May 15, 2003

Overseas students bring over 300 million euros into Ireland’s economies, North/South higher education conference hears

Press Release 15 May 2003

The total income earned from overseas students in Ireland this year will be over 300 million euros (Stg£200 million), a North/South higher education conference in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan has heard.

A survey by the International Education Board Ireland (IEBI) of 27 higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland showed that in 2002-2003, overseas students – both EU and non-EU – generated nearly 111 million euros in fees and other charges to those institutions,IEBI chief executive Mr John Lynch told the two-day conference at the Slieve Russell Hotel (Thursday 15th-Friday 16th May).

When an estimated annual expenditure per student of 9,500 euros on accommodation and other living expenses is added, this rises to 259 million euros. There were just under 16,000 overseas students in the Republic in 2002-2003 (both in publicly funded universities and institutes of technology and private colleges), according to the IEBI survey.

The situation in Northern Ireland has not been surveyed, but the IEBI estimates that the income generated by just over 5,000 students from Britain, the Republic of Ireland and overseas, including living expenses, is around 82 million euros. The IEBI was set up by the Irish government in 1992 to market the Irish education sector internationally; most of its work is on behalf of higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Lynch said that there were “great opportunities for Irish educational institutions, working in partnership, to further increase their share of the ever growing international education market. This is important for the universities and colleges, both as a source of substantial revenue and for their visibility in an increasingly international educational environment. It is also important for the positioning of our economies in a knowledge-based global economy and for the future employment prospects of our graduates, both at home and abroad.”

The conference’s briefing paper points out that New Zealand, a country whose population and resources are comparable to Ireland, has over the past 10 years built up a 730 million euro annual business in international students, mostly from Asia, making it the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, ahead of both wool and wine.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Ms Lindy Hyam, Chief Executive of IDP Australia, one of the world’s leading international education promoters, outlined some of the factors behind Australia’s success in this area:

“16 years ago there were just 7,800 international students enrolled in Australian universities. Today there are more than 150,000 in all modes of study. Across all education sectors in Australia it is estimated that there are close to a quarter of million students from overseas. Australia’s success in attracting international students to its shores is recognised and acknowledged around the world.”

Ms Hyam continued: “Australia’s achievements in the international education industry are the result of a range of factors including government policies which have encouraged internationalisation, natural geographical advantages, a clear focus on meeting the needs of various markets, and close ties with Asia – the source of most of the world’s international students.”

“ We are convinced that global demand for international education will remain strong over the next 20-25 years and will continue to outstrip the supply of places internationally. There is clearly room in the global market place for many players. The challenges we all face will include meeting changing demands, ensuring diversity, providing access, and encouraging the two-way flow of students globally.”

The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Ms Sile de Valera TD, opening the conference, said: “The theme of this conference is an important one, covering as it does both the internationalisation of education and the capacity of the island of Ireland to attract overseas students to its education institutions. In order to attract these students we will need a reputation for excellence, a welcoming atmosphere, high demand courses and top class resources – all of these challenge the universities and other higher education institutions. It is a challenge which provides opportunities for mutually beneficial co-operation. The benefits of a joint approach will ensure that Ireland is placed at the forefront in attracting overseas students.”

The conference – entitled ‘International Education: A Capacity Builder for the Island of Ireland?’- has been organised on behalf of the Department of Education and Science (Dublin), the Department for Employment and Learning (Belfast) and the IEBI by the Centre for Cross Border Studies. It addresses the question of whether there are advantages to be gained from the higher education sectors on the island of Ireland working together to promote their institutions to overseas students and, if so, what form this joint promotional effort should take. It is the second of six such conferences organised by the Centre for Cross Border Studies on opportunities for North/South higher education co-operation on the island of Ireland.

Further information from:

Andy Pollak, director, Centre for Cross Border Studies, Armagh
Tel. 028-3751-1550 Fax 028-3751-1721
(048 from the Republic of Ireland)
Mobile 0771-5042122
(0044-771-5042122 from the Republic of Ireland)