- Over 50% of responding institutions reported an increase in the number of international applications for the forthcoming academic year compared to the previous year.
- Nearly half of the responding institutions (47%) anticipate that their international enrollments will exceed those of September 2022.
- Visa issues and the cost of living are among the top concerns for students this year, with over half of respondents (54%) citing visa issues as a serious or moderate challenge and over 60% citing inflation and living expenses as a serious or moderate challenge as well.
International students are progressively selecting to study in European countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. And for many years now, international students have comprised a significant portion of the student body at European universities. They offer diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences to the classroom and contribute to the creation of a vibrant learning environment.
The good news is that universities across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) anticipate sustained growth in the number of international students for the upcoming academic year, according to a survey conducted annually by the European Association of International Education (EAIE).
Positive outlook for international enrolment in Europe
The EAIE has released its Snapshot report on international admissions for the academic year 2023-2024, highlighting some of the most significant admissions and enrollment trends for international students. The report is based on an online survey of higher education institutions in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and includes data on international degree-seeking students’ application numbers, anticipated enrollment numbers, and online programs.
The results of the annual survey conducted by the European Association for International Education (EAIE) are encouraging for universities throughout the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). More than half of the responding institutions (51%) have reported an increase in international applications for the academic year 2023-2024 compared to the previous year, according to the survey. This indicates that significantly more international students are contemplating studying in the EHEA than in the past.
In addition, nearly half of the institutions polled (47%) anticipate that their international enrollments will be higher in September 2023 than in September 2022. This is a particularly positive indicator for universities, as it suggests that the trend of increasing interest in studying in the EHEA will continue in the upcoming academic year.
Overall, all of this data suggests that universities across the EHEA are becoming more attractive to international students pursuing a high-quality education and opportunities for personal and professional development. The increasing number of international student applications and enrollments is a trend that bodes well for the future of the EHEA’s higher education sector.
Concerns for international students
It is worth noting, however, that there are still obstacles that may impede the ability of international students to complete their study plans.
The high cost of living is one of the most pressing issues, with more than 60% of respondents identifying it as a significant or moderate challenge. This can be especially challenging for international students from countries with reduced income levels or weaker currencies. Consequently, some students may struggle to afford essentials such as housing, food, and transportation.
Obtaining a visa is an extra challenge for international students. The report revealed that 54% of survey respondents identified visa issues as significant or moderate in difficulty. In particular, 31% of respondents indicated that procuring a visa was the most frequently chosen topic. This can be a significant obstacle for students attempting to study abroad, as they must navigate complex administrative procedures and requirements.
Moreover, many international students struggle to find appropriate and affordable housing in the countries in which they are studying. While nearly two-thirds of survey respondents interact with local housing providers, more than a quarter of respondents in 16 different countries do not interact with housing providers at all. This suggests that universities and other institutions can do a better job of assisting international students in locating secure and affordable housing.
Opportunities for improvement
There are numerous opportunities for advancement that EHEA institutions could envisage. More than 60% of respondents identified inflation and living costs as significant or moderate problems. Institutions could provide more financial aid, such as scholarships and grants, to international students to help mitigate the cost of living. This would make studying abroad more affordable for students who might not be able to afford it otherwise.
Streamlining visa procedures is another area for development. Institutions could work to streamline their visa application procedures and provide more assistance to students navigating these procedures. This would reduce tension for students and make studying abroad a more manageable process.
In addition, institutions could strengthen their relationships with local housing providers to resolve the housing concerns of international students. To address the housing issue, institutions could consider enhancing their relationship with local housing providers to make it easier for international students to locate affordable housing. By conducting surveys or focus groups with current and prospective international students, institutions could also strive to gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives of international students regarding enrollment barriers. Lastly, enhancing career services and student support offerings would assist in meeting the requirements of international students, especially in light of rising tuition costs.
To ensure that the EHEA continues to attract a talented and diverse pool of international students, universities will need to address these challenges and work to establish a supportive and welcoming environment for all. By doing so, they can help ensure that the trend of increasing international interest in studying at the EHEA continues for many years to come. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.
She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.
Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.
- 2023. EU enrolment snapshot points to further foreign enrolment growth in 2023/24. Icef Monitor. Retrieved from https://monitor.icef.com/2023/04/eu-enrolment-snapshot-points-to-further-foreign-enrolment-growth-in-2023-24/
- 2023. New report: Snapshot report on international admissions: 2023–2024. EAIE. Retrieved from https://www.eaie.org/blog/report-admissions-2023-2024.html
- 2022. Tracking the growing appeal of European study destinations. Icef Monitor. Retrieved from https://monitor.icef.com/2022/06/tracking-the-growing-appeal-of-european-study-destinations/