Virtual Student Mobility

Last update:04 May 2023

The number of internationally mobile students in higher education has grown dramatically from 0,3 million in 1963, to 2 million in 2000 and up to 6 million in 2019. However, this is just 2.6% of the total world student population.

During COVID-19, higher education institutions and schools were closed in 185 countries, affecting about 1.5 billion learners. However, the pandemic also showed how online teaching and learning innovations shifted the potential of international exchange.

In this project, UNESCO IESALC studied the effects of the pandemic on student mobility and looked ahead to the future prospects for mobility across regions. Specifically, the project examined the potential of virtual student mobility (VSM), studying how it can be used to promote quality education that is equitable and accessible, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Based on 14 case studies across 38 countries and 78 higher education institutions, UNESCO IESALC published the report Moving Minds: Opportunities and challenges for virtual student mobility in a post-pandemic world. Find out why the future of international mobility will combine physical and digital experiences to reach a wider range of students and watch the webinar launching the report.

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What is virtual student mobility?

Based on this project, UNESCO IESALC created the following definition:

“Virtual student mobility (VSM) is a form of mobility that uses information and communication technologies to facilitate cross-border and/or inter-institutional academic, cultural, and experiential exchanges and collaboration which may be credit-bearing or not for credit.”

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