According to the Education at a Glance 2019 report, there was a two-percentage-point increase in the share of internationally mobile students across OECD countries between 2010 and 2017, and more than half (56%) of all international students were from Asia.
The UK and the US received more than 40% of all mobile students in OECD and partner countries
Launched in the UK in an event by the Higher Education Policy Institute with support from Pearson, this year’s edition of the OECD’s annual report provides data on the state of education in the 36 OECD nations and its partner countries.
According to the report, English-speaking countries remain the most attractive destinations for international students, with the UK and the US receiving more than 40% of all mobile students in OECD and partner countries.
Of all mobile students across the OECD, 56% came from Asia, but two-thirds of Asian students converge on only five countries: Australia, Canada, Japan the UK and the US.
The report added that “if trends remain constant, the People’s Republic of China and India could account for a particularly large share of the OECD-G20 pool of tertiary-educated young adults, despite the projected drop in China’s young adult population”.
While the number of Chinese students as a proportion of all international students is expected to fall by four percentage points due to its decreasing population, the number of students from India and Latin American is likely to experience significant increases, the report continued.
In Europe, the UK, France and Germany were shown to be key destinations for inbound students.
Major increases in the share of students were also seen in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In Luxembourg, international students account for 47% of the student body.
EU students represented 24% of all mobile students in the OECD report, but due to a preference for staying in Europe, accounted for 42% of mobile students within EU OECD nations.
In Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, at least eight out of 10 mobile students were from Europe.
Meanwhile in Australia, 21% of all students were international, although the country has seen a decrease of one percentage point between 2013 and 2017.
“Attracting mobile students, especially if they stay permanently, is a way to tap into a global pool of talent, compensate for weaker capacity at lower educational levels, support the development of innovation and production systems and, in many countries, to mitigate the impact of an ageing population on future skills supply,” the report stated.
“Attracting mobile students… is a way to tap into a global pool of talent”
However, the report also noted that there is a risk of squeezing out qualified national students from domestic tertiary educational institutions that differentiate tuition fees by student origin, as they may tend to give preference to international students who generate higher revenues through higher tuition fees”.
The OECD gave a variety of reasons for the increase in foreign enrolment, including the “skills needs of increasingly knowledge-based and innovation-driven economies” where “local education capacities have not always evolved fast enough to meet growing domestic demand”.
Factors such as the growing middle class in emerging economies, the cost of international flights, the spread of internet and social media and the use of English as a working language are also playing a role, it noted, with the share of tertiary-education young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 in OECD-G20 countries expected to keep growing over the next 15 years.
“The traditional linear progression through education, from primary through tertiary, is being gradually replaced by a more holistic vision of lifelong learning,” OECD secretary-general Angela Gurria explained in the report’s introduction.
“As market demand for skills evolves quicker than some educational institutions may anticipate, many of these institutions are promoting flexible pathways into tertiary education and seeking partnerships with other players, including employers, industry and training institutions.”