Studying overseas: the rise of global student mobility

In recent years, the number of students enrolled in universities and higher-education institutions outside their countries of citizenship has risen dramatically. Gaining international experience has become a top priority for school-leavers. We explore this growing global trend, and look at the ramifications of Brexit.

Studying overseas: the rise of global mobility

The British School of Brussels

International Guide 18/19 video
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According to the 2017 edition of Education at a Glance, an annual Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report that scrutinises worldwide education developments, over four and a half million students were enrolled in higher education outside their home countries in 2015. This represents a fivefold increase on 1975’s 0.8 million.According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in 2016/17 there were 442,000 international students studying in the UK. This figure represented 24 per cent of all students studying there.Although 2017 saw a slump in applications from international students due to widespread uncertainty following Brexit, UCAS reported an increase in applications in January 2018 – the deadline for courses starting in September. Experts believe that the three per cent rise is likely due to last minute applications before Brexit closes the door.And when it comes to higher education, even the notoriously parochial Brits are beginning to embrace the trend of studying overseas, with reports of large increases in the number of Brits studying at higher education institutions in America, Canada and France. Rising tuition fees in the UK (students now pay up to £9,250 per year) and an increased number of subjects taught in English at overseas universities are likely to be contributing to the trend. Research from the European Association for International Education in 2017 showed a 50-fold increase in English-medium Bachelors programmes at European universities since 2009.With factors such as these at play and the knowledge that employers are increasingly seeking those with a global mind-set, able to work across cultures and languages, the trend of attending an institute of higher education overseas is likely to continue.

Benefits of international schools

Providing a ‘welcoming climate’ for international students is where international schools, often the first choice of families in global transition, could find themselves at a distinct advantage. “In today’s highly competitive jobs market, a strong and proven international mindset can be a powerful differentiator,” says Mark London, head of marketing at ACS International Schools.“The international environment at our schools prepares students for careers that could take them to all corners of the globe and help them to succeed in a global workforce. The ability to understand and work with different nationalities and cultures is a highly regarded personal and professional asset.”At the British School of Brussels (BSB), which prepares students for the International Baccalaureate (IB), A Levels and BTEC courses, students have gone on to study at a wide selection of universities across the globe.“We hear regularly from university admissions officers about how much they value true internationalism, cultural awareness, and the resilience and adaptability of international students,” says Mark Andrews, head of careers at BSB. “The importance of proficiency in multiple languages is also prized.“Our students are encouraged to make ambitious applications in the UK, continental Europe and North America – indeed, all over the world. The UK accounts for 70 per cent of our university admissions, while Belgium, Holland, Canada and the USA make up the bulk of the rest.”

Looking ahead

But it is not just the international curriculum choices and the global culture of international schools that are helping to give international students the advantage. Careers and academic counselling often begin at an early stage, and offer extensive support to students looking at their future options.“ACS begins exploring potential career pathways with students in grade nine (ages 13-14) and makes this an important focus in their remaining four years of high school,” says Mr London. “We run after-school workshops which help students identify and develop workplace skills and explore work placement opportunities.“We also have campus clubs for specific careers such as medicine and law. Our approach to all career guidance is always to stress ‘fit’ whether that’s finding the right university or the right career. This often develops naturally, as students talk about their options with their college counsellor.”At Marymount International School in London, a recent student-initiated Careers Fair enabled students to take the lead in identifying what they wanted to explore, using the school’s network of contacts. Several local schools attended the Fair and students were able to explore opportunities in law, medicine, engineering, finance, politics, media, journalism and theatre to name but a few.“For Grade 11 students, the thought of university being around the corner is frightening,” said Abena Saka, a student at the school. “And the earlier we are able to identify our strengths and talents, the sooner we can narrow the uncertainty.”The picture is similar at international schools around the world where career and academic counselling complements large-scale events to ignite interest in different fields. “We have Careers Carousels, a regular programme of visiting universities and a team of specialist advisors to assist with applications to universities around the world,” says Barnaby Sandow, principal of Jerudong International School in Brunei.“Our annual Higher Education evening saw the ambassadors of the US, UK, Germany, France and Canada talking to children individually about the benefits of studying in their country! Because Brunei is a small country we are able to make these kinds of high profile links that just aren’t possible elsewhere.” 
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