New migration policies in Australia

The US and UK aren’t the only countries changing their regulatory framework pertaining to international students. In April 2017 Australia, one of the biggest destinations of tertiary international students, abolished a four-year visa programme for skilled migrants. The repeal of the so-called ‘’457 work visas’ could unfairly affect international students who have spent years studying with the intent to work in Australia (Zhou, 2017). The visa will be replaced by a new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa issuing visas lasting two or four years (Bothwell, 2017). Laurie Berg a researcher in immigration and labour law at the University of Technology' Sydney, said the changes represent a trend of pushing students toward temporary visas (Zhou, 2017).

The changes will also make it challenging for Australian universities to hire postdoctoral research fellows because of a requirement to have a minimum two years of work experience (Stunner, 2017). Stunner (2017) cites Professor Biercuk an Experimental Physicist who is of the opinion that being able to hire international talent is crucial to help with research and the development of local staff. It is estimated that the visa replacement regulations may put at risk many of the estimated 130 000 jobs supported by Australia’s 21.8 billion dollar international education industry (Stunner, 2017).

Post ‘Brexit’ and Trump opportunities

The long-term impact of ‘Brexit’ and the Trump administration will create opportunities for countries and regions with less restrictive visa regulations (Bothwell, 2017; Cooper & Dennis, 2017). According to ICEF Monitor (2017) Canadian universities are seeing an increase in inquiries and applications for EU students deterred by both Brexit and the new US leadership (Collier, 2017). According to a survey conducted on international students in January 2017 by Red Brick Research, Germany is seen as the number one choice among both EU and non-EU students, when asked to name the most desirable alternatives to studying in the UK. However, Cooper & Dennis (2017) suggest that countries like Canada may benefit by making it easier for students to obtain study visas and to gain employment after graduation. Regional educational hubs such as Asia and Southeast Asia will grow in international students in the years to come (Bothwell 2017; Cooper & Dennis, 2017), which, moreover, highlights the perspective QS takes on possible legislative resistance to Asian immigrants, which suggests that the Anglo-Saxon world could lose international talent to Asian countries like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

The geography of rankings

About a decade ago Salmi and Saroyan (2007) analysed the distribution of the top 100 institutions in the ARWU and THES-QS ranking systems and deduced that the majority of them are English speaking, had adopted key aspects of the American research university model and are located in countries that conduct national rankings of their own institutions, such as Australia, Canada, China, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Similarly, Hoyler and Jons (2013) analysed the different geographies of higher education by examining the performance of countries in the ARWU and QS HERS. During the analyses they concluded that the highly uneven geographies of higher education mark particular nodes in the global circulation of knowledge, namely those that conform best to Anglo-American publication cultures and are seen as drivers of economic growth (Paasi, 2005).

During 2013 the ARWU and THE top 100 global higher education market was still strongly skewed towards the North American, and European universities (Wedlin, 2014). In recent QS WUR’s the top 100 of the ranking lists are still dominated by the US and UK universities (Griffin et al., 2018). When the entire list of ranked institutions is considered, the QS World University Rankings have a slightly more diverse composition with around one-third of the top universities originating in North America (Wedlin, 2014). The QS WUR rankings indicate a larger proportion (around 25-30%) of Asia/Pacific universities in their total rankings. “A proportion that would have been wildly optimistic when the rankings were first published” (O’Leary, 2018, p. 20).

Another important finding is that ARWU and QS produced distinctive geographies that reveal a wider tension in the knowledge-based economy between established centres in Europe and the United States and emerging knowledge hubs in Asia Pacific. The new knowledge hubs and networks in Asia Pacific and elsewhere also indicate the growing importance of transnational processes in global higher education. Hoyler and Jons (2013) argue that Anglo-American academic hegemony may be challenged by two competing developments: a potential shift to East Asia and a proliferation of different tiers of knowledge hubs across the world:

These two processes are currently leading to dynamic changes in the global knowledge economy and provide an important context in which the production, circulation and interpretation of world university rankings need to be situated.

(Hoyler & Jons, 2013, p. 54)

Global rankings have geographic implications, as they produce rankings not only of universities, but indirectly also of countries and regions, revealing differences amongst them (Erkkila, 2014; Hazelkorn, 2009; Hazelkorn, 2014). The actual effects are conditioned by the institutional context and traditions (Marginson, 2013).

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