The demand for international education from, and to, all the corners of the world has never been higher. Figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the number of students enrolled in higher education overseas increased by 50 percent between 2005-2012, with 4.5 million students enrolled outside their home country in 2012 alone. According to the Institute of International Education, that number is set to reach eight million by 2025, but just who are these newly-mobile school leavers and what is driving their insatiable hunger to experience a different culture?
The Institute of International Education’s research indicates that the students’ personal interest in a particular region has become less of an ‘excuse’ to travel, replaced by a desire by these adventurous, globally-aware millennials to assimilate new cultures into their own and follow in the footsteps of their parents’ generation, many of whom were born overseas and have a different world view already hard-wired into them.
These Third Culture Kids, a term coined back in the 1950s by American sociologist Ruth Hill Useem, have usually lived abroad from a young age and already been exposed to diverse cultural and educational influences. University has ceased to be a means to an end for this generation, instead becoming an opportunity to leave their comfort zone and develop themselves as much as citizens of the world as academics. Here are the true citizens of the future, instilled with a cultural intellect better suited to the new global society.
For parents, the desire to give their offspring an opportunity to broaden horizons and see the world is a major factor in their decision-making, but it isn’t without its anxieties. As the US and Western Europe are caught up by the likes of China and Singapore as the international study destinations of choice, the exposure to a new culture can also lead to feelings of isolation and imbalance if the institution isn’t watchful. For parents and students it is a calculated risk, but one that can be mitigated by choosing institutions with a proven track record of attaining success through diversity, where the expectations and working processes of different cultures are celebrated, not eroded.
Of course, it isn’t just the students and their parents leading the growth. IE University’s active pursuit of diversification helps it to become that ‘third culture’ for its students. IEU’s latest admissions year will be comprised of 70 percent overseas students from 108 countries, with a policy that values a person’s achievements outside the classroom as highly it does their test scores.
The economic growth of emerging markets such as India, Brazil and Nigeria has fueled this shift in overseas study patterns, with China and Singapore also setting high targets for inbound students over the next 10 years. These changes may be intensifying competition, but they are also paving the way for important international collaborations. IEU’s bilateral agreements with 110 universities in more than 30 countries opens the doors for a rich cultural mix on its Spanish campuses while offering important life experiences for its own students abroad.
All of which means that there is now an ever-increasing number of students around the world who, when asked where it is they are from, struggle to offer an immediate answer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Asia was responsible for 53 percent of all international students in 2012/13, according to OECD figures, and with English now firmly seen as the dominant language around the world, the last major hurdle to the idea of a ‘global classroom’ is finally coming down.
At the same time, globalization doesn’t mean that different destinations don’t have different appeal. English-speaking and Western European countries invariably offer more internationally recognized qualifications, while Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries are also sought by those wanting a lifestyle and cultural change. What IEU offers its students is a deep understanding of the drivers behind the millennial generation’s choices, and its active pursuit of diversity makes it an attractive opportunity for the hundreds of international students who make it their home. This is a source of pride for IEU Admissions Director Miguel Costa. “You will not find many institutions with the kind of diversity we have, and in an increasingly globalized world, this also provides our graduates with an edge,” he says. The global students, it seems, are preparing to take on the world.