Forecast projects major growth in international enrolments through 2030
March 15, 2022


The global international education industry is poised not only for recovery from pandemic losses, but also for major expansion, according to a new analysis from the market intelligence firm HolonIQ. The firm anticipates that 8 million international students will be enrolled with foreign higher education institutions by 2030 – 3 million more than were abroad in 2019 – and that their total spending will amount to more than double what it was before the pandemic.

The HolonIQ report also considers that there is a new respect for the importance of international education among the wider public:

“The pandemic brought international education out into the public discourse from once being considered a niche phenomenon to now being better understood by the general public as a critical component of higher education and skilled workforce supply, as well as a significant economic pillar for many of the world’s major economies.”

HolonIQ’s predictions arise from what they call their “persistent high dimension forecasting model.” This model is aimed at rectifying issues related to the fact that established international enrolment and market sizing data instruments are diffused across several organisations (e.g., UNESCO and individual governments). HolonIQ believes this diffusion has presented “significant issues comparing apples and apples.”

By 2030, the total will be $433 billion.

Total foreign student spending in 2019 was predicted to be USD$196 billion, which included tuition, housing, food, retail, insurance, technology, and transportation. According to HolonIQ, this figure will climb to $433 billion by 2030.

There are 9 million international students in the United States.

While HolonIQ considers 8 million students enrolled in foreign universities to be the most likely scenario for 2030, the business also considers 9 million students to be a "plausible" option. By 2030, they expect 6 million pupils to be enrolled, which is the "worst-case" scenario. For their Global Flows Project, they analyzed data from UNESCO, the OECD, Project Atlas, Open Doors, NAFSA, and numerous government websites.

Africa and Asia will have by far the most demand. For the time being, students seeking top-ranked colleges will frequently travel to the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada, which account for more than half of the universities listed in Times Higher Education's Top 200 higher education institutions.

Much more optimism

Over the course of the epidemic, HolonIQ conducted a poll that demonstrated steadily increasing optimism among university workers and those working with technology and services platforms. Whereas half of respondents predicted reduced growth in international enrolments over the following 5–10 years in April 2021, by January 2022, that gloomy proportion had shrunk to 10%. Two-thirds projected higher growth or "brief bursts above norms" in January 2022, while another 26% expected enrolment trends to return to normal levels.

Other professionals provide predictions and suggestions.

Naturally, HolonIQ isn't the only organization interested in the future of international education and what it will take for universities to attract students who have grown up in the midst of the pandemic. World Education Services (WES), for example, hosted a social media discussion in December 2021 where worldwide higher education thought leaders debated the implications of data from the 2021 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange. Participants' key recommendations (intended for US colleges but relevant to institutions worldwide) included:

  • “Adopting a holistic, flexible approach to admissions policies by adjusting language requirements, extending application deadlines, waiving fees, and introducing test-optional or test-flexible policies.”
  • [Understanding that] experiential learning (such as hands-on training programmes and pre- and post-graduation work placements) is an invaluable part of the learning process—and an important draw for international students.”
  • [Making use of] “the latest educational technologies to increase awareness among prospective international students even before they decide where to apply.”
  • Leveraging the power of alumni because students are increasingly intent on hearing from former students about what it’s like to study at an institution.
  • “Cultivating] important relationships in target countries, such as partnerships with local higher education institutions, organisations working with high school students, and other education-focused organizations and companies.”

Last month, NAFSA looked to foreign education professionals for predictions about the future; in this case, the 11 international educators focused on the near-term (2022). Here are some of the suggestions they made:

“Mobility trends will continue to shift as students who desire to pursue degrees in English have more opportunities in non-English-speaking countries … With thousands of new English-medium programs around the world, there are fresh opportunities for pursuing strategic institutional partnerships and exchange programmes.” — Lindsay Addington, Senior strategic engagement executive, Duolingo

“2022 and beyond will call for a shift away from a front-loaded paradigm of recruitment, admissions, enrollment, and entry, to one where international students arrive and thrive. This shift is critical because students, too, are increasingly asking how their future institutions and host countries will serve them and what sorts of opportunities will be available to them.” — Founder, Rajika Bhandari Advisors; author, America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility

“The number of degree-seeking international students (most notably from China) opting to complete degrees in the United States will, at best, remain flat or, more likely, decline in the ensuing years. This new reality will prompt more US public universities to consider international dual degrees and joint institutes where the overseas students spend their entire 4 years, or perhaps 3 of the 4 years, earning their international degree in situ.” — William I. Brustein, former vice president for global strategies and international affairs; Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of History, West Virginia University

“Will students still travel for degrees? Of course. But they may also be pickier about where they will go and how far. Prestige will continue to draw students, and talent will move. But I think we can also expect that students may contemplate more intra-regional moves, and this provides an opportunity for more institutions in the Global East and Global South to grow.” — Jane Gatewood, Vice provost for global engagement, University of Rochester

The future appears to be bright and different.

Based on HolonIQ predictions and the insights provided to WES and NAFSA by prominent international educators and experts, it appears that chances for recruiting international students abound this year and beyond. To take advantage of those prospects, it will be necessary to incorporate new thinking, platforms, collaborations, and markets into old strategies.

Source: ICEF





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