The situation surrounding recruitment of international students is complex and there is a need for a central management system to avoid pitfalls.
In spite of tighter rules on student visas introduced at the beginning of this year, international student numbers are increasing at UK and Irish universities and colleges. Half a million international students are currently enrolled, but under new government plans to attract thousands more foreign students, the figure could increase by nearly 100,000.
The government report, entitled International Education: Global Growth and Prosperity, has set out plans to attract overseas students, saying that it is ‘realistic’ to expect growth of 15 to 20% in the next five years. This would mean an estimated 90,000 additional students arriving from overseas.
For financially stretched HEIs, fees from abroad make a significant and valuable contribution. The Complete University Guide (August 2013) surveyed 110 HEIs and found that some overseas students will pay up to £35,000 a year, against a maximum of £9,000 paid by UK and EU students. A report by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) highlighted that exporting higher education and the advantages of a British qualification continues to be a growth area. In addition to contributing added revenue, international students bring unique and important experiences to HEIs, enriching the educational experience of other students and faculty.
Attracting international students in greater numbers brings with it greater responsibility. The onus is on HEIs to comply with the UK government’s requirements even if they change. In the last three years, the requirements for tracking overseas students have altered fourteen times, with the onus on the HEIs to keep up to date with current rules. Many HEIs appreciate the importance of managing overseas student applications effectively in order to reduce staff workload, but also to make the transition for international students to the university less stressful.
Many institutions leverage technologies and software to streamline and simplify the process, and to make sure they are in compliance. Ellucian’s European Solutions Centre develops and localises software to individual national market requirements. For example, Banner® International Student Tracking from Ellucian® has been specifically developed to manage the UK’s international student registration process. The solution helps to compile each individual student record, from pre-registration through to graduation, and as a result institutions can manage information through one centralised system and easily match student information records with the government’s data.
A centralised system also enables universities to communicate with prospective students at all stages of the process and allows institutions to notify students by email about the status of their Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) application. It enables them to identify students who have received a visa, but do not show up for registration and creates automated reports to alert the authorities of no-show students. HEIs are also able to record and monitor attendance information for international students.
Essentially, innovation in technology means that institutions can manage information and easily match their student information records directly with the government’s data. In this way, such solutions provide an effective monitoring and tracking system for those students who have been granted visas to study in the UK. This not only decreases workload and resource issues, but also reduces duplication and erroneous information, creating a more efficient and streamlined management system.
Michael Agnew is Vice President of International Software Development at Ellucian.