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South Africa surveys its international students

The first comprehensive study of student mobility in South Africa was presented in a conference of the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA) in Johannesburg at the end of August.  Fresh data have been preliminary unveiled, as the survey was conducted earlier this year and analysis has just started. Authors of the study are professors Jenny J Lee of the University of Arizona in the United States and Chika Sehoole of the University of Pretoria, chair of the African Network for the Internationalisation of Education (ANIE), based in Kenya.

The survey covered seven public universities in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng provinces, with a total of 1 682 student respondents, spread across a wide range of fields. Apart from identifying the motivations that brought international students to study in South Africa, as well as the possible obstacles, the survey highlights the geographic origins of incoming students. Results showed that a high proportion of students originate from Africa (79%) while Europe and North America both hold a percentage of 8%, followed by Asia with 4% and only 1% from the rest of the world. As regional mobility is gaining ground in Africa, emerging economies such as South Africa are affirming as the main hosts for the regional market of international students. 

According to the latest edition of the annual IEASA publication Study South Africa, the number of international students in the country has grown dramatically, passing from 12 600 in 1994 - year in which the country achieved democracy - to 72 875 in 2012. At the moment, the government is in the process of developing an internationalisation policy, although the focus is mainly on the regional market. Measures are mostly taken in order to comply with a protocol of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which commits states to achieve 5% of international students and to support students from across the region. However, the role of the government in the field has still been regarded as weak and the promotion of internationalisation is mostly left to universities themselves or to IEASA.  

Read more:  University World News