Study highlights European efforts to attract and retain non-EU/EEA students


Attracting students from third countries and facilitating their entry into the national labour market is a priority to the EU. The European Migration Network (EMN) has now published a study on 25* EU countries’ efforts to provide opportunities for international students.

Brussels, 4 September 2019

The number of international students coming to the EU to undertake their studies has increased steadily over recent years. In 2017, the most popular destinations for students from third countries were United Kingdom, France and Germany whereas the highest number of international students came from China, the United States and India. According to the EMN study, almost half of all Member States consider attracting and retaining international students a policy priority. Students from third countries are generally considered important for future investment, economic growth and innovation. Study can be a legal channel to migration and successful student attraction and retention policies may contribute to increasing the pool of qualified labour, address labour shortages and tackle demographic change. Furthermore, tuition fees for international students are generally higher than for national or EU citizens, implying that international students also provide financial benefits for the higher education sector.

The study found that the most common approaches in place to attract international students included promotional activities and the dissemination of information, as well as scholarships and programmes available in the English language. Challenges identified included the limited availability of courses taught in foreign languages, especially English, long processing times of applications for visas and residence permits, insufficient scholarship opportunities and student housing shortages.

Following graduation, most of the Member States included in the study were found to have established measures to facilitate entry into the national labour market to meet national needs. According to the study, some factors that significantly contributed to student attraction did not necessarily benefit student retention. For example, programmes taught in English had a positive impact on the number of international students but did not facilitate their long-term integration into the labour market. Challenges were also identified in providing favourable conditions to attract students whilst preventing the abuse of the student route for other migration purposes.

The EMN study explored the national policies and practices in 25 Member States*. It is topical in light of the transposition of the Students and Research Directive ((EU)2016/801) which sets out a common framework for entry and residence of third country nationals for the purpose of study in the EU.

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