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The Value of Higher Education website, created by Educational Testing Service (ETS), is devoted to highlighting issues and trends in higher education. We provide news, insight, resources and a positive platform for discussion about America's ever-changing higher education system.


ICEF Monitor, July 18, 2017 — Report Reviews Trends Affecting Global Demand for Higher Education

A new British Council report sets out the key trends that are shaping both higher education demand and international student mobility. Here are some of the highlights:

  • As the global population is expected to grow to approximately 11.2 billion people by 2100, the breakdown by region will change, largely precipitated by the growth in the African population, 60% of which is below the age of 25. While the Asian population continues to age, the population proportions will create further shifts in the global economy and mobility, and – at a more granular level – in demand for skills and courses. With regard to learning, demand for higher education is positively correlated with the youth population of a country: in general, the higher the number of university-aged students, the more likely a higher number of students will be interested in tertiary programs.
  • Astute governments globally are establishing evidence-based national strategies for the internationalization of their education sectors; the most mature parts of such plans pertain to the recruitment of internationally mobile students: as countries invest more in domestic provision and a wider selection of viable higher education destinations emerge, governments are aiming to maintain or increase their global market shares of mobile students. A unifying element to most of these national strategies is that they are part of larger, multifaceted, multi-sector approaches to prosperity. Such strategies are generally closely linked to plans for trade and economic development.
  • The financing of education for students is no longer solely consumer- or even government-driven as increasingly corporate interests are funding education, be it for professional development or human capital investment. There is ample evidence that corporate promotion and support of lifelong learning lead to higher productivity, a better equipped workforce and a leadership pipeline, as well as employee retention and loyalty.
  • The development of technology designed for education, often from start-ups, has great potential to transform how people learn. Education publisher Pearson reported a pre-tax loss of £2.6 billion for 2016, due in large part to weakness in its US education business, which is contending with sector transition from textbooks to digital learning. However, despite this widespread evolution, a report from tech-focused education conference EdTechXGlobal and IBIS Capital calculates that education is yet only 2% digitized. It further projects that the ‘edtech' market would grow by 1.7% per annum to US$252 billion by 2020, and while the US and Asia region are making strides in this area, European countries remain underinvested
  • Students and families appear to be placing more emphasis on value and, in particular, on the return on investment of an overseas education. At the same time, there are growing indications that major employers are placing less emphasis on educational brands – for example, via greater openness to non-degree credentials or by adopting so-called "blind" hiring processes that exclude school-specific information.
  • English has become an important lever for international student mobility. This is reflected in global demand for English language learning, but also in the rapidly expanding field of English-taught degree programs in non-native-English-speaking destinations. The report adds: "English language provision also plays an important role in mobility, as the language acts as a draw for international students. Further, the language can be a pathway for future mobility as well, as students studying English in a host country tend to return to that country when pursuing overseas study."



The attractiveness of France as a study destination for international students is continuing to grow, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents in a recent Campus France survey choosing it ahead of Germany, the US and the UK. Only Canada came in ahead of France, with 69% respondents choosing it as a study destination that is increasing in attractiveness. Between July and October 2017, Campus France, in conjunction with the Kantar Public Institute, conducted a survey of 14,245 international students on the attractiveness of France as a study destination. As with previous surveys in 2011 and 2013, the barometer aimed to understand how France has established itself as a choice of study destination, the role of the French language in the attractiveness of France, and what the students remember from their stay. 32% of students surveyed 2017 said they would go or went to at least 2 foreign countries as part of their studies (up from 30% in 2013). The most frequently mentioned countries were the US (28%), Germany or Canada (23%) or the UK (22%). 9 out of 10 (92%) of students surveyed said they would recommend France as a study destination (up from 91% in 2013 and 90% in 2011). A rewarding personal experience (38%), international experience (37%) and obtaining an internationally recognized degree (35%) were highlighted as the primary reasons for choosing to study abroad.

Just as many universities believed that the financial wreckage left by the 2008 recession was behind them, campuses across the country have been forced to make new rounds of cuts, this time brought on, in large part, by a loss of international students. Schools in the Midwest have been particularly hard hit — many of them non-flagship public universities that had come to rely heavily on tuition from foreign students, who generally pay more than in-state students. The downturn follows a decade of explosive growth in foreign student enrollment, which now tops 1 million at United States colleges and educational training programs, and supplies $39 billion in revenue. International enrollment began to flatten in 2016, partly because of changing conditions abroad and the increasing lure of schools in Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries. And since President Trump was elected, college administrators say, his rhetoric and more restrictive views on immigration have made the United States even less attractive to international students. The Trump administration is more closely scrutinizing visa applications, indefinitely banning travel from some countries and making it harder for foreign students to remain in the United States after graduation.

The Trump administration's new National Security Strategy will consider restricting international students from certain designated countries who wish to study STEM subjects in the US in order to prevent technology transfer and intellectual property theft. The NSS document issued by the White House this week reiterated the administration's commitment to the increased vetting of foreign nationals by continuing to “review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by nontraditional intelligence collectors”. In a nod to the importance of international students, who reportedly contributed $36.9 billion to the US economy during the 2016-2017 academic year, the document states: “The United States must continue to attract the innovative and the inventive, the brilliant and the bold”. It says that the US “will nurture a healthy innovation economy that collaborates with allies and partners, improves STEM education, draws on an advanced technical workforce, and invests in early-stage research and development”. While supporting apprenticeships and programs that prepare US workers for high wage, ”STEM jobs of the 21st century” was listed as a priority to increase the country's competitive advantage, the document says that the US “will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors.” There were no further details on which countries would be designated for restrictions, China was cited as a country that “steals US intellectual property valued at hundreds of billions of dollars” every year in the document.

According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there were 63,000 fewer first-time students in higher education this semester than during the same period last year with an overall drop of nearly 224,000. This means there are more than 2.6 million fewer students enrolled in higher education in the semester just coming to an end than there were in the fall of 2011, the most recent peak. There are several reasons for the dip:

  • A dip in the birth rate that means there are fewer Americans at the traditional 18- to 24-year-old age of college-going. This demographic dip is most acute in the Midwest and Northeast.
  • An improving economy has lured students over 24 back into the workforce. There were 228,000 fewer people over 24 enrolled this fall than last fall, and 1.5 million fewer than there were in the fall of 2010.
  • Price sensitivity and competition also play a role, according to a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. 68% of chief business officers of colleges and universities say the rising cost of tuition has cut into enrollment and 57% blame new education models such as coding boot camps, which are vying for the same students.

The declines were steepest at community colleges, which saw their enrollments drop by 97,000. Demand fell 2.3% for associate degrees and nearly 11% in certificate and other non-degree programs. The number of people seeking bachelor's degrees dropped by 14,000, or 1.5%. For-profit universities also continued to take a pounding, with nearly 69,000 fewer students in the fall than in the fall of last year.

GMAC's monthly survey of non-U.S. citizen mba.com registrants show that international candidate preference for the U.S. as their study destination has stayed below the previous 5-year average each month since the election, and has most recently declined for 3 consecutive months between September and November 2017. The primary drivers of the recent downturn are candidate concerns around their ability to obtain a job in the U.S. post-graduation and safety and security fears. International candidate preference for the U.S. as their study destination declined from 44% in November 2016 to 32% in February 2017. It steadily recovered through the summer (44% in August), and has since declined for three consecutive months (39% in November). Among the 1,992 non-U.S. citizen candidates surveyed between September and November 2017, 23% previously considered applying to a U.S. program but do not currently plan to apply.

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