These are the countries which recorded the largest shares of outbound flows of tertiary students.

More than five million students are studying abroad as of 2019. These ten countries are where most of these students come from, according to the data from the United Institute for Statistics (UIS), the official statistical agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The UIS data was collected in 2017. It recorded the inflows and outflows of tertiary-level students around the world.

Where do students come from?

China is the largest source of outbound flows of tertiary students, with the country sending out approximately 928,090 students to other destinations.

This means that the country accounts for roughly 17.5% of all the international students recorded by UIS. China also happens to be the most populated country in the world.

India, the world’s second most-populated country, is behind only China in terms of the number of tertiary students studying abroad, with 332,033 as of the latest tally of the UIS.

Following India are Germany (122,195), South Korea (105,399), Vietnam (94,662), France (89,379), the United States (86,566), and Nigeria (82,251).

Where do students go?

English-speaking countries dominate the share of inbound flows of tertiary students. The United States accounts for the largest proportion of inward mobility, hosting about 984,898 students. This translates to 18.6% of the world’s international students.

The United Kingdom (435,734) and Australia (435,734) are the second and third most popular student destinations for higher education. They account for 8.2% and 7.2% of all total, respectively.

Together, these three countries host about 34% of all international learners in the world.

Mobility for everyone

According to UNESCO, while there is an increase in student mobility observed in the previous decade, this is not enough to indicate that global education systems are providing equitable, affordable, and inclusive education for learners.

“In too many institutions of higher education, structural barriers make a university education available only to those born into the most privileged groups of society,” according to Fernando Reimers, Member of UNESCO’s Futures of Education Report Commission.

Among the primary problems faced by students who want to study abroad is the recognition of their qualifications. With this, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education last November 2019.

UNESCO said that the Global Convention is a regulatory framework that serves as a guide “for fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory recognition of higher education qualifications.”

The document, if approved, will make it easier for students to have their high school diplomas recognised and to continue their studies they started elsewhere. This will also make it the first legally binding UN agreement related to higher education.

Moreover, this will also facilitate the recognition of the qualifications of migrants who may not be able to provide documentary evidence. To further support this, UNESCO also launched the UNESCO Qualifications Passport (UQP), among the organisation’s priority projects which eventually might also serve as a launchpad for the creation of a universal tool for refugee mobility.

As the global landscape of higher education is experiencing drastic changes, it is also about time for us to eliminate the barriers to student mobility.

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