Asian students rank first in study abroad programmes


Recent reports reveal that students are showing a positive attitude towards study abroad programmes. As economies become more interconnected and participation in education expands, factors driving general increase in student mobility range from exploding demand for higher education worldwide and perceived value of studying at prestigious post-secondary institutions abroad. Institutions are undertaking major marketing efforts to attract students from outside their boundaries. A significant portion of students coming from G20 non-OECD countries includes the meritorious students, natural candidates for public or private support, or students with high socio-economic background. In the current economic context, shrinking support for scholarships and grants to support student mobility may diminish the pace of student mobility.

According to a report on ‘education at glance’ more than 4.1 million students were enrolled outside their country of citizenship. Luxembourg, Australia, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and New Zealand have the highest percentages of international students among their tertiary enrolments. In Luxembourg largest numbers of foreign students are from China, India and Korea. Asian students represent 52% of foreign students enrolled worldwide. The number of foreign students enrolled in OECD countries was almost three times the number of citizens from an OECD country studying abroad in 2012. In the 21 European countries that are members of the OECD, there were 2.7 foreign students per each European citizen enrolled abroad.

Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the US each receive more than 6% of all foreign students worldwide. International students from OECD countries mainly come from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Turkey and the US and they make up 10% or more of the enrolments in tertiary education in Australia, Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Switzerland and the UK.

They also account for more than 20% of enrolments in advanced research programmes in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The number of foreign tertiary students enrolled in OECD countries has doubled since 2000, for an average annual increase growth rate of 7.2%. Europe is the preferred destination for students studying outside their country, and has 41% of all international students. North America has 21% of all international students.

Future trends

OECD and UNESCO Institute for Statistical data make it possible to examine longer term trends in tertiary student mobility rising dramatically from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.1 million in 2010 an increase of more than five-fold.
The increase in the number of students enrolled abroad since 1975 are due to various factors, from an interest in promoting academic, cultural, social and political ties between countries to a substantial increase in global access to tertiary education, and reduced transportation costs. The internationalization of labour markets for highly skilled individuals has also given people an incentive to gain international experience as part of their studies.
The increase in the number of foreign students can be compared to the increase in tertiary enrolment worldwide. According to UNESCO, 177 million students participated in formal tertiary education around the world in 2012 – an increase of 77 million students (or 77%) since 2000. Most of the new foreign tertiary students come from countries outside the OECD area, and are likely to increase in advanced research programmes in OECD and in G20 countries in the coming years.


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