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“Ample room” for int’l students in the US

A new report from Studyportals has said there is "ample room" for international students in the US, with student interest in business and STEM subjects driving the largest growth.
May 16 2024
6 Min Read

Business & Management masters are the most sought-after programs of international students in the US, a new report by Studyportals has revealed. 

India has surpassed China to become the largest source country at US graduate level, according to the Recruiting for Key Disciplines in the US report.

As policies restricting international student inflows take hold in Canada, Australia and the UK, “there is ample room for the international student population to grow” in the US, it said.  

To maximise this capacity for growth, universities “could offer more scholarships and run targeted marketing campaigns in key regions to help with brand awareness of their unique offerings”.  

“They could also enhance hybrid program options to reach a broader audience, especially those unable to travel to the US due to visa challenges,” Studyportals CCO Steve Mulligan told The PIE.  

The data, based on the search behaviour of over 55 million students on Studyportals in the past 12 months, revealed the highest student interest from India, Bangladesh and Nigeria, though Chinese students are not well represented due to internet restrictions in their home country. 

The report measures interest in business & management, computer science and IT, engineering & technology, medicine & health, natural sciences & math, and social sciences – which make up 71% of demand from the top 20 origin countries for US degrees.  

Student interest in MAs is growing across all disciplines, with a notable interest in business & management US masters growing by over 20% in the last 12 months, compared to 2.7% globally. It is the third most popular discipline for those looking at bachelors degrees.  

The US is home to two out of the top three global business schools, with the University of Pennsylvania: Wharton and Columbia Business School ranked first and third in the Financial Times’ 2024 business school rankings 

“Some of this surge in interest can be attributed to the great work that many business schools in the US do to provide practical experience, industry exposure and networking opportunities for their student body. 

“Whether that be internships and externships, guest lectures, alumni networking or providing a direct pipeline to job opportunities within leading companies across multiple sectors. This can be very attractive to international students wanting to enhance their career prospects,” said Mulligan. 

The highest interest in business management came from Indonesia, closely followed by India, which showed a high interest in all key disciplines apart from social sciences – where Indian students showed the lowest interest of the top 20 source markets for the US.  

India has surpassed China as the largest source country of international students at graduate level, making up 35.5% of graduate enrolments compared to China’s 27% in 2022/23, according to Open Doors data. 

“Some of this surge in interest can be attributed to the great work that many business schools in the US do”

According to Mulligan, STEM and business programs have long attracted Indian students due to the high earning potentials of careers in these industries.  

In the US, STEM graduates have the opportunity to work for up to three years without sponsorship on STEM OPT, compared to one year for most other degrees.

Some non-traditional STEM degrees such as finance and marketing degrees are eligible for this designation, with the full list published by the department of home affairs.

With a few exceptions such as international relations and political science, Indian students showed less interest in social sciences, the report highlighted.  

At undergraduate level, India made up 9% of international student enrolments in 2022/23, with China accounting for 29% of the share.  

By looking at the intersection of source countries and discipline, the report is intended to help US universities diversify source countries to mitigate the risk of relying primarily on students from one study destination.  

“Institutions can partner with digital platforms like Studyportals to reach markets that they are unable to travel to or haven’t already established local representation”, said Mulligan.  

Out of all the key disciplines, the US share of global student interest was the highest for medicine & health (12.5%), with the most coming from Canada, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.  

The report points to well renowned medical schools such as Johns Hopkins, Harvard Medical School, and Mayo Clinic College of Medicine making the US an attractive country for studying medicine, particularly for students from countries with developing healthcare systems.  

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