Graphic feed: global student mobility matrix (2005)

Source: Internationalization of Higher Education: Foreign Students in Germany-German Students Abroad. Results of the 18th Social Survey of the Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) conducted by HIS Hochschul-Informations-System, 2008.

Update: see nanopolitan‘s interesting 4 June reflections (‘Indian’s studying abroad‘) on this table, and the changing nature of the foreign Indian student presence in the USA.

International students in the UK: interesting facts

Promoting and responding to the globalisation of the higher education sector are a myriad array of newer actors/agencies on the scene, including the UK Higher Education International Unit. Set up in 2007, the UK HE International Unit aims to provide:

credible, timely and relevant analysis to those managers engaged in internationalisation across the UK HE sector, namely – Heads of institutions, pro-Vice Chancellors for research and international activities; Heads of research/business development offices and International student recruitment & welfare officers.

The UK International Unit both publishes and profiles (with download options) useful analytical reports, as well as providing synoptic comparative pictures on international student recruitment and staff recruitment on UK higher education institutions and their competitors. Their newsletter is well worth subscribing to.

Readers of GlobalHigherEd might find the following UK HE International Unit compiled facts interesting:

  • In 2004, 2.7 million students were enrolled in HEIs outside their countries of citizenship. In 2005-06, six countries hosted 67% of these students (23% in the US, 12% in the UK, 11% in Germany, 10% in France, 7% in Australia, and 5% in Japan). (UNESCO, 2006)
  • New Zealand’s share of the global market for international students increased more than fourfold between 2000 and 2006. Australia’s increased by 58% and the UK’s by 35%. (OECD, 2006)
  • There were 223,850 international students (excluding EU) enrolled at UK HEIs in 2005-06, an increase of 64% in just five years. There were a further 106,000 EU students in 2005-06. (HESA, 2006)
  • International students make up 13% of all HE students in the UK, third in proportion only to New Zealand and Australia. For those undertaking advanced research programmes, the figure is 40%, second only to Switzerland. The OECD averages are 6% and 16%, respectively. (OECD, 2006)
  • UK HEIs continue to attract new full-time undergraduates from abroad. The number of new international applicants for entry in 2007 was 68,500, an increase of 7.8% on the previous year. The number of EU applicants rose by 33%. (UCAS, 2007)
  • Students from China make up almost one-quarter of all international students in the UK. The fastest increase is from India: in 2007 there were more than 23,000 Indian students in the UK, a five-fold increase in less than a decade. (British Council, 2007)
  • The number of students in England participating in the Erasmus programme declined by 40% between 1995-96 and 2004-05 – from 9,500 to 5,500. Participation from other EU countries increased during this period. However, North American and Australian students have a lower mobility level than their UK counterparts. (CIHE, 2007).

Susan Robertson

‘Branding’ global higher education services in the Netherlands

Governments are increasingly turning to ‘branding’ their higher education sector in order to promote them as globally competitive knowledge services sectors, and to secure a competitive advantage on the basis of imagined lifestyles, access of cultural experiences, a quality education, and so on. New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, to name just a few countries, have all been busy identifying and packaging the unique image they want to project in order to generate ‘brand value’.

The Netherlands is no exception. It is actively promoting itself as a major European destination, with offices in Beijing, Taipei, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and Mexico City. Offices in Bangkok and Moscow are due to open in 2008. According to the Institute of International Education’s Atlas of Student Mobility, the Netherlands currently has around 2% of the world market of international students, with some 42,000 students enrolled in higher education programs in the Netherlands.

‘Study in Holland’ was launched in January of this year as the official brand for the Netherlands. According to Nuffic, the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education,

The logo combines traditional symbols of Holland – the tulip and the windmill – with symbols for higher education and research. The tagline is ‘Study in Holland: open to international minds’. The brand was developed by Fabrique Communication & Design, and international students played an important role in selecting the final design.

Nuffic also notes that:

Research has shown that international students choose the Netherlands because of the academic quality and the cosmopolitan atmosphere. For their part, Dutch higher education institutions consider the international staff and student populations an important part of their quality assurance policy.

The brand can be used by higher education institutions who are accredited by the Netherlands-Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO). They must also have signed up to the Code of Conduct, which is a set of minimum standards for the teaching and care provided to international students in the Netherlands.

