Students from across the world rank South Africa and its universities highly as a study destination. A dozen years into democracy, the country has become the most popular place to study on the continent and is one of the Top 20 host nations for American students.
Many factors drive patterns of global student mobility, which has grown rapidly to become a visible outcome of the internationalization of higher education and a reflection of ‘globalization’. By 2003 there were 2.1 million international students attending higher education institutions worldwide. By 2025 their numbers are forecast to reach 7.2 million.
International students have enhanced South African campuses with their different cultures and experiences, and by adding new dimensions to teaching and learning. South Africa benefits from the financial investments that foreign students make, and from the international relations and links forged during their studies.
The internationalization of education is viewed as a valuable means of advancing communication and respect among people of different cultures, of developing scholarship, and of strengthening South Africa’s global position.
The number of foreign students at South Africa’s 23 public universities grew from 12,600 in 1994 to nearly 54,000 in 2006, according to provisional Department of Education statistics. About a quarter of international students are postgraduates.
In 2006, two-thirds of foreign students were from Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries, 16% were from the rest of Africa and 14% were from the rest of the world. (There was no accurate information on 3% of international students).
Source: Department of Education. These figures are provisional.
Note: Statistics on international students have improved over the years, and so the latest figures are the most accurate. The numbers in the category ‘no information’ have declined markedly.
Source: Department of Education, provisional figures, 2007.
South African universities have established international offices to market their courses and support foreign students, and to encourage and coordinate international research and linkages. Information on institutions is widely available, including on the internet.
To remain a popular destination, in a global environment of increasing competition for international students, IEASA believes that South Africa will need to commit more resources to international recruitment, more vigorously market its courses and institutions, ease study visa processes, and finalize an international education policy framework that formalizes, supports and advances international activities.