India set to be fastest-growing postgraduate source

14, October, 2014


India is forecast to be the fastest-growing source market for international postgraduate students over the next ten years in absolute terms, according to new research released by the British Council, with China, Nigeria and Indonesia also predicted to be strong growing markets.



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The British Council report, Postgraduate student mobility trends to 2024, builds on previous forecasts of tertiary-level outbound mobility, and examines demographic and economic factors to forecast flows from 23 source markets into six key postgraduate destinations (US, Canada, UK, Germany, Australia and Japan).

Flows of Indian postgraduate students to the six destinations are forecast to increase by 121,000 between 2012 and 2024, rising to a total of 209,000. China will remain the largest source market and will increase flows to the six destinations by 111,000 to an overall 338,000 students within the next decade, according to the report’s authors.

While India’s rise will be driven by annual GDP growth and large demographic swings – India will have the largest total number of tertiary-level enrolments in the world by 2024 – China’s outbound mobility increase will instead be driven solely by economic growth boosting demand, despite an anticipated drop in the tertiary-aged population of some 30,000,000 over the next ten years.

Zainab Malik, Director of Research for British Council Education Intelligence and author of the report, highlighted the potential pitfalls of increasing reliance on the two major source countries. “We know China and India would be a big part of the story, but were surprised at the level of dependence on these origin countries. Considering the numerous factors that can affect international student mobility, diversifying postgraduate recruitment strategies may not only help lessen that dependence but also broaden and deepen global skills and knowledge exchange.”

In terms of percentage growth, Nigeria is forecast to be the fastest-growing market among the 23 source countries included in the report with average annual growth of 8.3 per cent, leading to an additional 24,000 students sent to the six destinations by 2024. India will have the second-highest rate of outbound postgraduate mobility growth at 7.5 per cent, followed by Indonesia on 7.2 per cent.

The US will remain comfortably the largest destination, and will add an additional 154,000 postgraduate students from the 23 source countries at an annual growth rate of four per cent, while the UK is forecast to receive an extra 83,000 postgraduate students by 2024, at an average growth rate of 3.5 per cent. Australia and Canada are expected to have the highest annual growth rate of incoming postgraduate students from the 23 countries analysed at 4.1 per cent. 

The British Council model forecasts some significant changes in market share within the destinations: India, currently the fifth largest source of postgraduate students for Canada, will increase to become the second largest; Nigeria will overtake India to become the UK’s second biggest source country; Indonesia will overtake Korea to become the second largest sender to Japan; and Saudi Arabia’s growth trajectory will see it become the third largest source for the US.

Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, commented, “It will be great to welcome more Nigerian students in particular over the next decade to provide a greater African perspective to the debates and discoveries in our classrooms and laboratories.”

Study Travel Magazine analysed global trends in higher education mobility in a special report cover story earlier this year.

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