GLOBAL: Vast rise in student mobility

More than 2.5 million university students are now estimated to be studying outside their own countries - a 70% increase in the past decade and the number looks set to continue rising. A new report confirms that students from China dominate those studying abroad, far exceeding young people from India, South Korea, Germany and Japan - the top five nations with the most students in other countries.

With nearly 400,000 of its students now enrolled in foreign universities, China outranks India by more than 250,000. Because of the huge rise in Chinese student mobility, Asian students comprise 45% of the total studying offshore followed by those from Europe with 28%, Africa with 12% and the Americas with 10%.

A just-released French-English bilingual paper, Les Etudiants Internationaux: chiffres clés / International Student Mobility: Key Figures*, published by CampusFrance, the national agency for promoting French higher education abroad, provides comparative data based on the most recent statistics from the Unesco Institute of Statistics and the French Ministry of Education.

A series of tables and graphs show student mobility by continent, host country and students' countries of origin over the past few years. They provide a dramatic picture of the changes taking place in terms of student mobility around the world.

The United States, of course, remains the most attractive destination for foreign students with almost 600,000 enrolled in its universities in 2006. That number represents about one in four of the total and was some 250,000 more than the 330,000 undertaking university courses in Britain that year, or the 266,000 in France and 260,000 in Germany.

Despite its small population compared with the giants of America and Europe, Australia had 260,000 foreign higher education students enrolled in 2006 - some 14% of the total. The southern hemisphere nation was followed by Japan with 130,000 while other European nations including Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain joined the top 10.

Because of its geographical location, though, Australia was second to the US, and ahead of the UK, among the top 10 host countries in terms of Asian student enrolments. Japan came in at fourth place in front of Germany, France, Russia, Malaysia, New Zealand and, amazingly, Kirghizistan, which joined the top 10 with 27,000 Asians enrolled.

Of the top five host countries, however, Germany and France had more of their students studying outside their borders than any of the others. America, with a mere 33,000 or so of its students enrolled in foreign universities, was well down on student mobility while the top two countries that drew them were Britain and Australia - followed by Germany, France and New Zealand.

In a foreword to the document, André Siganos, Director General of CampusFrance, explains the figures are presented "without any accompanying comments, enabling student mobility specialists to analyse the information by themselves". The tables and charts, however, make often intriguing viewing.