OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011
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branch 3. Connecting to Knowledge
  branch 5. International mobility

Higher education and research systems have become more internationalised over the past decades. The internatio-nalisation of higher education can be gauged by the international mobility of students and that of research systems by internationally mobile holders of doctorates. During their studies and afterwards, the latter contribute to the advancement of research in the host country. When returning home, they bring back new competences and connections with international research networks.

International students primarily study social sciences, business and law. Only in Sweden, Finland, Germany and the United States do science and engineering (S&E) programmes attract more than one-third of all international students. In 16 out of 28 economies, the share of international and foreign students enrolled in science and engineering surpasses that of national students. This -pattern is more pronounced at the doctoral level.

International mobility has involved an average of around 14% of doctorate holders over the past ten years. Although the United States stands as the first destination, intra-European flows, especially towards France, Germany and the United Kingdom, dominate in Europe. While outward mobility seems mainly academic or job-related, personal and family reasons are more prominent in decisions to return home.


International students are students who have crossed borders expressly with the intention to study. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the OECD and Eurostat define as international students those who are not -residents of their country of study or those who received their prior education in another country. When data on international students are not available, data on foreign students are used. Foreign students are defined according to their citizenship. The fields of education correspond to those defined in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-97). A doctorate holder has received an advanced research qualification at Level 6 of ISCED-97. He/she is considered as internationally mobile if he/she has since moved to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least 3 months, except when the move was for recreation, holiday, visits to friends and relatives, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage.



The measurement of international mobility poses a real challenge to statisticians, mainly because of the difficulty of tracking a moving target. International mobility is often approximated by measures of stocks (e.g. foreign citizens or foreign-born) and not of flows (move to another country). A further complication is the difficulty of differentiating temporary mobility from migration. The OECD has made good progress in developing better statistics on international mobility and migration, notably of international students and other categories, using the results of the 2000 worldwide cycle of censuses. The Careers of Doctorate Holders (CDH) project has developed a new means of capturing mobility through the use of a new definition of internationally mobile doctorate holders and a series of questions on the national origin, the list of countries in which doctorate holders have studied, worked or carried out research and the reasons for mobility.

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

International and foreign students enrolled in tertiary education, 2009 Figure in Excel
International and foreign students enrolled in tertiary education, 2009
International mobility of doctorate holders, by last destination, 2009 Figure in Excel
International mobility of doctorate holders, by last destination, 2009

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