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EU enrolment snapshot points to further foreign enrolment growth in 2023/24

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • A survey of higher education institutions across Europe finds that many are expecting growth in international enrolment for the coming academic year
  • Institutions note visa and cost of living issues as among the most important concerns for students this year
  • However, the survey also suggests that institutions could take further steps to better align their services and policies with student concerns around cost of study, housing, and career supports

An annual survey projects continued growth in foreign student numbers for universities across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) for the coming academic year. The snapshot report on international admissions: 2023–2024 finds that just over half of responding institutions (51%) are reporting higher international application volumes in 2023 (compared to the year before). A similar proportion (47%) anticipate that their international enrolments in September 2023 will exceed 2022 numbers.

The survey is conducted annually by the European Association for International Education (EAIE), and this year drew 183 responses from institutions in 27 of the EHEA’s 49 countries. This year’s survey responses were gathered over a three-week period in March 2023.

Along with application volumes, the survey also examines, through the eyes of receiving institutions in Europe, the most important issues that will affect students’ ability to follow through on their study plans this year.

“The issue of inflation/cost of living stands out as the barrier most frequently selected by respondents as a ‘moderate problem/challenge’ (38% of respondents indicated this was so),” notes the survey report. “While the issue identified most frequently (by 31% of respondents) as a ‘serious problem/challenge’ was that of obtaining a visa.”

Overall, more than half of respondents (54%) cited visa issues as a serious or moderate challenge; whereas more than 60% said that inflation and living costs were also a serious or moderate challenge.

Issues affecting international students’ ability to join your institution. Source: EAIE

Housing is of course a pressing concern for many students and families this year, and the report makes the interesting point that there may be room for greater engagement on the part of receiving institutions when it comes to easing any local housing issues.

“Whilst it is encouraging to see that nearly two thirds of survey respondents do communicate with local accommodation providers and a quarter of these are doing so with greater frequency this year than last year, it is likewise notable that more than one fourth (across 16 different countries) do not appear to engage with housing providers at all.”

More broadly, the report observes that, “There is new insight to be gained through exploration of a range of issues that may serve as barriers to international student enrolment, including financial, bureaucratic and quality of life concerns…Not least in terms of working to better gauge the extent to which there is alignment between the perspectives of higher education institutions and the international students they are seeking to enrol when it comes to questions of barriers to enrolment.”

The point is reinforced by another recent student-facing survey from IDP which underscores student concerns around rising costs. The IDP report describes corresponding increase in interest in work-during-studies and, we can imagine, a greater importance for student supports and career services as well.

For additional background, please see:

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