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Governments need student mobility targets, study says

National governments need quantitative targets for the mobility of students and academics, a study says.

Most countries have poor mobility policies, the report “Mapping mobility in European higher education” says. “With few exceptions, countries vaguely endorse mobility as a desirable activity and adopt a ‘the more the merrier’ approach,” the report states. But it also found that governments are adamant that student and staff mobility is important to them.

The study, paid by the European Commission, recommends setting up an overall target of 10 per cent of incoming foreign students enrolling in Europe for a degree. This pan-European target should be combined with differentiated country growth targets.

According to the study, the share of foreign nationals enrolled in European universities grew from 4.5 per cent in 1998-99 to 6.9 per cent in 2006-07. A total of 58 per cent of these foreign students came from outside Europe in 2006-07.

Europe’s share of worldwide international students is close to 51 per cent, with 1.5 million foreign students enrolled for a degree in Europe. However there are strong differences between countries, as two thirds of these students are enrolled in the UK, Germany and France alone.

In terms of short-term mobility, the number of students taking part in the Erasmus exchange scheme doubled between 1998-99 and 2008-09. But Erasmus students represent less than 1 per cent of overall enrolment. In the UK or Romania, the role of Erasmus in student inflows is particularly marginal, the study notes.

The study defined Europe as the Europe-32 area, which includes the EU’s 27 countries plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Turkey. It was led by the Academic Cooperation Association, an umbrella organisation for national higher education policy organisation, between 2009 and 2011.