian-American economist Abhijit Banerjee is a case in point. He earned a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and went on to win a Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences in 2019 (along with his wife Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer) for their work on Global Poverty.
In the context of Nobel laureates in America, a recent report from the National Foundation for American Policy concluded that – “Immigrants have been awarded 39%, or 33 of 85, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in Chemistry, Medicine, and Physics since 2000.” This only further reiterates the immense academic and educational impact international students can have on the host countries.
The fact that global mobility of international students is projected to rise in the coming years is positive for making the world a better place. “International students”, writes Marvin Krislov, President of Pace University in a Forbes article, “are good for our colleges and universities, good for our students who will work in a globalized world, and good for the economy. We must make sure we continue to welcome them to our country and our campuses”. Global education will, thus, continue to have great impacts on the economic as well as the societal growth of the host countries.