International student flows from developing countries: do donors have an impact?


  • Lanati
  • M.
  • Thiele
  • R.

International student flows from emerging and developing countries have grown tremendously over the last decades. In this paper, we address the question of whether donors, who might care about the potential brain drain effects student emigration entails in the countries of origin, can affect the student outflows through their foreign aid activities. Employing standard gravity-type approaches of international migration, we separately analyse the impact of scholarships for students from developing countries, and of development projects in recipient countries aimed at improving the local quality of tertiary education. We find that these two types of post-secondary aid lead to opposite effects on student mobility. Investing in the quality of tertiary education in recipient countries appears to be associated with lower outflows of tertiary educated students to donor countries, which corroborates previous research showing that aid may reduce emigration from developing countries if it improves public services. The provision of in-donor scholarships obviously raises student mobility for the duration of the university education abroad, but our results suggest that the student inflows also translate into permanent immigration of highly educated people.

Experte IfW Kiel


JEL Classification
F22, F35, O15


  • Entwicklungshilfe
  • internationale Mobilität von Student:innen
  • permanente Immigration