More students pursuing higher education abroad
According to the latest UIS data, at least 3.8 million students in 2011 were enrolled in tertiary education abroad, up from 2 million in 2000. The surge in internationally mobile students* reflects the rapid expansion of enrolment in higher education globally, which has grown by 83% in a decade.
East Asia and the Pacific is the largest source of international students, representing 29% of the global total. Students from China make up one-half of this figure, or 18% of the total. The United States, Japan and Australia are their main destinations for study.
North America and Western Europe follows, accounting for 15% of those going abroad.
In relative terms, students from Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are the most mobile in the world. About 6 out of 100 tertiary students from Central Asia, and 5 out of 100 from sub-Saharan Africa go away to study.
Education hubs are developing in the regions and attracting growing concentrations of mobile students. South Africa, for example, received 22% of mobile students from sub-Saharan Africa in 2011. Nonetheless, France remains the region's top destination outside of the African continent, receiving 18% of students.
The Arab States has also seen a steady rise in outbound students over the past ten years, accounting for 7% of the global total. France, the United States and the United Kingdom absorb most of these students; however, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) are also popular destinations for higher education.
In about 15 countries, students studying abroad account for half or more of those studying at home. In Comoros, for example, some 16,000 students were enrolled in domestic higher education institutions, representing10% of its tertiary-age population; whereas approximately 3,700 students studied abroad, or 6% of tertiary-age population. In other words, 16% of the population of university age were enrolled in higher education programmes.
For more statistics on students flows into and out of more than 100 countries, please visit the UIS Data Centre.
* The term “internationally mobile students” refers to students who have crossed a national border to study, or are enrolled in a distance learning programme abroad. These students are not residents or citizens of the country where they study. Internationally mobile students are a sub-group of “foreign students”, a category that includes those who have permanent residency in the host country. For this reason, the number of foreign students, globally, tends to be higher.
Data presented here are drawn from the UIS, as well as the OECD and Eurostat data collections on mobile students. These data cover only students who pursue a higher education degree outside their country of residence (so called “degree mobility”), and exclude students who are under short-term, for-credit study and exchange programmes that last less than a full school year (so called “credit mobility”).
Top destination countries:
- United States (19%)
- United Kingdom (11%)
- Australia (7%)
- France (7%)
- Germany (5%)
- Japan (4%)
Top sources of international students:
- China (649,500)
- India (196,200)
- Republic of Korea (128,200)
Regions that host the largest number of internationally mobile students:
- North America and Western Europe (58%)
- East Asia and the Pacific (20%), and
- Central and Eastern Europe (9%)
Countries that have more students studying abroad than at home:
- São Tomé and Principe