Women on the Move: The Gender Dimensions of Academic Mobility


Women’s university enrollment rate globally today is twice as fast as that of men in the past four decades. The escalation can be attributed to improved equity and access, income potential and internationally-recognised programmes to narrow the gender gap at all levels of education. Women now constitute majority of the higher education students in 114 countries while men only outnumbered women in 57 countries.

Women’s participation in the global academic mobility has also been gradually growing. The percentile of women pursuing higher education overseas has increased from 44 percent in 1999 to 48 percent in 2012.

Some factors that drive women’s education mobility include:

  • Economic development of middle-income countries: Economic expansion particularly in Asia has been a compelling aspect in driving the outbound mobility of students from within the region, especially those from China and India. This large economic growth has increased the opportunity for women to continue their education both at home and abroad.
  • Better access to educational opportunities abroad: There has been an observed increased likelihood for women to seek quality or specialised training outside their home countries.
  • Changing cultural dynamics: Cultures which may not have traditionally educated large numbers of girls and women are now encouraging more women to enroll in higher education and are increasingly sending them abroad for their education.
  • Gender roles and women’s emancipation: A shift in culture is also associated with the increasing dependence and empowerment of women.

The increased presence of women in international education can also be attributed to the availability of targeted scholarship and fellowship programmes. Some of the programmes include the U.S. Department of State’s African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and TechWomen Program; the Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Program; the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Program, and the Maternal Health Young Champions Program.

These programmes not only benefit women and other underrepresented individuals in the attainment of a global higher education, but also set forth equal access to tertiary education in communities that may traditionally favor men, increase women’s self-efficacy, better their career opportunities. In addition, they introduce women to new academic field and environment that aid in inspiring them and build their self-confidence required in their pursue of professional growth.

Finally, governments are increasingly aware that to build knowledge economies and strengthen their national work force, they must provide women students with the training needed to contribute to national development along with their male counterparts.

Source: IIE

Wonder how women students play a significant role in today’s international student mobility and current fast-changing economy? Join us at the upcoming QSIC London seminar from 7-9 February 2018 as we immerse in in-depth discussions about University Rankings and International Migrant Scholars.