International third-level students worth €900m to economy

Education in Ireland, an umbrella brand for the promotion of Irish higher education, is working overseas to recruit more foreign students to Ireland. The revenues generated by such students can help to plug funding shortfalls in the sector, writes John Daly

Irish universities and third-level institutions are discovering that the revenue from foreign students coming to Ireland for their degrees is helping to plug the financial gaps resulting from the recent funding cuts.

As many as 32,000 international students are currently undertaking third- level courses in Ireland, with the combined estimated revenue worth €900m to the Irish economy.

International students in third-level colleges grew by 2% in 2012, while universities saw an 8% increase.

Education in Ireland — an umbrella brand for the promotion of Irish higher education — is managed by Enterprise Ireland with the support of the Department of Education.

It has targeted potential markets in India, China, north America, the Middle East, and Malaysia.

The brand has appointed leading Irish cricketer Kevin O’Brien to help promote Ireland as a destination for Indian students — a key growth market for Education in Ireland.

More than 150,000 Indian students travel overseas each year to take up full-time taught postgraduate programmes, with about 1,000 Indian students studying here.

Mr O’Brien is well regarded in India following his success at Bangalore in 2011, where he set the world record for the fastest century ever scored at a World Cup.

“Ireland’s worldwide reputation for high quality education is built on the solid foundation of commitment to excellence,” he said.

Mr O’Brien will work closely with Education in Ireland to promote Ireland as a destination of world class education through one-to-one meetings with students at education fairs and participation at Trusted Agents’ Workshops.

Marina Donohoe, head of education at Enterprise Ireland, said the nature of Ireland’s knowledge intensive export economy makes a perfect fit for Indian students seeking to gain internationally recognised qualifications in dynamic growth sectors, including ICT and life sciences.

“Indian students can make a significant contribution to the intellectual and cultural wealth of campus life, while benefiting from a world-class education in an English-speaking country renowned for its friendliness and safety,” said Ms Donohoe.

“Ireland’s high-calibre educational institutions are keen to encourage more bright young Indian students to study here.”

While an Education Ireland report showed that enrolling an international student in Ireland generates, on average, over €16,000 a year in fees and living expenses, recent research by the Ahain Group shows the greater potential benefits that could accrue to higher education from deployment of appropriate social business strategies.

Citing strategies which have proven to be very successful for international student recruitment by a number of north American colleges, it offered recommendations on how deployment of similar strategies could benefit the Irish higher education sector.

Managing partner at the Ahain Group, John Twohig, said that the report highlights the speed at which change is taking place in the international student recruitment sector, due to use of cleverly deployed social campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

“Traditional recruitment methods are already out-dated, being replaced by the social business model which offers low cost, high value targeted methods of attracting international students,” said Mr Twohig.

Increasing the number of international students would also lead to job creation, both inside and outside the higher education sector, as they contribute additional fees and living expenses while studying.

“The fact is that the institutions are suffering large cuts in their budgets from Government so increasing international student recruitment would bring much needed revenues to assist in protecting the quality of education given by our institutions,” said Mr Twohig.

Local benefit

The significant economic benefits international students can bring to a particular region are underlined by figures focused on the University of Limerick.

International students attending the university in a given academic year are worth €15m to the mid-west region, with 2,200 overseas students currently enrolled there — the largest number in the university’s 40-year history.

The €15m figure is based on student spending estimates of between €7,000 and €12,000 in one year, but does not include tuition fees.

“The benefit is spread across the mid-west, with many international students visiting attractions in Kerry, Clare, Cork, and Galway at the weekends,” according to Josephine Page, of the UL International Education Division.

“In addition, many students have parents and friends who will come and visit, so the real value of such students visiting may be as high as €20m,” Ms Page added.


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