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Germany and Malaysia are the two countries best positioned to benefit from continuing growth in global higher education, a study has concluded.

Both are slightly ahead of the UK and Australia in the level of support they provide for international HE through policies, regulations, quality assurance, and finance, according to a new British Council index that compares 26 countries around the world.

The United States trails behind these and China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, according to the index.

The findings are contained in a report The Shape of Global Higher Education launched at Going Global, the British Council’s annual conference, being held in Africa for the first time.

Intended as a guide for policy-makers, leaders and education professionals, the study identifies the national environments most conducive for international collaboration, research, partnerships and future economic growth. The British Council described it as “the first comparative framework through which the relative strengths and weaknesses of different countries’ higher education policies can be judged”.

The 26 nations, including the UK, USA, Brazil, China, India and Russia, were each measured against 37 qualitative indicators. As part of research to develop the indicators, more than 100 pieces of legislation and national strategies were reviewed and evaluated.

The study identifies three key areas where national governments can support international higher education: openness – enabling mobility of students, researchers and academic programmes; a regulatory environment that helps mobility and programmes through quality assurance and recognition of international qualifications; and equitable access and sustainable development policies.

Australia, the UK and Germany come out top for openness and international mobility, although the UK’s main strengths in this area are drawn from international strategy and transnational education, masking “an incomplete set of policies regarding students and academic mobility”, the report says. The same three countries score highest on quality assurance and degree recognition, but the UK falls to ninth place on equitable access, which considers factors such as brain drain and displacement of students from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds by international students. On this third measure, China tops the table followed by Germany and Thailand.

Bringing all three of these broad areas together, Germany and Malaysia have the highest overall scores. The report cites Malaysia’s Education Blueprint 2015-2020, which contains ambitions targets for international student recruitment and research collaborations; and Germany’s Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdeinst’s Strategy 2020, which focusses on student mobility, as examples of increasing commitment towards supporting international HE.

The study found that student mobility is one of the best developed areas of national-level policies. The majority of the countries studied have introduced student-friendly and welcoming visa policies, though a much smaller number (Australia, Germany and more recently Russia) have widened access to their labour market for international students. Quality assurance emerged as the weakest area.

To allow users to analyse the study’s data for themselves, the British Council has also produced the Global Gauge - an interactive tool designed for policy-makers which can isolate specific measures within the data, giving users the opportunity to explore the relative strengths of individual national systems.

Professor Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council, says:  “There is hardly a country left unaffected by the global flows of students, teaching and research, so the value of a greater understanding of national higher education systems has never been more important. The future of higher education will depend on successful, sustainable, mutually beneficial partnerships.”

 Janet Ilieva, Director, Education Insight, and report author, says: “To be relevant and active in higher education, UK institutions need to be internationally engaged – not just in terms of recruiting international students, but through collaborating with foreign partners in teaching and research projects.”

 

Follow Going Global news and events on Twitter @HEGoingGlobal #GoingGlobal2016

 

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