Category: Internationalisation

Zero-Sum Thinking: Why Trump Risks Zeroing Out America’s International Education Sector

“The colleges and universities that will be hurt most deeply by the flight of international students will be those in states that voted for President Trump”

The Trump administration policies are having a notable effect on the number of international students studying in the United States. Managing Director of University Ventures Ryan Craig writes about the impact of “zero-sum thinking” and the effect it could have on American universities and colleges that depend on international students for their survival.

Ever since I read The Art of the Deal in the 1980s, I’ve not been a fan of Donald Trump. In August of 2015, writing in Forbes, I marvelled that he was leading the pack of Republican candidates for President, calling him “untrustworthy,” “fickle,” and an “entertainer playing a businessman.” Nonetheless, I never expected him to be economically illiterate as well.

Many have commented that Trump’s approach to civil liberties appears to be that freedom from discrimination for one group doesn’t result in a net gain for society because “their gain is your loss.” This “zero-sum” thinking is equally clear in his approach to immigration. In Trump’s view – at least as played to his steadfast base – every immigrant is taking a job that would otherwise go to a native-born American.
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U.S. is Losing an Opportunity for Economic Growth

International students studying in the US become powerful contributors to the economy…impacting foreign relations in ways that can lead to global growth. 

It is easy to view the value of international students in terms of economic impact says Gretchen M. Bataille, senior consultant at Navitas USA. But, as she explains, international students contribute much more than tuition fees, and unfortunately, the US seems to be missing the memo. 

Education is not often considered an export. However, contrary to images of barges laden with goods, the United States’ most valuable exports are services, including education. In July 2017, services accounted for over one-third of total exports at $65.8 billion.

International students studying in the US become powerful contributors to the economy and contribute new ideas, lifestyles, values, and experiences to their home countries, transforming their local economies and impacting foreign relations in ways that can lead to global growth.

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Chinese parents boost the UK’s £20bn higher education market

 “Parents in China are expecting to contribute on average £72,738 towards their child’s higher education abroad”

Thinking of international education and the boom in mobile students in the near past, we often think of the students as the drivers of change. And of course they are at the centre of the business – it wouldn’t exist without them – but there is another group that also deserves our attention, writes Trista Sun, global head of international and cross border at HSBC. Parents of mobile students, especially Chinese parents, are key to the international education economy.

Despite many concerns about the international political environment, globalisation of education showed no sign of stalling in 2017, creating vast opportunities for universities around the world. The UK in particular saw strong benefits from this, with international students bringing an estimated £22.6bn to our economy, as revealed by new figures from HEPI. We owe a great deal of this income to ambitious parents in China who are going to great lengths to make their child’s plans for university abroad a reality.

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A new Golden Age for Internationalisation. But can we get it right this time?

“The challenges this time round, in a much more competitive environment, are to learn from the mistakes made last time, and build sustainable financial models “

Who could have predicted, even just a year ago, that internationalisation would need to be back at the top of university agendas in the way that it was in many institutions throughout the 2000s? So asks Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Reading. 

Full-degree, on-shore, international students were the growth engine of UK universities in the 2000s.

If HEIs wanted to grow and prosper there were limited opportunities to do so at home: student numbers were highly regulated and growth capped; so by definition university income was also effectively capped. Surpluses were almost non-existent.

By the start of this decade, international was starting to look a little less attractive and its dominant position as our universities’ growth engine was waning.

“But we didn’t  predict the changes: Brexit and the potential losses it could incur; and the burgeoning debate around fees and growth among UK politicians”


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International Education in New Zealand: New Applications for “№8 Wire”

“Policymakers are positioning international education within a fragile eco-system where sectors of the economy could collapse without the contributions of international students”


In 19th century New Zealand, №8 wire was the preferred wire gauge for sheep fencing, so farms often had plentiful supplies. It was said that one could just about fix anything with a handy piece of №8.

Over time, the idea of №8 wire came to represent the ingenuity, resilience and resourcefulness of New Zealanders and became a symbol of the nation’s ability to improvise and adapt. Today, New Zealand faces an array of more complex challenges.

As if with a piece of №8 wire in hand, Anthony Ogden, executive director of education abroad and exchanges at Michigan State University writes, the nation’s leaders have begun to reimagine international education as a viable strategy that can be repurposed to solve some of the country’s pressing challenges.

Although international education is generally discussed in relation to international student and scholar mobility, it is being framed in New Zealand as a dynamic industry in terms of export value, immigration, and as “supply chain management” to bolster the domestic workforce.

The nation’s policymakers are positioning international education within a fragile eco-system wherein certain sectors of the economy would potentially collapse without the economic and workforce contributions of international students.

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Can the international education sector do more to welcome refugees?

“Supporting vulnerable groups such as refugees is one way we can contribute… to the wider community”

Working in education we are uniquely placed to respond to a range of societal challenges, writes IDP  UK and US director Arlene Griffiths.  At times it can seem daunting to know where to begin in order to make a difference. Over the past two years IDP has developed a corporate social responsibility strategy, and after a few “false starts”, the aim to support refugees in south Wales led IDP to the Welsh Refugee Council. This experience shows the value of CSR, both to our sector and the wider community we operate in. 

