5 International Education Predictions for 2023

Last year, we learned so much about the factors that shape the world of international education. Chief among them was student choice. ApplyBoard’s 2023 Trends Report focused on the era of increasing competition and student decisions that our sector has moved into.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the future holds, there are a few key trends we’re looking to keep a close eye on here at ApplyBoard. This article is all about exploring those trends. Today, we’re stitching together our internal data, the latest government data, and external research to share our predictions for what 2023 will bring our way.

1. Healthcare is poised to become the next big field of study in international education

After the economic instability that most nations have endured over the past two years, students are getting more pragmatic with which fields of study they pursue.

Post-graduation work is paramount. So, we expect students to turn toward fields that need talent. In 2023, the fields that are hiring and have a stable long-term outlook are likely to garner the attention of international applicants.

All signs point toward that field of study being healthcare—the fastest-growing field of study on the ApplyBoard Platform from 2020 to 2022.

The catalyst of this surging interest is job vacancies. Here’s how healthcare and social assistance job markets have developed in our major destination markets in recent years:

Last year, Statistics Canada reported that the number of job vacancies for non-management healthcare roles was at a record high in 2022.

In the US, a 2021 Mercer report suggested that over 6.5 million people in the US will permanently leave their jobs in healthcare in the next five years, with only 1.9 million people expected to replace them.

The situation is no better in the UK. In fact, the NHS suggests that it was working with a shortage of nearly 100,000 staff before March 2020—and the pandemic has only worsened things.

In a recent ApplyInsights article, we unpacked what major destination markets are doing to fill their need for healthcare workers.

There’s a big opportunity here for international students to make a hugely positive difference in this industry and be the educated and trained professionals that health care needs right now.

The world’s major destination markets also have aging populations, meaning there will be an increase in the demand for healthcare over the next several years.

2. Countries with the most attractive post-graduation work offerings will attract more international students

It’s no secret that many international students leverage education as a vehicle to guide them to a better life. Education is a foundational building block of that journey, but students are looking beyond this point, toward potential work opportunities that await them after graduation.

Today’s international student wants to understand what the post-graduation job market will look like for them in their country of study. Before pursuing their top program, students need to know if a destination country’s post-graduation work programs can open up the right path for them.

Does my degree allow me to stay in the destination country and work following graduation? How long can I stay? Is there a pathway to permanent residency for me in this country after I finish my studies? These are some of the hard but necessary questions students are asking as they begin to plan their next move.

Here are some of the key changes made within each of the four major English-language destination markets that have created a more positive post-graduation working environment for students:
United Kingdom
The UK’s Graduate Route visa now gives students permission to stay in the UK for at least two years following graduation. Students have the option to switch over to the skilled worker visa to extend their employment in the UK once the graduate route expires, a strategy which could make them eligible for permanent residency.
United States
Last year, the Biden administration took steps to make Optional Practical Training (OPT) more accessible to international students by making 22 additional STEM sub-fields eligible for the two-year OPT extension. Look for this policy change to increase the number of students pursuing post-grad work in STEM fields across the US in 2023.
Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows international graduates to stay and work in Canada for eight months to three years, depending on the length of their study program. And good news for graduates: virtually every applicant to the program is approved. The PGWPP had a 98% approval rate in 2021.
In Australia, the Post-Study Work stream allows international students who graduated from an Australian institution to live, work, and study in Australia for two to four years, depending on their qualifications. Plus, the Australian government announced in September that graduates in select sectors will be eligible to stay an extra two years.

This change makes Australia’s post-graduation work program the most generous among the four main English-language destination markets, and may well push Australia ahead of its competitors when it comes to attracting international talent.

Look for these changes to be strong influences on student mobility in 2023, especially in the UK and Australia, where post-graduation work policies have taken a significant leap forward.

3. Non-UK destination markets will see a significant spike in EU students in 2023

Prior to Brexit, EU students paid domestic fees at UK universities and had access to the same financing options as British students. This access to affordable education drove interest across the entire EU. But in the three years since Brexit became official, interest from EU students has dwindled considerably.

