OECD: international student number rises to 3.7 million

The OECD – or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to give it its full name – has this week released its annual report on the state of education across the world, focusing on its 34 member nations. Education at a Glance 2011 contains a massive range of statistics, which show things like to what level adults in a given nation have studied, and how much each one invests in education as a percentage of its GDP.

This year’s report contains figures from 2009, as the data for years beyond that has not yet been gathered.

So, what do we now know? Well, here’s the big one: in 2009, 3.7 million tertiary students were enrolled in an institution outside of their home country. That’s up from 3.4 million in 2008, and an increase of 77% since 2000. The growth of students studying abroad, pertinently, outstripped the overall figures for higher education enrolment (6.4% as compared to 3.3%, in case you were wondering).

The report goes into more detail than it is possible to go into here (if you want to look at it in more detail, click here, ‘Who studies abroad and where’ is section C3), but here are a few of the most significant findings. It’s worth noting that statistics are not necessarily available for every nation in the world.

•    The countries which play host to the most international students in absolute terms are the United States (the destination for 18% of international students, though they only account for 3.5% of its total student population) to the United Kingdom (10%), Australia (7%), Germany (7%), and France (7%). Canada (5%), Japan (4%), Russia (4%), and Spain (2%) are also popular destinations.

•    Since 2000, the US’s market share has fallen by five percentage points, Germany’s by two and the United Kingdom’s by one.  Russia, and Australia and New Zealand both increased their share by two points – however, given what we know about what’s happened since 2009, we can expect Australia’s share to fall in years to come

•    The countries where international students account for the highest percentage of the total are Australia (21.5%), the United Kingdom (15.3%), Austria (15.1%), Switzerland (14.9%) and New Zealand (14.6%).

•    In absolute terms, China accounts for the largest percentage of students studying abroad (17%), followed by India (6%), Korea (4%), Germany (3%), France, and Russia (both 2%).

•    International students account for a sizeable proportion of those enrolled in advanced research programs in Switzerland (47%), the United Kingdom (43%), New Zealand (35%), the United States (28%) and Australia (26%). The equivalent figures for Austria, Belgium, Canada, Iceland and Sweden are all also above 20%.

•    The English language seems to be a big factor in attracting students, which has seen many non-Anglophone countries offer courses in the language.

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