Opinion: “Universities neglect domestic students as they fight to attract international students to climb the rankings”

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Universities neglect domestic students as they fight to attract international students to climb the rankings

We have asked Professor John Spinks from The University of Hong Kong for his opinion on “universities neglect domestic students as they fight to attract international students to climb the rankings”. Here is what he has to say.

Prof John Spinks: There are at least four reasons why this statement is not true in the case of HKU, and, I suspect, many similar universities.

1) Taking the poll question as it is actually worded, there is no possibility that any university would “neglect” any group of students, whether local or non-local.  But, even if we take a more tempered version of the question, which would read something like “do local students get the attention that would accrue to them if there were no international students on campus?”, there are another three reasons that provide a contrary perspective.  In sum, these would lead to a conclusion that having international students on campus is a significant advantage, not disadvantage, to local students.

2) Internationalization is seen by most universities as much wider than just the recruitment of foreign students. Other aspects of internationalization are of significant value to local students.  For example, bringing in foreign faculty as visiting professors would widen the educational experience for local students in providing different perspectives and views.  Another example would be that international research collaboration opens up opportunities for students to join a research lab abroad during the summer.

3) Universities, in providing a global education for their students, are developing the number and range of outbound opportunities for students.  In the case of my university, all students, including domestic students, will benefit from having at least one educational experience abroad and another in Mainland China during their undergraduate days.  Indeed, like many universities, we would not regard as student as having had a good undergraduate education unless that educational provision had significant global components.  We do not like students, domestic or otherwise, to spend all their undergraduate years of study on our own campus!  In the case of student exchanges, the more incoming foreign students, the more opportunities for home students to go abroad as part of that global education.

4) International students may be recruited for many reasons.  One of the most important, however, is to provide a global community of students on campus, within which local students can understand cultural differences and practices, as well as enhance cognitive and social flexibility and adaptation, all of which are part of the global competencies that we hope students will develop in preparation for their globally connected careers.  Our students even teach each other their home languages, as part of a talent swap.  Some of the foreign students on our campus take groups of local students back to their home country for service learning projects during the vacations.

Finally, I should take issue with the idea that universities “attract international students to climb the rankings”.  That is not the end goal for me.  Only ranking agencies would think that way!  Nor is the end goal, in my experience, one of revenue generation.  There are much more important, and broader, issues at stake for many universities.

Prof. John A. Spinks
Senior Advisor to the President
Director of Undergraduate Admissions
The University of Hong Kong

Have a different opinion? Why not make a vote on our Poll today at www.qswownews.com and share your thoughts under the comment section?