US and UK to dominate overseas HE enrolments

October 14, 2013

The US and the UK will continue to dominate the market for international students in 2024, according to an updated forecast report published by the British Council, while several emerging nations will become increasingly important source markets.

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The report, The Future of the World’s Mobile Students to 2024 , forecasts that 3.9 million students from the 56 shortlisted countries examined will be studying overseas at tertiary level in 2024, an increase compared with just over three million in 2011.

China will remain comfortably the largest source of mobile students, contributing 855,000 by 2024. India will be the second-biggest origin country at 376,000 and would actually be the fastest growing country in terms of outbound mobility between 2011 and 2024 (+153K). The two nations combined will account for 32 per cent of global outbound students by 2024, while Germany, Korea and Saudi Arabia are anticipated to complete the top five.

Alongside India and China, the fastest growing countries in terms of outbound mobility will be Saudi Arabia (+58K), Nigeria (+57K), Nepal (+47K), Pakistan (+46K), Indonesia (+35K) and Iraq (+33K).

In terms of host countries, the largest increases will be experienced by the US (179K), the UK (126K) and Australia (71K). The US is likely to be the main beneficiary of increased outbound flows from India and China, with these two nations accounting for around two-thirds of the growth there.

In 2024, the report predicts China to the USA will be clearly the largest bilateral higher education mobility flow at 239,000, as well as the fastest growing. South Korea to the US will be the fastest declining bilateral flow, set to reduce by 9,000.

The report predicts overall global growth in total tertiary enrolments (domestic and outbound) will slow from five per cent per annum to around 1.4 per cent per annum, reaching some 196 million by 2024, up from 164 million in 2011. A forecasted decline of around 30 million in the global 18-to-22 population – mostly driven by a one-third drop in China – will cause the slowing enrolment rate.

The report has been published as an update to the British Council’s previous analysis of trends up to 2020, with higher than expected growth in total enrolments and outbound mobility necessitating a revision of the forecasts. Since 2009 outbound mobility increased at an average of 6.4 per cent among the shortlisted countries.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Research Director at the British Council and author of the report, said, “Against a backdrop of fragile economic conditions and recoveries, slowing international trade generally, squeezed household incomes and a global decline in the number of people aged 18-to-22, this growth is impressive.”

A caveat in the British Council report is that it has been impossible to measure inflowing mobility to nations such as China, India and Malaysia due to incomplete data. The report states it is likely that by 2024, China would be competing against the major destinations and potentially diminishing the forecasted increases to those countries.

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