Hong Kong will become an increasingly attractive destination for overseas students, as it makes further strides towards being an education hub, according to Dr Janet Ilieva.
The education market intelligence and research manager at the British Council Hong Kong moderated the session on 'New Approaches to Internationalisation' at the conference. 'There are more international players in the higher education scene. There will be more mobility of students and faculty from West to East,' Ilieva says.
The British Council commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to study cross-border higher education activity in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Germany, India, Japan, the mainland, Malaysia, Nigeria and Russia.
It focused on three areas of national policy frameworks, student mobility, transnational education and research collaboration. While the US remains the most popular destination for international students, Australia, Britain and the mainland appear to be absorbing the overall increase in outbound students, many from India and South Korea. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Unesco shows an increase in the flow of students to those countries. In 2007, China sent 383,000 students abroad and received 92,000.
Germany tops the national policy index, based on such factors as a country's internationalisation strategy, visa and immigration policies, cross-border quality assurance and accreditation, promotion of outbound and inbound mobility. Next come Australia and Britain, with China and Malaysia ranked fourth and fifth, the latter increasingly active in attracting international students.
'It's fascinating to see the traditional host countries that attract overseas students being replaced increasingly by the traditional sending countries. This is due to the growing reputation of institutions in those countries,' Ilieva says.
Another part of the internationalisation study, covering Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, will be finished later this month.
'If you want to have top research, you have to have the best brains from around the world,' Ilieva says.
'Drawing from evidence collected from other projects, we can say that employers value international experience. The more culturally aware students are, the much better employees and citizens they may be.'
More institutions have also reached out to the global markets by setting up branch campuses or joint courses with partner institutions, giving students in different parts of the world more flexibility. 'It used to be that students had to travel long distances to do a course, now institutions are reaching out to students,' Ilieva says. 'We have seen a massive transition in how education is delivered.
'We have almost a balance between students travelling to Britain to study, and students outside Britain doing a British course.'
The US leads the export market, with 74 branch campuses overseas, followed by Australia with 14, and Britain with 11.
Another trend is the improved access to overseas education. Ilieva says students who study abroad are no longer necessarily the wealthiest.
'There is much greater access,' she says. 'We will probably see much more equity for students with disadvantaged backgrounds, for example through grants. Hopefully the internationalisation trend will happen hand in hand with increased equity for students.'