Renowned universities attract international students from all over the world. While developed countries like USA, UK, Canada and Australia attract the largest volume of international students, many developing countries also do so, albeit at lesser volume. The standard of education and degrees offered by the university and its other comparative advantages or the country where it is situated are the reasons behind its attraction to foreign students.
There are plenty of researches about international students' flow to the developed countries, but no significant research on the subject in the case of developing countries is available. Against this backdrop, here is an attempt to explain the situation in Bangladesh universities.
Many universities in Bangladesh have been attracting international students on varying degrees from time to time. Though the students are coming mainly from the countries of South Asia and Africa, there are students from developed countries (e.g., USA) as well. International students are welcome here. Some universities have flexible criteria for admission and some others have quotas for international students.
What benefits do the universities in Bangladesh derive from the inflow of international students? To find out the answer to the question, 15 key informants' interviews were conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire. The target group includes Principal Officers, Assistant Professors, and Professors who observed and taught international students in Bangladesh. The study finds the following benefits of international students in Bangladesh: First, the presence of international students contributes to improvement in academic environment, inside classroom as well as on the campus. Their presence promotes the use of English. Such incentive of communicating in English - both in interpersonal communications and class discussions - contributes to the betterment of English-landuage communication skills of the students. Proper emphasis on English is considered to be an important factor behind success of higher education in Bangladesh. This also helps students in pursuing higher studies.
Second, the presence of international students on campus contributes to cultural diversity and facilities cultural exchange. When Bangladeshi students get practical experience of living with the people of a different culture and are able to observe and learn about others' life styles, clothing, eating habits etc., their tolerance for different styles and ways of living increase, thus such experiences ultimately help broadening their social and cultural horizons.
Third, one of the basic goals of any university is to spread knowledge among the students. The very presence of international students aids in achieving such a goal. Students learn a lot from their peer group and a mere presence of international students with different cultural and academic experience adds to spreading the knowledge among students, both academic and non-academic. One respondent noted that the international students are usually more critical, thus they contribute to class discussions. Additionally, international students (at least from certain countries) are generally very familiar with the latest technologies that are gradually becoming important for the living and working skills. Bangladeshi students can learn a lot from international students directly.
Fourth, although many universities, if not all, have very dynamic faculty members, the presence of international students aids in boosting their performance. If there are international students in the class, faculty members feel compelled to take more preparations for class. They are encouraged to conduct classes in English, which is gradually becoming a desired aspect of standard education in Bangladesh.
Fifth, having international students brings prestige to the universities; it works as a good branding for the universities, both nationally and globally. Some believe that this increases options of getting more qualified students from the pool of applicants. Sixth, certain percentage of international students' presence also benefits universities with university rankings. Some ranking authorities (e.g., QS University Ranking) take international students' presence as a positive factor and apportion extra points for university ranking.
Last, international students are a good source of revenue for the universities.
However, there are risks and difficulties associated with international students. It is challenging to recruit good and quality international students. While good and quality students can benefit universities in numerous ways, low quality students may harm these instituions. Now-a-days recruiting genuine students has also become challenging. Some respondents believe that there is a possibility that international students may use education/studentship to do something else covertly (e.g., terrorism, money laundering, playing football etc.). One respondent noted that there is a trend among some students of not talking with others and let alone participating in class discussions. If students do not participate in class discussions or communicate with each other, other students are unlikely to learn from fellow international students. However, the universities should take necessary steps to solve these problems and should act promptly to cooperate with the government agencies/departments, such as law enforcement agencies and immigration department to deal with unintended issues regarding international students.
Over all, international students have a positive role to play supportive to the goals of better education in Bangladesh universities.
Sarwar J. Minar is Senior Officer, International Programme and Relations, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
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