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In the recent Erasmus+ Annual Conference on Higher Education, which took place on 4 December 2023 in Zagreb, the representatives of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia, Agency for Science and Higher Education and more than 130 representatives of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) from Croatia have meet to address the need to attract foreign students to Croatia, also through the Study in Croatia initiative.
The situation on the labour market in Croatia is challenging given the lack of qualified workforce, especially highly educated specialists. Negative demographic trends in the last ten years have led to a decrease in the number of primary school students by 6.5% and secondary school students by as much as 18.8%, while the data for the period from 2017 to 2023 indicates a decrease in the total student population in Croatia by 7%. It was pointed out at the conference that, having this data in mind, attracting foreign students becomes a priority, with a focus on the sustainability of studies in foreign languages.
Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMPEU) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science and HEIs through the Study in Croatia initiative is continuously working on raising the attractiveness of Croatia as a destination for studying. The Action Plan 2023-2024 for attracting foreign students was presented at the Conference, which should contribute to this goal. It includes building the capacity of higher education institutions with a focus on targeted markets, education, workshops, exchange of experiences, joint presentation at international fairs, branding of the Study in Croatia initiative and capacity building through analyses, reports and training. It also includes inter-institutional cooperation to raise awareness, remove administrative obstacles and strengthen coordination with state bodies.
Although the share of foreign nationals in the student population doubled in the previous seven years, reaching 1.2% of the total student population in 2023, there is an intention to strive for significantly higher shares.
Representative of the Ministry of Science and Education pointed out that the strategic priority of the Ministry is attracting foreign students to Croatia by monitoring the automatic recognition of qualifications and digitalisation of diplomas. The European approach to ensuring the quality of joint studies, the automatic recognition of the study period and the increase in the recognition rate of ECTS credits were also emphasized on the path of Croatia as an attractive educational destination.
The Strategic Framework for the Development of the Internationalisation, developed by the Rector's Council, was also presented at the Conference, as well as the Report on the effect of the Internationalisation of Higher Education call (ESF 2014-2020) and further investment needs in the internationalisation of higher education in the Republic of Croatia.
The Conference was closed with several presentation and Q&A sessions on new 2024 Erasmus+ Call for proposals.