An official of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has revealed that the number of students pursuing higher education abroad has quintupled in 35 years.
Cindy Fan, vice-provost of international studies at UCLA, said from 0.8mn in 1975, international students worldwide numbered 4mn in 2010. She was a resource speaker in one of the sessions at the Doha Forum, titled “Education and the Future of the Middle East: The UCLA model”.
Based on enrolment in 2009-2010, Fan said countries such as China surpassed the US in terms of the number of youths studying in various parts of the world. “Soon, India will also surpass the US. The landscape of skills is changing around the world,” she stressed.
Fan said youths who have studied abroad outperform those who have not, prompting many families to send their children to well-known schools in Europe, Japan and the US. These include UCLA, which has 40,000 students and 3,800 faculty members across 10 campuses.
The UCLA official said international students also get “global citizenship” in terms of literacy (knowledge of the world), problem-solving (the capacity to provide solutions) and humility (respect for different cultures).
Most of the students who study in the US come from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada, according to her report and at least 44% are women. Top destinations for international studies include the US, UK, Italy, Spain, France and China.
From 2.9bn today, the global labour force is projected to reach 3.5bn in 2030. But Fan said there would be a shortage of at least 40mn college-educated workers.
One of the participants suggested that education programmes should be executed jointly – a mechanism for co-operation – so that other countries could benefit.
Meanwhile, a participant rued that despite many students in his country wanting to study in the US, obtaining a visa was difficult for them.
In the same session, another UCLA official revealed how health issues affected the US economy and which might happen in Middle East and North Africa (Mena) as well. In her presentation, UCLA dean (Fielding School of Public Health) Jody Heymann noted that the country spends billions of dollars on treatment for cigarette smoking alone. Obesity and diabetes are two other issues - a growing concern in the Mena region - which causes complications leading to eye, kidney and cardiovascular diseases.
Heymann suggested simple solutions to stay healthy. She said a 10-minute exercise every morning could make a big difference.
UCLA chancellor Gene Block said the university had 100,000 applicants last Fall and offers 5,000 courses, 109 academic degrees and 130 undergraduate majors. It is also among the top five for research grant awards in the US.
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