A New EU Migration Policy to attract Foreign Students and Researchers
A proposed Directive seeks to increasing the number of talented internationals who may reside in the EU.
There is a growing perception that the EU is losing competitiveness in its ability to attract talent. The classical competition from the United States, Canada, New Zealand or Australia has not diminished, and Asian powers, such as Singapore, China or India, have entered the competition. In the twenty-seven member states, a little over 10% of graduates are non-citizens of the country of graduation: in Australia and New Zealand non-nationals account for around one third of all graduates). Within the European Higher Education Area, the UK is an exception, with its share of registered foreign graduates standing at 22 %.
Why choose a country?
The key reasons to win this competition are quite diverse. According to the study Education at a Glance: 2010, the OECD indicates the underlying factors in students’ choice of a country of study to be numerous: the language of instruction (as a critical factor); tuition fees and cost of living; immigration policy; academic reputation and the flexibility of particular institutions or programmes; the limitations of tertiary education provision or restrictive university admission policies at home; subsequent recognition of qualifications; geographical, trade or historical links between the countries concerned; future job opportunities and cultural aspirations. Racism or xenophobic behaviour, or even more a reputation for violence, can affect the decision to avoid a particular academic destination.
Migration and mobility
The new proposed Directive on researchers and students aims to improve the migration conditions for the talented, especially university students and researchers, to make it easier for them to choose one or other country of the European Union among the options open to them in a global market.
The Directive also pays particular attention to the promotion of intra-EU mobility of international students and researchers as well as their family members, for a given period of between six and twelve months.
Procedural safeguards and work opportunities
Procedural practices to grant permission to reside in EU member States are very divergent and sometimes difficult to negotiate. Clearer procedural safeguards regarding the assessment of applications have been adopted in the proposed legislation, laying down a time-limit of sixty days for member states' authorities to decide on an application.
On the other hand, students will obtain the right to work for a minimum period of twenty hours per week during their studies, though this right may be restricted by Member States depending on the situation of the labour market. Although it might help them meet their material needs, not infrequently part-time jobs detract from students' studies, and adversely effect on academic performance.
Labour opportunities for postgraduate students increase the attractiveness of pursuing one’s studies in a particular country. Australia, Canada and New Zealand, for example, make it easy for foreign students who have studied in their universities to settle by granting them additional points for their immigration file. This is why the proposed Directive permits students and researchers to remain under certain conditions on the territory of the respective member state for up to twelve months to identify job opportunities or set up a business. This permission would not amount to an automatic right to work, because granting a work permit remains a national responsibility.
Competitiveness and beyond
The proposed Directive allows non-EU nationals to contribute to Europe's competitiveness and economy: in 2007/08 off-campus expenditure by more than 200,000 international students was around 2.7 billion Euros, in the UK alone.
But not less important, they encourage mutual enrichment between different actors and better familiarity among cultures. Human relations and exchanges are highly beneficial for both parties, Europeans and non Europeans, helping to create links that enhance cooperation in other fields, and reinforce peaceful relations amongst different nations and peoples.
José Luis Bazán