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13 Aug 2013

Education: a world of opportunity

Malik Sarwar

by Malik Sarwar

Global Head of Wealth Development, HSBC

Education: a world of opportunity

More than three million people are studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a foreign country

Between 1980 and 2010 the numbers of students studying abroad tripled. Today, more than three million people are studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a foreign country.

With businesses operating across borders as never before, there are many benefits to studying abroad, with the experience a selling point to potential employers – whether in a student’s home country or elsewhere in the world.

Over the past three decades, a significant number of students have chosen to study in Western countries

As the flow of students across the globe is increasing, the patterns of who studies where are also changing.

Over the past three decades, a significant number of students have chosen to study in Western countries. The US and the UK are the most popular destinations, welcoming 30 per cent of the world’s international students. More than 100,000 Chinese students currently study in the UK.

Other countries are keen to challenge the US and UK. Australia, for example, estimates that the inflow of international students was worth AUD16 billion to its economy in 2011, supporting some 100,000 jobs. The government is increasing its efforts to attract foreign students – signing cooperation agreements with countries such as India and China, reforming its Student Visa Programme, and encouraging every Australian university to establish an exchange arrangement with Asian partners.


  • In 2010 at least 3.6 million students were studying abroad
  • 17 per cent of international students come from China, more than any other country
  • The US is the top destination for international students: more than 750,000 enrolled in US colleges and universities for the 2011-12 academic year, contributing USD22 billion to the US economy
  • The British Council aims to increase the number of British students studying in China from 3,500 in 2011 to 15,000
  • Seven Asian universities were ranked among the world’s top 50 in The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2013:

    • University of Tokyo
    • National University of Singapore
    • Kyoto University
    • Tsinghua University
    • University of Hong Kong
    • Seoul National University
    • Peking University

But it is not just developed economies competing to attract students from rising powers. HSBC research suggests that emerging economies will account for the largest share of global growth over the coming decades, and many Western economies now encourage people to make connections at an early age by studying in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The British Council, for example, aims to radically increase the number of British students travelling to China from around 3,500 in 2011 to 15,000. Individual institutions, such as the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, have established dedicated centres to strengthen relations with China. Philanthropists are also encouraging the flow of students from West to East. The Schwarzman Scholars programme aims to help 160 international students from the US and other countries study in Beijing.

If universities in emerging nations invest and grow, they will increasingly be able to compete for the brightest students from every country. This will challenge the universities of the West, spurring them to innovate and focus on the needs of students.

Would-be international students and their families need to plan financially with tuition fees, living costs, trips home and exchange rates to take into account. But for those who plan ahead, there are more choices and opportunities than ever before.

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