Canada lags in competition for talented foreign graduates

GlobalHigherEd has made several entries over the past month on changing trends in international student mobility, including one that situates the Canadian experience, and one that ponders what impacts the fast rising Canadian $ (the Loonie) might generate. A report released last week by the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) makes explicit a emerging strategy in relation to student mobility: retaining international students upon completion of their studies to contribute to the needs of the local and/or national labour market.

cbiereport.jpgIn a new report titled Northern Lights: International Graduates of Canadian Institutions and the National Workforce, the CBIE presents results of a survey with over 900 international students upon the completion of their studies in Canadian universities. The findings suggest that international students are “anxious and cynical” about employment opportunities in Canada upon graduation. Despite the recent introduction of work permit programs enabling international students to remain in Canada for one or two years after their studies (permits are limited to one year for students having studied or seeking work in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal), only 1/3 of students felt they would participate in such schemes, whereas another 1/3 expected to return home, and 1/3 were considering seeking employment elsewhere.

In assessing these findings, the authors take a clear strategic policy stance. Framing these results within a looming labour shortage due to the imminent retirement of Canada’s aging baby boomers, the report’s authors argue that retaining international students post-graduation is a complementary initiative to existing Canadian labour market development strategies, such as the skilled immigrant worker program and encouraging continued workforce participation among the aging population. The existing challenges are identified as an ever-heightening national competition for talent with greater opportunities for graduates abroad, as well as unnecessary complications to enter the Canadian and reluctance among employers. In conclusion, the CBIE directly calls for the Canadian government to both strengthen Canada’s weakening position as an international education destination and then to enhance retention rates of graduates through improved information dissemination among officials, institutions, and students.

The multiple benefits accrued by nations attracting large numbers of international students have long been recognized. In recent years, the positive benefit has been primarily discussed in terms of the direct short-term financial contribution provided by high foreign student fees to national higher education sectors. This report’s emphasis, notably coming from a non-governmental membership organization representing Canadian institutions from the K-12 to postgraduate levels, as well as public and private sectors, with research collaboration from Queen’s University and with funding from the Canadian Council of Learning, suggests a shift in interest towards the longer-term potential gain that international students might provide as potential knowledge workers in the global competition for talent. It seems national strategies of brain drain or brain circulation may be replaced with the brain ‘train and retain’ of international graduates.

Kate Geddie

Brainpower famine in Eastern Europe: food for thought

lisboncouncilreport.jpgThe Brussels based think-tank, The Lisbon Council, sees trouble ahead for the countries of both Western and Eastern Europe. The Eastern European low-wage, low-tax, FDI-driven growth rates of today, accelerated by membership of the EU, are not going to last. A combination of low-birth rates and increasing brain drain will combine to fix their economic trajectories at well below the EU average with no prospect of improvement. And that is a problem for Western Europe too: it has been the dynamism of the East which has given a fillip to the West.

In its just issued report, The European Human Capital Index: The Challenge of Central and Eastern Europe, the Lisbon Council claims:

There is a very real risk that in coming decades Central and Eastern Europe could become a sparsely-populated area with a declining workforce that will have to shoulder the burden of a population set to experience unprecedented levels of aging and decline. At stake is nothing less than the long-term sustainability of these remarkable countries, which have added so much to Europe’s history, economy and diversity.

Now, if we look beyond the doom-laden futurology and risk of future collapse which seems to be so much a part of these calls for action, we can begin to see the contradictions in the analysis and the prescriptions. The EU economy is driven by processes of centralization and concentration and we can see this in the movements of knowledge, technology and capital. Universities are heavily implicated in this and the mobility of students and the highly skilled is the brain drain which is going to accelerate the emptying of the East. The extension of service and production commodity chains into the East and the region’s growth as a consumer market has gone hand in hand with their low tax, flexible labor laws and low state spending. In short the growth model is predicated on the very things which the Human Capital Index measures as being lacking.

The Lisbon Council solutions – reformed universities, on the job skills training, investment in knowledge, skills and innovation – require a shift in the growth model and the question is, how to achieve that within the context of macro and micro economic orthodoxy, the EU promotion of mobility and double-think about brain drain. At the time of the formation of the EU single market there was a response – the EU as a whole had to invest in the conditions for more and better jobs and a geographical spread so that capital, technology and knowledge are shifted away from concentration and centralization. The problems and solutions were posed in those terms which of course requires an increased European tax base and a commitment to significantly greater regional re-distribution and planning.

