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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."



Over the last two years, annual outbound growth in China, while still strong, has fallen notably below the levels seen in decades. Average annual growth has been about 19% going back many years, but that long-term trend began to level off around 2013. Between then and 2015, year-over-year growth has slowed to 11-13% annually. At current outbound levels, this slowing growth rate has been hardly noticeable so far and China remains a major driver of overall enrolment levels in both established and emerging study destinations. But many institutions and schools have come to rely on that underlying, consistent growth out of China to hit their annual enrolment targets. And if China slows down any more, some recruiters are going to find those goals harder to make.

It has long been held that global university rankings are important to students, and that, particularly in some markets, they play a significant role in student decision-making for study abroad. This is partly why rankings occupy a prominent spot in the imaginations of recruiters, and why they remain a subject of enduring interest and debate in international education circles. However, this understanding has been tempered in recent years by new insights into the factors that drive student choice. This topic found its way into Hobsons’ 2017 International Student Survey (ISS). The survey is notable in part for its scale and reach, and Hobsons was able to compare responses from a sample of just over 34,000 prospective international students over the last 3 years. Nearly 2 in 10 respondents in that sample (19.6%) said that rankings played an important part in their choice of destination country. And just under a quarter (23.5%) said that institutional ranking was in turn the most important factor in their choice of university. The obvious flip side of these top-level findings is that rankings play a less significant role for a majority of prospective students.

After years in which American universities enjoyed steady growth in numbers of foreign students, many institutions expect international enrollments to be flat this fall. In interviews with officials at about two dozen universities, no consistent, unifying trends emerge, but some are reporting a slowdown in the flow of students from China and declines in graduate students from India, two countries that together account for nearly half of all international students in the U.S. Universities also continue to feel the effects of the declines in enrollments of Saudi Arabian students that began in 2016, after the Saudi government tightened up some of the terms of its massive scholarship program.

Richard Vedder, director of The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) outlines seven economic challenges for the higher ed industry in an article for Forbes. Among these concerns are: the huge increase in the cost of universities turning away potential customers, the surge in federal student aid inflating tuition and regulations allowing federal intrusion on campus matters, and the rise in cheaper alternative credential options detracting from the lower end of the higher education market. Vedder also addresses the value of the degree and college generally, writing that other big challenges will include: the nature of college changing from a diverse, safe space to a hotbed of political disagreement, lower capacity for industry resources due to slow economic growth and an aging population, the diminished value of the college degree in the workforce overall, and finally the high cost of intercollegiate athletics.

Business school applicants are planning to shun US business schools because of Donald Trump’s immigration policies. More than 21% of candidates indicated they agree that Trump’s immigration policies have impacted them, and that they will only apply to schools outside the US, in an annual survey by Stacy Blackman Consulting, an admissions firm. The survey also found that more than 80% of applicants agree that Trump’s stance on immigration will reduce the diversity of US business schools. The survey was conducted during spring of this year, with 755 respondents.

The UK government intends to keep visa-free travel for EU visitors after the country leaves the European Union, reports suggest. According to the BBC and Bloomberg, the UK is considering allowing EU nationals to freely visit the country, however working, studying or settling would require permission. An earlier report from The Times said EU citizens would be allowed to travel to Britain to look for a job without applying for a work visa. Companies wanting to hire EU workers would have to apply for sponsorship permits, however. The number of permits issued in any sector would be controlled by the government, which could charge for each to encourage British businesses to prioritize UK workers. A Home Office spokesperson responded to the articles saying, “These are just reports at the moment. We will set out immigration policy in due course.”

President Trump signed HR 3218, the ‘Forever GI Bill’, a $3 billion expansion of veterans’ education benefits. The Forever GI act immediately removed a 15-year time limit on the use of GI benefits. The measure also increases financial assistance for thousands serving in the National Guard and Reserve, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges. Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes in the middle of the semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges

A new report from the University of Texas System and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed the economic ramifications of a student’s college choice, finding that the major the student selects may be more predictive of future economic success than the particular college in which they’ve enrolled. The report indicated a $40,000 median gap between earnings of graduates from the top-earning majors (architecture and engineering) and graduates with majors in biology and life sciences, the lowest-earning degrees among UT grads. The report also found a $3.4 million difference in earnings between majors over the course of a lifetime, far surpassing the lifetime earnings gap between college and high school graduates. There is evidence to suggest that graduating from any school with particular majors could outweigh the benefits of attending a "top" school with a less valued degree; researchers found students who graduated from open-access schools in the UT system with majors that lead to high earnings have a leg up over graduates from selective schools with low-earning majors — architecture and engineering graduates from open-access schools in the system had median incomes more than 61% higher than all graduates of selective colleges.

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