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Education at a Glance 2018 revisited

In the last issue of this newsletter, we reported on the overall cross-sector results of Education at a Glance 2018. In this edition, we take a look at the section on international students of this publication.

In the reference year of the publication 2015/16, there were about 5 million international students worldwide, of which 3.5 million studied in OECD countries. This is a considerable increase from 1998 on, when the number in OECD countries was close to 1.5 million, and the worldwide number nearly 2 million. Students at Bachelor level accounted on average for under 5% of the total student population, but shares were much higher in Austria, Luxemburg and New Zealand, at over 15%. The OECD-wide average at Master level was over 10%. Ph.D. students constituted a much higher proportion of all doctoral students. The highest shares were found in Switzerland (55%) and Luxemburg (85%). Among large countries, the US led with around 40%. Discipline-wise, international students were concentrated in the STEM subject areas (one third), as well as in business, management and law. 

Asia was the largest continent of origin in OECD countries, with about 1.9 million. Of those, 860,000 were from China. Two thirds of Asian students headed for three English-speaking destinations: Australia (15%), UK (11%) and the US (38%). The second-largest group of outbound students was from Europe. 80% of those opted for another European destination. OECD attributes this to the Erasmus Programme, though we are not sure Erasmus students are part of the data set used in the publication. Africa and the Americas followed at a considerable distance as a sending region. Only 300,000 international students in OECD countries originated from there. 

In terms of destination, the US remained the largest single ‘importer’ of international students, at 971,000. English-speaking countries had the upper hand overall, with the UK at 432,000, Australia at 336,000 and Canada at 189,000. The EU attracted about 1.6 million students. 

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