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More students are looking beyond their borders to give their education a competitive edge. 

Despite shrinking support for scholarships and tightening travel budgets, 4.1 million students left their home countries to pursue formal tertiary education abroad in 2010. According to Unesco, there were 177 million students enrolled in tertiary institutions worldwide that year, an increase of 77 million students since 2000. 

The US suffered a marked drop in the share of foreign students it received, though in absolute terms, the number of students increased from 475,000 in 2000 to 685,000 in 2010. Young scholars appear to be flocking mostly to English-speaking countries. Australia, New Zealand and the UK have the highest percentage of international students among their tertiary students, and have seen noticeable boosts in their popularity as educational destinations in the past decade.

Tuition policies also play a large role in destination choices for foreign students: among most EU contries such as Austria, Italy and Spain, international students from other EU countries are treated as domestic students with respect to tuition fee charges, which are relatively low in these countries.

Korea, where most international students pay tuition fees that are somewhat lower than those paid by domestic students, has transformed in recent years to become a more popular study abroad destination than Sweden or the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Korea joins China and India in boasting the largest numbers of students studying abroad.

See www.oecd.org/education

©OECD Observer No 293 Q4 2012

This web version was corrected on 17 December 2012.