In the 1990s, many countries expanded their higher education systems and access to higher education. At the same time, flows of students worldwide increased. More recently, a number of countries adopted policies to encourage the return of students who studied abroad, to attract foreign students, or both. (For information on worldwide trends affecting doctoral education, see sidebar "Globalization and Doctoral Education.")
Increasingly, governments around the world have come to regard movement toward a knowledge-based economy as key to economic progress. Realizing that this requires a well-trained workforce, they have invested in upgrading and expanding their higher education systems and broadening participation. In most instances, government spending underwrites these developments. One indicator of the importance of higher education is the percentage of resources devoted to higher education, as measured by expenditures on tertiary education (education beyond high school) as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). The United States, Canada, and Korea spend the highest percentage of GDP on higher education (appendix table
An indicator of the growing importance of higher education is the change in expenditures for higher education over time. Expenditures for tertiary education rose more in the United States than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries between 1995 and 2000, but less in the United States than in other OECD countries between 2000 and 2005. From 1995 to 2000, educational expenditures in the United States increased faster than the OECD average and faster than almost all of the other OECD countries (except Greece, Ireland, and Poland). From 2000 to 2005, educational expenditures in the United States increased more slowly than the OECD average but at a similar or faster rate than many countries. (In 2006, expenditures per student in the U.S. were double the OECD average [OECD 2008].) Several countries, the Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, and the United Kingdom, far exceeded the OECD average increase in expenditures from 2000 to 2005 (appendix table
Higher education in the United States expanded greatly after World War II, and for several decades the United States led the world in its population's educational attainment. In the 1990s, many countries in Europe and Asia also began to expand their higher education systems. The United States continues to be among those countries with the highest percentage of the population ages 25–64 with a bachelor's degree or higher, but several other countries have surpassed the United States in the percentage of the younger (ages 25–34) population with a bachelor's degree or higher (figure
More than 12 million students worldwide earned first university degrees in 2006, with more than 4 million of these in S&E fields (appendix table
In the United States, S&E degrees are about one-third of U.S. bachelor's degrees and have been for a long time. In several countries/economies around the world, the proportion of first university degrees in S&E fields, especially engineering, is higher. More than half of first university degrees were in S&E fields in Japan (63%), China (53%), and Singapore (51%). China has traditionally awarded a large proportion of its first university degrees in engineering, although the percentage has declined in recent years (appendix table
The number of S&E first university degrees awarded in China, Poland, and Taiwan more than doubled between 1998 and 2006, and those in the United States and many other countries generally increased. Those awarded in Japan decreased in recent years (appendix table
S&E First University Degrees by Sex
Women earned half or more of first university degrees in S&E in many countries around the world in 2006, including Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Greece, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and a number of smaller countries. Several countries in Europe are not far behind, with more than 40% of first university S&E degrees earned by women. In many Asian and African countries, women generally earn about one-third or less of the first university degrees awarded in S&E fields (appendix table
Almost 174,000 S&E doctoral degrees were earned worldwide in 2006. The United States awarded the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees of any country (about 30,000), followed by China (about 23,000), Russia (almost 20,000), and Germany and the United Kingdom (about 10,000 each) (appendix table
Women earned 40% of S&E doctoral degrees awarded in the United States in 2006, about the same as the percentage earned by women in Australia, Canada, the European Union, and Mexico. They earned more than half of S&E doctoral degrees in Portugal and less than one-quarter of S&E doctoral degrees in the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, and Taiwan (appendix table
The number of S&E doctoral degrees awarded in China, Italy, and the United States has risen steeply in recent years (appendix table
In Asia, China was the largest producer of S&E doctoral degrees. The number of S&E doctorates awarded in China rose from about 1,900 in 1993 to almost 23,000 in 2006 (appendix table
International migration of students and highly skilled workers expanded in the past two decades, and countries are increasingly competing for foreign students. In particular, students migrated from developing countries to the more developed countries, and from Europe and Asia to the United States. Some migrate temporarily for education, whereas others remain permanently. Some factors influencing the decision to migrate are economic opportunities, research opportunities, research funding, and climate for innovation in the country of destination (OECD 2004). In recent years, many countries, particularly Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have expanded their provision of transnational education, that is, programs for foreign students in their home countries (NSB 2008). The rise in transnational education, however, has not had much impact on foreign student flows (De Wit 2008). The influence of the worldwide economic and monetary crises beginning in 2008 on international flows of students in the future is uncertain.
