Snapshot: Where are international students enrolling?
I don’t think it necessary to wait until fall 2018 enrollment numbers are known to predict which countries will continue to increase their market share of international students.
Let’s begin with Australia
According to data published in October 2017, international student enrollment increased by 13 percent over the previous year and contributed AUS$29 billion to the Australian economy.
In January of this year Indonesia announced that it will open its doors to foreign universities looking to operate in the country. One of the countries that should benefit from this ruling is Australia. Two top Australian universities, the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland, have already expressed interest in operating in Indonesia.
Australia has emerged as the preferred destination for Indian students, a direct response, it is reported, to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the UK and the US. The number of Indian students studying in Australia has soared to a seven-year high. As of November 2017, more than 68,000 Indian students were studying in Australia colleges and universities, an increase of 14.65 percent over the previous year.
The enrollment of Indian students in Canadian universities has been steadily increasing since 2015. By 2016, enrollment topped 100,000, an increase of 63 percent.
Enrollments from China have also increased over the past three years. The Canadian government has opened seven new visa centers in China to accommodate the increasing demand from Chinese students.
For the past three years international student enrollments in South Korea have increased. In 2017 enrollment increased 19 percent over the previous year. South Korea now hosts nearly 125,000 international students. China remains the most important market for South Korean colleges and universities. 55 percent of all international students studying in South Korea are Chinese.
In 2016, the Taiwanese government developed a “New Southbound Policy,” aimed at closer collaboration with ASEAN countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
By 2017 the number of Taiwanese students studying in ASEAN countries increased 13.5 percent. The number of students from southbound countries enrolling in Taiwanese colleges and universities increased by nearly 10 percent.
Germany’s international student enrollment increased for the 2016-17 academic year and totaled 360,000. In the prior year, the number was 340,000. Germany has set a target of enrolling 350,000 students by 2020, a target that appears to be easily reached.
I do not wish to perform cosmetic surgery on the truth. But the facts speak for themselves: the pivot to Asia has occurred and colleges and universities in “traditional” Western countries will no longer enroll international students in the numbers they have over the past quarter century.
Are fewer international students enrolling in the U.S. the new normal?
I believe there is enough information, statistics and data to support my iconoclastic opinion that the recent decline in international student enrollment on U.S. colleges and universities in 2017 was not a one-off.
While it is true that colleges and universities in the United States enroll more international students than any other country, it is my hope that anyone reading this blog will realize that for years the U.S. has been losing market share of international students and there is no reason to believe that this will change anytime soon. No one should be shocked or confused by this trend. The U.S. decline of internationally mobile students can be traced back to 2000.
In 2001 there were 2.1 million students enrolled in higher education institutions worldwide. The U.S. enrolled 28 percent of these students. In 2017 4.6 million students studied outside their home countries and the U.S. enrolled 24 percent.
China, which was not even on the top ten list in 2001 now ranks third with 10 percent of international students enrolling in Chinese colleges and universities. In 2016, 70,540 Korean students enrolled on Chinese campuses. The number of Thai students studying in China was 23,044, India 18,11, Indonesia 14,714. The number of American students studying in China in 2016 was 23,838.
Canada, also not on the top ten list in 2001 enrolled 7 percent of all international students. And Russia, not listed in 2001, enrolled 6 percent of all international students in 2017. These statistics reflect a coordinated national policy of these countries to attract and enroll students from all over the world. Students today have options and they are exercising them.
Other countries reporting increasing numbers of international students are: Malaysia, Japan, Australia and Germany.
I believe it is safe to conclude that the competitiveness of the current international student market is not a new phenomenon or simply the result of the 2016 election. I think it is accurate to conclude that several other countries have been doing a very good job of attracting and enrolling international students and making them feel both welcomed and safe.
I think it is accurate to predict that U.S. colleges and universities can no longer take it for granted that they will continue to enroll more international students than any other country. America’s position in the international student marketplace has been attenuated. The biggest challenge of international deans and recruiters is to accept this fact and move forward. More on how to do that in future blogs.
Three additional reasons why the United States will continue to lose market share of future international students
In my last blog I listed six reasons why I believe the U.S. will continue to lose market share of future international students. Since that last posting I have three additional reasons I would like to share with you.
Uncertainty over travel bans
Even if the international student market was not as competitive as it is today, the uncertainty of current and future travel bans will negatively impact the enrollment of future international students to the U.S. Students have too many worldwide enrollment options and don’t have to deal with the unpredictability of U.S. government sanctions. The best international enrollment manager following the best international recruitment plan is no match for uncertainty and confusion. While the most prestigious U.S. colleges and universities may not feel the impact of recent government sanctions, less prestigious schools certainly will.
