Where do internationally mobile students go to study ?


Where do internationally mobile students go to study? Where do they come from? The UIS (Unesco Institute for Statistics) shows  statistics about the mobile students around the world.

In 2012, at least 4 million students went abroad to study, up from 2 million in 2000, representing 1.8% of all tertiary enrolments or 2 in 100 students globally.

The number of students pursuing studies abroad continues to surge as higher education institutions around the world vie for the best and brightest minds. But there is growing competition for students from emerging regional destinations that may offer more affordable and culturally-relevant programmes of study.

More and more students pursue their studies abroad, but they tend to stay closer to home than a few years ago, partly because travel costs are lower and cultural familiarity seems to play a major role in determining the destination-choice.

On the other hand, “in approximately eight countries with data, approximately one-half of students go abroad to study”. This is the case for Luxembourg, where “42% of the population of tertiary education age was enrolled in higher education in 2012, obout one-third studied abroad”.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-04-14 um 20.39.12

(screenshot of the data for the Netherlands)

Some (more) interesting facts (from the site):

Top 10 destination countries:

  • United States (18% of total mobile students)
  • United Kingdom (11%)
  • France (7%)
  • Australia (6%)
  • Germany (5%)
  • Russian Federation (4%)
  • Japan (4%)
  • Canada (3%)
  • China (2%)
  • Italy (2%)

Top 10 countries of origin of mobile students:

  • China (694,400 students studying abroad)
  • India (189,500)
  • Republic of Korea (123,700)
  • Germany (117,600)
  • Saudi Arabia (62,500)
  • France (62,400)
  • United States (58,100)
  • Malaysia (55,600)
  • Viet Nam (53,800)
  • Iran (51,600)


Regions that host the largest number of mobile students:

  • North America and Western Europe (57% of total mobile students )
  • East Asia and the Pacific (20%)
  • Central and Eastern Europe (10%)

Countries and territories that have more students studying abroad than at home:

  • Andorra
  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Montserrat
  • Seychelles
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

What about your home country or the country you’re living in? If you live abroad: where do your children study or where do you think your children will study one day?



  1. Dear Ute,
    Thanks for this post on a dynamic topic. I’m based in Berlin and work with a number of internationally-mobile families here and online, with students aiming for bachelors degrees as well as masters and MBA (Master of Business Administration) studies. There’s a lot of interest in the US, UK, and Ireland, although post-Brexit EU tuition fees at UK unis have made it a less attractive destination for families resident in the EU. But the biggest surge I see is interest in the Netherlands. In particular, the University Colleges are attractive to many students because they offer some of the flexibility of a US-style liberal arts education and combine it with small classes of internationally diverse students, all at quite competitive tuition rates. It will be interesting to see how the ongoing pandemic affects choices as well, of course.
    I’d be happy to hear what others are seeing, too.

    Bright wishes, Jennifer Post Draeger
    Bright Outlook Global Prep

    • Thank you, Jennifer! I observe the same, living in the Netherlands: many students who would have liked to study in the UK but who lived “abroad” for a certain amount of time, and among others, the Netherlands, tend to rather opt for this country. I know several young adults who chose to study in the Netherlands although they lived here for a while years ago and finished school elsewhere. What we are facing at the moment (well, it’s been a few years already…) is the problem with housing. Especially students coming from abroad don’t find rooms/apartments.
      I hope that other countries will become more attractive too, with regards to the tuition rates. Education should not be a burden and a privilege for those “who can”, but affordable for everyone. At least that’s my opinion.

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