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Admission of foreign students to higher education: policies and instruments in selected countries


July 2003 - September 2004


German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)


Between July 2003 and September 2004 ACA carried out an international study on the admission of international students into higher education institutions. The study aimed to examine how the process of selection and admission of foreign students is handled at Australian, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, Swiss and US-American higher education institutions. A primary goal of the project is to find models of good practice within different institutional and national contexts.

What was the background of this study? With the growing demand for higher education in some world regions (Asia being the best example) and heightened marketing activities by destination countries, the volume of applications from foreign students has been steadily increasing over the past decade. In some countries and institutions, it has reached a critical dimension: institutions receiving ten thousand inquiries for the following academic year are not an exception. Many international offices conceived to manage exchange programmes or administrative structures designed for national admissions are overburdened with this situation. Also, the applicants’ countries of origin are ever more diverse, making it more difficult to assess and compare their entry qualifications. All of these issues have made international admission a major concern amongst many higher education institutions. How to organise the admissions process at the institutional level, how to deal with the volume of inquiries and applications, how to select the best students, how to assess foreign qualifications, how to ensure a sufficient linguistic capacity and how to avoid identity fraud - all of these are questions that higher education institutions are facing today, and are concerns that the ACA-study hoped to address.

Preliminary research to further define criteria and collect information about the selected countries was carried out from July to September 2003. Some results of the preliminary research contributed to a publication on the admission of foreign students, by the German Academic Exchange Service, the DAAD, (DAAD (ed.) Betreuung, Zulassung, Ausländerrecht, series Die internationale Hochschule, volume 7, Bertelsmannverlag, Bielefeld 2004). The actual study followed up on the preliminary research.