By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine


“Michigan views international student retention as the pathway to becoming the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.” These ambitious words come from this week’s “View from the desk of...” contributor, Steve Tabocman, the Director of Global Detroit, regarding an initiative to attract and, most importantly, retain international students in the US state of Michigan.

This is a refreshing example of state universities, local business, local government and chambers of commerce pulling together for the good of the economy, and being proactive in the face of national government inertia in immigration reform. As Tabocman says, there is wide political consensus on plans to make it easier for international students, particularly those in the STEM fields, to remain in the USA to live and work, but other complicated forces and factors of immigration stand in the way of legislation passing.

So the Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative sets about trying to facilitate OPT (Optional Practical Training) placements and job offers for students, among other activities. “Michigan's economic future greatly benefits from international student retention,” he says. An eye-opening example he gives is that around a third of high-tech start-up companies are established by foreign-born residents, which far outstrips the actual state foreign national population of six per cent. Most of these, he adds, came to the state originally as students.

The Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative is a case study in the cover story of this month’s Study Travel Magazinea special report on post-study work rights, which examines current trends and regulations regarding the rights of international students to stay and work after graduating from university, the staying intentions of students, and the opinions of agents on the impact of regulations on recruitment.

The latter was certainly enlightening: 86 per cent of the agents surveyed in a poll for the article said post-study work rights were an important consideration in the decision process. That is not to say all students have plans to work in their destination country, rather that they would prefer to keep options open. Australia certainly seemed to be benefiting from more generous post-study work provisions, with 49 per cent of agents noting that requests for the country had increased as a result; while on the other hand, 56 per cent said interest in the UK had declined because of stricter measures.

Needless to say, the Home Office rejected claims that the UK’s recruitment has been affected by the policy. At the recent Association of Colleges conference in the UK, one educator speaker commented that agents were the best possible source of local market intelligence, providing on-the-ground knowledge of student wants and needs. Governments would certainly benefit from actively engaging with agents and using that knowledge in the formation of policy as well.

Elsewhere in the July 2014 issue of STM, we have an interesting agency survey on Argentina, where a tax on foreign currency payments is seemingly polarising the industry; a market analysis on Australia’s booming English language sector; and a special feature on university-led, on-campus English language courses.

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