Numbers of international students set to slow in next 10 years

by Ray Clancy on February 1, 2018

Student mobility is set to slow worldwide in the next decade as they seek higher quality education and realise that going overseas will not necessarily provide that, new research suggests.

According to the report from the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural and education opportunities, the global higher education sector has become more competitive.

(Prasit Rodphan/Bigstock.com)

Improved local education has already had an impact in terms of slowing the numbers of students opting to study at a foreign university and this is not set to change, it points out.

Universities in the UK, like other countries, will need to widen their international strategies if they want to continue to attract overseas students and consider different partnerships as well as directly recruiting students.

Visas and student safety are often cited as influencing the sector, but the impact of domestic investment on global student mobility has been profound, according to the report and more countries developing their higher education offer gives young people more choices.

Historically students have gone overseas due to insufficient capacity or quality education at home but this is changing. In China, for example, as the tertiary enrolment ratio went from 27% in 2012 to 42% in 2015, its outbound mobility ratio fell from 2.1% to 1.8%.

Indeed, China and India are forecast to experience the highest growth in local tertiary enrolments between now and 2027.

‘Experts have been projecting a slowdown in outbound students and we are seeing that now at the global level,’ said Zainab Malik, report author and research director for education intelligence at the British Council’s global higher education research service.

‘As students reconsider the concept of high quality education to include factors like return on investment and employability, the UK is at a disadvantage given its current visa policy and the emergence of diverse and attractive offers from new higher education destinations,’ he added.

Either by employing more varied strategies, including transnational education, or by diversifying recruitment markets, UK universities must become more strategic to remain competitive in higher education to 2027, he also pointed out.

The report forecasts that growth in outbound mobility of international students is predicted to slow from 5.7% annual average growth from 2000 to 2015 to 1.7 % by 2027 while China and India are forecast to account for 60% of the global growth in outbound students.

The majority of countries are projected to experience growth in their tertiary enrolments ratios with the largest rises in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

The top growth markets for outbound students in the next 10 years include China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh while South Korea, Malaysia, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Singapore are projected to have the largest declines in outbound students to 2027.

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