The UK is the next largest international destination market, with 388,000 foreign students. Germany and France are not far behind, at 301,000 and 295,000. The largest foreign student groups in France originate from Germany, and in France the largest group is from Morocco.
When it comes to potential, the Australian market is the fastest growing, having seen 10.1% growth in the number of foreign students in the year to March 2015. The Netherlands was the first non-English-speaking market to introduce a large number of programmes taught in English, and is now host to 1,009 of these courses.
The rest of Europe is catching up, however. Germany now offers 857 masters programmes in English, and it is no coincidence that both the Netherlands and Germany have seen rapid growth in their foreign student population. Elsewhere, France has gone from 11 to 570 English taught masters between 2007 and today, Spain from 8 to 474, and Italy from 8 to 418 over the same period.
UK students can now apply for European universities directly via the UCAS system. Dutch institutions have been the first to take advantage of this.
The allure of English speaking markets
Even though tuition and living costs in mainland Europe are a fraction of that of the US, UK and Australia, these high-cost countries continue to remain popular with students from home and abroad. Their appeal is due to a number of factors, the foremost of which is that they are English speaking. The international language of business and the most commonly spoken second language worldwide, tuition in English carries significant weight and is of importance to prospective employers in any major market. It is not surprising therefore that the USA, UK and Australia boast the most high-ranking institutions worldwide.
The rationale for study abroad also comes down to how a country’s qualifications will be recognised at home. The reason that UK, US and Australian degrees have been so popular for non-nationals is that they offer a bachelor system. Much of Europe had historically been at a disadvantage in this respect. But the Bologna Reform agreement means that participating European nations will all move to the bachelor system by 2020. This also has the effect of shortening course length in European countries, putting these students into the workforce sooner.