Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education


The Political Obstacles to International Education & Strategic Budgeting

January 23, 2024


In this 3:56 video, Paulo discusses how global education and strategic budgeting are crucial for institutions, but there's a challenge in making the case politically. We tend to protect our turfs and fear that international enrollment removes resources from us. Learn how to overcome these obstacles.

From a podcast interview with Paulo Zagalo-Melo, Western Michigan University’s Associate Provost for Global Education, with 30 years of experience in international education.

“It is very easy for others to think that resources that are spent on international, across borders outside of the country, might not return to the country, might not return to the institution and to the institution's community.”


In today's interconnected world, global education and strategic budgeting have become crucial factors for institutions aiming to thrive in the ever-evolving education landscape. The ability to attract international students, foster international research collaborations, and invest in global initiatives has the potential to bring immense benefits to both the institution and its local community. However, making the case for such investments can be challenging, as it often involves overcoming political barriers, dispelling misconceptions about the impact of internationalization, and competing amongst a list of well-qualified programs needing resource allocations. In this thought-provoking interview with Paulo Zagalo Melo, an expert in global education, we delve into the complexities of this issue and explore the implications and potential impact of prioritizing global education and strategic budgeting.

The Challenge of Making the Case Politically

One of the major challenges institutions face when advocating for global education and strategic budgeting is the need to navigate the political landscape. Paulo highlights the inherent human tendency to protect one's own interests and the fear that investing globally might deplete resources from the local community.

“We sometimes feel that if people come into where we live, they might be taking something away from us, or they might be reducing the resources available to us and so forth.”

This perception often hinders institutions from making a compelling case for internationalization initiatives. To counter this argument, it is essential to demonstrate the return on investment and the benefits of global education to the community.

Paulo emphasizes the need to show that "the return on investment is higher than it is if the institution does not invest that money globally or internationally."

By highlighting the economic and non-economic impacts of internationalization, institutions can dispel the notion that resources spent internationally do not benefit the local community.

The Economic Value of International Students

One of the key aspects of global education is the enrollment of international students, which not only contributes to the cultural diversity of an institution but also has significant economic implications. Paulo draws attention to the economic value of international students, citing reports from the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Those reports can be used to show that, at least in terms of economic value, it's always easier because it's basically numbers to show that the economic value is there.”

These reports provide concrete evidence of the economic impact of international students on the local community. By attracting international students, institutions create a ripple effect that stimulates the local economy through increased spending on housing, transportation, and other goods and services. Moreover, international students often contribute to the workforce and innovation ecosystem, fostering economic growth and job creation.

Paulo highlights the significance of international students by stating, "If we look at the list of all the Nobel prize winners residing and working in the U.S. of the last 30, 40 years, let's see how many of them actually were international students or international scholars who came to the U.S. and then stayed and resided in the U.S. and got the Nobel prize while working here."

The Non-Economic Impact of Internationalization

While the economic value of international students is tangible and easier to quantify, the non-economic impact of global education is equally important. Paulo Zagalo Melo acknowledges that measuring the non-economic impact can be more challenging, but it is crucial to recognize its significance.

International students bring diverse perspectives, knowledge, and expertise, enriching the academic environment and fostering cross-cultural understanding. Their contributions extend beyond the classroom as they become ambassadors of their home countries, promoting cultural exchange and diplomacy. By investing in global education, institutions create a global network of alumni who continue to contribute significantly to various fields, enhancing the institution's reputation and influence.


Prioritizing global education and strategic budgeting has far-reaching implications for institutions and communities. By embracing internationalization, institutions can position themselves as global educational leaders, attracting top talent and fostering a culture of innovation. The economic benefits of international students extend beyond the institution, stimulating local economies and creating job opportunities. Additionally, global education's non-economic impact contributes to advancing knowledge, research, and cultural understanding.

Furthermore, investing in global education can positively impact a country's soft power and international relations. By attracting international students and scholars, institutions become hubs of global talent, fostering collaboration and building bridges between nations. This enhances the institution's reputation and strengthens diplomatic ties and cultural exchange.


In an increasingly interconnected world, global education and strategic budgeting have become imperative for institutions seeking to thrive in the education landscape. Overcoming political barriers and dispelling misconceptions about the impact of internationalization is crucial in making a compelling case for global education initiatives. By showcasing the economic and non-economic benefits, institutions can demonstrate the return on investment and the positive impact on the local community.

Looking ahead, the future of global education holds immense potential. As institutions continue to prioritize internationalization, they will attract a diverse pool of students, scholars, and researchers, fostering innovation and cross-cultural collaboration. Global education's economic and non-economic impact will continue to shape the academic landscape, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and the betterment of society as a whole.

Global education and strategic budgeting are essential for the growth and success of institutions and have a profound impact on the local community and the world at large. By embracing internationalization, institutions can unlock opportunities and create a more inclusive and interconnected future.

To catch the full interview with Paulo, CLICK HERE.