US: Higher education on the move

Global higher education mobility has grown by 57% since 1999, with more than 2.9 million students seeking education abroad, according to Higher Education on the Move: New Developments in Global Mobility, the second in the Series of Global Education Research Reports published last week by the Institute of International Education with support from the AIFS Foundation. It argues that the dramatic rise in numbers of mobile students can partly be attributed to worldwide growth in higher education.

"Not only has the number of internationally mobile students grown, but the overall context of global mobility - both in terms of who is going where, and the mix of host and sending countries - has also changed significantly," say Peggy Blumenthal, Chief Operating Officer of the Institute of International Education (IIE) and its Director of Research and Evaluation Rajika Bhandari, who co-wrote the introductory chapter.

"Most countries now view international academic mobility and educational exchanges as critical components for sharing knowledge, building intellectual capital and remaining competitive in a globalising world."

Higher education enrolment worldwide grew to 144 million students in 2005, up from 68 million in 1991, Higher Education on the Move: New Developments in Global Mobility reports. Countries in Asia and the Pacific have experienced the largest growth with some, such as Malaysia and China, almost doubling higher education enrolments in recent years.

Expanding higher education populations have put enormous pressure on higher education systems in many developing countries - especially at postgraduate level - leading large numbers of students to seek higher education outside of their home country. India is an example of a country where growth in the student population has outpaced the capacity of existing higher education institutions.

"There remains an enormous unmet and growing demand for tertiary-level education and a substantial capacity worldwide to absorb more international students," according to an IIE release on Higher Education on the Move.

The book - written by experts in international education from various world regions and perspectives - explores the rapid growth in the scale and nature of mobility, global developments and strategies that have contributed to this expansion, the effects of recent developments in higher education, the world economy and government policy on global student and scholar mobility.

"Authors describe phenomena including the emergence of global rankings, liberalisation of the higher education sector through GATS, competitiveness in science and technology, and the Bologna process, and ask how these processes affect the most commonly discussed aspect of international education - the movement of students and scholars across national borders," says the IIE release. The essays offer higher education policy-makers and practitioners the opportunity to consider how broad-based global factors influence mobility.

"The challenge to each higher education institution is to answer the questions of who, what, where, when and how such mobility can best be promoted and why, fundamentally, it is desirable," comments IIE President Allan Goodman.

The IIE, a world leader in the exchange of people and ideas, designs and implements study programmes, has more than 1,000 university and college members and 20 offices worldwide, publishes the annual Open Doors surveys and IIEPassport study abroad directories, conducts research and provides counselling on international education and opportunities abroad.

William L Gertz, President of the American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) Foundation which runs cultural exchange programmes, says that any discussion about global student mobility must be seen in the context of the worldwide financial crisis.

While it is clear that students desire to study abroad and institutions are working to eliminate barriers to mobility such as credit transfer and university calendars, Gertz adds, it is "apparent that financial considerations will be the number one factor limiting student mobility. However, we believe there is much momentum building which will enable student mobility to increase after the downturn ends."

* Aside from Blumenthal and Bhandari, other chapter authors of Higher Education on the Move: New Developments in Global Mobility include: NV Varghese, Unesco's International Institute for Educational Planning; Sabine O'Hara, Council for International Exchange of Scholars; Bernd Wachter of the Academic Cooperation Association; Roberta Maierhofer and Ulla Kriebernegg, University of Graz; Ellen Hazelkorn, Dublin Institute of Technology; Titus Galama and James Hosek of RAND Corporation; Jane Knight of the University of Toronto. The IIE's Rajika Bhandari and Shepherd Laughlin edited the publication.