Asian students will travel – while the good-times roll

The fundamentals for international higher education look good, but there are a bunch of buts

Trump and Brexit aside, demographics and growing Asian incomes suggest universities that recruit international students have a strong baseaccording to internationalisation expert, Australian expat Alan Ruby from the University of Pennsylvania.

By 2020 there will be 609m 15-19 year olds in the world, 55 per cent of them in Asia, particularly China, India and Indonesia, up 5m on 2010. So, higher education demand will grow, even if the present participation rate for post school study holds at the present 35 per cent.

This growth will likely lead to increased demand for international education from the wealthiest 2 per cent of households in the Asia growth markets as their incomes rise, by an estimated 80 per cent by 2030. “There is a reasonable basis for continued growth in demand for international education from households willing and able to spend for the service,” Mr Ruby writes.

But he warns that this does not, “automatically translate into a steady stream of applicants to higher education.”

“To attract international students, institutions will still need to look at the perceived value of what they offer, which includes the wider social and cultural environment.” Thus, he points to European perceptions of Brexit and the response of India to crimes against its students overseas.

“The political economy of nations and the decisions of sovereign governments about visa processing, access to employment opportunities, and citizenship could lead to shifts in ‘market share’ as demand grows and individuals opt for personal security and easier access to employment,” he argues.

And it all depends on the good-ish times rolling on. “This assumes that the world avoids a large-scale war that stops the free flow of people or another financial crisis which reduces the value of families’ assets.”