The challenges have always been clear and the solutions filled with all sorts of dilemmas which don’t even get a mention from the Lisbon Council. Human capital mantras suggest that the governments in Eastern Europe need to improve the supply of human capital, invest more in formal education, create their entrepreneurial universities and attract migrant (cheap) labor from the potentially massive new pool of Turkey etc. And so move themselves onto a different growth path. Perhaps.

One thing that is increasingly clear, is that the Economics of Education and the Human Capital theorists, and this report comes straight out of that stable, can offer descriptions based on such measures as its Human Capital Index, but its policy relevance is restricted and amounts to the same old same old. Quite how societies approaching the sorts of collapse envisaged in the report would react and what shibboleths of neo-liberal human capital development models would then be questioned seems to be beyond their remit. A pity.

Peter Jones

OECD’s science, technology and industry scoreboard 2007

oecd.jpgEvery two years the OECD publishes a Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard. Yesterday it released its 2007 assessment of trends of the macroeconomic elements intended to stimulate innovation: knowledge, globalization, and their impacts on economic performance.

GlobalHigherEd has taken a look at the major findings of the report and highlights them below. These indicators of ‘innovation’ presumed to lead to ‘economic growth’ reveal a particular set of assumptions at work . For instance:

  • Investment in ‘knowledge’ (by which the OECD means software and education) has increased in most OECD countries.
  • Expenditure on R&D (as a % of GDP) in Japan (3.3%) and the EU (1.7%) picked up in 2005 following a drop in 2004. However, in the US expenditure in R&D declined slightly (to 2.6% in 2005 from 2.7% in 2001). China is the big feature story here, with spending on R&D growing even faster than its economy – by 18% per year over the period 2000-2005.
  • Countries like Switzerland, Belgium and English speaking countries (US, UK etc) have a large number of foreign doctoral students…with the US having the largest number. About 10,000 foreign citizens obtained a doctorate in S&E in the US in 2004/5 and represented 38% of S&E doctorates awarded.
  • Governments in OECD countries are putting into place policy levers to promote R&D – such as directing government funds to R&D through tax relief.
  • Universities are being encouraged to patent their innovations, and while the overall share of patents filed by universities has been relatively stable, this is increasing in selected OECD countries – France, Germany and Japan.
  • European companies (EU27) finance 6.4% of R&D performed by public institutions and universities compared to 2.7% in the US and 2% in Japan.
  • China now ranks 6th worldwide in their share of scientific publications and has raised its share of triadic patents from close to 0% in 1995 to 0.8% in 2005, though the US, Europe and Japan remain at the forefront. However, the US and the emerging economies (India, China, Israel, Singapore) focus upon high tech industries (computers, pharmaceuticals), whilst continental Europe focuses on medium technologies (automobiles, chemicals).
  • In all OECD countries inventive activities are more geographically concentrated – in an innovation cluster – as in Silicon Valley and Tokyo.
  • There has been a steady diffusion of ICT across all OECD countries – though take up if broadband in households varies, with Italy and Ireland showing only 10-15% penetration.
  • Across all OECD countries, use of the internet has become standard in businesses with over 10 employees.

These highlights from the Scoreboard reflects a number of things. First, it is a particular (and very narrow) way of looking at the basis for developing knowledge societies. Knowledge, as we can see above, is reduced to software and education to develop human capital.

Second, there is a particular way of framing science and technology and its relationship to development – as in larger levels of expenditure on R&D, rates of scientific publications, use of ICTs.

Third, it is assumed that the combination of inventions, patents and innovations will be the necessary boost to economic growth. However, this approach privileges intellectual property rights over and above other forms of invention and innovation which might contribute to the intellectual commons, as in open source software.

Finally, we should reflect on the purpose the Scoreboard. Not only is a country’s ‘progress’ (or ‘lack of’) then used by politicians and policymakers to argue for boosting investment and performance in particular areas of science and technology, as in recruiting more foreign students into graduate programs, or the development of incentives such as the promise of an EU Blue Card to ensure the brainpower stays in the country, but the Scorecard is a pedagogical tool. That is, a country ‘learns’ about itself in relation to other players in the global economy and is given a clear message about the overall direction it should head in if it wants to be a globally competitive knowledge-based economy.

