Five myths, five international enrollment projections and one disturbing report
“Get your facts first, and then you can distort as much as you please.”
The United States leads the world in attracting international students.
In 1970, the percentage of international students enrolling in American colleges and universities was 36.7 percent. By 2001, the percentage was 28 and by 2017 the figure declined to 24 percent.
In 2017, the United States increased the number of new international students by 3.0 percent. But in the same year Canada increased the number of enrolled international students by 20.0 percent and Australian numbers increased by 13.0 percent. Germany’s international student numbers increased by 5.5 percent and France’s numbers increased by 4.6 percent.
The United States may enroll more international students than any other country but it continues to lose market share. Other countries, especially China, with a more than ten percent annual increase in international student enrollment, are catching up fast.
The demand for higher education is greatest in Europe.
The demand for higher education in Asia far exceeds that of Europe. With a population of more than 600 million under the age of 18, and with the rapid pace of social and economic changes taking place in the region, Asian students are poised to enroll in tertiary education more than any other region in the world.
The Asian middle class has grown faster than any other region in the world.
While the Asian middle class has increased over the past two decades, the African middle class has tripled over the past 14 years from 4.6 million households in 2000 to 15 million in 2016.
Great Britain continues to be the number one choice for American students studying abroad.
The fastest growing market for American students studying abroad is Germany. Most of the students pay no tuition and many of the courses are taught in English. The uncertainty surrounding Great Britain’s leaving the European Union may be impacting where American students study abroad.
The fastest growing Chinese market will be at the graduate and undergraduate level.
Chinese teenagers, as young as 14, are enrolling in high schools throughout the world in increasing numbers. In 2016, the number of Chinese students enrolled in high schools was over 50,000. This is 100 times more than in 2004.
Five international enrollment projections
Higher education enrollment is projected to reach 332 million by 2030, an increase of 56 percent, or 120 million, from 2015.
The number of internationally mobile students is projected to be 6.9 million by 2030, an increase of 51 percent, or 2.3 million students.
By 2030, there will be 163 million more adults with a college degree compared to 2013.
More than half of all people around the world, 3.97 billion, live in just seven countries: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and Nigeria. China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh are expected to be the biggest international student growth markets in the future. International deans and recruiters are well served to study and further research this projection.
I believe future international strategic plans should be based on data-driven research of the countries with the greatest potential for future enrollment.
One disturbing report
The recently released British Council report, International student mobility to 2027: Local investment, local outcomes, predicts a slowing of outbound student mobility over the next decade. Information is drawn from UNESCO and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division, along with data from Oxford Economics. A decreasing number of Chinese students studying abroad is part of the reason for the projected decline as is an increase in local higher education opportunities and online accessibility.
If you read my last blog, you will remember that at one point in my administrative career I was responsible not only for enrollment and retention but for fundraising and alumni affairs. At the time of my appointment most of my colleagues did not believe that one person could be successful for the “whole ball of wax.” I must admit that I too was skeptical. But the president assured me that I knew how to market the school. So in addition to marketing to parents and students I would now market to alumni and other donors.
My strategic fundraising plan included raising funds from international families and donors to meet my goal. At the end of the campaign, international families contributed 30 percent of the final total.
What made this possible was the administrative structure. Since I was responsible for recruitment, including international recruitment, I was aware, at the time of recruitment, of the families who were able to become donors in the future.
Let me be clear about acceptance. Not one student was accepted because of the fundraising capacity of the family. “Friend raising” began after acceptance and enrollment. But since the families knew me, in some cases, for one or two years, when it came time to ask for a donation, the parents were receptive because the relationship was already established.
I realize you will read this next sentence with skepticism. But it is true. No international parent who was asked to contribute to our campaign turned me down. Raising money from international families was the easiest part of completing the campaign.
I realize this administrative structure is unique. I don’t know of another college or university who is organized to have a vice president for enrollment also responsible for being a vice president for development. This would not work at 99% of schools. But there may be one college reading this blog who thinks it would work and give it a try. I think it’s worth exploring.
International Alumni and Fundraising Program- Part 1
Creating International Alumni Clubs
Over the course of my administrative career, I had the opportunity to be responsible not only for the enrollment and retention of international students but also for creating international alumni and fundraising programs.
This “30,000 foot” view allowed me to integrate the international recruitment program with international alumni and fundraising activities.
