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International Student Enrolment : Recent Trends & Statistics
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International Student Enrolment : Recent Trends & Statistics

Mar 18, 2023
10 min read
Mar 18, 2023
10 min read
International Student Enrolment : Recent Trends & Statistics
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International student enrollment has been on the rise in recent years, with universities and colleges across the world attracting students from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. These students bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the educational institutions they attend, enriching the learning environment and contributing to the local economy. The enrolment of international students has become a critical factor for many universities and colleges, as it not only helps to increase their diversity but also provides significant financial benefits.

The purpose of this article is to dig into the realm of international student enrollment, providing an in-depth examination of its historical background and current trends, as well as the various factors that influence it. We aim to present a wealth of statistical data, numerical figures, and factual information, covering both the benefits and challenges that come with international student enrollment, and the strategies that institutions can employ to enhance their enrollment rates. By presenting these data-driven insights, we hope to equip educators, institutions, and policymakers with a comprehensive understanding of the importance of international student enrollment in the context of higher education.

Recent trends in international student enrolment

Recent trends in international student enrolment have seen a significant increase in the number of students seeking education opportunities abroad. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of online education, making it more accessible and attractive to international students. Additionally, the desire for a higher quality of education and increased job opportunities has driven students from different parts of the world to enroll in universities in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. The emergence of technology has also made it easier for students to communicate and learn from anywhere in the world. The rise in international student enrolment has become a major contributor to the global economy and has helped to foster cultural exchange and collaboration between countries. 


The demand for higher education is rapidly growing worldwide. With the changing landscape of the job market, individuals are seeking to improve their skills and knowledge to remain competitive in the workforce. This is particularly true for emerging economies, where there is a high demand for jobs in high-growth sectors such as technology and finance. This growing demand for higher education is driving students to seek opportunities abroad in countries with a strong reputation for quality education and research. Additionally, the increasing need for a globally-focused and diverse workforce is leading many employers to seek out individuals with a broad range of international experiences and cultural backgrounds. As a result, many students are choosing to study abroad in order to gain a competitive edge in their future careers. The growing demand for higher education is also driving universities and colleges to offer new programs and innovative methods of learning, such as online and hybrid courses, to accommodate the increasing number of students seeking higher education.

Youth population (18-23) is the key determinant of higher education demand.

The demand for higher education is strongly influenced by the youth population aged 18 to 23, who are eager to achieve personal growth and development. This age group is considered the ideal time for pursuing higher education and is seen as a gateway to better job opportunities and higher salaries. Additionally, in countries with rapidly developing economies, this demographic benefits from new industries, creating a demand for specialized skills and training. The resulting surge in demand has led to the expansion of higher education institutions and the creation of new programs and courses. The youth population is also more inclined towards innovative learning methods, such as online education and blended learning. Overall, the growth of the international student enrolment is a crucial factor driving the expansion of the higher education sector and is expected to continue in the future.

The future of higher education looks bright with estimates predicting a significant increase in student enrollment over the next decade. According to projections, the number of higher education students is expected to reach 380 million by 2030 and an even more staggering 594 million by 2040. As the number of students continues to grow, it is interesting to note that there is a new education demand coming from students in their late twenties. This trend suggests that higher education is no longer limited to traditional college-aged students, but also includes individuals seeking further education and career advancement later in life. These projections indicate that the demand for higher education is increasing, and institutions will need to adapt to accommodate a diverse range of students.

Factors Influencing International Student Enrolment

International student enrolment is a complex process that is influenced by a range of factors, from political and economic conditions to personal preferences and experiences. These factors can impact the decision of international students to study abroad, and understanding their motivations and challenges is critical for institutions and policymakers looking to attract and retain a diverse student body. In this section, we will delve into the various factors that influence international student enrolment, including quality of education, availability of financial support, visa policies, safety and security, and personal preferences.

1. Political and economic conditions: 
The political stability and economic growth of a country can impact the number of international students choosing to study there. For example, countries facing economic turmoil or political unrest may not be as attractive to international students as those with a stable economy and political system.
2. Quality of education: 
The quality of education, as well as the reputation of the institution and the specific academic program, are important factors for international students when deciding where to study.
3. Availability of scholarships and financial aid: 
Financial support can be a crucial factor for international students, as tuition fees and living expenses can be significantly higher for them compared to local students.
4.Visa policies: 
The ease of obtaining a student visa and the length of time it takes can influence the decision of international students to study in a particular country.
5. Safety and security concerns: 

International students may also consider the level of safety and security in a country, particularly if they come from a high-crime area or a region that has experienced conflict.
6. Personal preferences and experiences: 

The personal preferences and experiences of international students, such as language barriers, culture shock, and homesickness, can also play a role in their decision-making process.
7. Globalization:

