What did we learn about international higher education in 2019

What did we learn about international higher education in 2019 and what can we expect in 2020?

Article # 2 

The international higher education landscape shifted from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.

What did we learn in:


The worldwide geopolitical shifts that occurred in 2019 impacted international higher education and international student mobility. America’s retreat on the world stage, England’s Brexit problems, and China’s determination to make this “China’s century,” has resulted in a new world disorder. 

The Global Internship Conference held in Aukland in July 2019 predicted that “The future is the Pacific.”

International student enrollment in the U.S. declined 2.9 percent for undergraduate students,1.3 percent for international graduate students and 8 percent for international non-degree students. Enrollment in English language programs declined 25.9 percent.

The number of new international students decreased by 3.4 percent.

 IIE’s “Open Doors” reported that Chinese students, who make up one-third of all international student enrollments in the U.S. increased by 3.6 percent. However, in the previous year the growth in Chinese student enrollments was 6.8 percent. New Chinese student enrollment was basically flat.

A survey of U.S. colleges and universities for the fall 2019 semester revealed a 0.1 percent decline in new enrollments. 51 percent of the more than 500 institutions surveyed reported decreases.

Increased competition from regional educational hubs in China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore competed with the U.S. and UK for the internationally mobile student.

China, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan announced ambitious international student enrollment targets for 2019 and beyond.

A United Nations’ report forecasted that Asia and Africa will be the centers of economic and higher education gravity.

China exceeded its goal in 2019 of enrolling 500,000 international students by 2020. 

On January 3, 2019, the U.S. State Department announced it was closing all of its offices in China that promote American education.

Several U.S. colleges and universities closed, or re-negotiated, terms of agreement with Chinese’ Confucius Institutes.

China increased its higher education dominance in Asia by signing collaborative agreements with 15 universities throughout the continent.  Joining Tsinghua University in this Alliance were the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Malaysia 

At the opening ceremony, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong delivered the keynote address and predicted that the Asian Universities Alliance will:

 “Resolve regional and global problems and bring together outstanding talents with an international perspective to serve regional development.”

 What can we expect in:


China will move up from being the world’s fifth-leading study destination.

Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan will expand their ambitious international student enrollment goals and international recruitment strategies. 

Japan and South Korea will increase their international recruitment programs in Vietnam. 

The Philippines will realize an increase in international students from Japan and throughout Asia.

Japan will likely meet its goal of enrolling 300,000 international students in 2020. 

Proximity to home country, affordability, internship opportunities, and employability after graduation will dominate Asian international student enrollment.

The U.S. will continue to lose market share of the internationally mobile student.


The geopolitical shift from the west to the east has been occurring sub-rosa for many years.  This is not a one off. 

The rise of China on the world stage has changed the balance of power in the world and created new economic and geopolitical realities. Regardless of who wins the election in the U.S. in November, it will take years to unpack the perception of a country unwelcoming to international students. Perception trumps reality every time.

Students have options. So do colleges and universities in the west who have seen their market share of international students decline. But this is not the time for international deans and recruiters to rehearse a new way of thinking.  The dark alchemy of disruption in the world demands a new way of thinking and planning. Shifting realities require crafting international strategic plans that include online course offerings, in-country academic programs, robust internship and employment programs, international collaborations and combined degree programs.

I believe change is a permanent part of life. I especially believe this is true if you are responsible for crafting strategic international recruitment plans in 2020. 


This entry was posted in Colleges, Foreign Students, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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