What influences the direction and magnitude of Asian student mobility?

Macro data analysis focusing on restricting factors and lifelong planning

Research Highlighted

Sato, Y. (2021). “What influences the direction and magnitude of Asian student mobility? Macro data analysis focusing on restricting factors and lifelong planning”. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2021.1976618

Abstract

Dr Yuriko Sato, Tokyo Institute of Technology

This study aims to explore the factors that influence Asian student mobility using a life planning model, which focuses on students’ lifelong planning and restricting factors in decision making. As a result of macro data analysis of student mobility from six Asian source countries (including China) to eight major destinations (including China) from 1999 to 2017, the income gap between source country and destination country shows a negative correlation with student mobility, which supports the hypothesis that a decrease in budgetary constraints promotes study abroad. This finding is contrary to the assumption of the traditional push-and-pull model. This may be explained by the expansion of a middle-class population who are eager to send their children abroad whenever the budgetary constraint is lifted. Bilateral trade shows a positive correlation, which supports the hypothesis that prospect of employment, associated with economic connectedness, promotes study abroad.

Background and purpose

While the total number of international students has tripled in the last twenty years, several significant changes have been observed during the period, such as the rising personal incomes and aspirations for international education in source countries, and diversification of study destinations. Although the push-and-pull theory of migration has been the foremost utilized theory to explain decision making of international students (Rounsaville 2012), its assumption that economic and social gaps between source countries and destination countries are the major driving forces for student mobility must be re-examined.

The purpose of this study is to elucidate the factors which influence the direction and magnitude of international student mobility and to obtain clues to predict the future direction of international education.

The target of this study is Asian international students who account for half of the international students in the world. International student data from six major source countries in Asia (i.e. China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Nepal) to eight major destination countries (i.e. the USA, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, China, and Japan) is examined in terms of economic and social indicators which seem to influence the mobility.

Method

As a theoretical framework, “life planning model” was selected after a careful review of existing models. This model assumes that restricting factors (cost, language, intention of family, visa, etc.) are considered first in international students’ choices of study destination and the other four factors (i.e. capacity development/utilization, better employment prospect, social environment, and others) are considered in the second round, depending on their priorities. It also assumes that the choice of study destination is often made by considering their future choice of workplace and is influenced by the policies and economic, institutional, and cultural factors of source and destination countries.

Based on this model, panel data (regression) analysis was conducted by setting the number of international students from six Asian countries (including China) to eight destination countries (including China) between 1999 and 2017 as objective variables. Explanatory variables are selected from the indicators which represent the assumptions in the life planning model.

Findings

As the result of the analysis, the ratio of per capita GDP of the destination country relative to that of the source country (income gap) shows a negative correlation with student mobility at the 1 % level, which supports the hypothesis that a decrease in budgetary constraints promotes study abroad. This finding is contrary to the assumption of the traditional push-and-pull model in which income gap is a driving force for student mobility.

Bilateral trade between source and destination countries shows a positive correlation with student mobility at the 1 % level, which also supports the hypothesis of the life planning model that prospects of employment, associated with economic connectedness, promote study abroad.

Youth unemployment in source countries has a positive correlation with student mobility at the 10% level, which is in agreement with the hypotheses in both the life planning model and the push-pull model.

Tuition fees at destination country show a positive correlation with student mobility at the 1% level, contrary to the assumption of the life planning model.

As the result of the analysis of student mobility from the six Asian countries to four English-speaking countries and four non-English-speaking countries, a higher fitness of the model is observed in the analysis of student mobility to English-speaking countries.

Discussion

The analytical result supports the hypothesis of the life planning model that the decrease of budgetary constraints plays a critical role in the decision to study abroad. This may be explained by the expansion of middle-class population who are eager to send their children abroad whenever the budgetary constraint is lifted.

Bilateral trade shows a positive correlation, which also supports the hypothesis that prospect of employment, associated with economic connectedness, promotes study abroad.

The reason why tuition fees in the destination country show a positive correlation with student mobility may be explained by the Chivas Regal Effect that higher price is perceived as evidence of a quality brand (Askin & Bothner 2016), implying the aspiration of the Asian households who hope to let their children have a better international education.

Although this study could not capture the factors that do not appear in macro-level data, the result reveals an important fact that the expansion of international education has been sustained by the aspiration for better education and employment of the emerging middle-class families in Asia. It is necessary to examine if a similar tendency is observed in international students from other parts of the world.

References

Askin, N., and M. S. Bothner. 2016. “Status-Aspirational Pricing: The ‘‘Chivas Regal’’ Strategy in U.S. Higher Education, 2006–2012.” Administrative Science Quarterly XX: 1–37. doi: 10.1177/0001839216629671.

Barnett, G. A., M. Lee, K. Jiang, and H. W. Park. 2016. “The flow of international students from a macro perspective: a network analysis.” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 46 (4): 533–559. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2015.1015965.

Beine, M., R., Noël, and L. Ragot. 2014. “Determinants of the international mobility of students.” Economics of Education Review 41: 40–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2014.03.003.

Rounsaville C. A. 2012. “Where should I study? International students’ perceptions of higher education in the UK, Ireland, and the U.S.” PhD diss., University of Nottingham.

Wei, H. 2013. “An empirical study on the determinants of international student mobility: A global perspective.” Higher Education 66 (1): 105–122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9593-5.

Yang, P. 2020. “China in the global field of international student mobility: an analysis of economic, human and symbolic capitals.” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. doi: 10.1080/03057925.2020.1764334.

Author Bio

Dr. Yuriko Sato is an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. She has been engaged in the study of international students for twenty years and is one of the most prominent scholars in this field in Japan. Her research fields cover International Student Policy, International Education, and Development Economics reflecting her experience of working for Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) before joining her current workplace. She was awarded Best Paper Prize of Japan Association of International Student Education in 2013 and the Best Paper Prize & the Best Presentation Prize at the 1st Asia Future Conference. She also received the Best Teacher Award of her university in 2007 and 2013. She can be contacted via email: sato.y.ad@m.titech.ac.jp.

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