Where do Asians study overseas? | campus.sg

by Lindsay Wong

Around Asia, many students choose to study overseas instead of their home countries. In fact, OECD reported that two thirds of Asian international students study in just five countries: the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Japan. With the exception of Japan, English-speaking countries remain as a popular study destination because of the economic benefits of being skilled in English.

Each country has a high volume of international students, of which Asians represent a huge proportion, and there are many reasons why Asians leave their home countries to study abroad.

Why study abroad?

Although studying abroad as an international student is expensive due to higher tuition fees and the need to find accommodation and fund basic necessities, students can gain a more holistic university experience and a global outlook. When studying overseas, students can meet a wide range of people from different backgrounds, enhance their language skills, and possibly be exposed to better employment prospects after graduating. 

Out of all the millions of international students in the world (at least 5 million as of 2016), more than half originally hail from Asia. The largest numbers of international students worldwide come from China, India and South Korea. 

Popular destinations to study abroad for Asians

The top overseas study destinations for Singaporeans are Australia, followed by the UK and the US. Australia has around 10,000 Singaporean students (as of 2018), while the UK has at least 8,000 (as of 2015) and the US has at least 5,000 (as of 2015).

New York City – London

The US and UK remain as the most popular destinations for Asian international students, accounting for 40% of the total number. American and British universities have always consistently topped lists of the best universities in the world. Each country’s education system is perceived as highly prestigious by the global market. However, in recent years, there has only been marginal growth in international enrolments partially because of the political climate in the US and UK. 

Melbourne – Vancouver

Australia ranks third in the top study-abroad destinations due to its reputation for safety and educational quality. In addition, the reputation for its laid-back lifestyle means that students have a fulfilling academic experience. Australia’s close proximity to Asia also provides a definitive advantage for international students.

Next in the list is Canada, which is deemed as a safe country while also offering attractive employment and permanent residency opportunities for international students after graduation. As of 2018, there are 870,000 international students enrolled in Australia, while Canada has at least 572,000 international students as of 2019. A large proportion of these students are Asian.


Japan – thanks in part to its cultural appeal – is the top fifth country for Asians to study abroad, with the number of international students growing substantially for five consecutive years. China and Vietnam are the biggest contributors to international student enrolment, with the top 10 source markets all being within the Asian region.

The Japanese government plans to accept large numbers of international students as part of a global strategy to make Japan more open to the rest of the world. It has supported subsidised internships, help with acquiring employment after graduation, implementing additional Japanese language courses, and providing more streamlined processes for work visas to international students. Currently, there are at least 300,000 international students in Japan.