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UNESCO’s interactive map helps visualise global student mobility flows, but not European mobility

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has recently launched an online interactive map on the global flows of tertiary-level students. The user-friendly tool allows users to visualise both incoming and outgoing mobility flows for over 200 different countries.

Outgoing mobility that is not organised or funded by national governments has been difficult to track and is therefore rarely shown in national statistics. By asking each of the countries participating in its global survey to report the numbers of incoming students by countries of origin, the UIS is able to aggregate the outflow of students from a participating country using the data provided by all the other countries receiving students from the country in question. Although not every country has provided the UIS with incoming student numbers, the UIS has been able to provide countries that are not tracking outgoing mobility with a relatively reliable ‘guesstimate’.

The interactive map is just a step forward to communicate the data collected by the UIS in an easy-to-grasp format. Accompanying the interactive map, UIS provides also quick facts and figures about global student mobility flows such as the top destination countries, top source countries, and an interesting list of countries that have more students studying abroad than at home.

For those who have been using mobility data for analyses or presentations, the new reference tool can be a handy tool. The only inconvenience for a European audience might be that the tool does not allow to aggregate data into mobility flows for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the European Union (EU) or “Europe”. In the UIS database, “North America and Western Europe” form one region and “Central and Eastern Europe” another. This raises a fundamental question: Where is the attractive “European higher education area” in global statistics?    

UNESCO Institute for Statistics