Seoul top source city for USA

15, September, 2014

The Korean capital of Seoul provides more students for the USA than any other city, according to a recently released analysis of student visa data, by the Global Cities Initiative, which also urges metropolitan areas to do more to retain international students after graduation.

Source: Brookings and JP Morgan Chase, The Geography of Foreign Students in US Higher Education

The Geography of Foreign Students in US Higher Education, a joint research project by Brookings and JP Morgan Chase, analyses government student visa data between 2001 and 2012, and reports the number of international students on F-1 student visas increased almost five-fold over that period from 110,000 to 524,000.

Between 2008 and 2012, Seoul provided 56,503 F-1 students – 4.9 per cent of the total from this period – followed by the Chinese cities of Beijing (49,946) and Shanghai (29,145). The highest growth city in the five-year period was Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at 360 per cent.

The authors found that 94 cities worldwide accounted for more than half (51 per cent) of F-1 visa students in this period. Approximately 3,700 schools received F-1 students, but the top 100 host schools accounted for 46 per cent of all international students.

The report found that international students are heavily concentrated in the large metropolitan areas, with 118 metro areas accounting for 85 per cent of F-1 approvals between 2008 and 2012. The New York-Newark-Edison metropolitan area had the largest number of F-1 students with 101,586 students, followed by the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area with 68,271 students.

During the five-year period analysed, around a third of international students opted to take the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme, allowing them to work for 12-27 months in a field related to study after graduation, and 45 per cent of students undertaking OPT remained in the metropolitan area of their university. The New York-Newark-Edison area had the highest retention rate at 75.3 per cent.

Current national restrictions in retaining international graduates, such as the limit on H-1B visas and country-specific visa caps are highlighted, but the report argues that metropolitan leaders should leverage the connections international students could provide with their home communities, and should also retain talent by connecting international graduates to local employers.

“More metropolitan leaders should emulate leading practices that capitalise on the knowledge and relationships of foreign students to strengthen local economies while also maximising students’ educational and professional experiences in the United States,” the report says.

The report noted that international students are more likely to study in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and could play a critical role in filling STEM occupational needs in metro economies.

Indian students were the most likely to undertake STEM programmes, with Hyderabad providing more students in these fields than any other (20,840) and Vijayawada having the highest STEM ratio – 85.6 per cent of F-1 students from the city studied STEM courses.

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