Aside from a large number of programs (especially graduate) where teaching is in English, an important element of the Dutch brand not explicitly featured is the relatively low student fee which international students are charged (in comparison to the USA, Australia and UK). Low fees can be a comparative advantage. However, in the case of the Netherlands, the low fee is also a signal of a particular social welfare regime and social ethic. It conjures up European values, a European social model, and so on which is part of its ‘cosmopolitan’ attraction.


However, according to a Nuffic Report issued on the 4th March this year, this is about to change in the 2008-9 academic year. Non European Economic Area (EEA) students will face a doubling of fees for professional and vocational programs in Dutch universities presenting the further penetration of fee increases in university programs. This means that fees that sit currently at around 3,500 euro are estimated to almost double taking them to around 7,000 euro (US $11,000). Universities like the University of Amsterdam had already moved to increase fees in academic programs over a year ago taking them well into the 9,000 euro mark.

What will be interesting in 2008-9 is to see how these moves impact on brand image and brand managing. After all, we can package a brand and project it, however the ‘consumers’ also have their own often more pragmatic reasons for choosing one course and place over another. Playing around with the actual product, such as the cost of fees and so on, has major implications for the take up of the brand and must surely create a headache for brand managers.

Susan Robertson

‘Malaysia Education’: strategic branding leads to growth in international student numbers 2006-8?

Several months back in our round-up of the global higher education student mobility market, we reported that Malaysia might be viewed as an emerging contender with 2% of the world market in 2006 (this was using the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education figures which reports only on the higher education sector).

Last week, Malaysia’s leading newspaper The Star reported that figures had increased between 2006 and 2008 by 30%, bringing the overall numbers of international students in Malaysian international schools and higher education institutions to 65,000. According to the following calculations by industry analyst (see pamjitsingh.ppt) the Malaysian government is well on target to realise its 2010 goal of 100,000 international students.

Taking into account the forecast in world demand by 2010, the Malaysian government estimates that their market share would need to grow from its current world share of international students (schools and higher education) of 3.9% in 2004 to 6.6% in 2010. In comparison to the global average annual growth rate of international students which is around 7.4% p.a, the Malaysian target growth rate would need to be in the order of 24.0% per annum to achieve the 2010 target.

In order to realize this goal, a new Higher Education Ministry Marketing and International Education Division was created.


    Dr Mohamed Nasser Mohamed Noor took on the post of Division Director in January 2006. According to Dr. Nasser, the success of this rapid increase can be attributed to Malaysia’s ‘branding’ of its education sector – ‘Malaysia Education’. It would seem that Malaysia is not far off course to realize their 2010 target if they maintain their current progress of 30% increase over two years (2006-2008).

    Branding has emerged as an important strategy for governments seeking to strategically develop their higher education markets. Nick Lewis’s entry on Brand New Zealand carried on GlobalHigherEd late last year illustrates how cultural re/sources, such as ‘clean’, ‘safe’, ‘green’ New Zealand, are being drawn upon to realise value and to reposition New Zealand in a highly competitive market.

    Similarly Europe (see this report destination-europe.pdf) has been casting around for an identifiable ‘brand’ to market itself as a significant player with an identifiable ‘product’ in the global higher education market. This means finding a combination of distinctive elements that enable the country or region to position themselves in relation to the competition.

    The ‘Malaysian Education’ brand draws on deep cultural, religious and political resonances to promote its product – one that emphasizes lifestyle, culture and quality of education. This includes the value to be gained from its unique multicultural population of Malay, Indian and Chinese; its Islamic religion; and its experience of colonialism. Despite the contradictions inherent in this new form of neo-colonialism, these cultural values and symbols are being (effectively?) mobilized to open up the African, Arab, Chinese and Indonesian markets.

    Malaysia’s story demonstrates the high level of fluidity in globalising the higher education market. It requires players to be highly competitive, constantly utilize intelligence, be attentive to strategies as to how to open new markets, and have a way of representing the sector as an attractive and unique brand.

    Will Malaysia leave behind its ’emerging contender’ crown and don the mantle of a major player in the region? Much depends clearly on what the other players in the region do – Singapore, China and Australia. Let’s see what 2010 reveals.

    Susan Robertson

    Benchmarking ‘the international student experience’

    GlobalHigherEd has carried quite a few entries on benchmarking practices in the higher education sector over the past few month – the ‘world class’ university, the OECD innovation scoreboards, the World Bank’s Knowledge Assessment Methodology, Programme of International Student Assessment, and so on.

