International Campus

StudyPortals presents view on the future of international education

International student mobility will continue to grow but the ‘where and how’ will change, with new destinations and new delivery models taking over, and partnerships between institutions becoming crucial, a new report by StudyPortals argues.

The cause for these changes lies in eight ‘megatrends’ that the report predicts will rock the global higher education sector.

Together with the boom in English-medium programmes in Europe and Asia, the ambitions of world-class universities in emerging countries and the evolution of transnational education models, will ‘shift the nature and direction of internationally mobile students’.

“We’ll see changes in the nature of mobility programs, but the traditional study abroad experience will still be popular … with more value added, facilitated by technology.

“The popularity of UK and US will remain high, but other destinations will advance further,” said Cetys University System President Fernando León Garcia,  commenting on the findings of the report.

The report, written for the benefit of higher education institutions in high-income countries who are ‘facing enrolment growth challenges’, was authored by StudyPortals’ Rahul Choudaha and Edwin Van Rest.

Its aim is to encourage institutions to reflect on alternative pathways for the future leading up to 2030 – a future that promises to be very different from what we are used to.

Demographic shifts, such as ageing populations and urbanisation, and labour shifts, such as automation, will require education models to change.

At the same time, public spending on higher education is shrinking. And while stricter immigration policies will restrict access to high-income countries, a growth of the middle class in emerging markets will create an imbalance in the supply and demand of higher education worldwide.

For the international education industry, this means an imbalance between where demand is and where opportunity is, according to StudyPortals’ Choudaha.

International student enrolments, though growing, are still a small portion across HE. Most internationally mobile students are enrolled in high-income countries, in English-medium programmes, the report says.

How can institutions face up to the challenge and improve their global engagement? The report identifies four archetypes.

The defenders are institutions investing in traditional study abroad experiences– usually in Anglophone countries such as the UK or Australia.

Some institutions in these countries are already changing, choosing to take their programmes to their students via transnational education models instead. They are the adapters, who choose programme mobility over student mobility.

Traditional destinations are challenged by the emergence of English-medium programmes in Europe and Asia, the challengers.

And finally, the innovators, institutions that have completely transformed programmes and deliver them through networks– and focus on lifelong learning.

“It will still be a prized asset, having an international experience as part of education – but that will be initiated by a global college network. This will allow us to see a global college network where institutions partner in sophisticated ways to bring value to one another,” said Harvard University visiting scientist and former Plymouth University vice chancellor Wendy Purcell.

Indeed, partnerships will be the crucial in the future of international education.

“My piece of advice would be… remain faithful to your mission, develop a vision, look at partnerships. And if you are working on internationalisation, it should be integral to your institution, not marginal,” said Garcia.

But as Chatham University president David Finegold said, “winners will be those who are best at partnering.”