Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education


International Education: 
The #1 Growth Market for Higher Education

January 26, 2024


In this 5:19 video, Paulo illustrates how the global market for international education addresses enrollment declines and fosters cultural exchange, idea sharing, research collaboration, and economic impact. International education offers a solution by attracting students through diversity and global opportunities.

From a podcast interview with Paulo Zagalo-Melo, Western Michigan University’s Associate Provost for Global Education, with 30 years of experience in international education.

“I'd love to see what other economic areas of activity grew by similar percentages (70%) within just one decade while the number of international students in the U.S. grew exponentially.”


In a recent conversation, Paulo Zagalo Melo highlighted the significant growth and impact of international education in higher education. He emphasized that international education represents the largest growth market, with a staggering increase in global international enrollment over the past decade. This growth brings economic benefits and fosters diversity, cultural exchange, and intellectual collaboration. In this article, we will delve into the key themes discussed by Paulo, exploring the growth of international education, its implications, and its potential impact on higher education.

The Growth of International Education

Paulo revealed that the number of international students studying outside their home countries has steadily increased.

He stated, "In 2022, 6.4 million students were studying outside their home countries."

This represents a remarkable growth of over 70% in global international enrollment within the past decade.

He added, "From 2000 to 2022, the number grew by four times the number of international students everywhere."

The growth of international education is not a recent phenomenon. Paulo highlighted that cultural and student exchanges have occurred since the 1950s, with programs like the Fulbright Program playing a pivotal role. However, the recent surge in international enrollment is unprecedented.

“I don't think there are many areas of economic activity that have experienced such growth in such a short time.”

The Impact of International Education

The impact of international education extends beyond economic benefits. Paulo emphasized the importance of diversity in higher education.

“All types of diversity: racial, ethnic, intellectual, cultural diversity have increased in our campuses.”

This diversity enriches the educational experience for students and prepares them for a globally interconnected world.

Furthermore, Paulo highlighted the significance of internationalized institutions in providing a global education to students who may never leave their hometown or home country.

He stated, "They can have a global education and exposure to a representation of the world, a real representation of world cultures that happens at their doorstep."

This exposure to different cultures and perspectives enhances students' understanding of the world and equips them with the skills to navigate a globalized society.

The Role of Diversity in Student Decision-Making

Diversity has become crucial in students' decision-making when choosing a higher education institution. After the cost of tuition and after the degrees that are being offered in the location, it's diversity. Students are increasingly seeking institutions that embrace diversity and provide an inclusive environment.

The growing importance of diversity in student decision-making has significant implications for higher education institutions. As enrollment is declining, institutions prioritizing diversity and creating a welcoming environment for students from diverse backgrounds are more likely to attract and retain students. This highlights the need for institutions to actively promote diversity and inclusion as part of their recruitment and retention strategies.


The growth of international education and the emphasis on diversity have far-reaching implications for higher education. Firstly, the economic impact cannot be overlooked. Paulo highlighted the exponential growth in international students, which brings substantial economic benefits to host countries. These students contribute to the local economy through tuition fees, accommodation, and other expenses. They often become ambassadors for their host countries, fostering international collaborations and trade relationships.

Secondly, the cultural and intellectual impact of international education is invaluable. As students from different countries and backgrounds come together, they bring a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives. This diversity stimulates intellectual growth, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and promotes innovation and creativity. The exchange of ideas and research between international and local students enhances the quality of education and prepares students for a globalized workforce.


The growth and impact of international education in higher education are undeniable. The surge in global international enrollment over the past decade has transformed campuses into vibrant, diverse communities. This growth brings economic benefits, fosters cultural exchange and intellectual collaboration, and prepares students for a globalized world.

Looking ahead, the future of international education seems promising. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the demand for global education will continue to rise. Higher education institutions must adapt to this changing landscape by embracing diversity, creating inclusive environments, and providing opportunities for international collaboration. By doing so, they can position themselves as leaders in the global education market and prepare students for success in an interconnected world.

International education represents the largest growth market in higher education. Its impact extends beyond economic benefits, encompassing diversity, cultural exchange, and intellectual collaboration. As enrollments decline, institutions prioritizing diversity and creating inclusive environments are more likely to attract and retain students. The growth of international education brings economic, cultural, and intellectual benefits, positioning higher education institutions for success in a globalized world.

To catch the full interview with Paulo, CLICK HERE.