American, Canadian, British, and Australian Universities Compete For Growing Numbers of Foreign Students

It seems like students hoping to study abroad will have their fair share of options as the competition for foreign talent and tuition money is heating up amid the recession.  I would expect cash-strapped public research universities in the United States, which are usually very selective, to be especially receptive to foreign students in the coming year.  If there is indeed a competition, like the article below implies, I would also expect for international student admissions decisions to come in earlier as some schools try to lock down commitments from accepted applicants.

“Top Destinations Compete For Growing Numbers of Foreign Students”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 17, 2009
“For the past year or so, educators in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain have been worrying over whether the global financial meltdown would shut down the international student market. Would students see both their banks accounts and their job prospects abroad dry up, and simply choose to stay home?
The answer, over all, seems to be no. These top destination countries are all reporting relatively robust international enrollments this fall. 
Canadian universities, for example, have seen numbers rise at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
“The numbers are up. Way, way up, by an estimated 10 percent at the graduate level,” said Herb O’Heron, the association’s senior adviser on national affairs. 
In Britain, which draws more international students than any country after the United States, enrollments seem to be on the upswing, despite troubles putting new student-visa regulations into effect, which led to increased visa costs and processing delays. 
Over the summer there were dire predictions that the new procedures would have such a negative effect that tens of thousands of students would be unable to enter Britain in time to begin their programs, leaving institutions that depend on revenue from foreign students in the lurch. 
There have been delays. Many students, especially those planning on arriving in Britain in advance of their programs to take preparatory courses, were inconvenienced over the summer by the worst of the problems.
“I think every university in the country will say that in some way they suffered students arriving late,” said Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
But even against such an inauspicious backdrop, many British universities have registered foreign-student increases, although the figures are still preliminary. 
“If you ask the majority of institutions, and we asked a fair range, most would say that, regardless, their numbers are probably as good as or better than last year,” Mr. Scott said.
Many universities are reporting that, were it not for the visa glitches, they would be posting record numbers. The most likely explanation is the continued weakness of the British pound, which has made the country much more affordable than in the past.
Public-Relations Woes
Australia also faced its share of road bumps this past year. A spate of attacks on Indian students, combined with problems with some questionable vocational-education providers, led to significant public-relations problems with India. The country is second only to China in the numbers of students it sends to Australia. And Indian students make up almost 18 percent of Australia’s foreign-student population–much of that in the vocational-education sector. 
Global Competition for Foreign Students
 The United States and its key competitors continued to see growth in enrollment of foreign students.
Although the Australian government’s response to the situation was criticized by both universities and the Indian government for being too slow, an official at the Australian embassy in the United States says it has been effective. 
“If you look at the statistics, there is continued growth in student numbers,” he said. “The difficulties that have been experienced have gotten a lot of attention. It has not had a big impact in terms of demand for student places, but has had a big impact in terms of government response.”
This academic year, which starts in March for Australian institutions, the number of international students at universities and vocational colleges climbed by 20 percent. But recent tightening of oversight of the vocational-education sector, which has driven much of the international-student growth in recent years, raises questions about what enrollment growth among international students over all might look like next year.
Retaining Their Edge
From government efforts at damage control to individual institutional outreach, these destination countries are working hard to keep pace in the race for global talent. 
McGill University, in Montreal, for example, recently created a graduate-recruitment-and-retention team to help market graduate programs. The team looks at enrollment trends and capacity, redesigns Web sites and marketing materials, and has streamlined application processes to appeal to top candidates. Faculty and staff members who travel abroad for conferences carry recruiting materials and squeeze in graduate presentations at top universities while they are in the area, said Lissa Matyas, who is directing the effort. 
This all-hands-on-deck approach to international student recruitment typifies the pragmatism that even the most popular destination institutions and countries must embrace to retain their edge. The factors that determine the flow of students remain too unpredictable and uncontrollable for complacency, educators say.
The United States, for example, has been hit hard by a significant drop in the number of Indian graduate students this year, caused largely by the effects of the global recession.” 
You can find the rest on the website of The Chronicle for Higher Education.

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