Which country is home to the largest international student population?
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Which country is home to the largest international student population?

Which country is home to the largest international student population?

Thanks to the internet and increased global mobility, it is easier today than ever before to study abroad.

If you plan in advance, know the right hoops to jump through (we’ve got your back for this one), and have enough motivation, your chances of studying in a new country are amplified in a way our parents’ generation never experienced.

Whether it’s for a higher quality of education, better job prospects, self-improvement, the desire to discover what life is like in another country or a combination these reasons, millions leave their home every year to seek knowledge abroad.

And each year, their numbers grow. From the estimated 2.1 million recorded in 2001, the global international student population spiked by nearly 120 percent to hit 4.6 million last year (see chart below).

But where are these students going?

Top-Host-Destination

Year upon year, the number of students heading overseas for their studies is growing. Source: IIE Project Atlas.

Recent data from the International Institute of Education’s (IIE) Project Atlas suggests there are 16 main host nations: the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Finland, and India.

The rankings below are based solely on the total number of international students in the countries listed and not the overall percentage of international to domestic students. The countries’ sizes have not been taken into consideration.

Ranking Country Number of international students
1 US 1,078,822
2 UK 501,045
3 China 442,773
4 Australia 327,606
5 France 323,933
6 Canada 312,100
7 Russia 296,178
8 Germany 251,452
9 Japan 171,122
10 Spain 94,962

Although international student numbers have declined in the US, it remains by far the most popular destination when compared to other countries.

However, the data suggests the US’s loss of foreign students may have translated to gains for other host destinations.

Canada and Australia, for example, both saw a large increase in international students in their most recent intake, which is attributed to the countries making their way up the global university rankings as well as maintaining a high-quality education, welcoming environment, and promising graduate prospects.

Top-Host-Destination  Inbound-Students-in-Select-Countries

Here’s how this compares to last year. Source: IIE Project Atlas.

The greatest increase over the last year was Mexico which saw a 58.9 percent spike in its international student population, followed by New Zealand’s 34.4 percent, Spain’s 24.9 percent and Canada’s 18.3 percent.

Likewise, Japan and Australia saw significant increases at 12.5 percent and 12.1 percent respectively.

Top-Host-Destination  Inbound-Students-in-Select-Countries  International-Students-as-Percentage-of-Total-Higher-Education

The numbers as a percentage of total students. Source: IIE Project Atlas.

The rankings above show the most popular countries according to their total intake of students.

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