How do different countries view international higher education? The Shape of Global Higher Education: International comparisons with Europe, a new report from the British Council launched at Going Global 2019 compares national support for international engagement in higher education across 20 countries in Europe and the Americas.
The three pillars of international higher education – international student mobility, international research collaboration and transnational education – are interconnected and create synergies and complementary benefits for the parties involved.
Across the countries studied, international student mobility attracted most support, which was measured by the ease of obtaining student visas, post-study work opportunities and scholarships. The stronger the support for international students, the greater the inbound student mobility flows.
The research also established a strong positive relationship between inbound international student mobility flows and the proportion of internationally produced research output (as a proportion of the total research output from the country).
Globally, international students tend to be concentrated at the research level of study. One explanation for this relationship is the networks and research links international PhD students bring to their host country. Conversely, respective research graduates maintain relationships with their host institution in their subsequent research career.
Many of the countries with mature higher education systems have talent-focused policies which aim to attract global researchers and students.
There is also a strong positive relationship between inbound student mobility and quality of research – an established research culture relies on competition for the best students. This echoes the findings from previous bibliometric research which has shown that the more international the research is the higher its impact will be.
The Shape of Global Higher Education shows that countries with a supportive policy framework for research produce high impact research in terms of field-weighted citation impact, which exceeds the global average. This means that the research produced in these countries generates citations above the global average for citations.
Furthermore, time series data on research outputs across the 20 countries shows that the most significant increases in research output were in research produced through international cooperation. In all instances, this was at the expense of nationally produced research and single authorship.