Susan Robertson

EU Blue Cards: not a blank cheque for migrant labour – says Barroso

berlin1.jpgThe global competition for skilled labor looks like getting a new dimension – the EU is planning to issue “blue cards” to allow highly skilled non-Europeans to work in the EU. On Tuesday 23 October José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced plans to harmonize admission procedures for highly qualified workers. As President Barroso put it:

With the EU Blue Card we send a clear signal: Highly skilled people from all over the world are welcome in the European Union. Let me be clear: I am not announcing today that we are opening the doors to 20 million high-skilled workers! The Blue Card is not a “blank cheque”. It is not a right to admission, but a demand-driven approach and a common European procedure.

The Blue Card will also mean increased mobility for high-skilled immigrants and their families inside the EU.

Member States will have broad flexibility to determine their labour market needs and decide on the number of high-skilled workers they would like to welcome.

With regard to developing countries we are very much aware of the need to avoid negative “brain drain” effects. Therefore, the proposal promotes ethical recruitment standards to limit – if not ban – active recruitment by Member States in developing countries in some sensitive sectors. It also contains measures to facilitate so-called “circular migration”. Europe stands ready to cooperate with developing countries in this area.

Further details are also available in this press release, with media and blog coverage available via these pre-programmed Google searches. As noted the proposed scheme would have a common single application procedure across the 27 Member States and a common set of rights for non-EU nationals including the right to stay for two years and move within the EU to another Member State for an extension of one more year.

The urgency of the introduction of the blue card is framed in terms of competition with the US/Canada/Australia – the US alone attracts more than half of all skilled labor while only 5 per cent currently comes to the EU. This explanation needs to be seen in relation to two issues which the GlobalHigherEd blog has been following: the competition to attract and retain researchers and the current overproduction of Maths, Science and Technology graduates. Can the attractiveness of the EU as a whole compete with the pull of R&D/Industrial capacity in the US and the logic of English as the global language? Related to this obviously is the recent enlargement to 27 Member States where there are ongoing issues around the mobility of labor within the EU? We will continue to look beneath the claims of policy initiatives to see the underlying contradictions in approaches. The ongoing question of the construction of a common European labor market and boosting the attractiveness of EU higher ed institutions may be at least as important here as the supposed skilled labor shortages.

Futurology demographics seem to be at the heart of the explanation of the need to intensify the recruitment of non-EU labour – according to the Commission the EU will have a shortage of 20 million workers in the next 20 years, with one third of the EU population over the age of 65. Interestingly though, there is no specification of the kinds of skill shortages that far down the line – the current concern is that the EU currently receives 85 % of global unskilled labour.

Barroso and the Commission continue to try to handle the contradictions of EU brain attractiveness strategies by the preferred model of:

  • fixed term contracts;
  • limitations on recruitment from developing countries in sensitive sectors; and,
  • the potentially highly tendentious notion of ‘circular migration’.

High skilled labour is effectively on a perpetual carousel of entry to and exit from the labour market with equal rights while in the EU which get lost at the point of departure from the EU zone only to reappear on re-entry, perhaps?

According to Reuters the successful applicants for a blue card would only need to be paid twice the minimum wage in the employing Member State – and this requirement would be lifted if the applicant were to be a graduate from an EU higher education institution. Two things are of interest here then – the blue card could be a way to retain anyone with a higher education qualification and there are implications for the continuing downward pressure on wage rates for the university educated. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out in relation to the attractiveness of EU universities if a blue card is the implied pay-off for successful graduation.

Peter D. Jones

Is the EU on target to meet the Lisbon objectives in education and training?

The European Commission (EC) has just released its annual 2007 Report Progress Towards the Lisbon Objectives in Education and Training: Indicators and Benchmarks. This 195 page document highlights the key messages about the main policy areas for the EC – from the rather controversial inclusion of schools (because of issues of subsidiarity) to what has become more standard fare for the EC – the vocational education and higher education sectors.

As we explain below, while the Report gives the thumbs up to the numbers of Maths, Science and Technology (MST) graduates, it gives the thumbs down to the quality of higher education. We, however, think that the benchmarks are far too simplistic and the conclusions drawn not sufficiently rigorous to support good policymaking. Let us explain.

