Although the growth in the total number Pakistanis studying abroad has slowed since the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 in the United States, the world's sixth most populous nation continues to be among the leading sources of foreign students in America, Europe, Australia and new emerging higher education destinations in Asia.
As the number of Pakistani students in the United States has declined from a peak of 8,644 students (ranked 13th) in 2001-02 to 5,222 in 2009-10 (ranked 23rd), English-speaking OECD nations of the United Kingdom and Australia have become the biggest beneficiaries getting increasing market share of the Pakistan education market. Both nations have benefited in spite of the fact that the UK and Australian visa rejection rates for Pakistanis are higher than for students from other nations.
A recent British Council report says that 9,815 Pakistani students (Source: HESA) put Pakistan among one of the top six countries which account for 54 percent of the UK’s (non-EU) international students. Since September 2001, it has become the market leader, a place previously held by the US. In addition to Canada in North America, several Northern European countries, including Sweden and Finland, have also become quite active in marketing their education in Pakistan. As a result, these nations are attracting thousands of Pakistani students to their universities.
There is also an upward trend in Pakistani students studying in Australia. 8,458 Pakistani students studied in Australia in 2009/2010, increase of 11/4% over 2008/2009 (Source: AEI).
The US is beginning to pick up more of the Pakistani education market share after a significant decline since 911, with its simplified visa procedures and increased marketing efforts, and the excellent scholarship opportunities that they have to offer Pakistani students. Pakistan now has the world's largest Fulbright Scholarship Program with over 200 scholarships offered to Pakistani students for advanced degrees in 2011.
Beyond the traditional destinations in OECD nations, newly industrialized countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are more visible in Pakistan and perceived as offering quality education at lower prices.
Pakistanis take education seriously. They spend more time in schools and colleges and graduate at a higher rates than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.
With rising urban middle class, there is substantial and growing demand in Pakistan from students, parents and employers for private quality higher education along with a willingness and capacity to pay relatively high tuition and fees, according to the findings of Austrade, an Australian govt agency promoting trade. Private institutions are seeking affiliations with universities abroad to ensure they offer information and training that is of international standards.
Trans-national education (TNE) is a growing market in Pakistan and recent data shows evidence of over 40 such programs running successfully in affiliation with British universities at undergraduate and graduate level, according to The British Council. Overall, the UK takes about 65 per cent of the TNE market in Pakistan.