Growing Number of Foreign Students in Hungary2010.12.15
In line with the aspirations of the European Union, we witness an increasing degree of mobility in Hungarian higher education - as regards the growing number of foreign students. Statistical data reflect that the introduction of the Bologna system has resulted in an increase in the number of foreign citizens studying in higher education in Hungary each year, which is mainly due to the availability of more and more of scholarship opportunities. Our article gives an account of full time education programs with regard to the foreign students studying there.
While the number of students studying in full time higher education programs was 11618 in the 2006/2007 academic year, this number rose to 15035 - that is, by about 30 per cent - by the 2009/2010 academic year, within four years. The increase of the role of foreign citizen students in higher education was also spectacular within a single year, with 13681 full time students in the statistics for the 2008/2009 academic year.
Where do they come from?
Among those who come to Hungary, the majority are naturally citizens of the neighbouring countries. The total number of students from Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine - where most Hungarian-speaking students come from - was 4536 in the 2009/2010 academic year. The total number of students from all the other countries - more than 100 of them - participating in full time higher education was 9336 in the past academic year. Meanwhile, we have to note that while an increasing number of students have arrived from nearly all of the countries sending a significant number of students to Hungary, the number of students from Romania who studied in Hungarian higher education was less by more than a hundred (1697 students) as compared to the 2008/2009 academic year (1816 students).
Among the non-neighbouring sending countries, most students come from Germany, Israel and Iran, and apparently, they are represented in higher numbers at full time programs in Hungary each year.
Where do they come to?
The majority of students, a proportion of nearly 90 per cent, participate in full time programs in Hungary. Medical programs prove to be the most attractive, and this means that the greatest numbers are found in unified programs, as regards foreign students. Apart from programs in general medicine, large numbers of foreign students participate in dentistry and pharmaceutics programs, too, while the next most attractive Bachelor programs are mainly the ones in engineering.
As regards institutions and places of residence, we can say that the big universities in large settlements are the ideal targets for most foreign students, with traditional institutions in Budapest, such as the Semmelweis University of Medicine and Corvinus University occupying the first places in the preference lists. Apart from the capital city, a great number of students are studying in Debrecen, Pécs and Szeged as well.
The offering of foreign language programs - mainly in English - is increasingly important for the higher education institutions. This is not just a matter of prestige, but it can mean significant income for the given institution, too.
Currently a total of about 6200 foreign students study at Hungarian medical universities, and these students pursue their studies in about four major higher education institutions. Today, these institutions already admit that an important source of their incomes and so a basis for securing high standards in education lies in receiving foreign students. According to approximate calculations, foreign citizens pay 12 billion HUF for tuition, and they spend around the same amount for living, rental costs and other expenses. As receiving foreign students is an important issue and opportunity for the national economy, major Hungarian medical universities would like to be able to use state funds for extending the number of foreigners studying here.
This is because medical programs can receive a relatively small number of foreign students today as compared to the large number of applicants and to future opportunities. For example, the German language program of Semmelweis University has admitted only 180 foreign students out of more than one thousand, but the number of applicants to English language programs is also two or three times the number of places. In the opinion of university leaders, state support could help significantly increase the number of foreign students studying here, which would in turn generate more income for higher education institutions and thereby enhance the quality of the programs.