Last week GlobalHigherEd featured a series of stories on the different players battling for market share in the global higher education market. We reviewed the recently published report by the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE).
Today’s Inside Higher Ed also features a story from this report, drawing particular attention to the competitive advantages of the different players. These include whether students require a visa for short study visits, the cost of tuition (low or moderate), living costs (low or moderate), and whether there are programs available to foreign students to help them to prepare for study before they start classes – presumably language classes.
As we pointed out last week, France and Germany ‘scrub up’ well as possible study destinations – particularly for short periods. They have low tuition fees and moderate living costs, and their visa system would be present few problems for undergraduates wanting a short period of ‘study abroad’ . This might also be a useful tactic in luring back students to enrol in a graduate program, particularly if their experience is a positive one.
By comparison, the UK – a Major Player in the field like the US and Australia –scores only one tick in the competitive advantage box; that is, in their provision of programs to help students prepare for study. The downside for the prospective student is that the UK has a high living cost and high tuition fees. It does, however, have a relatively high brand image and ‘esteem’ value – something that Inside Higher Ed fails to point out.
As the market gets tighter, GlobalHigherEd agrees with Inside Higher Ed – that there are important strategic decisions to be made by institutions and countries if they want to not only stay competitive but increase market share. How might a nation go about making itself a desirable destination in this highly lucrative market? Alternatively, a country might currently be a desirable destination, but at present there are limited financial returns (aside from the not inconsequential returns through cost of living). The issue here for these low (or no) fee countries, such as Germany, France and Finland, is whether to respond to pressures to charge fees. Currently their figures of international students are multiplying rapidly – by more than 500% over the past five or so years. Will putting a fee structure into place for international students simply turn the tap off? This dilemma is likely to cause university administrators more than a minor headache.