The latest Education at a Glance report, which charts OECD member countries from 2000 to 2010, says the global market has grown by an average 7.1% annually.
However, some countries grew more than others: nearly half of all foreign students studied in one of the top five host countries – the US, UK, Australia, Germany and France.
“Growth in the internationalisation of tertiary education has accelerated during the past several decades, reflecting the globalisation of economies and societies, and also the expansion of tertiary systems and institutions throughout the world,” states the report which was released today.
The fastest growing regions of destination were Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania and Asia
The US continued to receive the largest amount of foreign students of any country in 2010 with 17% of all enrolments, but its overall market share continued to fall – down from 18% in 2009 and 23% in 2000 (although enrolments grew in real terms).
Meanwhile the UK and Australia increased their stakes to 13% and 7%, while Germany (whose share also fell) and France each received 6% by 2010.
Despite the dominance of European and North American destinations, the fastest growing host regions were Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania and Asia where universities have striven to internationalise.
Not surprisingly, more than half (52%) of international students worldwide hailed from Asia – led by China, India and Korea – followed by Europe (23%), and their costs were said to be rising.
“An increasing number of OECD countries are charging higher tuition fees for international students than for national students, and many also differentiate tuition fees by field of education, largely because of the difference in the public cost of studies,” said OECD in a statement.
It found that study abroad decisions were most influenced by the language of instruction
While the report does not try to offer a comprehensive explanation for the market’s growth, it discusses influential factors. It found that study abroad decisions were most influenced by the language of instruction, which explains why the top three destinations continue to be native English speaking.
Tuition fees, academic reputation (often based on rankings) and a destination country’s immigration policy also had impact, as well as regional schemes to boost mobility such as Erasmus.
Interestingly, around 21% of all foreign students come from countries that share land or maritime borders with the host country – a result not just of geography, but also “cost, quality and enrolment advantages that are more apparent to students in neighbouring countries”.