International Students are Immigrants too

For International Migrants Day, Migreat is celebrating migration around the world with a blog post a day.

Today, Migreat’s blog looks at a growing category of migrants with a power to influence the world we live in tomorrow: the international students.


International student numbers have doubled since 2000 to reach 4.5 million in 2012. Most international students are heading to developed countries with 75% of them studying in an OECD country.

The battle to attract talent is fierce. International students are estimated to bring net benefits to the economy: international students not only pay full university fees, they also finance a whole industry made of accommodation suppliers, banks and mobile phone providers.

The amount of money spent by Higher Education Universities in the UK to recruit those students is estimated at £57,8 million, for a return of £3,5 billion in tuition fees.

The top countries of destination for international students by numbers are

  • United States (18%)
  • United Kingdom (11%)
  • France (7%)
  • Australia (6%)
  • Germany (5%)
  • Russian Federation (4%)
  • Japan (4%)
  • Canada (3%)

It is likely to change in the next years with the growing attractiveness of Canada and Germany as a destination and cheaper option than the US or UK; and difficulties to gain short work experience after studying in the UK and southern European countries.

The British Council created an infographic out of data on international student numbers and nationality, coupled with an explanation over drops and increases in some nationalities’ numbers.

British Council International Students Widget

What’s moving those students?

The British Council infographic data highlights roughly three factors influencing the migration flows of students: financial context, the educational offer and immigration rules of the receiving country.

Fluctuation in currency values, access to scholarships or student loan opportunities and a country’s education sector financing are main financial elements that drastically impact international students flows.

It is all about the money

Just think of the drop in Indian students (-47%) since 2011 going to UK Universities. Since 2011, the Indian Rupee has decrease of value of 50% ( £1GBP buying 70 INR in 2011, now in 2014 approximately 100INR) causing many indian international students to drop their dreams of financing their studies, and looking at student loans as a solution.

Similarly, Germany has dropped its students fees for all and also international students. Since then, it has seen a surge in applications from overseas students coming from low income countries like Bangladesh (29.3%), Iran, Egypt and Pakistan.

Show me your visa

Immigration rules also have a play. It is often argued that the drop in Indian and Pakistani student numbers in the UK are not just the fact of fees, and are reinforced by stricter immigration rules; mainly tougher student visa requirements and the closure of the post-study work visa.

Migreat blog covered the topic extensively this year, and UK Higher Education Institution Representatives have repeatedly voiced their concerns.

Indeed, the possibility to work in the foreign country while studying is essential for many international students that heavily rely on private loans to pay tuitions fees.

Also, international students are taking a risk investing in education abroad. The chances of finding a work after graduating to pay back the loan and gaining meaningful work experience that can be recognised back home, is an important element influencing the decision to study abroad.

Competitive Marketing

Although not very obvious in the infographic, it can’t be ignored that universities are heavily marketing themselves abroad. Bright students are not the privilege of just some countries. Governments are embracing this idea by growing their pool of talents with international students in the aim of boosting economic competitive advantage.

Canada, Australia and Germany are perfect examples of countries where the government is actively working hard to market the education sector in order to attract more talents to come and stay. Germany expects it to reverse the damaging effect an ageing population would have on its economy. Canada is investing in international students to keep its economy attractive and innovative. Australia continues to attract international students as a mean to keep growing its influence within a globalised economy.

Love, what else?

However and finally, one aspect of studying abroad is rarely reflected in numbers but has acted as a major driver too: dating opportunities. According to a study published by the European Commission, the Erasmus program, the popular EU youth mobility scheme that enabled million of European students study in a different EU country gave birth to one million babies. The study suggests that more than a quarter of those who take part in its long-running Erasmus scheme meet their long-term partner while studying abroad – and that more than one million babies may have been produced as a result.


At Migreat, we are supporting anyone studying abroad and will help you migrate where you heart belongs. Get guidance over courses abroad, universities and visas via

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