While this administrative structure would not work at many schools and is certainly not for the faint of heart, it does have advantages. My next two blog posts will outline the steps I took to create international alumni clubs and how I raised money from international parents.
If you are responsible for enrolling international students, you may want to share this blog post with the administrators in your school responsible for alumni programs.
If you want to develop an international alumni program, you should begin before international students register for classes.
I would meet with all of the admission counselors and ask them to identify the international students they recruited who enrolled and who would be good candidates for becoming class agents. We began, at this early stage in the international students’ academic career, to groom graduates to support international alumni activities after graduation.
I created an international convocation and orientation program for both new international students and parents and began the “friend raising” process before classes began.
We created a robust international student services program and international students were encouraged to become actively involved in international student activities. A specific administrator in the Center for International Education continued the cultivation process over the next four years.
Fast forward to the beginning of senior year. Students who demonstrated an interest in participating in international alumni activities were introduced to the director of alumni affairs and were given the rules and regulations of how to become a class agent and set up an international alumni club.
I will not pretend that this was an easy thing to do. Anytime the staffs of international students, student services and alumni affairs are asked to work together synergistically, turf wars erupt. But it can administratively work and in my case, it did.
I was able to create five international alumni clubs. The international graduates in those clubs assisted our international recruitment program. They met with prospective international applicants from their country and encouraged them to apply. It was a meaningful way for international students to stay connected and added credibility to our international recruitment program.
In my next blog I will share with you how I raised funds from international parents.
Let’s examine some aspects of the Chinese economy and the implications for future international recruitment and enrollment of Chinese students
Most higher education institutions worldwide have an interest in recruiting and
enrolling Chinese students or engaging in joint research projects with Chinese
academics and scholars. Because I believe future higher education in China
cannot be separated from the country’s $14 trillion-dollar economy, I have
researched certain facts about China’s economy that I think are relevant to future
engagement with China.
Despite often contradictory facts and figures published about the Chinese
economy, there are a few facts that cannot be disputed. The Chinese economy is
slowing and is in transition, moving from a manufacturing economy to a
technology- based economy. The trade war with the United States has negatively
impacted the Chinese economy, and several countries in China’s Belt and Road
projects, including Malaysia and Sri Lanka, are questioning the value of Chinese
investment in their countries’ infrastructure.
In February 2019, 5,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress convened in
Beijing for the annual meeting on the country’s economy. Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang informed delegates that the projected growth of the Chinese economy
this year would be lower than the 6.6 percent growth of last year. The Chinese
economy is expected to grow between 6.0 and 6.5 percent, the slowest in three
It is interesting to note that the Premier’s address made no mention of the “Made
in China 2025”, although China remains committed to enhancing industrial
development and technology innovation. The Premier did warn of the potential
risks to the Chinese economy of excessive borrowing. ($119 billion higher than in
2018.) China’s total debt has risen from 150 percent of GDP to nearly 300 percent.
This is a cloud not only over the Chinese economy but over the world economy.
China still exports nearly $500 billion annually but its share of global exports
appears to have peaked. China can no longer rely on the rest of the world for
Chinese investment in Europe and in the United States decreased 73 percent in
2018. China is looking elsewhere to build alliances and change the geopolitical
map, especially through its Belt and Road initiatives.
With the blessing of the Chinese government, Chinese families are expected to
buy 60 percent of the world’s electric cars by 2035.
Since 2012 China has been the world’s biggest source of tourists, making nearly
150 million trips in 2018 and spending more than $250bn in 2017. This is an
extraordinary statistic since only 10 percent of Chinese people hold passports.
According to Global Blue, a tax-free-shopping firm, Chinese visitors bought more
than one-quarter of all tax-free products sold in Britain in 2018. Chinese shoppers
account for one-third of all global spending on luxury goods.
One percent of the richest Chinese hold one-third of all household assets; income
inequality is a pressing issue in China.
There are more billionaires in China than in the United States.
In 2017, 175,489 Cadillac cars were sold in China, the first time more Caddillacs
were sold in China than in the United States.
Higher education facts
According to a report by Hurun, a Shanghai-based research firm, of the nearly 3
million Chinese citizens who earn over $1 million a year, 85 percent intend to
send their children abroad to be educated.