The Report is the fourth in a series of annual assessments examining performance and progress toward the Education and Training 2010 Work Programme. These reports work as a disciplinary tool for Member States as well as contributing to making the EU more globally competitive.

To those of you unfamiliar with EC ‘speak’ – the EC’s Work Programme centers around the realization of 16 core indicators (agreed in May 2007 at the European Council and listed in the table below) and benchmarks (5) (also listed below) which emerged from the relaunch of the Lisbon Agenda in 2005.

lisbon-indicators.jpg

chart-1.jpg

Chapter 7 of this Report concentrates on progress toward modernizing higher education in Europe, though curiously enough there is no mention of the Bologna Process – the radical reorganization of the degree structure for European universities which has the US and Australia on the back-foot. Instead, three key areas are identified:

  • mathematics, science and technology graduates (MST)
  • mobility in higher education
  • quality of higher education institutions

With regard to MST, the EU is well on course to surpass the benchmark of an increase in the number of tertiary graduates in MST. However, the report notes that demographic trends (decreasing cohort size) will slow down growth in the long term.

chart-2.jpg

While laudable, GlobalHigherEd notes that it is not so much the number of graduates that are produced which is the problem. Rather, there are not enough attractive opportunities for researchers in Europe so that a significant percentage move to the US (14% of US graduates come from Europe). The long term attractiveness of Europe (see our recent entry) in terms of R&D is, therefore, still a major challenge.

With regard to mobility (see our earlier overview report), the EU has had an increase in the percentage of students with foreign citizenship. In 2004, every EU country, with the exception of Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia, recorded an increase in the % of students enrolled with foreign citizenship. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Cyprus and the UK have the highest proportions with foreign student populations of more than 10%.

Over the period 2000 to 2005 the number of students going to Europe from China increased by 500% (from 20,000 in 2000 to 107,000 in 2005; see our more detailed report on this), while numbers from India increased by 400%. While there is little doubt that the USA’s homeland security policy was a major factor, students also view the lower fees and moderate living costs in countries like France and Germany as particularly attractive. In the main:

  • the countries of origin of non-European students studying in the EU largely come from former colonies of the European member states
  • mobility is within the EU rather than from beyond the EU, with the exception of the UK. The UK is also a stand-out case because of the small number of its citizens who study in other EU countries.

Finally, concerning the quality of higher education, the Bologna Reforms are nowhere to be seen. Instead the EC report uses the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWI) and the World Universities Ranking (WUR) by the Times Higher Education Supplement to discuss the issue of quality. The Shanghai Jiao Tong uses Nobel Awards, and citations indexes (e.g. SCI; SSCI) – however, not only is a Nobel Award a limited (some say false) proxy for quality, but the citation indexes systematically discriminate in favor of US based institutions and journals. Only scientific output is included in each of these rankings; excluded are other kinds of outputs from universities which might have an impact, such as patents, or policy advice.

While each ranking system is intended to be a measure of quality – it is difficult to know what we might learn when one (Times Higher) will rank an institution (for example, the London School of Economics) in 11th position while the other (Shanghai) ranks the same institution in 200th position. Such vast differences could only be confusing for potential students if they were using them to make their choices about a high quality institution. However, perhaps this is not the main purpose, and that it serves a more important one – of ratcheting up both competition and discipline through comparison.

League tables are now also being developed in more nuanced ways. In 2007 the Shanghai ranking introduced one by ‘broad subject field’ (see below). What is particularly interesting here is that the EU-27 does relatively well in Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences (ENG), Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy (MED) and Natural Sciences and Mathematics (SCI) in relation to the USA, compared with the Social Sciences (where the USA outflanks it by a considerable degree). Are Social Sciences in Europe this poor in terms of quality, and hence in serious trouble? GlobalHigherEd suggests that these differences are likely a reflection of the more internationalized/Anglocized publishing practices of the science, technology and medical fields, in comparison to the social sciences, who are committed in many cases to publishing in national languages.

lisbon-subject-areas.jpg

The somewhat dubious nature of these rankings as indicators of quality does not stop the EC using them to show that of the top 100 universities, 54 are located in the USA and only 29 in Europe. And again, the overall project of the EC is to set the agenda at the European scale for Member States by putting into place at the European level a set of instruments–including the recently launched European Research Council–intended to help retain MST graduates as well as recruit the brightest talent from around the globe (particularly China and India) and keep them in Europe.

