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Internationalisation of Higher Education

Globalisation and technological development have an important influence on higher education. On its second page the European Commission’s communication on “European higher education in the world” (COM (2013) 499 final) while quoting from a 2008 OECD study (Higher Education to 2030, Volume 1, Demography) shows that over the next twenty years the demand for Higher Education (HE) is expected to grow from the current 99 million students worldwide to 414 million by 2030, with China showing by far the highest increase in recent years followed by Brazil and India.

© Steve Young / Fotolia

On the other hand HE, is a focal point of the Europe 2020 Strategy as the demand for knowledge and skills acquired internationally is rising. With HE’s impact on innovation and research, it provides the highly skilled human capital that knowledge-based economies need to generate growth and prosperity. A 2010 study requested by the European Commission (“Mapping Member States’ external Education & Training policies and tools” / see also the summary published as a policy brief in 2011) examined the external education policies, instruments and tools in the countries concerned. The study identified 625 instruments: 487 in EU/EEA countries and 138 in Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA.

In May 2010 the Council adopted conclusions on the internationalisation of higher education (2010/C 135/04) in which it recalled the Erasmus programme’s success and stressed the importance of focussing on the support mobility in Higher Education outside of Europe. On 11 July 2013 the European Commission published a communication on European higher education in the world (COM (2013) 499 final / see also the resp. press release) in which it identifies three key areas for a comprehensive internationalisation strategy: Promoting the international mobility of students and staff, Promoting internationalisation at home and digital learning and Strengthening strategic cooperation, partnerships and capacity building, as well as two two policy objectives for EU’s contribution: Increasing the attractiveness of European HE by improving quality and transparency and Increasing worldwide cooperation for innovation and development.The present keysource will provide supplementary material for identifying what is at stake in this subject.


As the field is vast the number of studies is vast as well. Please find below a selection of studies that shed light on the different facets of the subject. I have selected recent publications, and if possible theses, so that the accompanying literature lists will provide a source for further reading.

Literature reviews:

Terminological discussions:

Comparative research on the situation in Europe:

Comparative research on the situation in the Western World:

Africa, Arab Countries and Asia:

Stakeholder views

There are, of course, several stakeholders in the field, from university associations to employers and student associations. Theo selected item is not representative, but it gives an idea of the topics at stake. The topics are also discussed in the above mentioned analytical studies:


Most recent Eurostat statistics presenting 2010 (upper part) and 2011 data (lower part -> scroll down to line 249) on the number of foreign students (total and detailed by citizenship) in tertiary education (ISCED levels 5 and 6). For the role of the Bologna process see: The Bologna Process in Higher Education in Europe: Key indicators on the social dimension and mobility / Eurostat. 2009

The Commission presented a study on the immigration of international students to EU Member States in May 2013 (press release) and thus decribed the broader topic and the relevant policies. The study is available on the European Migration network’s website. There are country figures and the 2013 synthesis report (on top of the list). The report discusses the statistical situation from p. 10 onwards.

OECD has recently published a summary on How is international student mobility shaping up?  (July 2013), which provides figures about the countries from which foreign students are coming. Table 1.8. International tertiary-level students in OECD countries and the Russian Federation, 2004-2010 in the OECD’s International Migration Outlook 2013  provides figures up to 2010.

UNESCO’s statistical institute has prepared a dynamic map which shows the student flows based on figures from their database. [Does not work properly with our version of Internet Explorer]. On the OECD’s statistics pages you may find the figures for 2011 in the left column under the heading Education and Training -> Education and skills -> Foreign/international students enrolled -> International students enrolled / latest year. You may also open this Excel file, which has been downloaded from the OECD website.

Infographics on internationalisation of higher education (pinterest board by CP)

EU programmes and projects

EU programmes in the field of international academic co-operation: Library Keysource on the future of the European Union education and youth programme(s) – summary of legislation for Erasmus Mundussummary of legislation for TempusCommission website on TempusCommission website on other programmes – Commission website on co-operation with industrialised countriesCommission website on activities with candidate and neighbourhood countries – Bologna Policy Forum – PolDep B study on the Bologna process – U-Multirank project and the Library Keysource on the topic.

Related procedures

Parliamentary procedures on the subject of cooperation and agreements in the fields of education, training and youth

Parliamentary procedures on the subject of Universities and higher education

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