More foreign students sought
STAFF from top Irish universities are jetting off on a trade mission to the US in a bid to attract more fee-paying international students.
Foreign students in Ireland currently inject €430m a year into the ailing economy -- €192m in fees to cash-strapped educational institutions and the remainder in living costs, such as accommodation.
It is hoped that the current 26,000-strong crop of international students can be expanded to 38,000 by 2015 through a number of long-term initiatives being driven by the government agency Enterprise Ireland.
But Terry McParland, manager of international education services at Enterprise Ireland stressed: "We are not just interested in these students for the money they bring to Ireland, although that is important.
"Each of these students will become an ambassador for Ireland when they return home. Perhaps they will do business with Irish companies in the future."
However, it is understood that the surge in Irish college applicants means the number of places available to international students has been reduced.
Similarly, colleges have been facing additional pressures on staff and budgets due to the public service embargo and financial cutbacks.
NUI Maynooth Professor Lawrence Taylor, who heads the international education group within the Irish Universities Alliance (IUA), there are now alumni associations of Irish universities in Beijing and the US.
A full-time overseas student is estimated to spend €11,000 on accommodation and living expenses annually, according to a recent report from Enterprise Ireland. They also pay fees, which average around €13,000 a year.