Various higher education institutions of Europe appear to be narrowing the international student admission gap with the UK, with some even continuing to draw more students from outside the European continent.
According to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the UK’s inbound mobility rate which is the number of students who come from overseas as a percentage of total tertiary admissions, has remained fairly stable as of 2014, within about 18%, despite an increase in absolute international numbers.
However, the data demonstrate that a number of countries in continental Europe that had significantly lower inbound mobility rates a decade ago have been significantly internationalizing their student demographics.
This includes several other European countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, and Latvia, where mobility has surged to more than 10%. However, countries like the Netherlands where the latest numbers in 2018 showed that 12% of all tertiary students were from overseas, which is higher by 4% in 2010.
Approximately, fifty per cent of international students in the Netherlands are from Europe, whereas in Denmark and the Czech Republic, the ratio is 80%.
According to the original dataset, many of these nations have globalized their campuses by allowing more students from within Europe, similar to current continental learning hubs such as Switzerland. Whereas other nations appear to be boosting the number of international students from different regions of the world.
In Germany, for example, 42% of students came from outside of Europe in 2015, but this reduced to 32% in 2019. The Republic of Ireland and Hungary, two additional nations with rapidly expanding inward mobility rates, also had quite a high percentage of international students from Asia, at 47% and 40%, respectively.
Academic institutions of Ireland have taken a great effort to attract more Chinese students.
According to Michael Gaebel, director of higher education policy at the European University Association, mobility statistics must be approached with caution because using the permanent residency to guesstimate incoming numbers may result in certain groups, such as children of migrants who moved years ago, being categorized as international students. It was also necessary to distinguish between mobility for complete degrees and mobility for short-term transfers.
However, he acknowledged that European higher education systems have been broadening their admissions as factors such as the expansion of English-language courses and cheaper or no fees in some nations drew students from all over the world.
“Mobility is much more diversified than it used to be. Over the last two decades I think students have discovered the wide range of diverse possibilities” in where to study, he said, adding that, for example, “Finland wasn’t a popular study destination some 15 or 20 years ago. Nowadays it is.”
The pandemic has led to a completely new trend of online learning and this has affected the mobility trends. According to a report released last month by the British Council and Studyportals, the expanding number of courses instructed in English around the world means that nearly one in every five English-medium degree programs now take place from outside Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The increased mobility during the pandemic has led to various problems in Europe, most notably the Netherlands, where capacity constraints are creating a controversy about whether policies to curb international enrollment are required.
The Netherlands can limit the number of English courses available, but while Mr Gaebel recognizes the importance of language diversity, he is sceptical that this will reverse the trend due to the global need for such studies.