Thursday 01 February 2018


Global outbound student mobility will likely slow over the next decade, forecasts new British Council research published today. The UK higher education sector cannot rely on perceptions of high-quality education to attract, recruit and retain international students. 

Today’s report argues that within an increasingly competitive marketplace, UK institutions must widen their internationalisation strategies. They will need to consider different partnerships and forms of overseas delivery as well as directly recruiting students.

‘International student mobility to 2027: Local investment, global outcomes’ examines how the student mobility landscape will change over the next decade. It is based on demographic, economic and tertiary enrolment projections for 56 key higher education markets, using United Nations/UNESCO data.

Local education provision has already been a significant factor in slowing the rate of international student flows. Visas and student safety are often cited as influencing the sector but the impact of domestic investment on global student mobility has been profound. 

More countries developing their higher education offer gives young people more choices.Historically students have gone overseas due to insufficient capacity or quality education at home. 

In China, for example, as the tertiary enrolment ratio went from 27 per cent in 2012 to 42 per cent in 2015, its outbound mobility ratio fell from 2.1 per cent to 1.8 per cent.  China and India are forecast to experience the highest growth in local tertiary enrolments to 2027.   

“Experts have been projecting a slowdown in outbound students and we are seeing that now at the global level,” said Zainab Malik, report author and research director for Education Intelligence, the British Council’s global higher education research service.  “As students reconsider the concept of high-quality education to include factors like return on investment and employability, the UK is at a disadvantage given its current visa policy and the emergence of diverse and attractive offers from new higher education destinations.”

Either by employing more varied strategies, including transnational education, or by diversifying recruitment markets, UK universities must become more strategic to remain competitive in higher education to 2027. 

Key forecasts include-

Growth in outbound mobility of international students is predicted to slow from 5.7 annual average growth (from 2000 to 2015) to 1.7 per cent annual average growth to 2027

China and India are forecast to account for 60 per cent of the global growth in outbound students to 2027

The majority of countries are projected to experience growth in their tertiary enrolments ratios with the largest rises in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Mauritius and Sri Lanka

Top growth markets for outbound students in the next ten years include China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh

South Korea, Malaysia, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Singapore are projected to have the largest declines in outbound students to 2027.

Notes to Editor

The British Council worked with Oxford Economics to develop the projections.

 For further information or a copy of the report,  please contact 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.