However, the MST capacity of the EU outruns its industry’s ability to absorb and retain the graduates. It is clear the markets for students and brains are developing in different ways in different countries but with clear ‘types’ of markets and consumers emerging. The question is: what would an EU ranking system achieve as a technology of competitive market making?

Susan Robertson and Peter Jones

Europe challenges US for foreign students by adding more English courses

An interesting dimension in the battle between Europe and the US for foreign students in higher education programs is the rapid increase in the use of English as the medium of instruction in European universities. Journalist Aisha Labi, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (28th September), argues that Europe is waking up to the fact that there is a global education market out there, and that this in turn is driving a preference for instruction in English in order to be competitive. The extent of the penetration is quite staggering, though it does provide an explanation, too, of the early successful exporters of education services among the Member States (particularly the Netherlands and Germany). As Labi reports:

In the 1950s, the Netherlands became the first non-Anglophone country in Europe to teach courses in English and today offers 1,300 programs in the language. Germany offers more than 500 degrees in English, catering to its 250,000 international students. In Denmark, one fourth of all university courses are now offered in English.

Even France, with its deep seated scorn for the creeping Anglicization of its national language, assures foreign students in its marketing brochures that “they no longer need to be fluent in French to study in France”.

Labi goes on to argue that even in places like Finland, there is a real commitment to developing an international student body and that this has been largely made possible because Finland has embraced teaching in English.

language-globalhighered.jpg

Europe is now becoming a viable alternative destination to the US for international students. This is driven in part because of a number of universities choosing to teach in English in Europe and also because of the continuing fall-out in the USA from the events surrounding September 11, 2001.

However, the tendency to ‘Anglicize’ higher education instruction in order to globalize is generating new tensions within the academy. Reports Labi:

The Danish Language Council, an official organization that monitors linguistic developments, sent a strongly worded statement to the government of Denmark warning that the country’s growing reliance on English would eventually lead to social fragmentation by creating an elite class that uses English as its lingua franca.

Others argue that important knowledges are in danger of becoming lost, along with cultural knowledges that are linguistically encoded.

In order to head off such problems, some universities across Europe are considering using English at the graduate level and mother tongue at undergraduate levels. However faculty complain that students’ language competence in English is then not sufficient to help them advance to graduate studies.

Whatever decisions are taken by European ministries and universities over the next decade, it is clear that this issue, if anything, is going to hot up.

Note: also see our 15 September entry (‘Europe’ looks to the Asian (China?) higher education market) on this issue in GlobalHigherEd.

Susan Robertson

International students’ contribution to a nation’s graduate output

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.

Susan Robertson

Intellectual property, the immigration backlog, and a reverse brain-drain

Gary Gereffi and his colleagues have been working on a number of relevant (to the themes we are interested in) projects, especially global value chains and the associated processes that govern global networks while also grounding these chains in particular localities. They recently released a report titled Intellectual Property, the Immigration Backlog, and a Reverse Brain-Drain.

Key findings, according the new release on the Kauffman Foundation‘s web site, include:

  • Foreign nationals residing in the United States were named as inventors or co-inventors in 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed from the United States in 2006. This represents an increase from 7.6 percent in 1998.
  • Foreign nationals contributed to more than half of the international patents filed by a number of large, multi-national companies, including Qualcomm (72 percent), Merck & Co. (65 percent), General Electric (64 percent), Siemens (63 percent) and Cisco (60 percent). Forty-one percent of the patents filed by the U.S. government had foreign nationals as inventors or co-inventors.
  • In 2006, 16.8 percent of international patent applications from the United States had an inventor or co-inventor with a Chinese-heritage name, representing an increase from 11.2 percent in 1998. The contribution of inventors with Indian-heritage names increased to 13.7 percent from 9.5 percent in the same period.
  • The total number of employment-based principals in the employment-based categories and their family members waiting for legal permanent residence in the United States in 2006 was estimated at 1,055,084. Additionally, there are an estimated 126,421 residents abroad also waiting for employment-based U.S. legal permanent residence, adding up to a worldwide total of 1,181,505.

My colleague Fazal Rizvi, currently visting UNESCO here in Paris, has been highlighting the increased convergence and strategic articulation of policies related to higher education, human mobility, and economic development. Clearly researchers have been working on all three of these themes for many years, though it is the articulation process knitting these policies together that is seriously under-examined.