The majority of UK universities have restructured their tuition rates, no longer offering the same discounts to EU students, incentivizing them to look elsewhere for international education.

Recent UCAS data shows a 47% drop in EU acceptances from 2020 to 2021.

In 2023, the majority of UK universities no longer maintain a financial competitive advantage in recruiting EU students. What figures to be a challenge for UK institutions presents an opportunity for those in other major destination markets.

We expect some of the fastest-growing international student populations in Australia, Canada, and the US this year to be from European countries. The US has already begun to experience the inception of this trend, as four of the top five countries ranked by increase in enrollment in the 2021/22 academic year were European countries.

We’ll be watching Australia and Canada closely throughout 2023, looking for spikes in applications from European students. Look for Germany, Spain, France, and Italy to be mainstays in the fastest-growing source country rankings across all major destination markets outside of the UK.

4. In 2023, India will overtake China in all major destination markets

Any conversation about international student populations begins with China and India. For the past two decades, both these countries have dominated as the leading countries of origin for international students.

However, as we’ve seen in many other major destination markets, the number of Indian students pursuing international education is rising and Chinese enrollment is decreasing.

This is partly due to the Chinese government’s efforts to develop its post-secondary education systems and institutions, transitioning China from a top country of origin to a destination market of its own.

In Canada, India overtook China as the number one international student population back in 2017. Last year marked the first year ever that the UK approved more Indian students for student visas than Chinese students. However, in the US, China, while decreasing in enrollment growth, has held onto its number one spot since 2010.

In 2023, we expect India to overtake China as the largest international student population in the US, joining Canada and the UK.1

As the Chinese government works to develop its own education ecosystem while Indian applications are at an all-time high, we project that the impending gap between these two giants will widen in the coming years.

5. Universities will have more opportunities to enroll students from certain countries following China’s decline

As destination markets around the world begin to see a decline in Chinese applications, it raises the question, which institutions will be most affected by this change?

Through September 2022, 30.8% of all Canadian student visas were issued at the university level.2 Over 36% of US student visas were issued at the undergraduate level in 2022, while just under half of UK student visas were granted at the same level.

Moving forward, universities will need to build a bigger foothold in other markets where students gravitate towards university. In Canada, some of those markets include Nigeria, Algeria, and Iran:

As universities look to fill the void left by the dip in Chinese applications, look for recruitment efforts to ramp up in bigger, high-growth markets where university is the main consideration for prospective international students.

We expect the number of university students from Nigeria, Algeria and Iran to rise swiftly over the next 24 months.

Upcoming ApplyInsights Content

In 2023, we’ll be covering all of the ingredients that go into creating these trends in much more detail. Here are a few of the topics we’re going to explore during the next few weeks at ApplyInsights:

  • HESA Data Release Breakdown
  • Most Popular Fields of Study on the ApplyBoard Platform, by Destination & Job Market
  • US Embassy Wait Times
  • How International Students Fuel Destination Economies

We’re also going to be unpacking a few of our top insights in bite-sized videos this year, to help you digest the trends of international education in a brand new format.

Subscribe to ApplyBoard’s LinkedIn and YouTube channels for all the latest video content in 2023.

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About the ApplyInsights Team

Led by ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CEO Meti Basiri, the ApplyInsights Team analyzes the latest government, third-party, and ApplyBoard internal data, to provide a complete picture of trends in the international education industry. They also work with industry experts and ApplyBoard team members to gather local insights across key source and destination countries, where ApplyBoard has helped more than 500,000 students around the world.



1. Largest international student population is defined by the number of new visas issued during the calendar year.

2. The terms student visa and study permit are generally used interchangeably for Canadian international students. Rather than student visas, Canada provides accepted international students with study permits, which allow those students to enroll in classes at Canadian institutions. When a student is accepted for a study permit, they are also usually provided with a visitor visa, which allows that student to enter Canada for their studies. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the terms interchangeably.


The most important stories in international education, backed by data