‘Significant increase’ in overseas students attending Irish colleges
Higher Education Authority says figures are up after years of slowdown in numbers
Tom Boland of the HEA said surveys showed Ireland performed well in feedback from overseas students who attend third-level institutes. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
There has been a “significant increase” in the number of overseas students attending Irish colleges over the past year after a fall-off in previous years, according to the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority.
Tom Boland said surveys showed Ireland performed well in feedback from overseas students who attend third-level institutes and the increase in full-time undergraduates showed “the importance of vigilance in this area”.
The authority’s analysis of figures was not yet complete and exact numbers were not available but the increase was significant for the 2012/2013 academic year, Mr Boland said during a speech at a Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Gathering event in Dublin today.
Last week the authority released figures showing an almost 12 per cent drop-off between 2007 and 2011 in full-time overseas students attending Irish colleges. Overall numbers were down to 10,600 students from 12,000.
Students from other countries contribute an estimated €250 million to the Irish economy with those coming from outside the EU paying between €8,000 and €12,000 in college fees. The top nationalities which study in Ireland are American, Chinese, British, Malaysian and Canadian.
There was “nothing wrong with the quality” of Irish universities which had caused the decrease but there needed for “vigilance in advertising” abroad to attract students here, he said.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said Government policy was for international students to become Ireland’s new diaspora which could help the country compete in emerging economies. There was a need to look at new ways to serve international students through online education, he added.
Cathal Kelly, chief executive of the college, said the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland had come under “relentless criticism” during the unrest in Bahrain in February 2011 “for not being more strident political activists”.
He said the college’s obligation to was to the education of the students attending its university in Bahrain. Questions arose at the time as to whether the college was complicit in the crackdown going on in Bahrain. “In truth as long as we are graduating doctors and nurses to a high quality and in a non-sectarian manner we are adding value value and we should stay,” he said.
Doctors, including some who had trained at the college’s campus in Dublin, were among those arrested during the unrest when the Bahraini authorities tried to quash pro-democracy rallies. The college, which has invested up to €70 million in the Medical University of Bahrain university since 2003, was criticised for not speaking out against the arrests and treatment of those held.