The recently published OECD Education at a Glance 2007 provides lots of interesting snapshots of the global higher education scene (see also our earlier report on this). One table worth pondering over is the contribution of international students’ to the graduate output. As we can see below, in countries like Australia, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, more than 30% of what are referred to as tertiary type A (that is, graduating from a second or advanced degrees) students are awarded to international students. This is all to the good, if we are counting the income these students generate for the receiving institution and host country.
However, as the Report notes, the presence of the international students in these figures inflates the graduate output numbers, concealing, in the process the ‘true’ domestic graduate output.
If a national economy is going to be dependent on the production of highly educated graduates, it will need either to ensure that it can retain this talent through preferential work visa treatment if it doesn’t already, or at least to recognise that output figures need to be treated with some caution in terms of the assumption that this labor will be available for the high skilled end of the labor market, in particular R&D.
The Australian Government is clearly aware of this issue; they offer visas for exceptional talent and immigration points to students who are already studying in the country. More recently the European Commission has announced that its Member States will also offer visas to talented scientists to remain in Europe. However, it will be interesting to see to what extent the Member States take the international component of their graduate outputs into account when meeting Europe’s Lisbon objectives of greater numbers with higher degrees.