International students in USA at a new high

November 11, 2013

The total number of international students at universities and colleges in the US increased by seven per cent to an all-time high of 819,644 in the 2012/13 academic year, according to the newly released Open Doors data.

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The Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, conducted annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE), recorded a seventh consecutive year of growth, with 55,000 more international students than in the previous year. The number of new international student first-time enrolments in 2012/13 increased by 9.8 per cent to 250,920, suggesting the growth is likely to continue.

The increase was driven to a large extent by strong growth from China, particularly at undergraduate level, and from government-funded scholarships including Brazil’s Science Without Borders scheme and the King Abdullah Scholarship Program in Saudi Arabia.

By some distance the largest source market, total student enrolments from China grew by 21.4 per cent to 235,597, with a 26 per cent rise at undergraduate level. Saudi Arabia – the fourth largest sender country – increased by 30.5 per cent while Brazil rose 20.4 per cent. There were also substantial rises from Iran (25.2) and Kuwait (37.4).

IIE President Dr Allan E. Goodman said, “International students coming to study in the US benefit from access to some of the finest professors and research laboratories in the world, and Americans benefit substantially from the presence of international students who bring their own unique perspectives and knowledge to the classroom and the wider community.”

While 16 of the top 25 source countries increased their number of students, there were declines from second-placed India (down by 3.5 per cent) and third-placed Korea (2.3). The Indian fall is in contrast to the recently reported sudden increase in graduate-level admissions from this market in the US, which indicates the drop may be reversed next year. Within the top ten, there were also declines from Taiwan, Japan and Turkey.

In terms of destinations within the US, there were increases in the number of international students at all the top 20 host institutions and all of the top ten host states. The University of Southern California had the highest number of international students (9,840) for the 12th year, while the state of California increased its overseas student population by 8.4 per cent to 111,379, remaining comfortably the largest.

The Open Doors data also examines outbound study abroad trends, and a three per cent increase to 283,332 US students studying abroad for academic credit in the 2011/12 academic year represents a record high. The UK remained the most popular destination and grew by 4.5 per cent, but there were large rises in students heading to Japan (27.8 per cent), a recovery following the post-tsunami dip, Brazil (16.5) and Ecuador (15).

“International education promotes the relationship building and knowledge exchange between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are necessary to solve global challenges,” said Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, who was set to present a briefing at Washington D.C. on the Open Doors findings.

“The connections made during international education experiences last a lifetime. International students enrich classrooms, campuses and communities in ways that endure long after students return to their home countries. We encourage US schools to continue to welcome more international students to their campuses and to do more to make study abroad a reality for all of their students,” he added.

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