Where are Today’s International Students Going for Their Education?
A reflection on themes presented in The Economist’s recent article, ‘Brains Without Borders’.
The Economist recently published an article, Brains Without Borders, which delves into the subject of students—worldwide—increasingly choosing to continue their higher education abroad. In 2000 the number of international students globally was 2 million; today, this number stands at 4.5 million and in 2025, it is expected to rise to about 8 million. The article goes on to explore how this changing landscape translates for universities and countries catering to this need. Here we further expound on the subject.
The Changing International Study Landscape
From a student’s perspective, choosing to study abroad usually stems from a lack of local opportunities. Getting an internationally recognised degree, gaining access to better programs and the opportunity to find a job internationally also factor into this decision. As for universities, securing overseas admissions makes good business sense because international students pay significantly more than locals.
While the US and England have long been choice destinations for students, a change is gradually taking place, largely because of the two countries’ conservative visa policies and lack of work opportunities. For students who invest into an education abroad and desire international work experience, these hurdles are major deterrents. Other countries however, seem to now be filling this gap by offering students what the US and England aren’t.
Nations Also Benefit with International Students
Australia, which has education as its ‘second-biggest export’, temporarily went through a rough phase in 2009-2012; the country has since rebounded from this, with the government correcting the issues of slow visa processing times for students and refining the quality of courses offered by universities.
Other countries such as Canada, Malaysia, Japan, France and Germany as well as several other European countries have also started to realise the benefits of attracting international students: they inject funds into the economy, subsidise local education costs, and contribute to the wealth of knowledge in a country.
Malaysia and Japan have both set goals of increasing the number of international students in their programs over the coming years. Canada, although relatively new to this phenomenon, has made strides by increasing students’ options to study, work and stay in Canada. Some European countries such as Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have also gone as far as to provide low-cost tuition and even tuition-free education for international students.
Many countries are also offering ‘transnational programs’ (also called study-abroad programs) where students complete most of their studies in their own country, and then spend the last term or year in a country abroad.
Are the US and UK Losing Traction as Top Study-Abroad Destinations?
Unlike before, students aren’t moving in just one direction for their education abroad; they now have better choices without compromising on the quality of experience and education. It won’t be easy though to push the US and UK off students’ radar. These two countries are home to a majority of the highest rated institutes and have to their credit, a history of producing and training known leaders and professionals. Hence, for those whose primary concern is acquiring a world class education, the US and UK are still dominant study-abroad options.
Check out our blog page for a range of articles based on international study, including: a comparison on studying in the US vs the UK; information about the top schools internationally based on the 2016 rankings for the Complete University Guide and the Financial Times.
About the Author: Ambria Farid is a technical writer and researcher, working primarily in the field of education. She holds a bachelor’s in Management Science and also works as part of a consultancy team for NGOs.