Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
8th Dec 2021

Rapid expansion of English-taught degrees a growing factor in global student markets

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • A number of countries – outside of the “Big Four” English-speaking destinations of Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US – are ramping up the number of English-taught degree programmes they offer to international students

A global overview of English-taught programmes produced by the British Council and Studyportals finds that almost one in five English-taught programmes (ETPs) are now offered outside of the “big four” English-speaking destinations, most notably in the Netherlands, Germany, as well as China.

The study identified over 28,870 degree programmes taught in English outside Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which represents growth of over 77% compared with 2017. Most of the programmes in alternate destinations are at the master’s level, but the number of undergraduate English-language degrees is growing at a faster rate (85% compared to 74% for master’s).

Edwin van Rest, founder and CEO of Studyportals, said:

“We knew from our growing partners and previous research we had conducted with ACA, EAIE and the IIE that the landscape of international education was changing. This global research shows just how quickly universities around the world are adapting to teaching in English and therefore offering students more diverse study options than ever before. We believe this will make global talent corridors more distributed and symmetrical – good news for students, for GDP and for a more equal and connected global society.”

Still, the vast majority (82%) of the 157,278 bachelor’s and master’s programmes Studyportals identified worldwide are offered by institutions in the “Big Four” English-speaking destinations.

Number of degree programmes offered in the leading, English-speaking study destinations, 2021. Source: Studyportals

China, Africa, and India working fast to increase capacity

While the majority of English-taught programmes outside of the Big Four are being offered within the European Higher Education Area (63%), China and Sub-Saharan Africa region are introducing English-taught programmes quickly, “doubling their number of programmes since January 2017.” The report notes,

“In 2017, foreign enrolments in China were up by 10.5%. India has also announced the intention to host 200,000 visiting students by 2023. These signals are pointing to a shift in Asian-Pacific countries transitioning from ‘sending’ markets to ‘receiving’ markets for international students.”

Higher education institutions in the Middle East are using various models to increase the number of English-taught programmes they can offer, including collaboration with UK institutions and an expansion of transnational education offerings.

Regional hubs

Many experts have pointed to a rising trend of students being interested in studying abroad – but closer to home, within their own region. Studyportals notes that South Africa has a number of universities with English-taught programmes that attract students from other African countries, and that,

“Among other markets for ETPs, both East Asia and the Arab countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa act as powerful regional hubs. In the former, Malaysia offers the majority of ETPs delivered by universities while in the latter, the United Arab Emirates acts as a main player alongside other Gulf countries.”

Increasingly competitive

In Europe, increasing the number of English-taught programmes helped the Netherlands to attract 94,000 students to 2019/20. Germany, meanwhile, increased its international student population from 197,000 in 2013 to 320,000 in 2019/20. Higher education is free for foreign students as well as domestic students in Germany, and Germany has stood out among leading destinations for its continuing ability to build its international student population over the course of the pandemic.

Total foreign enrolment in German higher education, where the green line shows total student numbers and the red line total commencements, 2018/19–2020/21. Source: DAAD

It’s Ireland, however, that hosts the most English-taught programmes in Europe other than the UK, offering 2,776 compared with 1,937 and 1,826 for the Netherlands and Germany, respectively. Ireland and Germany have increased their inventory of English-taught programmes by more than 40% since 2017.

Impact on rankings

Studyportals notes that “ranked universities are more likely to offer ETPs than non-ranked; and secondly, ranked universities are more likely to actively try to attract international students, hence being recorded in the Studyportals’ dataset.”

For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • UK confirms Graduate Route will remain in place; plans “crackdown” on student visas and “rogue agents” Read More
  • Will the US host 2 million international students within the decade? Read More
  • Ghanaian students are intent on study abroad but currency woes present a challenge Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Will the US host 2 million international students within the decade? A new analysis from international research firm HolonIQ sets out four future growth scenarios for foreign enrolment in...
Read more
Survey of Japanese agents indicates significant recovery in outbound student numbers for 2023 The annual survey of The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) has just been released. This year’s survey...
Read more
EU sets goal of sending at least 23% of university students and 12% of VET students abroad by 2030 Erasmus+, already the world’s largest student mobility programme, will play a significant role in a new goal set...
Read more
UK: Review finds no abuse of Graduate Route; recommends that current work rights remain in place for international students Following months of speculation, the UK’s Migratory Advisory Committee (MAC) has concluded its “rapid review” of the Graduate...
Read more
UK: Home Office data finds a significant drop in student visa applications for first quarter of 2024 The UK’s tightened immigration settings are having a profound effect on international student demand for educational programmes in...
Read more
Foreign exchange: What could a stronger pound and dollar mean for international students this year? In the first months of 2024, immigration policy changes in Australia, Canada, and the UK have been a...
Read more
US gains greater share of international student interest amid policy changes in competitor destinations For the first time in IDP Education’s Emerging Futures research, the US has emerged as the top-choice destination...
Read more
The other side of a “V-shaped” recovery: 2024 and the transition to steadier growth in international enrolment “The year ahead will likely be a transitional one, marking both the end of the post-COVID era and...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links