Tuesday 14 May 2019


Significant new research that sets out a comprehensive assessment of the state of international higher education in over 20 countries, including the UK, was discussed at the Going Global conference in Berlin (13th May – 15 May).

‘The shape of global higher education’ is a research series produced by the British Council starting in 2016 and can be found here.

The study now includes 52 countries in total and the latest update revisits 14 countries and considers the policy environment for 6 new countries - Canada, Spain, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, and Ireland. It focuses in particular on the HE policy environment across Europe, alongside an analysis of information that includes international student flows, research output and national spend on promotion.

Michael Peak, Head of Higher Education Systems Research, at the British Council said:

“Amongst the European countries we studied, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Poland and France score highly in terms of openness: they have all recently published international education strategies, and all have dedicated bodies to implement their strategies.

“Countries with encouraging environments for international HE have clear, open policies which support student and researcher mobility; strong frameworks that ensure quality provision of HE at home and abroad, along with recognition of qualifications, and take steps to ensure that the benefits of international education can be experienced by all.

“Our study shows that strengthening national support for student mobility has an obvious impact; it can lead to attracting more students; and countries which attract more international students are wealthier.

“This also works for international collaboration in research which has benefits nationally and internationally: More international students can help countries produce more high quality international research with a stronger impact.

The Shape of Higher Education considers 37 measures of national policies and regulations which support international engagement in higher education, reveals that:

  • The global education context is a hugely competitive environment
  • Since 2016 most countries studied have increased their national support for internationalisation f HE, (this is both through policy changes, and through financial investment). Score for the UK has gone down slightly over this period
  • Many countries have renewed, or recently published International Higher
  • Education strategies – often these are accompanied by international student targets
  • Countries with high level of policy support for international engagement [as measured by our study] are popular with international students
  • There is a positive relationship between inbound student mobility rate and wealth of a country (measured by GDP per capita)
  • There is a strong positive relationship between inbound international student mobility flows and internationally produced research output (as a proportion of the total research output from the country)
  • Countries with supportive policy environment produce high impact research (exceeding the world average)

This year’s theme for Going Global, the conference for leaders of international higher education, supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), is ‘Knowledge diplomacy and the digital world: does international tertiary education have a role?’

For more information, please contact Alison Langley on +44 (0) 77990 60037 or at alison.langley@britishcouncil.org

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 75 million people directly and 758 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 a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.