Student reading

Explore our research in higher education and student mobility.

Anchor or Sail: Comparative study of how UK and US universities balance their local and international ambitions (2019)

The role of higher education institutions, and their relationship to their local communities, is a topic of debate in both the UK and the USA.  How do institutions balance their civic responsibilities with their global ambitions and internationalisation strategies?  In this comparative study, conducted by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the British Council, we examine how six selected UK and US colleges and universities are successfully supporting their local communities while providing international opportunities for students and faculty.  The case studies highlight various approaches to address this challenge, and the role of civic/private partners, both local and international.  

Please see below for a PDF version of the report. 

International Student Mobility to 2027: Local investment, global outcomes (2018)

Our Education Intelligence team in Hong Kong regularly publishes reports on international higher education, most recently: International student mobility to 2027 - Local investment, global outcomes.

Key findings of the report:

  • Projected slow growth over the next 10 years versus a rise of countries competing to host international students
  • 18 to 22-year-olds globally decreasing to 2020, growing again to 2027
  • Actual and projected slowdown in the global growth of long-term outbound students attributed to local investment in HE
  • In absolute numbers more outwardly mobile students with an increase of 15-24-year-olds in tertiary education globally
  • Top growth markets for outbound students in the next 10 years: China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh; also expected in the smaller markets of Saudi Arabia, France, Nepal, Indonesia, and Kenya. 
  • Projected countries with the largest declines in outbound students: South Korea, Malaysia, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Singapore 

Click here to read the full report.

Social Enterprise in a Global Context (2016)

Set against a context of global growth in higher education, this research seeks to understand and enhance the role of international cooperation between higher education institutions and social enterprises. The study has examined higher education institutions in the following countries: Asia (Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Thailand); Africa (Kenya, South Africa); Europe (Greece, Slovenia, UK); Latin America (Mexico); and North America (Canada, USA). 

The research responds to the worldwide growth in higher education and social enterprise, mapping and exploring existing partnerships between higher education institutions (HEIs) and social enterprise (SE); the benefits of existing cooperation; and the impact of such cooperation on a range of stakeholder groups, such as students, social entrepreneurs, and funders. In addition, the study also reviews the approaches used by HEIs to deliver social enterprise skills to students.


This study examines the benefits and challenges of a partnership between higher education institutions and social enterprises in the state of California. 

It is one of 12 country - and regional- level studies that informed Social enterprise in a global context: the role of higher education institutions, our global report (cited above) on the engagement between higher education and social enterprise.

Click here to read the full report.

Higher Education and Return on Investment (2016)

It is generally accepted that those with higher levels of education will be able to secure better jobs with higher salaries. But have the benefits of a four-year degree course changed over time?

Higher education in the US brings with it many benefits which can have a positive impact on life outcomes for an individual in terms of both financial security and social mobility – with a knock-on benefit for wider society. However, the perceived cost of the four-year undergraduate education system can act as a deterrent to many would-be students. The level of the return on investment, in terms of better-paid jobs and more rewarding careers, is dependent on many factors, including choice of subject. This study looks at how that return on investment has shifted over time, with a particular emphasis on the changes in some degree fields and for certain racial and demographic groups.

Click here to read the full report.

International STEM students: Focusing on skills for the future (2015)

Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects) build communities and transform nations. A good supply of well-qualified STEM professionals will help fuel economic growth, high productivity, innovation and research excellence. International students play a vital role in the provision of higher education STEM courses by adding value with their distinct experiences and viewpoints, contributing to the advancement of research in a host destination, and ensuring the sustainability of selected courses, especially at the postgraduate level.

Given the critical influence of STEM education in shaping the future, it is vital to ensure education policies are linked to market needs in order to support international STEM student recruitment and retention. This important report provides an overview of global trends in STEM fields, including a focus on developments in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The results of an exclusive international survey also offer insight and an understanding of the factors affecting STEM international students’ choice of course and destination country, and the perceived unique value propositions of the UK, US, Australia, and Canada in these fields. A valuable insight for nations and institutions, this report is a resource which can help support the development of strategies to drive STEM recruitment, whilst also encouraging the cultivation and practice of STEM skills.

Click here to read the full report.

Broadening Horizons: The value of overseas experience (2015)

In the third annual report examining how UK and US students perceive study abroad, Broadening Horizons aims to understand the perceived drivers and barriers regarding overseas study, and how these are changing over time.

The latest report features research, including the responses of almost 7,500 UK and US students aged between 16 and 30 years, surveyed between March and April 2015. As well as identifying the main academic and non-academic drivers to overseas study, the report highlights key academic and non-academic deterrents. Cost and lack of foreign language skills were found to be among the biggest deterrents to study abroad for both UK and US students, although there were differences between the groups in terms of the factors considered to be more discouraging. The report also provides insight into student awareness of government-sponsored study abroad programmes, information sources used when considering overseas study options, and the perceived value of study abroad.

Given that both the UK and US have their own overseas study strategies catering to their countries’ unique outward mobility situation and experience, the report highlights some of the information gaps and perceived barriers which could be addressed to help encourage interest in study abroad.


  • Thirty-four per cent of UK students and fifty-four per cent of US students expressed interest in study abroad
  • The majority of UK students and US students not interested in or undecided about overseas study stated that they did want to travel and live abroad
  • For both UK and US students, the cultural experience of studying abroad was a significantly stronger driver than academic-or employability-related factors
  • Students who had previously studied overseas were more likely to draw links between employability and study abroad and want to live and work abroad
  • UK students were more likely to be motivated to study abroad by factors related to employability than US students
  • UK and US students who had previously studied abroad were less concerned about overseas tuition being high than those who hadn’t studied abroad
  • Costs, personal well-being and a lack of language skills were the main perceived deterrents to study abroad and the top concerns for those who aspire to overseas study for both UK and US students
  • UK and US students not interested in study abroad would most be incentivized to change their minds if they have help with funding and foreign language training
  • Forty-two per cent of UK respondents stated they wanted to study in non-Anglophone countries
  • Sixty-five per cent of US respondents were interested in non-Anglophone destinations
  • US students were more likely to be satisfied with the amount of information they had prior to making their overseas study experience
  • Thirty-five per cent of UK students and sixty-three per cent of US students who had already studied abroad knew about government-sponsored programs for overseas study

Click here to read the full report.