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77% growth in English-taught programs outside ‘big four’ destinations

English-taught programs are growing at an exponential rate, with almost 28,000 full degree study programs taught outside ‘big four’ destinations, according to a new report by Studyportals and the British Council.

Experts talked about the findings of the Studyportals and British Council report during a PIE Webinar. Photo: The PIE News

We know that there is a huge concentration of programs around China and also Asia is growing as a hub

A growth of over 77% was recorded compared to the beginning of 2017 – meaning almost one in five of English-taught programs are offered outside of Australia/NZ, UK, US and Canada.

On release of the report, Studyportals noted that the growth has “significant implications” for student mobility on an international level, with prospective students having “access to more programs than ever before” with more destinations to choose from.

Experts from across the sector talked about the report during a PIE Webinar on December 7.

“The motivation for this report was to really introduce this type of debate to the sector,” said Megan Agnew, IELTS Global Partnerships manager at the British Council.

“The motivation for this report was to really introduce this type of debate to the sector”

“The UK, US Australia and Canada continue to be popular destinations, but it shows that there is a shift in this centre of gravity within study mobility,” Agnew added.

Programs being taught outside the ‘big four’ are largely a “European Affair” – especially in Western Europe – however, this may not be the case for much longer, the research suggested.

“As countries in Western Europe reassess their internationalisation objectives focusing less on attracting larger numbers and more on providing academic excellence, the growth of ETPs is likely to slow down,” the report states.

“Data suggests that much of the growth of ETPs worldwide will materialise in Asia, in particular in the Chinese Region – bound to overtake Europe in overall size by the end of the 20s – and in East Asia,” it continues.

“I am not surprised that internationalisation is trending,” said Piet Van Hove, VP of EAIE and senior policy advisor at the University of Antwerp.

Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany do still sit “steadily” on top of the list of programs offered overall.

“Those countries that are Anglophone but not necessarily in the big four have not been as proactive in terms of international student recruitment,” senior marketing analytics consultant at Studyportals Carmen Neginha said.

“Let’s say if we look at Ireland – there are English-taught programs, they are European and yes, they do recruit but they haven’t been as proactive as maybe some of the other European destinations have in this regard.”

China is also currently offering the most ETPs outside the ‘big four’ and the EHEA with 12.2% of the programs by region.

South African universities are assisting growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, but numbers “remain limited” – extensive portfolios offered are bolstering numbers for domestic students and those from across Africa.

Previous Studyportals research found that Europe had witnessed a boom in English-taught bachelor programs in the decade leading up to 2017.

The places with the slowest growth are currently Latin America and South Asia, still in the “early stages” of offering ETPs.

“We know that there is a huge concentration of programs around China and also Asia is growing as a hubin Asia especially, English-taught bachelors are kind of dominating the market,” Neginha noted.

“This global research shows just how quickly universities around the world are adapting to teaching in English and therefore offering students more diverse study options than ever before,” Edwin van Rest, CEO of Studyportals said.

According to the report, those growing Chinese and Sub-Saharan African regions have “doubled” their number of programs since January 2017.

“The key thing for Sub-Saharan Africa is the price point, and the accessibility for students in Africa,” said Stuart Rennie, director of SJ Rennie Consulting.

“The key thing for Sub-Saharan Africa is the price point, and the accessibility for students”

“Students are applying to state universities or federal universities, which are then very difficult to get into – so that’s driving growth at private universities across the region,” Rennie explained.

“The pandemic has also created real problems with visas and travel restrictions,” he added.

The majority of ETPs offered in non-English speaking countries came from business & management pathways, engineering & technology and social sciences.

These programs made up a “staggering 46%” of all programs taught in those non-English-native countries.

“Depending on the field of study, and level, the role of language is actually very different,” said van Hove.

“If you’re talking about humanities or law, it’s a different expectation as the use of language is different; masters level professors teaching electron microscopy don’t always care if the English level is perfect in all aspects,” he continued.

“There is an issue about maintaining accessibility for students who might not have the ability to follow a course entirely in English,” said Etienne Chasson, English teacher and academic coordinator for internship mobility at Sciences Po Aix.

“This latest report demonstrates the ongoing importance of English as a medium of instruction – and prompts us all to consider the changes happening to the international education landscape and the impact they may have,” said Sara Pierson, director of Examinations at the British Council.

Most outside the ‘big four’ are still offered at masters level, but the number of undergraduate ETPs is growing at a faster rate – 85% compared to 74%.

“Even though the number of non-native Anglophone countries is relatively small, it is the area with the biggest growth and rise in bachelor level programs – it’s a very different ballgame,” said van Hove.

Neginha also touched upon a shift towards degrees including a sustainable element.

“We see that countries that are going to be impacted the most by environmental challenges –  technically very small recruitment countries – are seeing demand for environmentally related programs is growing at a skyrocketing rate every year,” she explained.

Covid-19 was also a factor, with the pandemic possibly affecting the report’s findings.

“Generally speaking, when it’s safe to do so, students do want to travel to those destinations they had in mind… we’ll see it over the next year,” Agnew said.

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One Response to 77% growth in English-taught programs outside ‘big four’ destinations

  1. Saying a country such as Ireland has not been ‘proactive’ betrays some more complex reasoning that Anglo-centric readers would not understand unless it is explained a bit more clearly. Not all higher education systems are as commercially oriented as The UKs or Australia’s and perhaps there are other ways that Ireland fosters mobility, eg via Erasmus and not to extract profit.

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