A new report by Enterprise Ireland shows international students are generating almost €430m for the Irish economy annually -- but more must be done to capture a greater share of the market, according to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O'Keeffe TD.
The report, International Students in Higher Education in Ireland 2009-2010, has found a significant increase in the number of international students taking postgraduate programmes, especially at PhD level. The survey has found that 23% of international students in Ireland are studying at post-graduate levels. Of these, 8% - or over 2,000 students - are taking PhDs. Post-graduate students are mainly taking science subjects, although significant numbers are studying humanities, engineering, computer science and medicine courses.
This year, 25,781 international students from 159 countries are studying at higher level in 51 colleges covered by the report. Over one-third of students come from Europe while 17% come from the US - making it the most important country of origin for international students in higher education.
After the US, the most important countries of origin are China, France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Malaysia, India and Canada.
O'Keeffe, who as Minister for Education and Science assigned responsibility for marketing and promoting the "Education Ireland" brand overseas to Enterprise Ireland, said the results of the report were"encouraging".
However, he said that with international student numbers expected to rise by 300% over the next 15 years, "Ireland must be better positioned to capture a far greater share of that high-growth global market".
"We must work smarter and harder to coordinate our activities so that we can attract more international students to Ireland and reap the immediate economic dividend in terms of spending revenue as well as the their longer-term value to the economy.
"Today's foreign students will become tomorrow's business-leaders and decision-makers and students educated here can be our ambassadors on foreign shores," said O'Keeffe.
|Finfacts commented in Dec 2009 in an article on job creation:
Irish education exports do not even merit a separate category in service exports' detail, while education is Australia"s third biggest export earner and earns New Zealand 7 per cent of its export earnings.
The Irish Government has not viewed it as important and has damaged the product by allowing private business concerns from significant operations to small training course providers, to engage in misleading promotion to attract foreign students directly or via overseas commission agents.
A training course provider, operating over a shop and charging fees of €5,000, can be listed with the recognised universities, in Department of Education and Science literature.
At a minimum, private colleges should be required to state explicitly that they are not universities and smaller operators providing services at exorbitant charges to foreign students should be closed. The facility to work part-time 20 hours per week, promoted by an agent, can be the hook for an individual from a poor country to pay fees at a multiple of typical country earnings and collected from extended family, for what may not be an education.
In 2007, the Indian government refused to allow an Irish education recruitment mission into the country following the collapse in 2004 of a business called "Dundalk Business School."
Last August, I was contacted by five Pakistani students who were having difficulty in getting a refund of fees from an education business in Galway, after their visa applications were rejected. They claimed that the Department refused to contact the particular firm, on their behalf.
Also in August, at the McGill Summer School, Don Thornhill, chairman of the National Competitiveness Council said: "Ireland performs relatively poorly in terms of attracting overseas students and is a net exporter of students. In 2006, foreign tertiary students comprised 6.8 per cent of the student population in Ireland which compares poorly to other English-speaking countries such as the UK (14.1%), Australia (17.8%) and New Zealand (15.5%). We have only one higher education institution, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which has a significant international footprint."
- -Michael Hennigan
Orla Battersby, Enterprise Ireland's Manager of International Education, said: "International education is a high-growth sector in Ireland and one that has significant potential for further development.
"The number of students electing to study in Ireland grows year on year as global demand for quality overseas tertiary education continues.
"The profile of international students choosing Ireland to study in Ireland, particularly our high proportion of international PhD students, is a strong reflection of the international esteem in which Ireland's third-level education and research activity is held."