International student mobility: patterns and trends

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (more usually referred to as the OBHE) has just this week released a major 50 page report International Student Mobility: Patterns and Trends, written by Veronica Lasanowski and Line Verbik. We thought a brief summary of the key findings is in order (see also the summary in Inside Higher Ed), for it makes not only for very interesting reading, but if the OBHE’s interpretation of the evidence are correct, then there is definitely no room for complacency by the big players in the international student market.

So, what are they saying? First, that the predictions about the levels of growth in the marketplace appear to have been very optimistic, and that it is most unlikely that these will be achieved. Second, that

international student demand might not continue to focus on what have been the main destinations in the past. The US, the UK and Australia have all experienced either a decline or a ‘slump’ in the growth experienced in previous years.

What are the causes of this in their view? One is that European countries, which traditionally have maintained a significant and stable numbers have stepped up their marketing efforts. This chimes with our report last week from the Chronicle of Higher Education – that part of the marketing effort has involved making Europe more attractive as a destination by teaching in English. The second cause, and one that GlobalHigherEd intends to follow over the course of the next year, are the new players in Asia and the Middle East who have declared their intention to become regional education centers.

The OBHE report classifies the players in this way – with their respective shares of the market:

If the ‘Middle Powers’ begin to realize the benefits from the Bologna Process, the Erasmus Mundus Programmes and a shift to English as the medium of instruction, then this might result in a redistribution of some of the market share in their direction.

However, GlobalHigherEd believes that the group to watch are the ‘Emerging Contenders’, countries like Singapore (which is pictured here).

National University of Singapore

Why? Because this group have been major net importers of educations services rather than exporters. By becoming exporters, not only are they rethinking their own capacity-building strategies, but they are also seeking to capitalize on cultural synergies within the region. Students may well find that there are distinct career advantages to be had from learning in a full or partial Chinese language setting, even if the language of instruction is likely to be English.

Susan Robertson

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3 thoughts on “International student mobility: patterns and trends

  1. Pingback: Malaysia’s international student numbers increase by 30% between 2006-8 « GlobalHigherEd

  2. Pingback: Happy birthday - GlobalHigherEd turns 1 « GlobalHigherEd

  3. There are some prescient observations here. Since 2007 here in Australia, the decline or slump mentioned has probably been repeated, maybe even magnified since the GFC.

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