Changes to H-1B visa rules
Currently, H-1B visas are available to a maximum of 65,000 foreign workers for a period of 3 years. “Extreme vetting” requirements, introduced last year, have resulted in an increase of H-1B visa denials. And next month the Department of Homeland Security intends to eliminate the rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa employees to work in the U.S.
Let’s contrast this with China’s recently implemented visa policy. Beginning this year China is issuing long-term visas to attract skilled people to work in China. The multi-entry visas will be valid for a period of 5 to 10 years. Applications may be filed online and are free of charge. Spouses and children will be allowed to accompany the visa holder.
What impact do you think the two contrasting policies will have in the future?
Little or no “soft power” U.S. policies
As the U.S. retreats from the world stage as evidenced by withdrawing from a global climate agreement, renegotiating bilateral trade agreements and eschewing isolationist policies, China has stepped in to fill the power void. It’s “One Belt, One Road” project will propel China’s influence into all corners of the globe. Higher education will not be immune to China’s desire to dominate politically and economically.
The current decline in international student enrollment on U.S. colleges and universities is not, in my opinion, a one-off. First, international enrollment managers must acknowledge and validate this fact and second, design new strategies to meet the headwinds of change.
I suspect that many readers of this article will either dismiss the premise that colleges and universities in the United States will continue to lose international student market share or dispute the facts I list. Some may hope that the decline in international student enrollments in the United States for the fall 2017 semester, was just a blip; a one-off. Still others will blame the decline on the outcome of the 2016 election.
The fact is that for several years the United States was losing its share of the international student market. Last year the number of new foreign students declined an average of 7 percent. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center the number of domestic undergraduate students decreased 224,000, or 1 percent. Was this one of the reasons why Moody’s changed its credit outlook for U.S. higher education to “negative” from “stable?”
The stakes are high. International student enrollment in the United States supplies $39 billion in revenue and supports 400 jobs.
Let’s examine some facts
In 2001, 28 percent of all international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. By 2014, the figure was 22 percent.
In 2015-16, international student enrollment in the U.S. increased by 7 percent from the prior year. But that was down from a 10 percent increase.
In 2014-15, 304,040 Chinese students studied in the United States, a 10.8 percent increase from the previous year. However, in 2013-14, the increase was 21.4 percent.
Why I believe the U.S. will continue to lose international market share:
Countries with the fastest growing economies, populations and a growing middle class in Asia, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam will dominate economic growth in the region. The governments in these countries have made education a priority and have invested heavily in the sector. The result has been to create a political and economic “infrastructure” in those counties that supports higher education enrollments and regional education hub growth.
Part of China’s higher education initiatives is to become a major importer of international students. One example of China’s higher education expansion was the founding of the Asian Universities Alliance on April 29, 2017. Joining Tsinghua University, were several academic powerhouses in the region, including Peking University, the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Malaysia.
Chinese colleges and universities now enroll more students from Africa than the United States and Britain combined.
A great deal can and will be written about the implications of the election of Donald Trump on higher education both in the U.S. and worldwide. The current perception of the U.S. around the world is a country unwelcoming to foreign students. Perception becomes reality and it will take several years to unpack the implications of the election and travel bans.
International 2017-18 “winners”
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, enrollments of foreign students soared in the fall term for students from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Japan and Brazil. There are 270,000 new students studying in Canada, a 22 percent increase over the previous year. There are 350,000 international students, in total, studying on Canadian campuses.
International student enrollment increased 6 percent in Germany in the fall semester. International students now make up more than 12 percent of the country’s student population.
For the fall 2017 semester, more than 700,000 students from more than 190 countries enrolled on Australian campuses, an increase of more than 14 percent over the previous year.
National policies and enrollment targets
In June, 2017, the British Council reported the following international enrollment targets for the following countries:
China – 500,000 by 2020; Australia – 720,000 by 2025, Canada- 450,000 by 2022; New Zealand 143,000 by 2025
Taiwan- 58,000 by 2019; South Korea, -200,000 by 2023; Malaysia 250,000 by 2025; Japan- 300,000 by 2020;
There will probably be no greater impact on worldwide higher education than the integration of technology into educational delivery methods. The internet has rendered geography irrelevant and digital options, especially in India and certain countries in Africa, are changing the way higher education is consumed.
The high cost of studying in the U.S. and the reluctance of many U.S. colleges and universities to embrace online learning and MOOCs will continue to erode America’s market share of the globally mobile student.
The biggest threat, in my opinion, to future international student enrollments in the U.S. is a reluctance on the part of many college and university presidents, deans and enrollment managers to realize and take seriously that international student mobility is dominated by the options and choices students have.
We can either succumb to change or manage it. The choice is ours.