The purpose of education is to ensure that human beings acquire capabilities such as education and training (te Velde 2005), and higher education represents the higher attainment of such capabilities. It therefore follows that higher education institutions represent quality and value for money, as they are regarded as contributing to international knowledge (te Velde 2005) which can be transferred and traded. The House of Commons (2007) defines higher education institutions as those that are semi-autonomous which means that they largely define their purpose.
Higher education institutions have always had their primary focus on facilitating organised mobility and exchange (Marsh and McNicoll 2002, Van der Wende 2002), and this has been carried out by recruiting international students. International students have facilitated this process by making their requirements clear. For instance, the choice of a country for higher education include quality of educational experience, international comparability and usability of qualifications, and the capacity to improve on work opportunities on graduation (Knight and De Wit 1999, Edwards and Ran 2006, House of Commons 2007). This also means that higher education institutions will compete on these requirements, whilst factors such as capitalising on work experience are the responsibility of the central government as the higher education sector cannot enforce or implement any favourable conditions. In theUK, attempts to increase international students are largely dependent on the size and the budget of the institution (Muche 2005), which means that some institutions will be successful in attracting more international students and more income. But this also means that inequalities and disparities in quality may also arise in theUK, as those institutions failing to attract international students slip further into debt and lose their competitiveness.
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