Global Students

Students are becoming increasingly mobile…

Steady growth in student numbers is a worldwide phenomenon and has increased more than two and a half times over the past twenty years. This reflects both population growth, but also increasingly economic growth, especially in Asia, which has driven a huge increase in the global middle-class count who tend to invest more of its income in education. At the current rate of population growth and participation in higher education, by 2030 there could be as many as 276 million students worldwide.

Alongside growing student numbers, the international mobility of students is also increasing. Since 1975, the number of students enrolled for higher education outside their country of citizenship has grown nearly sixfold. The latest UNESCO figures suggest there are currently over five million internationally mobile students worldwide. 

The Asia Pacific region has the most internationally mobile students, with China at the top. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, the number of students from China and India increased by 43,000 and 52,000, respectively. Africa also is becoming an increasingly important component of international student flows.

Europe is a magnet for internationally mobile students because of its the prevalence of the world’s oldest and highest-quality universities. Eighty-nine of the world’s top-200 universities are in Europe. It is also evident that the ability to learn or improve English language skills is a pull factor. This is reflected in the popularity of programs in English-speaking countries, especially for Asian students.

Other factors, such as cost of living and lifestyle will also drive the decisions on which city to study in. But primarily students will be attracted by the quality of education and the potential post-graduate job opportunities. It is no coincidence that cities with a high share of international headquarters attract a high share of international students. Paris, London, and Melbourne all have over 100,000 international students currently studying, with New York just below that level.

With commercial property yields at all-time lows in traditional real estate sectors, investors are increasingly looking elsewhere for return. This, coupled with growing student demand has led to a fast growing purpose-built student housing sector. However, this is also happening outside of the institutional sector. Increasingly we are finding individual investors buying properties either just for students generally or more commonly for members of their family who are studying overseas.

Top destination country of international mobile students, infographic with maps and statistics
Top 10 cities for international mobile students, infographic with statistics