We knew we wanted to support local refugees, and we had some ideas, but how to reach them? Then a colleague on his daily commute happened to walk passed the Welsh Refugee Council offices. This sparked a thought, which then led to tentative conversations with the WRC about their needs and where we might be able to support their work by drawing upon the employability skills within our team. A year on, and the impact that we have been able to make through our collaboration with the WRC has been life changing for myself, my team, but most importantly, the people we have been able to help.

We began small; piloting some initial workshops on CV writing and job applications, before progressing onto lessons in business English, personal branding tips and the use of LinkedIn as a vehicle to connect and build a professional network. We had some amazing participants that were fully committed to re-building their lives in the UK. They were well-qualified people with good English, hungry to learn new skills that make them ready for the workplace and attractive to UK employers or, in a number of cases, prepare them for UK universities to undertake further study.

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Bundled pathways unbundled. Can universities have their cake and eat it too?

“In the context of financially strapped universities with decreasing domestic enrolments, the prospect of large numbers of international students paying out-of-state tuition rates makes the bundled pathway an attractive proposition”

Are so-called bundled pathways the future of international student recruitment at US universities, and the world over? At a time when the international education sector is dominated by conversations on change, Jean-Marc Alberola, president of Bridge Education Group takes a detailed look at options for internationalisation in higher education. 

In recent years, much debate and a significant amount of controversy has surrounded the advent of third-party international student pathway programs in the US higher education marketplace. The debate is particularly active in international educator circles and was a hot topic at the NAFSA annual conference this year, with at least four sessions devoted to the theme, including a study commissioned by NAFSA itself.

These new pathway programs, whose main protagonists include a few large, often private-equity backed firms such as Shorelight Education, StudyGroup, INTO, Navitas and Kaplan, have been well documented in the press.

Some of the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding international student pathway programs is a result of the term being broadly used to describe a wide variety of models, including intensive English programs that prepare students for university admission, TOEFL waiver partnerships, and progression from community colleges to four-year institutions.

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Thinking about the wider dimension of internationalisation

“It’s clear that too often internationalisation within our universities is too narrowly defined as the inward mobility of international students, and then generally only for the economic benefit they bring”

Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading, reflects on conferences he has attended, and asks what higher education leaders can do to broaden their perspectives on internationalisation.

The recent International Higher Education Forum was a mix of the practical: how to develop partnerships in India; the commercial: how to segment your student recruitment markets and improve return on investment; together with a dash of inspiration towards the end of the day from Professor Bertil Andersson, President of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who is able to “smell” the success of his strategy by walking around his campus and by speaking to his very international mix of staff and students.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

The top ten things not to do when internationalising a school

“Be realistic. You secure a good deal for your school, but if you are too greedy it will merely sour the ongoing relationship”

Having offered some pointers on what to do when internationalising a school, Dr Mark Abell of international law firm Bird & Bird shares some advice on what not to do when taking the plunge.

1. Be Greedy

Be realistic. You secure a good deal for your school, but if you are too greedy it will merely sour the ongoing relationship and lead to a renegotiation of terms when you have a less flexible and perhaps weaker bargaining position. You will not be able to rely on the agreements to oblige your local partner to operate in a way that delivers an appropriate return on investment.

2. Be too Ambitious

Again, be realistic. It takes a great deal of time, energy and capital to successfully open and operate a school overseas. If you put more emphasis on the number of schools opening rather than the quality of the school, things will go badly wrong in the mid-term.

“Be realistic. It takes a great deal of time, energy and capital to successfully open and operate a school overseas”

3. Under-Sell Yourself

It is important that you do not allow the local partner to build an extremely profitable business on the back of your school without the school receiving a fair share of those profits.

4. Expose the School to Any Commercial Risk

Ensure that you use a trading company for all third party relationships involved in the running of the overseas school. Obtain appropriate insurance cover and beware potential personal liability for the school Governors.

5. Get Too Complicated

Sophisticated structuring may be appropriate for some schools, but make sure that you don’t get sucked into overly complex schemes. They can become expensive and reduce your ability to control and exit the relationship if necessary.

6. Allow Your Potential Local Partner to Dictate the Structure

You must be in control. Listen to the partner’s concerns, take into account the local regulatory environment, but it is for you to decide the structure.

“Listen to the partner’s concerns, take into account the local regulatory environment but you must be in control”

7. Do It On The Cheap

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Take good advice from professionals with a real track record in taking schools overseas and ensure that they can deliver more than just dry technical documentation.

8. Compromise Your School Ethos/Values

These should be the corner stone for the structuring of the deal, the documentation and the ongoing relationship.

9. Assume That The Overseas School Will be The Same As The One in the UK

A consistent approach is essential, but inevitably the demands and idiosyncrasies of each market may well mean that new challenges arise. You need to be prepared for this.

