By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine


We have a useful addition to the international student data landscape this week in the shape of a new report from the Institute for International Education (IIE) on secondary school-level enrolments in the USA.

IIE, which produces the annual Open Doors report on enrolments at higher education level, has started to examine how international students arrive at universities and colleges, and the Charting new pathways to higher education: International secondary students in the Unites States research reveals that the growth in diploma seeking international students (students on an F-1 student visa studying a course of one year or more leading to a high school diploma) has tripled over the last decade, far outstripping the more modest 15 per cent growth in exchange students at secondary schools in the same period.

Of 73,019 international students at secondary schools in October 2013, 48,632 were directly enrolled for a full-diploma. Pathway programmes at international study centres have been a clear area of growth within the study abroad industry over recent years, but this research shows that for many parents with the funds to afford it, sending their children overseas earlier is the most desirable route into university.

And ominously for competitors of the US in recruitment, international students in the secondary system represent only 0.5 per cent of the total number of students, signalling plenty of capacity for future growth.

However, the report did reveal one potential issue, driven by the demand from Asia and more specifically China: some 75 per cent of the diploma-seeking students come from Asia and almost half from China alone.

“The risk of enrolling too many students from the same region is that the international students may tend to associate more closely with their compatriots with whom they feel familiar and may be less likely to integrate fully with their American classmates, which would detract from the goal of cross-cultural learning for both international and domestic students,” says the report. For a number of reasons, secondary schools would benefit from seeking partnerships with agents in a range of markets.

The research was compiled from student visa data from the Department for Homeland Security and statistics from the National Center of Education, as well as interviews with professionals in the industry, but it would have been interesting to see some analysis of how these students were recruited by the schools, something that Study Travel Magazine analyses in its annual survey of secondary schools in the US. In our last survey half of the international students at the participating schools had been recruited through agents.

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