This year’s Norwegian national budget includes an 80.5 million kroner (12.3 million US dollar) cut to higher education funding. Students and unversity officials are highly dissatisfied with the cuts, and especially with the proposal that institutions make up the deficit by levying tuition on students from outside of the European Economic Area. Many believe that it would be a step back for the university (and the country’s) efforts to internationalize its universities. The rector of the University of Oslo, Ole Petter Ottersen, has written that tuition for non-EEA students would lead to the “Europeanization” of campus and a decline in the pool of skills available for Norwegian industries. He points to the example of Sweden, which introduced tuition fees for non-EEA students in 2011 and has consequently seen a decline in international student numbers. If Norway were to implement this tuition scheme, then it would lose out in the global competition for international students.
This competition is driven by the idea that foreign students bring economic benefits. For example, students bring money into the country to spend on tuition and living expenses. Australia, one of the countries that has best capitalized on international education, counts the economic activity generated by international education as one of its biggest services exports (PDF). Students generate economic output when they do part-time work or internships. They often decide to stay on to work full-time after graduation, or even start new businesses, generating even more economic benefits. More indirectly, they may go back to their home countries with concrete social and professional ties to people in the host country, and these ties might create new transnational economic and political opportunities.
The discourse about skilled labor migration and higher education growth often treats international students (and the international workers they could become) as if they could be reduced to their economic worth alone. But students and workers are people, too. What are the social consequences of introducing foreign people into domestic institutions and the domestic social world? How might this process change the people who are coming in, and how might it change the society that is receiving them? Continue reading “International students and researchers are people, too”