OECD countries welcome record numbers of international students

27 Oct 2023

The world’s largest economies welcomed almost two million international students for the first time last year as migration hit “unprecedented levels,” as per fresh data published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Indeed, student flows “bounced back” in 2022 following the pandemic, reaching record highs in around 50% of the OECD’s 38 member states. Student visas rose by over 24% last year compared to 2019. However, a few countries, such as New Zealand, Estonia, Portugal, Sweden and Luxembourg, stayed below pre-pandemic levels.

Top countries for international students

For the fourth year in a row, the UK welcomed the highest number of international students in all OECD countries, surpassing the US. Also in the top 5 were Canada, Australia and Japan. In total, the US hosts nearly 20% of all international students in the OECD, followed by the UK with 14% and Australia with 9%. Not taking into account English-speaking countries, Germany and France are the top destinations chosen by international students, jointly hosting around 15%.

Skills shortages

A large number of OECD nations are attempting to deal with extensive skills shortages and ageing population-related challenges, according to a Pie News report. Furthermore, overall migration to wealthier countries has reached all-time highs. “International migration to OECD countries was higher in 2022 than in any other year since data had been available,” said OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann during a press conference. “Several countries, including Australia, Germany and Spain, are planning major reforms to their labour migration frameworks to better link labour migration with labour and skills shortages,” he continued.

Encouraging students to stay

More governments are now focusing on international students in terms of long-term labour plans. In Australia, part of the government’s ongoing migration system review is to determine how “high-potential” international students who have studied in Australia can be persuaded to stay in the country. “Without the influx of migrants, our economies might not be able to sustain the pace of economic growth we all wish to reach,” stated Stefano Scarpetta, director of the Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.