Foreign students represent a huge revenue source for the big players in the market. For example, the UK and Australia have an international student market that is estimated to be worth €12 billion and countries like New Zealand receives around €1.5 billion per year.
Compare that with Ireland, and yearly revenue from International Students here only reach around €900 million per year – and when you take out English Language Schools in Ireland the figure drops to €400 million. In 2008, applications from India were down by 44% compared to the previous year and Chinese applications had fallen by almost 29%.
So why is Ireland so far behind in attracting international students to its shores? Surely an English speaking country, with the history and stature of Ireland would be an ideal place for international students to study.
There are are number of factors working against Ireland, most notably the strength of the Euro makes the cost of studying higher, and the recent recession has meant the availability of part time jobs when studying in Ireland have been sparse. But, the majority of the blame for the drop in international students has to fall on Ireland and schools themselves.
“There isn’t a great awareness of Ireland, in Asia especially,” says Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin, president of Athlone IT, an institution that has made attracting international students a key priority. “At the moment, the universities are branding themselves under the Irish Universities Association. We’re trying to brand ourselves under Institutes of Technology Ireland. We just don’t have the joined-up thinking necessary to give us a coherent approach.”
But even if schools and colleges could raise awareness, the second problem is the process to obtain a student visa for Ireland. Students can expect to wait up to 4 weeks for an answer on visa approval – the same process takes no more than 48 hours if you wish to study in the UK. The amount of paperwork also needed to apply for a visa compared to the UK is also substantially more – and students from China, in particular, have rejection rates of over 40%.
The Minister for Education in Ireland, Batt O’Keeff, has now recognized the need for a coordinated effort to both boost the image of Ireland as a destination to study, plus make it easier for students to gain student visas. However, it all seems its a little too late – the current economic environment will also not help matters.
For more information on this article, please see the original source from the Irish Times. Please also leave any feedback or comments below and let us know if you think Ireland has “dropped the ball”.