As governments in some of the most popular destinations take steps to limit the number of foreign students coming to their countries (Canada is considering capping intakes while the UK is reviewing its post-study work visa), the Irish government has signalled its desire to attract more students and retain graduates with a “global perspective”.
In its new Global Citizens 2030, International Talent and Innovation Strategy, launched on January 15, the government states, “Today’s international learners are tomorrow’s leaders, employees, researchers, social champions, climate advocates, entrepreneurs and investors.
“It is essential their learning and living experience in Ireland is inclusive and excellent, fostering enduring relationships that persist long after graduation.”
Ireland plans to grow the number of international students, researchers and innovators in the country by 10% by 2030 – growth it describes as “moderate” in order to balance the need for more global talent with logistical constraints such as the availability of accommodation, environmental sustainability and cost of living concerns.
“Today’s international learners are tomorrow’s leaders”
To facilitate this, national targets for international recruitment will be “better aligned” with institutional planning frameworks and the rollout of the International Education Mark, a statutory quality mark first envisioned after a string of language school closures in the 2010s, will be completed.
The government will also appoint six Talent and Innovation Attachés in Irish embassies and consulates in priority regions by 2030 to support growth and international relations.
Authorities have narrowed down the priority regions to the west and east coasts of the US, major EU capitals and London, Asia, the Middle East and other locations.
However, speaking at the launch of the strategy, Simon Harris, Ireland’s minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said the plan was “about more than just attracting international students”.
“It is also about partnering with industry to recruit hundreds of high-calibre PhD students to tackle national and global challenges like climate change, pandemics, water poverty and cyber-security,” he said.
Ireland will also focus on boosting the global mindsets of domestic students and researchers through mobility opportunities and internationalisation-at-home, developing their ability “to work in multi-national, multi-cultural and diverse workforces, at home and abroad”.
There will also be a focus on increased collaboration with the UK, including Northern Ireland, specifically through the development of new mobility and exchange schemes for students and researchers.
Last year, Dublin followed up on a commitment to ensure students in Northern Ireland have access the Erasmus+ exchange program despite the UK leaving the European Union’s program.
Progress against the strategy will be measured by performance indicators including retention and satisfaction of international students, employer satisfaction with international competencies of graduates, and mobility rates.
Harris said, “At a time when countries begin to look inward, I hope this strategy sends a clear message of Ireland’s commitment to continue to be a global, diverse society and for some a beacon of hope and educational opportunity.
“We want to attract the best generation of international learners, researchers and innovators to Ireland.
“That brings significant benefits for our economy but also our society. It helps us address the skills needs we have but also helps open opportunities through diversifying our education communities.”