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  • German A. Ramirez

Financing and Internationalization of Higher Education in Europe (Part 1)

Financial resources play a crucial role enabling and sustaining internationalization – from program design to inception and delivery. The European Association for International Education-EAIE has done a notable job to address such complex matter, shedding light on key issues, raising awareness and providing insights.

In this and next month’s postings, we draw upon the recently released EAIE[1] Barometer: Internationalization in Europe (second edition) – ‘Money matters’, to comment on its findings.

The EAIE tackles the issue from a dual, equally interesting, perspective: Financial considerations as a) possible drivers, and b) possible barriers to internationalization. Let’s focus on the drivers.

Financial benefits as stated goal for internationalization: With the exceptions of Poland and Italy, where 27% and 21% of institutions surveyed indicated financial benefits to be a stated goal of internationalization, most of HEIs in continental Europe seem not to regard financial benefits as a driver for internationalization (12%). The reasons may relate to lack of awareness about the existing opportunities or even political correctness, but there are some stark contrasts at the country level. A notable example of unrelenting focus on the money, is the UK where 42% of institutions consider financial benefits as a key goal. A review of the money influx linked to foreign students shows how the UK has reaped for years the benefits of treating the internationalization of its higher education as a lucrative export industry.

The two most frequently cited potential income generating activities undertaken under the umbrella of internationalization in Europe are international student recruitment and offering programs in non-local languages. A majority of all EAIE Barometer respondents (53%) indicated that international student recruitment was one of their priority activities. International student recruitment as a priority activity ranged from an 85% in UK institutions to a 36% among German institutions. Offering of programs in non-local languages was cited as a priority activity by a third (33%) of respondent institutions, with 59% of respondents from Poland, 55% from Italy, and 45% from Finland placing it as a priority.

Interestingly, scarce attention is placed across responding institutions on opening branch campuses, perhaps due to the complexity of the business, academic and legal arrangements that are necessary, and the significant capital required.

Finally, with respect to drivers, more than half (56%) of respondents believe national funding and Erasmus+ has a positive impact on their internationalization efforts. From a country perspective, German (78%) respondents show the most positive views on the impact of national financial support for internationalization, whereas UK (29%) respondents express the least positive views. It is clear that external financing is seen es enabler, although often times considered insufficient.

Bottom line: The need or desire to generate income at the institutional level, and/or to fill revenue gaps not met by existing funding, is part of the reality of the internationalization across HEIs in Europe. However, in contrast with other regions (e.g. Australia and the US), it does not stand out as a top priority. This thanks to the welfare state and the predominantly public nature of higher education across European nations.

[1] The European Association for International Education-EAIE- is a nonprofit European center for expertise, networking and resources in the internationalization of higher education. It was founded in 1989 and as member-led organization it serves individuals involved in the internationalization of their institutions through a combination of training, conferences and knowledge acquisition and sharing.

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