Students from mainland China who go abroad to study far outnumber those from any other country and they will continue to increase their domination of the international student market for decades to come.
This mobile group of young hopefuls is scattered around the world and they contribute an estimated US$6 billion in fees to higher education institutions. Many universities have come to rely heavily on the student fees as a growing source of income.
More than 350,000 mainland Chinese students are believed to be studying for degrees at overseas universities this year and the number is predicted to rise to 645,000 within 20 years.
A report by researchers at IDP Education, Australia's main student recruiting agency, says that although students from India come second in terms of global mobility, they lag well behind the huge crowd from China.
Fewer than 130,000 Indian students were studying abroad in 2005. By 2025, when India is expected to overtake China as the world's most populous nation, only about 300,000 Indian students are likely to be going outside their homeland to enrol at a foreign university.
The report says lack of university places in their own countries is the main factor causing students to go abroad. But other elements include opportunities for skilled migration, perceptions of improved employment and career prospects for foreign graduates, and beliefs about better quality education and life experiences overseas.
“With a clear positive relationship between education attainment and future wage earnings, tertiary education is also perceived as desirable,” it states.
The IDP researchers used United Nations, Unesco and Australian statistics to calculate the likely increases in the number of students who leave their countries to study abroad.
While China and India far exceed any other nation in terms of student mobility, within 20 years South Korea will be in third place with 127,000 students expected to be studying outside that nation.
More than 106,000 students from Morocco are predicted to be also enrolled in overseas institutions, placing that country a surprising fourth, while Turkey, with 104,000 of its young people abroad, will occupy fifth place.
“The start of the 21st century marked a dramatic rise in the global number of mobile students,” the report says in a quote from Unesco’s Global Education Digest. “In 2004, at least 2.5 million tertiary students studied outside their home countries compared with 1.74 million just five years earlier, a 43% increase.”
The latest OECD education analysis, as reported in the second issue of University World News, notes that the market in international students continues to grow but at a significantly higher rate outside the European Union. The OECD says America continues to attract nearly twice as many international students as its nearest rival, Britain, which has a 12% share.
Yet it is China with its vast population and booming economy that will remain the most significant for countries tapping into the education export market. Despite the Middle Kingdom pouring billions into building schools and universities, the giant nation cannot keep up with the surging demand from its young for higher education.
The IDP report notes that China expanded its domestic tertiary education places from nearly six million in 1999 to more than 18 million in 2004 – a three-fold rise – and is adding 2.5 million places each year. That represents a staggering compound annual growth rate of 25% yet applications for university places from prospective students continue to outstrip supply.
In contrast, India boosted its tertiary education places from nine million to almost 12 million in the same time – a 33% increase. Although India adds 575,000 higher education places each year, the compound growth rate is still only less than 6%.
This could be good news for those countries relying on India to provide fee-paying students: while the population of 15 to 19-year-olds in China is expected to plummet from 117 million in 2005 to 85 million in 2020, the number in India will explode from 114 million to 127 million.
Read previous OECD education
Email to a friend
Comment on this article
Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of University World News or Higher Education Web Publishing, their associated trademarks, websites and services. University World News or Higher Education Web Publishing does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.