The new political order has started impacting the mobility choices, patterns and directions of international students. On the one hand, the top two leading destinations – the US and the UK – are facing uncertainty in maintaining attractiveness for international students; while on the other hand, countries such as Canada, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands are all experiencing an increase in enrolments. How is the future of student mobility likely to shift?
To understand the future trends, let us look back at the recent history of mobility. In my article, Three Waves of International Student Mobility, I analyse the trends from the lens of three overlapping waves shaped by key events impacting future trends. While many variables influence mobility, this framework provides a bigger picture of how mobility has changed over time from the perspective of competing destinations.
Wave I: Impact of Terrorist Attacks
Wave I of international students has its origin in the increasing demand for high-skilled talent, especially in STEM subjects at master’s and doctoral level. During this wave, many institutions were motivated to attract international students for research and reputation – and were willing and able to provide funding and scholarships to lure global talent.
However, the events of 11 September 2001 changed the dynamics – and the tightened visa requirements made it more difficult for students to study in the US. Around the same time, the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area started taking shape to create more comparable and coherent systems of higher education to foster student mobility within Europe. Towards the end of Wave I, several countries including the UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland gained at the expense of the US.
Wave II: Impact of Global Financial Recession
Wave II has its origins in the global financial recession that started in the US. The cascading effect of the crisis resulted in severe budget cuts in the higher education sector in many countries around the…