Foreign student boom in Europe

Nieuws | de redactie
27 oktober 2011 | Brussels has published “Mapping mobility”, an overview of student movement in Europe. It shows how Europe is experiencing a foreign student boom. Least mobile are British nationals while UK, Germany and France remain the top destination for foreigners. Holland is fast catching up.

On behalf of the European Commission, the ACA (Academic Cooperation Association) and INCHER (University Kassel) conducted research into student mobility in Europe. Mainfinding: “the average mobility levels in the Europe 32 region arehigh in a global comparison and have considerably risen in the pastdecade. Mobility levels [nevertheless] differ dramatically betweensingle countries.”

Europe ‘market leader’ in foreign students

1,5 million foreign students study inthe Europe 32 area which is more than 50% of all foreign studentsworldwide. This number strikes as quite large given that the samearea entails only 10,9% of world population. These numbers areequivalent to a growth rate of over 80% between 1999 and 2007.

2/3 of all foreign students, however, were enrolled atuniversities of the ‘big three’: UK, Germany andFrance. Mobility levels are therefore quiteconcentrated in a few nations while other like Poland, Slovakia andSlovenia are the least attractive for international students.

It is then also the UK which has thelowest student mobility of its ownnationals. For every 1000 students at home, there were only 12British nationals going abroad (1,2%). This is very low compared tothe European average of 3,3%. France lies just below the average(3,2%), Germany above (4,3%), while Italian students also seem torather stay home (2,3%).

Overall, the Erasmus program hasconsiderably contributed to student mobility inEurope. In 2006/2007 10% of all foreign students inthe Europe 32 zone were supported by the European exchangeprogram.

Foreign female students on the rise

Another peculiarity which became clear out of the report’s datawas that the share of female students going abroad hasrisen sharply. In 1998, they made up only 39,1% ofall foreign students. Until 2006, this number rose to 49,9%.

So where did all these students comefrom? Apart from the increase in inner-Europeanexchange, the number of Indian students in Europe grew by 131,6%between 2002 and 2006 reaching an absolute level of 39.897.Europe’s biggest source of foreign students remains Africa with362.602 students (53,2% growth).

Key obstacles and incentives to mobility

The report furthermore outlined the 8 keyobstacles to foreign student mobility which were:

  1. a lack of information on mobility opportunities
  2. low motivation levels or little interest in being mobile
  3. inadequate financial support
  4. foreign language skills deficiencies
  5. insufficient time or opportunity for international studieswithin the framework of an established curriculum or programme ofstudy
  6. concerns about the quality of mobility experiences
  7. legal barriers (particularly relating to visas, immigrationregulations, and work permits)
  8. problems in gaining recognition for academic work completedabroad

On the other hand, governments would to make sure to implementone of these 3 incentives to increasemobility:

  1. financial support(mostly in the form of more money forindividuals and/or mobility programmes)
  2. curricular support through a variety of technical mechanisms(such as the implementation of the Diploma Supplement and ECTS) andinnovative programming (including “mobility windows”)
  3. personal support, especially in the form of guidance andcounseling, in order to more effectively convince a wider range ofindividuals to take part and more consistently ensure a highquality mobility experience from start to finish.

Netherlands catches up

The Netherlands in particular used tofeature a relatively low percentage of foreign students of 2,9%compared to an European average of 4,5%. Ever since, however, arapid catching up process has taken placesince this share increased in the Netherlands to 6,4% while theEuropean average rose to 6.9% in 2006.

While more and more foreign students come to the Netherlands,Dutch students themselves are not verymobile. On average, 33 national students go to studyabroad for every 1.000 students staying home. In the Netherlands,this number is relatively low with 26. Germany (43), Sweden (43),Austria (60), Norway (68) and Bulgaria (107) score higher in thisrespect.