Research

Demographic Trends: Flow of International Students Growing from East to West

Two companies that specialize in student housing are shedding light on the global flow of international students who go abroad for college or university. The startup nestpick, which has an app that helps students find housing and rents it to them, drilled into data maintained by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and found that five countries hosted nearly half of students heading to another country for their education:

  • United States (19 percent);
  • United Kingdom (11 percent);
  • France (7 percent);
  • Australia (6 percent);
  • Germany (5 percent).

Slightly more than half of all international students originate from Asia, especially China and India. Statistics from UNESCO find that China had 694,000 students studying abroad; India had 189,500; and the Republic of Korea had 123,700.

For students who come to the United States, the source that dominates is China, with 210,452 students. That count represents about 30 percent of the total number of students China currently sends abroad and is an increase of nearly 32,000 from the year before. Japan takes in 97,000 students from China; Australia receives 87,000; and the United Kingdom draws 77,000.

Only about 75 American students choose to study in China, according to UNESCO. Most U.S. students — just under 15,000 — head to the United Kingdom; half as many go to Canada. About 58,000 U.S. students in total are currently studying abroad.

The global number of students expected to study abroad will rise from 3 million to 3.9 million over the next decade, according to research by international rental consultancy Savills, which examined market dynamics last year in its report, "Spotlight: World Student Housing."

According to Savills, the growth in international education reflects the expansion in higher education globally overall, which stands to add 32 million enrollments by 2024 from the current 164 million students.

The Savills report stated that "lesser known" parts of the globe that are seeing growth in international students include several countries. Canada is increasing its share of overseas students from India with its "Student Partners Program," a direct visa effort begun in 2011.

Other "large" and "fast growing" locations include Hong Kong (whose international student numbers grew 186 percent between 2007 and 2011), Thailand (up 136 percent), Malaysia (up 108 percent), Saudi Arabia (up 97 percent) and Spain (up 94 percent).

Between 2005 and 2015 Turkey doubled the number of exchange students it drew by taking advantage of the predecessors to the "Erasmus+" program, which brings students from the European Union to its schools. Turkey has also attracted students from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The European Commission has increased funding for Erasmus+ by 40 percent during its seven-year lifecycle (2014 to 2020) and expects to generate opportunities for 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad.

As the middle class in Brazil continues expanding, families are sending their college-age students abroad, the report stated. Most of those are heading to the United States, followed by France and Portugal. Savills anticipated that Portugal, in particular, will see "bigger inroads" from Brazil, followed by Spain to a lesser extent.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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