According to the latest figures from surveys carried out by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Ireland has seen a “significant increase” in the number of students travelling from abroad to study here. Tony Boland, the chief executive of the HEA, said that good feedback was received from the foreign students who studied in Irish third-level institutes, stating that vigilance in this area was important. Mr. Boland, speaking at an event in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, said that the authority’s analysis of the figures was still in progress and that exact numbers were not yet available but that there was a definite increase in the academic year 2012/2013.
It had previously been feared that the Government’s efforts to draw more foreign students to the country had failed, as the number of students in publicly funded colleges had dropped from 12,000 in 2009 to just 10,600 in 2011, resulting in almost a 12% drop off. Mr. Boland had said that Ireland needed to have more of an “international focus” and that more needed to be done to attract international students, such as raising Ireland’s reputation for research and education and making sure that foreign students were fully integrated into all activities in college and given the support they needed.
Overseas students contribute approximately €250 million to the Irish economy, with non-EU students paying €8,000 to €12,000 in college fees. The most common nationalities to study in Ireland are; British, American, Chinese, Canadian and Malaysian. The amount of Chinese people studying here has risen over the past five years from 871 to 1412 but up until 2011 there had only been a small rise in the number of British students here as well as in Indian students, despite various missions led by the Government and third-level institutions to India over the years. America still has the biggest amount of students coming to study here but in the past few years the figures had dropped from 2,416 to 2,255. As well as the obvious economic benefits of having overseas students study in Ireland, having links with expanding global leaders like China, India and Brazil is also important and educational connections between countries can help to strengthen these international relations.
Commenting on the latest positive results , Minister of Education, Ruairí Quinn said that Government policy is to ensure that foreign students become an important part of the community so as to help the country to compete in emerging economies. Mr. Quinn also said that online education will be vital in continuing to develop links with international students. The recent move by Trinity College to join with various other international colleges and offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), as well the increase in distance learning courses in various colleges all over the country will certainly help to develop Ireland’s international reputation and ensure that this year’s figures continue to increase over the coming years.