EU Student Recruitment Trends Favour Internationalization


A recent report form the European University Association has reported the headline that seven in ten universities in Europe are reporting growth in non-EU students enrolled over the past five years. The report, called “Trends 2015; Learning and Teaching in European Universities” follows a previous report in 2010 which examines the state of the higher education sector across Europe.

The report was responded to by 451 Institutions from across 46 different countries. Between them they represent 10 million students which is just over half of the 17 million’s students represented by EUA affiliated students and as much as a quarter of all students enrolled in higher education across the EU.

Currently, the European Union has made a commitment to have 40% of 30-34 year olds across the region educated to degree level by 2020. As of 2012, 12 EU countries had achieved that goal and the EU wide average of this age group stood at 36% or just over a third of all Europeans.


Growth and Shrinkage – An Uneven Continental Picture

The report generally found that across the sector the trend is towards growth with over 60% of institutions reporting growth and over 40% of these reporting it in excess of 10% in student numbers. This compared to just under 20% of organizations who were reporting a decline in numbers, with 9% experiencing comparable losses of 10% or more.

This growth is relatively uneven across the continent with the greatest growth being seen in countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Norway and, surprisingly Turkey. Small year on year growth was seen in major European economies Germany, France and Austria.

Additionally Russia and Ukraine, despite recent international troubles are also in growth. This is in comparison to fellow eastern European nations such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania where numbers have been falling year on year the most.

Being non-EU nations, Russia, Turkey and the Ukraine are exempt from a trend amongst European member nations for students’ migration to mirror the economic situation across the continent with students travelling from the east to the west and leaving poverty stricken southern European nations for opportunities in the richer north.


Economic Migration

In many countries, there is a real problem of unemployment among young people. Youth unemployment stands at 50% across Spain and 60% across Greece. This is a major driver both for cross European development of education institutions as well as spurring students across the Eurozone to pursue higher education both at home and abroad.

Institutions too are finding themselves challenged in the current economic climate. As a result many are turning to international student recruitment to bolster their enrolment numbers and diversify their income. Over half of institutions already have explicit policies in place to recruit from abroad and a further 35% of institutions have merged international student recruitment into their existing policies. A further 8% plans to develop specific plans in the near future.

The majority of their efforts tend to be focussed on other European Union countries. This is unsurprising as it tends to be the preference for students from the EU for a variety of factors. However non-EU students are a powerful source for growth, especially as they can be charged higher fees paid directly to the University compared to their EU counterparts. This is why admissions policies are increasingly targeting the Americas and Asia for potential future students.

In general trends at institutions mirror the economic situation as a whole across Europe. Those students who can afford to are increasingly being tempted to travel to northern and western EU countries to study to escape a lack of opportunity in their own countries.  Meanwhile as schools and Universities work to secure funding and students in the coming decade there will be an increasing reliance and effort to recruit international candidates both from across the EU and the wider world.

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