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Attracting and Retaining International Students in the EU: EMN Inform

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This inform summarises the results of the EMN Synthesis Report on Attracting and Retaining International Students in the EU.

The importance of attracting international students is well-recognised by the EU and promoting their mobility has been part of the EU’s policy as early as 1994. Since then, the need for intensified efforts to provide opportunities for students has been reiterated by the European Commission regularly, both as an alternative to irregular migration and as a contribution to a more competitive EU economy.

  • Almost half of all Member States consider attracting and retaining international students a policy priority.
  • The number of international students coming to the EU to undertake their studies has increased steadily over the recent years. 
  • In 2017, over 460,000 first residence permits were issued for study reasons in the EU.
  • The highest number of international students came to the EU from China, the United States and India.
  • Both national governments and Higher Education Institutes alike were found to implement comprehensive promotional activities and campaigns in many Member States to attract international students, often combining their efforts.
  • Member States identified a number of common challenges in attracting international students.
  • Retention measures for international graduates were found to be in place in the majority of Member States.
  • Some factors which significantly contributed to student attraction did not necessarily benefit student retention.
  • Member States aim to balance policies to attract and retain international students with measures to prevent abuse of the student route for other migration purposes by ensuring opportunities to study and work are made available only to those with a genuine intention to pursue higher education in the EU.
  • Bilateral and multilateral agreements with third countries have created important frameworks forcooperation, including in relation to student mobility.

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Author: European Migration Network
Publisher: Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission
Date of Publication: 04 September 2019
Geographical focus: Europe

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