TOKYO -- The number of students studying at institutions of higher education abroad has doubled over the past 12 years to top 4 million, according to Unesco.
While students from Asian emerging economies, such as China, India and Vietnam, have increased noticeably, these countries have reinforced their presence as destinations for internationally mobile students on the back of their economic growth, hosting extension campuses of top-notch universities overseas.
Data compiled by the Unesco Institute for Statistics shows that approximately 4,009,300 students went abroad to study in 2012, up 97% from 2000. The data covers students studying at overseas universities, graduate schools and junior colleges for a year or more to receive degrees but exclude those studying under exchange programs.
The increase in internationally mobile students will continue, said Chiao-Ling Chien, the institute's researcher and data analyst. The number of students studying abroad will exceed 5 million in 2016 if the pace of growth over the past five years, averaging 5.7% per year, is maintained.
Emerging economies have been reinforcing their attraction as destination countries. While traditional destination countries -- the U.S., Britain, Germany, France and Australia -- hosted 47% of all students studying abroad in 2012, down from 55% in 2000, the ratio for Brazil, Russia, India and China, collectively known as the BRICs, stood at 9%, close to 11% for Britain, the second-ranked destination country.
Japan was the seventh-ranked host country at 4% in 2012, with the number of foreign students increasing 2.5 times from 2000 to 150,000.
The number of foreign students studying in emerging economies is increasing as the countries are upgrading higher education programs and promoting academic exchanges.
In addition, advanced nations are trying to reinforce their ties with emerging economies. For example, the Australian government has launched a "New Colombo Plan" to increase Australian students studying in Asian nations, providing support for those who go to Indonesia and Singapore to study.
China is the biggest country of origin for mobile students. More than 694,000 students went abroad from China in 2012, spelling a steep increase from 140,000 in 2000. One of every six students studying overseas is Chinese.
The number of students pursing studies abroad also increased from 62,000 to 189,000 for India, from 71,000 to 123,000 for South Korea and 9,000 to 53,000 for Vietnam.
For Japan, however, the number decreased sharply to 33,000 from 59,000, reflecting an inward-looking mindset among young Japanese.