3.8 million mobile students by 2024

According to a British Council report, international student intake will grow by 1.8 per cent annually

Published: 18th November 2013 11:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th November 2013 11:06 AM   |  A+A-


The rupee depreciating against the dollar, UK’s stringent visa rules, racism in Australia — despite these controversies, international student intake is poised to have a fillip, according to a report by the British Council (BC). Titled ‘The Future Of The World’s Mobile Students To 2024’, The study builds on the findings of a 2012 British Council report, ‘The Shape of Things to Come: Higher education global trends and emerging opportunities to 2020’. BC’s Hong Kong team is behind this report and the results are a result of ongoing market research that involved questionnaires, teleconferences with respondents and interviews with prospective students.

BC reckons there will be 3.8 million mobile higher education students globally by 2024, up from just over 3 million two years ago. It is further learnt that India and China will contribute 35 per cent of the global growth in international students. The report that studied 56 countries was released in early October. “This study is the third report in the series of student trends. At any time, we find that USA absorbs the highest number of international students and this could be due to their strong consolidated visa reporting system,” says Dhanasekaran, head of partnerships and policy dialogue, BC, Chennai.

More students from Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are flocking abroad. USA still is the most popular destination for students, followed by UK and Australia. The report cautions that these top players will see competition from emerging countries like China and Malaysia.

However, Dhanasekaran also says that the report voices concern over employment issues. “Students in general tend to go abroad to study for quality, multicultural set-up and such. With India passing the foreign education ordinance, we might see the reverse trend — more international students coming to India,” he explains.

Key findings

Global gross higher education ratio will continue to rise until 2024, with India’s enrollment growth being the highest in the world. Overall enrollments will increase by 32 million (1.4 per cent) a year, to 196 million worldwide.

By 2024, India, China, Indonesia and USA would be home to more than half of the world’s 18-to 22-year-old population.

Numbers of “outbound mobile” international students would grow by an average of 1.8 per cent a year and would reach 3.8 million by 2024. This is down from 6 per cent a year in recent times.

By 2024, the mobile student population from China is forecast to be 8.55 lakh while India will send 3.76 lakh students — together contributing a third of all mobile students globally. However, the report warns that these numbers may not be achieved if economic growth rate forecasts for the two countries are not realised. If China rapidly develops its own higher education system, demand among Chinese students to study abroad may also decline, according to the report. Further, if economic growth in China and India declines, the forecast number of international students globally will drop by 52,000.

Germany could become the third largest sender of students by 2024.

Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, Iraq, Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia will emerge as important origin markets.

Demographic declines could lower the numbers of mobile students from South Korea and Japan, which have been major sources of international students in the past.

USA, Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada will continue to be the world’s major destinations for international students.

America will be the major beneficiary of growth in student mobility from China and India, while Britain will benefit from large markets of India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The research forecasts that India will replace China as UK’s top student sender.

With respect to UK education, the report says it is not all hunky-dory. Growth in the number of international students going to UK universities will be slower in the next 13 years. The study predicts that by 2024 there will be 5.68 lakh international students in the UK, 29 per cent up on 2011 but far less than government’s anticipated 15-20 per cent annual growth over the next five years.

Australia growth in international mobility will be even slower owing to a strong currency and high cost of living. It is expected that the country will attract only an extra 71,000 students by 2024.

Happy news for China as it could become major host countries in the coming decade.

A full copy of the report is available with BC for $250 (approx Rs 15,900). Details at



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