Governments fail to track the impact and value of high cost international scholarship schemes
Countries that are spending vast sums of money on scholarships to send students abroad are failing to monitor the impact and benefits of their schemes, an international study of 11 countries led by the British Council and DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, has found.
It is estimated that over half the world’s countries now provide a total of more than 180 nationally funded outward mobility scholarship programmes, sending hundreds of thousands of students abroad each year at a cost of around $35,000 (£20,800) per student.
But while most countries take steps to protect their investment by requiring scholarship holders to return home to work for a number of years, very few routinely monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their scholarships schemes.
Michael Peak, British Council Education Research Manager said “The British Council welcomes all activities to support and facilitate international student mobility, something which is of great value to universities and to individuals who can use the skills, knowledge, friendships and connections forged through their international experience for the benefit of their home country.
“Our research highlighted many missed opportunities though where national governments invest in supporting their talented students to study internationally, but don’t engage with them on their return home. We believe that these national scholarship programmes will only fully maximise their impact when they are designed to meet specific objectives, and when the experience of returning students is fully tapped.”
DAAD president Professor Margret Wintermantel said “With this report we want to broaden our understanding of the policies, scope, mechanisms, drivers and benefits of international student mobility schemes across different countries. It is very gratifying to note that many countries have recognized the importance of international academic exchange to support their national science and higher education systems and have launched funding programmes.
“International student mobility is a crucial aspect of the internationalization of higher education, enriching the lives of ambitious and talented young people. But we risk missing a great opportunity if we do not analyse the impact of mobility measures more consistently and learn from each other’s’ experiences and learn from the experience of other countries.”
A report on the findings says it appears that most sponsoring governments have little grasp of the tangible benefits of their schemes, beyond the number of students involved.
The report, The rationale for sponsoring students to undertake international study: an assessment of national student mobility scholarship programmes, is due to be debated at the British Council’s annual Going Global conference for leaders of international higher education, being held in Miami from April 29 to May 1.
The study also found that sponsoring governments appear to be failing to provide support for students when they return home, to help them re-adjust to the conditions of the domestic employment market and society.
The research, led by the British Council and DAAD working with Boston College CIHE and GO Group, draws on data gathered by experts in the 11 countries studied: Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. It examines the motivations behind national scholarship programmes, the number and size of schemes, how they are funded and administered, and how students are selected. It aims to help inform policy-makers and higher education leaders looking to develop scholarship programmes and other initiatives to encourage outward student mobility.