Over the course of time, globalization has had an impact on both the quantity and the caliber of higher education demanded. In economic terms, as the benefits of higher education increase in a global economy that is increasingly dependent on scientific and knowledge-intensive industries, university training is becoming a more essential requirement for accessing desirable employment opportunities
8. Technology:

Technological progress has elevated the skill and knowledge requirements for most job roles. As a result, the need for workers with college degrees or specialized training has risen. Furthermore, online learning platforms and programs have made higher education more accessible to individuals.
9. Increased need for skilled labour:
The escalating need for skilled labor has caused a significant increase in demand for higher education since the majority of job roles now obligate workers to have specialized skills and knowledge. The current industrial setup requires employees to have the capability to work with and understand complex systems, machines, and software, which can be obtained through higher education programs like vocational training, technical schools, and colleges.

By considering these factors, institutions and policymakers can better understand the motivations and challenges of international students and work to create a supportive and inclusive environment that will encourage them to enrol and thrive.

Student Demographics : USA

Students from around the world flock to the US to get a quality education and gain access to its vast network of opportunities. The United States is one of the largest destinations for international students, with a large and diverse student population. Some key demographics of students in the US are as follows:

  1. 20 million US students, including 9.6 million aged 18-24, with 10.5 million domicile and 948,519 international students.
  2. Top US courses are Society & Culture, Management & Commerce, and Health, reflecting diverse interests.
  3. China, India, and South Korea are the top origin countries of international students in the US.
  4. More male (1.2 million) than female (1.6 million) US students, but data may not be fully representative.
  5. Top US universities include New York, Northeastern, and Columbia with world-class facilities, faculty, and research.

The US has been a top destination for international students seeking a quality education and career opportunities. In 2020-2021, around 710,000 international students enrolled in US higher education institutions, with an additional 200,000 graduates gaining related work experience for a limited period. The pandemic caused a 15% drop in international student enrollment, the steepest decline ever recorded. However, institutions are now implementing measures to welcome back students from abroad, and international student enrollment in the US is on the rebound. The countries with the highest numbers of students studying in the US are China and India, the world's most populous countries, highlighting the global appeal of American higher education. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the continued importance of international students to the higher education landscape in the US is evident.

Student demographics : UK, US & Australia

Student Demographics : UK

The student demographics in the UK are diverse and constantly changing. Here are some key points that provide an overview of the current student population in the UK:

  1. The UK has 2,862,620 students; 2,182,560 domicile and 680,060 international.
  2. Majority of students are aged 18-24, with 1,844,595 in this group.
  3. Top origin countries of international students are China, India, and Nigeria.
  4. Female students outnumber male students, with 1,633,425 females and 1,221,780 males.
  5. Top courses are Business and Management, Subjects allied to Medicine, and Social Sciences.
  6. Top universities include University College London, The University of Manchester, and The University of Edinburgh.

Student Demographics : Australia

Australia is known for its high-quality education system and attracts students from all over the world. The student demographics in Australia are diverse and multi-cultural, with a significant number of international students. Here are some key points that provide an overview of the current student population in the Australia: 

  1. Australia has a total of 1.6 million students, including 570,000 international students.
  2. The majority of students are in the age group of 18-24, making up 78% of the total student population.
  3. Top countries of origin for international students are China, India, and Nepal.
  4. Gender breakdown of students in Australia shows 720,000 male and 880,000 female students.
  5. Popular courses among students are Society & Culture, Management & Commerce, and Health.
  6. Top universities in Australia are Monash University, University of Queensland, and University of Sydney.
  7. Australia offers affordable education options, low cost of living, and a high level of cultural diversity for students seeking higher education.

Future trends in international student enrolment

International student enrollment has been on a steady rise over the past few decades, with more and more students seeking to study abroad for a variety of reasons. As we look towards the future, there are several trends that are expected to shape the landscape of international student enrollment. From the diversification of student source countries to the increasing competition among destination countries, these trends will impact both students and institutions alike. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online and hybrid learning models, which could make studying abroad more accessible and affordable for some. However, with this growth in international student enrollment comes a growing concern for their safety and security. 

1. Increasing numbers of international students: The number of international students has been growing steadily over the past few decades, and this trend is expected to continue. More and more students are looking to study abroad for a variety of reasons, including better academic and career opportunities, exposure to new cultures, and personal growth.
2. Diversification of student source countries: In the past, a large proportion of international students came from a few countries such as China and India. However, in recent years, there has been a diversification of student source countries, with more students coming from countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
3. More online and hybrid learning options: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online and hybrid learning models, and this trend is likely to continue. International students may have more options to study remotely or in a hybrid format, which could make studying abroad more accessible and affordable for some.

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