International student mobility: what will change?

Publication date: 2020-04-30 22:13

The corona crisis has major consequences for the internationalization of education. Countries are scaling back to a more national focus and international travel is limited. At the same time, international cooperation is essential to get through the corona crisis. Researchers from all over the world are in contact with each other to acquire the right knowledge and to further research the virus. But large-scale shifts in the internationalization of education seem inevitable. In this article, the possible consequences of the global corona crisis on international student mobility in higher education will examined.

Less international student mobility

After an expected decline in the coming academic year, physical student mobility is likely to be less global in the coming years than it was in recent years, predicts Simon Marginson, director of the Center for Global Higher Education. He speaks in the Times Higher Education about "a five-year recovery period". The global economic recession as a result of the corona crisis will have an impact on the purchasing power of the middle class and on scholarships that promote student mobility. This makes it more difficult for young people to go abroad for their studies. In addition, due to shifting priorities, Europe may invest less money in the Erasmus + program. This will also lead to less mobility. It is expected that credit mobility will be less affected than diploma mobility due to its shorter duration and flexibility. Such a development would also offer new opportunities and possibilities for blended mobility and short mobility.

Shift to Asia

There is a chance that student flows in and to Asia will increase. Partly because Asian countries are likely to recover from this crisis faster compared to Europe and North America. Students from China, India and South Korea (countries from which Western institutions traditionally receive many enrollments) are expected to opt more often to study in their own region. This trend was already triggered by the increasing quality of Asian higher education institutions, but may be accelerated by the corona crisis. 

Increasing international competition

As a result of the aforementioned trends, it is expected that international competition for talented students will intensify. Dutch higher education is of high quality and is therefore highly ranked internationally. That is one of the reasons why the Netherlands has increased in popularity in recent years as a study destination. It is highly questionable to what extent the Netherlands will still be such an attractive study destination after the corona crisis. In a "buyer’s market" institutions will compete more with each other. The well-being of students in the destination country, as well as the quality of a national health care system (in the wake of this medical crisis where public health has become a top priority), may become more significant factors when choosing a study destination.

Decreasing focus on mobility
The impact on international student mobility also has side effects. For example, less international diploma mobility, combined with an economic crisis, may lead to fewer international students staying in the Netherlands after graduation. In short, binding international talent will become more difficult. Moreover, if the corona crisis structurally leads to less mobility and more distance education, this could have a positive effect on the regional retention of talents. In this way, distant learning could contribute to reducing the global problem of brain drain. Finally, the decrease in mobility can lead to a completely different view on internationalization. For reasons of sustainability, alternatives to mobility have already been sought, but this crisis is putting that development towards "responsible internationalization" under a magnifying glass. Other forms of internationalization, such as Internationalization at Home, can gain in importance as a result.


Original article (in Dutch) available at: 
Internationale studentenmobiliteit: wat gaat er veranderen?

Thanks, Nanya Burki from Neso Indonesia, for the translation!

última modificação 2020-04-30 22:13