    University World News this week have just reported on an interesting new development in international benchmarking practices – at least for the UK – suggesting, too, that the benchmarking machinery/industry is itself big business and likely to grow.

    According to the University World News, the International Graduate Insight Group (or i-graduate) last week unveiled a study in the UK to:

    …compare the expectations and actual experiences of both British and foreign students at all levels of higher education across the country. The Welsh Student Barometer will gather the opinions of up to 60,000 students across 10 Welsh universities and colleges. i-graduate will benchmark the results of the survey so that each university can see how its ability to match student expectations with other groupings of institutions, not only in Wales but also the rest of the world.

    i-graduate markets itself as:

    an independent benchmarking and research service, delivering comparative insights for the education sector worldwide: your finger on the pulse of student and stakeholder opinion.

    We deliver an advanced range of dedicated market research and consultancy services for the education sector. The i-graduate network brings international insight, risk assessment and reassurance across strategy and planning, recruitment, delivery and relationship management.

    i-graduate.jpg i-graduate have clearly been busy amassing information on ‘the international student experience’. It has collected responses from more than 100,000 students from over 90 countries by its International Student Barometer (ISB)- which they describe as the first truly global benchmark of the student experience. This information is packaged up (for a price) in multiple ways for different audiences, including leading UK universities. According to -i-graduate, the ISB is:

    a risk management tool, enabling you to track expectations against the experiences of international students. The ISB isolates the key drivers of international student satisfaction and establishes the relative importance of each – as seen through the eyes of your students. The insight will tell you how expectations and experience affect their loyalty, their likelihood to endorse and the extent to which they would actively encourage or deter others.

    Indexes like this, either providing information about one’s location in the hierarchy or as strategic information on brand loyalty, acts as a kind of disciplining and directing practice.

    Those firms producing these indexes and barometers, like i-graduate, are also in reality packaging particular kinds of ‘knowledge’ about the sector and selling in the sector. In a recent seminar ESRC-funded seminar series on Changing Cultures of Competitiveness, Dr. Ngai-Ling Sum described these firms as brokering a ‘knowledge brand’ – a trade-marked, for a price, bundle of strategies/tools and insights intended to alter an individual’s, institution’s or nation’s practices, in turn leading to greater competitiveness – a phenomenon she tags to practices that are involved in producing the Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE).

    It will be interesting to look more closely at, and report in a future blog on, what the barometer is measuring. For it is the specific socio-economic and political content of these indexes and barometers, as well as the disciplining and directing practices involved, which are important for understanding the direction of global higher education.

    Susan Robertson

    Nearly 20% of UK higher education degrees (2006/07) go to non-UK students

    The UK, the world’s second largest provider of higher education services for foreign students (see context graphic below from the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2007), has just released new data up to the 2006/2007 academic year. Some key enrolment and graduation points, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA):

    • The total number of HE enrolments at UK HEIs stood at 2,362,815 in 2006/07, an increase of 1% from 2005/06.
    • Between 2005/06 and 2006/07, the number of enrolments of UK domiciled students showed no percentage increase (from 2,006,035 to 2,011,345). The number of all other European Union (EU) domiciled students increased by 6% (from 106,225 to 112,260) and the number of Non-EU domiciled students increased by 7% (from 223,855 to 239,210).
    • 50,385 undergraduate and 75,205 postgraduate students obtaining HE qualifications in 2006/07 came from non-UK countries.
    • Non-UK students accounted for 19% of all students awarded HE qualifications in 2006/07.

    The Guardian reports that the UK Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell, views the increasing dependency of UK universities upon foreign students in a positive way, such that the:

    UK remains an extremely popular destination for international students. Our higher education system is world class, and offers very high quality provision. In the recent student satisfaction survey over 80% of international students were satisfied.

    Universities UK conveyed a view that these trends “demonstrated the UK to be one of the leading international destinations for students looking for a quality higher education experience”.