10. Underestimate The Amount Of Time And Energy It Will Take To Manage the Relationship With The Overseas School

Make sure that you have a suitable project management team on board. Governors have day time jobs and cannot always devote sufficient time. Academic staff may lack experience and have other duties. The Bursar may have too many other challenges to face. Make sure that everyone is aware of the demands that the deal will place on them and that they can meet those demands.

The top ten things to do when internationalising a school

“If a partner offers to open a large number of schools in the short or mid term, they are usually either naive or disingenuous”

From communication with partners to understanding the regulatory landscape in a new market, expanding abroad can be fraught with challenges. Dr Mark Abell of international law firm Bird & Bird offers some advice on the steps to take when internationalising a school.

Expanding British Schools overseas presents real and unique challenges.

Perhaps in part due to the enthusiastic support that internationalisation of British schools  is receiving from both UKTI and the Business Secretary, Wellington College, Brighton College, Dulwich College, Repton and Sherborne are just some of the schools that have embraced this challenge and secured new income streams that help ensure their long term future.

However, such projects are not without their challenges. One slip can cause serious damage to a school’s reputation and financial well-being.

1. Conduct an Intellectual Property Audit

The school’s brand/name is its most valuable asset. Before starting any discussions with potential partners overseas you must have your brand and other intellectual property assets audited by a legal expert and decide on an appropriate registration strategy. There are many brand trolls out there who will register the school’s brand in their market before approaching you to negotiate a deal. Protecting the school’s trade marks is not merely a matter of filing a couple of applications in one or two classes. It requires careful consideration of both the longer term commercial and legal issues involved.

“There are many brand trolls out there who will register the school’s brand before approaching you to negotiate a deal”

2. Don’t be Seduced by Promises of Large Profits

Establishing a school in a new market that truly reflects your school’s ethos and delivers the same quality of academic and pastoral experiences for students takes a great deal of time and money, especially so if a potential partner has no previous experience of operating a school. If a partner offers to open a large number of schools in the short or mid term, they are usually either naive or disingenuous. Appealing to the governors’ desire to secure substantial long term income streams often suggests that the partner is going to be focused less on operational issues and more on the profits. Either way, you need to be extremely cynical about extravagant claims and focus on a deal that has far more modest and realistic objectives.

3. Conduct Due Diligence on Potential Partners

Don’t trust anyone. Too many potential partners think a school is just another way of making money and will have little regard for the school’s traditions, ethos and overarching objectives. You need to know what skeletons there are in the cupboard before you spend time and money on negotiating a deal with an inappropriate third party.

“You need to know what skeletons there are in the cupboard before you spend time and money on negotiating a deal”

4. Understand the Regulatory Environment in the Target Markets

Every market is unique. All countries regulate education to some degree. The Middle East and China, both areas of prime interest for British schools, regulate education in strict and very different ways. Some regulators, such as China, differentiate between education for ex-patriate children and that for their own nationals. Others, for example Dubai, require full, hands-on involvement by the British school. It is important to engage with the regulator early on in the process and way before the deal is agreed.

5. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Be realistic. How much resource do you have? How much support will you be able to deliver an overseas school? Will you be able to assist in staff recruitment and training sufficiently? Can you support more than one school? Will you have to invest in more resource and how much will that cost?

6. Make sure that you receive an appropriate income stream from the school

As more and more British schools internationalise through local partnerships, a general “going rate” is developing. This varies depending upon exactly what the school is delivering to the local partner, of course. Opening fees as well as ongoing royalties are the norm. Thought also needs to be given to the financial implications of a sale or even an IPO by the local partner. Tax planning is also essential. The impact of withholding taxes is particularly important considering the charitable status of schools. Expert legal advice is essential.

“It is essential that you ensure the ongoing quality of the education delivered by your overseas school”

7. Ensure that you adopt a structure that enables you to have full and proper input into the running of the overseas school

It is essential that you ensure the ongoing quality of the education delivered by your overseas school. However, it will probably be financed by your local partner. You need to ensure that the corporate governance of the school enables you to have a full say on the annual budget and how it is spent.

8. Be prepared to monitor the ongoing performance of your overseas school 

You must ensure that they comply with the relevant KPIs. Rigorous auditing of the local partners’ performance is an essential part of quality assurance. This may involve the acquisition of new skill sets.

9. Take expert professional advice

The stakes are high, so invest in the appropriate legal expertise from lawyers with proven track record in internationalising schools. Education is like no other sector and you will need more than the generation of legal documentation. You will need strategic, structural and commercial advice from lawyers who have been there, done it and got the metaphorical T-shirt.

“The stakes are high, so invest in the appropriate legal expertise from lawyers with proven track record in internationalising schools”

10. Communicate with your local partner

Listen to what your local partner says. They should be able to help you improve your overseas school through sharing their experiences operating it. Ensure that they are happy and feel that they are deriving real value from the relationship. Make sure that they feel able to inform you about issues before they become problems.