Have the Arab Spring Protest Movements Spurred Youth in the Region to Seek Educational Opportunities Abroad?

By Yoko Kono

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2011 was a year in which historic pro-democracy movements swept across the Arab World. It remains to be seen if demands for democratic reform will be met and how those reforms might impact higher education, but are there any indications that the instability is encouraging Arab youth to head abroad in search of educational opportunities?

The Arab Spring and International Education

WES first quarter application data suggests an increase in outward mobility of Arab youth. The year-on-year increase in WES application volume for credential evaluation suggests that U.S. institutions are likely to experience growth in applications from Arab students, possibly due to outward mobility fueled by unrest in the region. Comparison of these prospective international student volumes in Q1’2011 and Q1’2012 reveal significant changes for Bahrain (180%), Egypt (41%), Jordan (73%), and Syria (90%).

With government overthrow and protests in Egypt, intense violence in Syria, and ongoing protests in Bahrain and Jordan, these four countries continue to experience varying degrees of sociopolitical uncertainty and instability, which may be spurring students to look abroad for study and work opportunities. Bleak employment prospects and higher-education capacity constraints may also be contributing to the push factors driving outward student mobility. Some other indicators point to student movement within the Arab region as an emerging trend. Other destinations, such as Turkey and New Zealand, also are witnessing an upsurge in international student enrollment from Arab states.

Read more on mobility trends in the Middle East region driven by different factors, such as the movement of students from Saudi Arabia to institutions of higher education around the world on government scholarships.

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WES Research & Advisory Services offers research-based consulting solutions on student mobility, international enrollment, and transnational education.

See more at wes.org/RAS

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Posted in Strategic Internationalization