Jan 1, 2016 at 12:00am ET By Elizabeth Koprowski

It's been a great year for international students with lots of exciting developments. But with all the breaking news on education partnerships, new travel and immigration regulations, increased student mobility, and funding initiatives, it can be hard to keep track of everything. Never fear! We've compiled all of the year's biggest news into one handy review so that you can take a look back or catch up on stories you may have missed.

 1. International Student Numbers Rose Everywhere!

The figures are in, and international student mobility is up! In 2015 countries and institutions around the world reported growing and record numbers of international student enrollment. Many countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, and Turkey have been working to increase their international student numbers and given the success of various initiatives, the trend in international student mobility looks likely to continue to the end of the decade. In 2015 international education became Australia's fourth largest export, and the Australian government is working to continue growth in the sector. In the Netherlands, international student enrollment was lagging behind the European average, but in 2015 the country saw rapid growth and now international students account for up to 62% of student populations in some Dutch institutions. The US has long been a leader in attracting international students, but in 2015, the study-abroad powerhouse saw an impressive 10% increase in enrollment, with a huge jump in STEM field enrollment.

 2. Countries Around the World Developed Partnerships

Growing numbers of international students show that programs designed to increase overseas student mobility are successful, and more and more countries are working to develop initiatives that draw students to their institutions and encourage mutually beneficial cooperation. 2015 saw a jump in collaboration between East and West, with the UK and China, the UK and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, and India and Australia all announcing cooperative plans to increase student mobility, simplify application and credit transfers, and open borders for education and post-graduate employment. All of the partnerships were based on the understanding that by working together to educate students, countries can grow their economies and support innovation.

 3. Ireland Instituted a New Reform Program

University systems around the world have been struggling during the economic crisis of the last decade, but countries like Ireland are working to improve standards and remain top destinations for international students. In July, Ireland announced the new reforms aimed at simplifying application processes for international students and making it easier for students from abroad to live and work while they study at Ireland's well-respected institutions. The Irish government planned to implement the changes this past autumn, so we'll have to wait and see how they affect the international student experience in the Emerald Isle. Ireland's initiative mirrors that of several other countries that are working to open borders to international education and help overseas students pursue advanced studies in an increasingly challenging economic climate.

 4. Obama Wants to Make Community College Free

Speaking of helping students financially, the American President Barak Obama wants to make higher education more accessible to American and international students. Earlier this year, Obama announced his intention to make community college universally free to students with GPAs above 2.5. The plan, if implemented, could cost the US $60billion in the next decade, but the President's plan proposes dividing the cost between State and Federal coffers. Universal higher education exists in many countries, and in the US similar programs operate on a small-scale within individual states or communities, but it remains to be seen whether Obama's initiative will have support from US law-makers in the Senate and Congress. 

 5. Erasmus+ Got More Money and a Wider Scope

The Erasmus program is one of the world's biggest players in international student mobility, and in 2014, the program announced the establishment of Erasmus+, which would incorporate all of the existing EU student mobility programs. The new program was a major success with record numbers of applicants and in 2015 Erasmus+ committed an additional €15 for the next funding cycle. Erasmus+ grants help to foster mobility and inclusiveness for students from around the world, and the next cycle of applications will focus on grants for under-represented areas. The new program was wildly successful, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from applicants.

Well, that's your 2015 Study Abroad Year in Review! Let's ring in the New Year with hope that 2016

Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA.

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