"Previously, more than 71% of [Indian] students were based in the United States, while a small proportion went to the United Kingdom (8%) and Australia (7.6%). Since 1999, the absolute number of Indian mobile students has tripled, while the proportion of students going to the United States has declined to 56%. Meanwhile, an increased proportion of Indian students are going to Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom."
These are among the findings of Unesco's Global Education Digest (GED) 2009. As a Unesco press release (DOC file) tells us, "In 2007, over 2.8 million students were enrolled in higher educational institutions outside their country of origin, a 53% increase since 1999."
"While China accounts for the greatest number of students abroad (about 421,100), other major countries of origin are India [153,30], the Republic of Korea, Germany, Japan, France, the United States, Malaysia, Canada and the Russian Federation. These ten countries account for 38% of the world’s mobile students among 153 host countries reporting data."
And more and more of these "mobile students" are going to Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. For example, "France saw its share of global mobile students grow from 7.4% in 1999 to 8.8% in 2007. Due to global shifts in destinations, the following countries emerged as new popular destinations: China, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand."
And what are they all studying? Business administration (23%), science (15%), engineering, manufacturing and construction (14%), and humanities and the arts (14%).
The data shows a general, global improvement in women's participation in tertiary education. But it should be noted that the gender analysis in the Digest is based on data "from 102 or fewer countries and territories... In particular, data are not available for several high-population countries, such as Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Nigeria."
The Digest says, "India... accounts for 5.5% of the global total of mobile students. Yet, its outbound mobility ratio is very low with only 1 out of 100 tertiary students from the country studying abroad." Meanwhile, only 11% of India's population of tertiary age is in tertiary education; the figure for China is 23%.
The Digest concludes that tertiary education systems "that are highly subsidized by governments may cause equity issues in countries where a wide share of the population has no chance to access this education". It goes on to say that, "A well-designed system of private fees and targeted financial assistance for less-advantaged students could contribute to overcoming inequalities in the distribution of students who benefit from tertiary education."
But in countries where tertiary education participation is low, shouldn't the aim be to increase enrolment? And if that is indeed the aim, the alternative to subsidized public education is prohibitively expensive private education. The equity implications of that are much more severe. An informative report with a disappointing recommendation, I thought.
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