Some countries expanded recruitment of foreign students as their own populations of college-age students decreased, both to attract highly skilled workers and increase revenue for colleges and universities (OECD 2008). The population of individuals ages 20–24 (a proxy for the college-age population) decreased in China, Europe, Japan, and the United States in the 1990s and is projected to continue decreasing in China, Europe (mainly Eastern Europe), Japan, and South Korea (appendix table
The U.S. share of foreign students worldwide declined in recent years, although the United States remains the destination of the largest number of foreign students worldwide (both undergraduate and graduate) of all OECD countries (figure
Although Australia has a higher percentage of higher education students (undergraduate and graduate) who are foreign (18%) than the United States (3%), it has a lower share (6%) of foreign students worldwide. Other countries with relatively high percentages of higher education students who are foreign include New Zealand (16%), Switzerland and the United Kingdom (14%), and Austria (12%). A number of countries, including Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have relatively high percentages (more than 20%) of doctoral students who are foreign (OECD 2008).
The United Kingdom has been actively expanding its position in international education, both by recruiting foreign students to study in the country and expanding its provision of transnational education (British Council 2007). Foreign student enrollment in the United Kingdom is increasing, especially at the graduate level, with increasing flows of students from China and India (appendix table
Japan has increased its enrollment of foreign students in recent years and in 2008 announced plans to triple foreign enrollment in 12 years (McNeil 2008). Almost 60,000 foreign students were enrolled in S&E programs in Japanese universities in 2008, up from 42,000 in 2001. Foreign S&E student enrollment in Japan is concentrated at the undergraduate level, accounting for 68% of all foreign S&E students. Foreign undergraduates account for 3% of undergraduate and 14% of graduate S&E students in Japan. Most of the foreign students were from Asian countries. China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam were among the top 10 countries of origin for both undergraduates and graduate students. Chinese students accounted for more than half of foreign undergraduate (68%) and graduate (54%) S&E students in Japan in 2008 (appendix table
Foreign students are an increasing share of enrollment in Canadian universities. Foreign S&E students accounted for about 6% of undergraduate and 20% of graduate S&E enrollment in Canada in 2006, up from 3% and 17% in 1996, although the foreign shares in 2006 were down slightly from recent years (NSB 2008). In 2005–06, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the highest percentages of foreign S&E students were in mathematics/computer sciences and engineering. Asian countries/economies were the top places of origin of foreign S&E graduate and undergraduate students in Canada. China alone accounted for 18% of foreign S&E graduate and undergraduate students in Canada. The United States was also among the top countries of origin of foreign students, accounting for 6% of foreign S&E graduate students and 12% of foreign S&E undergraduate students in Canada (appendix table
Although foreign students are a large share of U.S. higher education, U.S. students are a relatively small share of foreign students worldwide. About 49,000 U.S. students (in all fields) were reported as foreign students by OECD and OECD partner countries in 2006, far fewer than the numbers of foreign students from China, France, Germany, India, Japan, or South Korea. The main destinations of U.S. students were the United Kingdom (14,800), Canada (9,500), Germany (3,300), Australia (2,900), France (2,800), Ireland (2,100), and New Zealand (2,100)—mainly English speaking countries (OECD 2008).
Approximately 242,000 U.S. students from U.S. universities enrolled in study-abroad programs in the 2006–07 academic year, up 8.5% from 2005–06 (IIE 2008). A little more than one-third were in programs lasting one semester, and more than half were in short-term programs (2–8 weeks). About 5% were graduate students; the rest were undergraduates, primarily juniors or seniors. About one-third were studying in S&E fields: 21% in social sciences, 7% in physical or life sciences, 3% in engineering, 2% in math or computer sciences, and 1% in agricultural sciences.