Inequality is a word that has recently dominated public discourse, mainly with regard to its economic meaning of income and wealth inequality, but also in terms of social and educational inequality. Many researchers and organisations around the world have addressed the subject of inequality, and its reduction within and among countries is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 10).
Education and higher education in particular have long been considered a means to reduce social and economic inequality. Higher education enables individuals to gain knowledge, skills and competences that allow them to access better paid jobs and positions that are higher up the social ladder.
What do the results of the 5th Global Survey on Internationalization of Higher Education, an online survey conducted by the International Association of Universities (IAU) in 2018, which received replies from 907 higher education institutions from 126 countries around the world, tell us about this topic?
Internationalisation and inequality
Inequality is difficult to measure; data is scarce, difficult to interpret and the subject is sensitive. Sometimes interpretations of data trends are based more on political convictions than on objective analysis.
This is particularly true when analysing the effects of globalisation on inequality, with some researchers pointing out that globalisation has helped reduce inequality in the world (especially between countries), while others claim it has helped increase inequalities in the world (especially within countries); still others argue that the impact of globalisation on inequalities is negligible.

Internationalisation of higher education can be seen as both a reaction to and an active participation by higher education institutions in the changes brought about by globalisation.

Statistics show that internationalisation of higher education in its narrow form of student mobility is highly unequal, for two reasons:

  • Only about 2% of the world student population can benefit from a period of study abroad.
  • The global flux of mobile students is highly unbalanced, with clearly identifiable sending and receiving countries and therefore a transfer of skilled human capital from some countries to others.

Read more : Giorgio Marinoni and Hans De Wit : University World News : 11 January 2019