Project Atlas® is a global research initiative that disseminates comparable student mobility data, conducts studies on academic migration and the internationalization of higher education, and provides customized workshops and research to strengthen data collection systems around the world. Our work sheds light on the national, regional, and international dynamics of student mobility, and how the phenomenon and the underlying definitions evolve over time.

The Project Atlas network:

With over 30 international partners, Project Atlas is a unique and growing network of leading academic mobility research and government institutes worldwide. Our country partners typically include agencies that are able to share their country’s data on student mobility, while also being engaged in broader issues of internationalization. Our research affiliates include centers and organizations that play a key role in internationalization issues pertaining to their country (while not necessarily sharing data), as well as those that have a multi-region or global outlook on student mobility. For more information about our network and to apply for membership please see the Partners and Membership page. 

How Project Atlas started:

The foundations for Project Atlas were established in May 2001 at a meeting in France that was attended by representatives from key national bodies and non-governmental organizations involved in international educational exchanges and mobility who were interested in developing an effective approach to a common data set for global mobility. Representatives from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), agencies that are mandated to collect global mobility data, also participated. By creating a shared framework for measuring and understanding international mobility, the goal was to highlight the truly global aspects of higher education, make apparent the emerging world higher education economy, and establish a conversational space for those concerned with global education mobility issues. Project Atlas is dedicated to understanding and tracking the unprecedented growth of international student flows worldwide.

Project Atlas was born with funding from the Ford Foundation and is currently supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State, IIE, and our country partners.


FAQs

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Q: Who is responsible for Project Atlas?

A: Project Atlas is a partnership of public and private national level higher education data collection agencies, with the Institute of International Education serving as its secretariat. The project was launched in 2001 with generous support from the Ford Foundation and is currently supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and its partners.

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Q: Who are the current Project Atlas partners?

A: Project Atlas is a network of leading academic mobility research and government institutes worldwide. Our country partners typically include agencies that are able to share their country’s data on student mobility and who are also engaged in higher education internationalization. Our research affiliates include centers and organizations that play a key role in internationalization issues pertaining to their country (while not necessarily sharing data), as well as those that have a multi-region or global outlook on student mobility.

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Q: How does Project Atlas define and count international students?

A: Project Atlas defines international students as:

Students who undertake all or part of their higher education experience in a country other than their home country or who travel across a national boundary to a country other than their home country to undertake all or part of their higher education experience.

Our glossary provides a complete set of international student definitions and related terms, by country partner. Partners provide annual counts of inbound and outbound international students that fit within the Project Atlas definition.

Note that Project Atlas publishes data on student mobility at the tertiary level and does not report on international primary and secondary school populations or scholars – a group which includes, but is not limited to, visiting professors, postdoctoral researchers, and fellows. 

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Q: Where can I find more information or other types of mobility data?

A: Project Atlas provides data which can be viewed on our country pages and in infographics. Additional sources of student mobility are the UIS website and Education GPS - OECD, as well as many individual country's data websites (such as the Open Doors website for the United States). Please also see our Toolkit for more sources of information on academic mobility. For suggestions or comments on other types of data you would like to see, please e-mail us.

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Q: What publications are available from Project Atlas?

A: Our website is the most frequently updated source of Project Atlas data and statistics. Project Atlas’ book, Student Mobility and the Internationalization of Higher Education: National Policies and Strategies from Six World Regions (2011), is available for purchase at IIE Books. Reports that draw upon Project Atlas data and country partner insights are available at no cost on IIE’s publications page and on our Research Special Reports and Analyses page.

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Q: Why is the number of international students published by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) different from the number published by Project Atlas?

A: The difference in numbers published by UIS and Project Atlas is due to the differences in definitions and coverage for international student data.

Data reported by the UIS on internationally mobile students cover only students who pursue higher education degrees outside their country of origin (so called “degree mobility”) and exclude students who are under short-term for-credit study and exchange programs that last less than a full academic year (so called “credit mobility”). Project Atlas data cover both degree mobility and credit mobility in tertiary education. 

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Q: Why are some international student numbers published by Project Atlas the same as those published by UIS or a source outside of the Project Atlas network?

A: There are instances when we will publish data from UIS or a source outside of our network when it is not otherwise available and when it is necessary to provide a more complete picture of mobility during a reporting year. References for numbers sourced from UIS or entities outside of our network are cited on downloadable data sets located on each country page.

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Q: Why does data appear incorrect for a particular reporting year or outdated on a country page?

A: To the extent possible, we include the most current and complete data provided by our Project Atlas partners according to their respective data collection and reporting cycles. A common reason why there may be variance between Project Atlas totals and mobility numbers published elsewhere is that enrollments may be recalculated at different points during or after an academic year. Therefore, it is possible that numbers for a reporting year might be recalculated by a partner entity after the Project Atlas annual data collection cycle. If you are aware of errors in the data or would like to let us know about a source of data more current than what is shown on our website, please contact us.

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Q: My organization collects student mobility data and is interested in joining Project Atlas. Are you accepting new partners?

A:  Applications are welcome from academic mobility research and government institutes, particularly from countries that are not yet represented in the network. See our Partners and Membership page for more information. 

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Q: Where can I go for answers to questions that I don’t see here?

A: Please contact us, and we will respond as soon as possible.

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