Diversifying the International Student Body: 10 Under-The-Radar Countries to Consider

There are many strategies that academic institutions can employ in developing an international learning experience for their student bodies, and the most globally competent institutions do so by implementing a broad mix of initiatives. These include cross-border collaborations, faculty exchanges, study abroad programs, carefully thought out curriculums, and – perhaps most importantly – the recruitment of a large, global and demographically diverse body of international students.

In the United States, recent cuts to the higher-education budgets of many states have necessitated a major rethink of the university-funding model. Increasing tuition revenue from out-of-state and international enrollments has been seen as part of the answer, with international enrollments being especially attractive in today’s globally connected world. But overseas recruitment is expensive, leading many institutions to reach for the low-hanging fruit of big – and increasingly wealthy – student markets such as China, India and South Korea.

However, if diversity is to be part of the broader internationalization agenda, then institutions need to look beyond these markets in building a campus experience that truly prepares students for employment in the global marketplace.

So where else should universities be focusing their recruitment efforts? There is by no means a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Institutional recruitment priorities will depend on a number of different factors, including, but not limited to, existing collaborations, research strengths, and faculty motivations.

Beginning next month, we will launch a new section of World Education News & Reviews – Under the Radar – that aims to provide overviews and updates to the education systems of 10 countries around the world that have shown strong enrollment growth trends at U.S. colleges over the last decade, but nonetheless remain off the recruitment radar of many international admissions offices.

In this introduction to the series, we offer a look at those growth trends with four tables presenting data derived from the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors reports. The first two tables show source-country growth trends in the last academic year for which data is available (2010/11 – 2011/12), the third shows growth over the last four academic years, while the final table reveals which 15 countries have grown the most as sources of international students since the beginning of the new millennium.



As can be seen from the second table, four countries in the Middle East have shown the strongest growth in percentage terms of any country sending students to the United States since 2010. Most international education professional will be aware of the Saudi Arabia trend, which is almost exclusively a result of the very well endowed King Abdullah overseas scholarship program, but may perhaps be less aware of the increasing popularity of U.S. campuses among students from Qatar, Iran and Kuwait – all three of which we will be profiling in the coming year.



The four-year and decade-long look at growth trends (table three and four above) show that the number of Libyan students in the United States has grown massively since the restoration of diplomatic ties by the U.S. government in 2004 and the subsequent lifting of economic sanctions. We will therefore take a look at recent developments in the education system of Libya as part of our 2013 series. The other country from the African continent that we will profile is Nigeria, which has shown robust enrollment growth of 84 percent over the last decade to more than 7,000 students.

From Asia, we will look beyond China, India, and South Korea to examine the underlying forces behind the intriguing Nepal enrollment story, in addition to the more straightforward Vietnam story.

From South and Central America, we have seen strong recent enrollment growth from Venezuela, in addition to longer-term growth from the Dominican Republic, and thus will offer profiles of those two countries.

Rounding out our 10 profiles for 2013, we will take a broad look at the European market, with a focus on the education systems of Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom, all three of which we believe will continue to send increasing numbers of students to the United States in the coming years.

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Posted in Archive, Education System Profiles, Enrollment & Recruiting, Mobility Trends