In 2018 the Chinese Minister of Higher Education cancelled 234 higher education
agreements, or one-fifth of its international university partnerships worldwide,
including more than 25 with American colleges and universities. The reasons
given were ambiguous.
There are 37 China Cultural Centers around the globe and another 13 are planned
to open by the end of 2020. The purpose of the centers is to promote Chinese
culture similar to Germany’s Goethe Institutes and France’s Alliances Franchises.
In 2016, more than 430,000 Chinese students returned to China after completing
their education abroad, nearly 60 percent more than returned in 2011.
Connect the dots
If you believe, as I do, that a country’s economy will eventually and ultimately
affect its higher education sector, I suggest international enrollment managers
and admission deans take a look at their current China recruitment plan and
perhaps come up with a Plan B. Will Chinese parents in the future be willing or
financially able to send their children around the world for higher education when
Chinese colleges and universities are now ranked among the best in the world?
I believe there are recruitment and enrollment opportunities in China but I also
believe they will be distinctly different from how Chinese students were recruited
in the past.
Will China dominate international higher education enrollment future?
“China harbors long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order.”
James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense, United States
I don’t know if Secretary Mattis’ quote would apply to international higher education but I believe there are enough statistics to support the premise that part of China’s plan to rewrite the existing global order also includes higher education domination.
The following statistics support this premise.
Twenty years ago there were 3.4 million college and university students in China. Today there are more than 26 million. In 2017 nearly 490,000 international students studied in China, an increase of 10.5 percent from the previous year. Since 2004, the number of international students enrolling in Chinese colleges and universities increased by nearly 300 percent.
Last year China edged out Germany as the third most popular destination for international students and could soon overtake Britain, Australia, and Canada for increased international student enrollment.
China has made a long-term investment in higher education. The country’s One Belt, One Road initiative enrolled, and will continue to enroll, students from the countries along the ancient Silk Road. Last year 317,000 international students who enrolled in China were from Belt and Road countries and two-thirds of all international students studying in China are from Belt and Road countries.
China has significantly increased enrollment of African students by offering generous scholarship and employment opportunities. In 2017, 12 percent, or nearly 59,000 African students, studying in China, received scholarship assistance.
It is by design, rather than by accident, that the number of international students continues to increase significantly each year. Chinese tuition and fees are lower than most other universities. Tuition and fees for one year of study in China is approximately $3,200. The number of English taught programs has increased by 63 percent in the last five years and that has attracted students from around the world.
A new visa policy allowing international students to work and remain in China after graduation is also another factor attracting a global international student population. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, 89 percent of international students studying in China plan to pursue short-term internships and 95 percent plan to take advantage of China’s policy of allowing foreigners to work after graduation.
In 2017, China was the most popular destination for Asian and Southeast Asian international students, including students from South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Laos.
In October 2018, The Jakarta Post reported that there are currently 68,000 Indonesian students studying in China and the Chinese government has set a goal of increasing that number to 100,000.
China is now the leading host for international branch campuses, edging out the United Arab Emirates.
In 2015, Xiamen University, in collaboration with the Malaysian government, opened up its first international branch campus abroad.
China is the largest source of doctoral students worldwide. Most of these students are concentrated in critical, scientific fields.
According to Ian Bremmer, China is investing huge sums in artificial intelligence, robotics and data management that will impact the balance of power in the future. Innovation and technological self-reliance are now essential to China’s future development strategy. Made in China 2025 is central to President Xi’s vision for China.
A new study by the World Intellectual Property Organization ranked 167 universities and public research universities for the top 500 patent applications. 110 of the patents were from China, 20 from the United States and 19 from South Korea.
Chinese universities are among the top 30 artificial intelligence filers. Chinese organizations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players for artificial intelligence patents and 10th of the top 20 in artificial intelligence scientific publications.
In 2018 the China State Council issued a Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Develop Plan with the goal of becoming the premier global artificial innovation center by 2030.
Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google, predicted China’s prowess will overtake the United States within a decade.
Will China dominate international higher education enrollment in the future? These statistics would support that supposition. However, there are as many, if not more, negative statistics that would suggest the opposite. There are economic and political trade winds pushing against China’s dominance on the world stage and in higher education.
China’s prominence on the world stage and in higher education has been nothing short of sensational. Will it continue and is it sustainable? The jury is still out.