The Growing Global Demand for Students as Skilled Migrants
In an increasingly competitive global environment, international students have emerged as a key human resource for governments seeking to augment their labor force and offset their aging populations through the recruitment of young, host-country educated, work-ready, “tried and tested” individuals. This report traces the evolution of the link between international study and skilled migration, outlines some of the policy methods Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries are using to recruit and retain international students, identifies policy challenges, and predicts how the economic recession will affect future international student flows.
While virtually all OECD countries are introducing active measures to facilitate international student access, the report cautions that a range of policy challenges merit careful consideration: international student flows can be volatile, student source countries are rapidly transforming into suppliers of academic opportunities and subsequent employment pathways, and delays or uncertainty in the visa process intensify the risk of students enrolling elsewhere. In addition, the report indicates that gaps in the perceived host country “work readiness” of former international students may be present due to compromised academic entry and progression standards; high levels of cultural, linguistic, and academic segregation of international students; and unrealistic assumptions about the speed and certainty of students’ post-arrival language and skill acquisition.
The author recommends that governments reflect on these issues as they fine-tune their mechanisms for international student recruitment in anticipation of likely changes in student distribution influenced by relative currency values, local access to transnational education, perceptions of the value of alternative study sites, and in-country capacity development.