    Dependency and risk? Expansion of the education services sector and generation of export earnings? Supplement to state-provided resources and diversification of institutional revenue streams? Supplement (aka gap filler) to stalled flows of students (due to “top-up fees”) from the UK? Builder of non-UK capacity via the provision of a ‘quality’ education to non-UK students? Brain drain/brain gain/brain circulation mechanism? All of the above to varying degrees depending on what interpretive perspective is adopted. Regardless, though, the UK is continuing to act as one of the world’s most influential and significant providers of higher education services to non-UK EU students, and to non-EU students, who have the capacity to cross borders in the goal of enhancing their qualifications and experiencing life in another country. The UK is also, curiously, an awkwardly placed ‘player’ in conceptual and policy-making debates about the emerging European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the stated goal to make the EHEA a key driver of Europe’s knowledge economy in accordance with the Lisbon Stategy, and the emerging goal of forging an ‘external dimension‘ to the EHEA. More about the latter issue this Spring in GlobalHigherEd.
    Kris Olds

    “New Zealand Educated”: rebranding New Zealand to attract foreign students

    nzbrand.jpgIn June 2007 Education New Zealand, the peak industry body for institutions involved in the sale of education to foreign students in New Zealand, launched a new national brand. The New Zealand Educated brand (from which the images in this entry are sourced) is designed to represent and to lead a new phase of development in the sale of educational products to foreign students. The Brand is far more than simply a logo or a coherent message for developing promotional materials. It is based upon and expresses the strategic logic of industry development generated at a national level under the auspices of Education New Zealand over the last three years. Similarly, whilst much of such material is directed at foreign students studying in New Zealand, the new brand represents an imaginary of a far wider and more expansive international education industry. Narrowly, the brand will be used in all offshore promotional and marketing collateral designed to attract students to New Zealand to study. More widely it is the front end of a strategic reassessment of offshore trade shows and other commercial events promoted by Education New Zealand, its domestic public relations, its website, and its relationships with both the New Zealand government and off-shore institutional partners in education programmes.

    Three points may be of particular interest to readers of GlobalHigherEd. First, the national branding of international education activities by New Zealand operators is a feature of the New Zealand case. Education New Zealand has in the last decade been transformed into an efficient and professional peak body. Now funded by a marketing levy against all operators, it has taken advantage of the crisis prompted by the slump in sales to Chinese students and subsequent rationalisation and reprofessionalisation of activities among its members to emphasise and accentuate their mutual interests in Brand New Zealand. By working strategically in changing conditions Education New Zealand has sought to marginalise sectoral differences among its members and build a more coherent and integrated national product. It has now branded that product.

    nzparis.jpgIn this rebranding, Education New Zealand has placed international education firmly within the family of product/industry specific ‘Brand New Zealand’ so creatively symbolised by the erection of a giant rugby-ball-shaped trade stand in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower for 18 days during the recent Rugby World Cup in France (photo courtesy of Kris Olds). Although somewhat deflated by New Zealand’s early exit from a contest that it was expected to win, the ball, labelled ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, reveals the extent of national branding and the political project of economic nationalism that underpins it. As one of New Zealand’s leading export earners and with powerful messages of youth, tourism and knowledge economy to sell Brand New Zealand international education featured prominently in the imaginary of the ball.

    Second, in the design of the new brand, the brand makers have made a careful assessment of the tag-lines, messages and advantages of competitors as well as national strengths. That they chose to do so and the imaging that they discovered in doing so reveals the increasing deployment of brand expertise and logics in many places, and the increasing presence of nation branding. It is suggests a new moment in far more professionalised inter-national competition.

    The third interest lies in precisely what new brand values are being attached to Brand New Zealand International Education. The new ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand rebrands international education in New Zealand. It displaces one half of the old logo ‘The New World Class: New Zealand Educated’, as well as the multiple and wordy tag lines of ‘warm and welcoming environments’, ‘world class institutions’, ‘high quality living conditions’, ‘world leading courses and degrees’, ‘association with fresh thinkers’, ‘recreation in paradise’, and ‘British based education system’. These messages, somewhat cumbersome and highly defensive, were targeted at a bulk market largely out of Asia that was undifferentiated and knew little about New Zealand. The target was imagined as much to be parents as students and the place of information gathering and purchase was imagined to be the trade fair.nzbrandterms.jpg

    A new set of taglines, again a family of seven, pushes similar messages about a modern, friendly, British-based, out-doors, and green New Zealand, but one that is far more vibrant, globally connected, youthful, and exciting. Crucially it appears to imagine students as savvy, active agents, with subjectivities already located in the new global class elite and seeking an international education that will allow them to perform their lives within this elite – as leisure/experience consumers as well as actual or prospective creative entrepreneurs and knowledge workers. Hence, the seven tag lines are now ‘connected’, ‘inventive’, trusted’, ‘personal’, ‘adventurous’, ‘lively’, and ‘welcoming’. The photographic images are of self-confident, sophisticated students. The expectation now appears to be that the market place is on-line and the purchaser the savvy student. The text behind the tag lines presumes and more subtly restates New Zealand’s global credentials.


