Over the last decade, the number of students traveling to another country in pursuit of higher education increased from 2.1 million students in 2000 to over 4.1 million students globally in 2013 (UNESCO, 2016). Globalization has been a key driving force that has impacted and spurred student mobility. Although the rapid growth of mobility is relatively recent, the desire to acquire a higher education beyond national borders is itself not new; students and scholars have always sought learning opportunities around the world as a way to broaden their educational and cultural horizons. What has changed, however, is the overall context of global mobility, both in terms of who is going where, the mix of host and sending countries and the various social and economic factors that motivate students to pursue educational outside of their home country.
As the number of international students increases, so too will the complexity in their mobility patterns. Project Atlas® follows the worldwide migration trends of millions of international students and provides a global picture of international student mobility for major sending and host countries. Project Atlas is a unique global community of national agencies, country representatives and academic mobility researchers from around the world. The goal of Project Atlas is to collect and report accurate, timely and comprehensive data on global student mobility and to address the need for sharing harmonized and current data. This data is published on the Project's associated website—the Atlas of Student Mobility—which features country-level data as well as analysis of global trends.
As with any data collection effort, there are limitations. Even though many countries have national data collection organizations, the resulting data vary widely from country to country in timeliness, data definitions and scope. This is the gap in the mobility field that Project Atlas fills. Data reported for Project Atlas is based on the following definition of international higher education students:
Students who undertake all or part of their higher education experience in a country other than their home country OR students who travel across a national boundary to a country other than their home country to undertake all or part of their higher education experience.
Each country profile page documents country definitions related to the national data collection efforts used by each data source as well as the website of the data source and background information. Some data indicators, including worldwide estimated international student population are attributed to OECD's Education at a Glance or UNESCO's annual Global Education Digest.
The Project Atlas team also conducts workshops to strengthen the capacity of higher education institutions and national agencies to design and implement a system for collecting and disseminating student mobility data. Project Atlas partners meet annually and work year round on research projects around areas of mutual interest.
Project Atlas was launched in 2001 with support from the Ford Foundation and is now supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State.
If you have questions about Project Atlas, please see our frequently asked questions (FAQs) page or email us.