Future International Student Mobility

Future International Student Mobility

Annual growth rates in student mobility have averaged 10 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly 5 million students go abroad each year for the purpose of tertiary education, and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has predicted that number will rise to 8 million by 2025. That was the prediction prior to the pandemic. New opportunities to earn a tertiary degree at home or closer to home have changed the international student landscape in the U.S. The future of student mobility will include physical and virtual international education experiences so that institutions reach a wider range of students and build greater cross-cultural awareness and skills.

Since the pandemic there are a number of nuanced changes as families consider the opportunities to send their students abroad for academic degree attainment. For example, finances are a more common concern for families considering the study abroad experience. As with all students, international families who would have paid an average of $50,000 a year are now only willing to pay $30,000 and they expect an internship and job upon graduation. While face-to-face learning is preferable, engaging online learning with top faculty will also be desirable, especially if the cost of online learning is lower than in person. 

And though more traditional markets are sending students to the US, there is going to be a shift from those regions. Both the China and India markets are a top source for students seeking education in the US. However, the Chinese government is developing their post-secondary education systems, making China a destination market rather than an export market. Part of their challenge is a declining student population that will continue to shrink through 2050. India, unlike China, has expanded their young adult population to nearly 150 million and though it will decline a bit over the next 30 years, is projected to become the world’s largest middle class consumer market by 2030. Thus, increasing the opportunity and demand for study abroad.

New markets are emerging in Africa, Latin America and Kazakhstan. By 2050, one in every three young adults will be an African citizen based on the expansion of the middle class population and explosion of young adults. Over the next 10 years, the Asian student recruitment market is likely to remain dominated by China and India. However, institutions have an opportunity to recruit in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. And finally, increased competition will drive student destinations to lower cost, easily accessible countries like Ireland, Malaysia, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. Development of these markets will increase competition for international students worldwide, even if new emerging markets have larger student populations.

What Should You Be Doing?

  • Understand and inform institutional leadership about the international demographic changes and new opportunities.
  • Use market and government data to inform your recruitment strategies.
  • Streamline and centralize your admission processes and procedures.
  • Build a robust omni-channel marketing communication plan that is specific to the international market.
  • Include international students and graduates in promotions and recruitment activities.
  • Internationalize your campus community – engage and help the community understand the value of study abroad, international recruitment, and global learning content within the curriculum.
  • Build a collaborative recruitment, retention and graduation plan.
  • Connect Alumni to prospective and new students to support internship opportunities.
  • Understand student mobility and the increased opportunities that exist as other countries have developed their education infrastructure.
  • Examine institutional data to better understand historic student mobility, why it changed, and what opportunities there are to regain those channels or explore emerging markets.

What Should You Stop Doing?

  • Recruiting in countries that you’ve always targeted just because they were successful in the past.
  • Assuming that all students want to come to the US for their degree, research and work experience.
  • Assuming that international students don’t need financial assistance.
  • Assuming that creating a STEM designated version of existing degrees is not worth the effort.
  • Supporting institutional silos among divisions and academic units.


Though the international student recruitment landscape is changing and competition is increasing, there are renewed opportunities for US institutions to enhance their global community and increase enrollment with engagement in new markets. Keeping the student experience and outcomes in mind will ultimately lead to success for institutions and their students.

Gateway’s IEM team is poised to support institutions in these and other internationalization efforts; strategic planning, marketing, pathway programs, optimizing processes and providing international student services. Contact us today

About the author: Susan Kassab has served the higher education industry for more than thirty years serving in domestic and international roles. Kassab is an experienced international executive working with U.S. and top international institutions, and global English Language and University Placement organizations. She has successfully built international admission and recruitment operations, developed strategic partnerships, international enrollment plans and multi-faceted partnerships. Susan has contributed to NAFSA e-publications, writes for social media, participates in forums and presents at AIEA, and NAFSA.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.

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