    The ‘New World Class’ was designed to secure a high volume supply chain in a emerging market for international students where New Zealand was positioned as a high-reputation, third-tier provider. In this market imaginary, the product was largely English language acquisition. New Zealand enjoyed certain key advantages from its safety, environmental reputation, national organisation, and British colonial history. The ‘New Zealand Educated’ brand recognises a much more sophisticated and competitive market place, but again one in which New Zealand enjoys similar advantages. However, these must be repackaged for a new local industry trajectory, a far more sophisticated and intermediated marketplace in which the expertise of branding is now being brought to bear, and new consumers.

    Nick Lewis

    Creating and enhancing risk in the UK higher education system

    If higher education is becoming a global ‘industry’ then it is inevitable risks and rewards will be differentially dispersed, and subject to the turbulence generated by broader structural forces, including global financial machinations. The most tangible of these forces relate to currency exchange rate differentials given that overseas students often pay high fees, and that key market players have come to depend upon these fees to compensate for declining state support (with Australia and the UK apt examples).

    Further to my 11 October entry titled ‘Will shifting currency exchange rate differentials (2005-2007) redirect flows of foreign students?’, which appears to be relatively interesting for some viewers of this blog judging on the basis of hit counts, today’s Financial Times has inspired me to revisit this issue. The FT’s article, titled ‘Drop in foreign students may hit universities’, quotes University College London’s provost (Malcolm Grant) as saying the strength of the sterling might damage (in financial terms) his institution (which depends upon 20% of its students to generate overseas fees of between £11,000 and £22,000 per annum). Let’s look at a few relevant numbers in the following graphics.

    First, here are the currency exchange rates (1 January 2002 to yesterday via the Pacific Exchange Rate Service) with reference to a British Pound-based indicator, with the UK’s main competitor (the US) noted, as well as the two main sources of foreign (and non-EU) students to the UK’s higher education system.


    Now let’s look at the relative dependency of the UK on foreign students in general, and from specific countries. These three graphics are from the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2007 report that we also profiled in September 2007.





    As these three graphics note UK universities are heavily dependent upon foreign students, especially from China and India (and Asia more generally).

    Finally here is a graphic from a report we profiled on 18 September that is from a new British Council and Education UK report that attempts to identify the “value of educational exports” (using trade in services parlance) to the UK economy.


    So dependency upon foreign students in the UK is clear, as is a fast rising and troublesome (for foreign students) British Pound. And given the patterns in this table (that admittedly only focus on England) are likely to be at work today, what we are seeing in Malcolm Grant’s expressed concern is one geographically- and institutionally-specific view on this broader structural dynamic.

    As today’s FT article ‘Drop in foreign students may hit universities’ notes:

    But if demand stalls at the prestigious London institution, which attracts large numbers of foreign students, other British universities are likely to be affected in the same way.

    If he is right, the British economy will be hit. Foreign students provide millions of pounds in invisible exports. Prof Grant said they were also “a major engine for economic growth” because many stayed on and found a job after finishing their studies, contributing to the economy as highly skilled workers.

    International undergraduates – defined by British universities as students from outside the EU – also play an important role in boosting the revenues of several of Britain’s elite universities. These include University College, London, ranked the world’s ninth best university in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s league table.

    Thus segments of the UK higher education system, and select parts of the country (mainly the Southeast and London), are now creating the noteworthy aggregate figures that the OECD has identified. If so is it not incredibly risky to engender such dependencies given the broad array of roles such universities (and regions) play in society and economy? Compete UK universities feel they must, but on the backs of ever so many fee paying foreign students? The UK’s competitor and model – the USA – is dependent upon foreign students too, though more on a sector- and profession-basis versus such a system-wide basis. And even when leading US universities (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, USC), depend upon relatively large proportions of foreign students they are at much less risk for most are institutions that are also sitting on top of vast reserves in the form of multi-billion dollar endowments as discussed here and here (not to mention being well resourced via external research funding). Does the UK really want to create and enhance such a high level of risk in such a critically important pillar (the publicly-funded higher education system) of society and economy? Or can branding, the perception (and reality, in most cases) of a high quality education, and the persistence of socio-economic networks that funnel students to the UK, mediate the currency effects?

    Kris Olds