Future brings huge demand for international education

The number of students around the globe enrolled in higher education is forecast to more than double to 262 million by 2025. Nearly all of this growth will be in the developing world, with more than half in China and India alone. The number of students seeking study abroad could rise to eight million – nearly three times more than today.In a new book, higher education consultant Bob Goddard writes that the worldwide increase is being fuelled by greater numbers of young people entering the peak education ages along with sharply rising participation rates, especially in the non-compulsory education years.

But the developing countries experiencing a huge demand for further and higher education will be unable to provide enough places, Goddard says. So by 2025, eight million students will have to travel to other countries to study – nearly three times more than today.

“Average annual growth in demand for international higher education between 2005 and 2025 is expected to exceed 3% in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central America and South America,” Goddard writes.

“While the inability of developing countries to meet the medium-term demand for education domestically is a key factor determining the number of students travelling to another country for education purposes, it is also true there is a growing recognition of the benefits of an international education experience.”

The English-speaking countries have been long accustomed to dominating the market in selling international education to students but that situation is undergoing rapid change, Goddard notes.

Traditional source countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Middle East are developing their own capacities to offer education to outsiders. Singapore hopes to attract 150,000 foreign students by 2015, Malaysia 100,000 by 2020 and Jordan 100,000 by the same year.

China, despite facing huge demand for higher education from its own young people, is planning to expand its enrolments of foreigners from 200,000 at present to 300,000 by 2020.

Then there are developed countries such as Japan that have shown little interest in the past in marketing education overseas. With an ageing population and an increasingly under-utilised higher education sector, Goddard says there is a growing realisation among the Japanese that this could provide opportunities for “substantial levels of international recruitment”.

An unexpected by-product has been sharply increased competition, not only from the big English-speaking countries of Britain, America and Canada, but also from European nations and some of the Asian countries that have been the biggest sources of overseas students.

Instead of regarding this as a challenge to boost their marketing efforts, experts argue that universities should rethink their approaches.

“As higher education institutions round the world embrace mobility, there is a growing awareness of the new demands and possibilities of collaboration and networking among institutions dealing with knowledge production and dissemination,” he writes, noting that this seems likely to shift attention away from a focus on educational markets and their commercial possibilities towards the importance of transnational collaboration.”

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