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Chinese surge in USA: Open Doors latest

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the USA reached 723,277 in 2010-11, up by five per cent to its highest point ever, according to this year’s Open Doors report, published today by IIE. One of the most startling observations this year is that Chinese numbers were up 23.3% overall; with growth in the undergraduate sector up by an astonishing 43% year on year.

The report will cheer those who have warned that the US is under-performing as a study destination

Indians, the second biggest group, were 1% down year on year at 103,895, compared with the number of Chinese at nearly 158,000; nevertheless, Indians represent 14.4% of all international students in the US and along with China, dominate international student trends. With South Korea next in line, responsible for 10 per cent of the international population now (up two per cent), these three countries alone make up 46 per cent of international enrolments.

"Positive news": Allan Goodman, President of IIE

There was significant growth reflected in the Intensive English language field of study; this sector grew by 24% and is the eighth most popular field of study, according to Open Doors, which surveys almost 3,000 institutions which host international students each year.

The biggest rate of growth overall came from Saudi Arabia, with numbers climbing 43.6% to 22,704, helped along by the extensive government scholarship programme. After the Chinese surge representing the second big growth story, the third country showing good growth was Iran, with numbers up from a much smaller base of 4,731 to 5,626 (18.9%). Vietnam and Venezuela also showed good growth of 13.5% and 10.8% respectively. Japan posted the most severe decline (-14.3%).

Overall, the data shows America’s rebound in recruitment is accelerating following the slowdown of the last decade. “Because of the excellence and diversity of our colleges and universities, more students worldwide are choosing to study in the United States,” commented Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State.

The report will cheer those who have warned in recent years that the US is under-performing as a study destination. Despite seeing growth in actual numbers, the country lost 5% of its share of the fast-growing international student market between 2000 and 2009 due to the restrictive border policies introduced after 9/11 and increased competition from emerging study destinations – a trend observers say is reversing.

China, India and South Korea alone make up 46 per cent of international enrolments

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council of Higher Education, which released a report last week urging US universities to embrace internationalisation to remain competitive, said: “The increases… are an indication of a focus on internationalisation on all sorts of campuses, which I am pleased to see. But our work is far from over in stepping up American higher education’s global engagement.”

It should be noted that the data for schools that do not respond in the survey is estimated based on adjusting the enrollment figures from previous years. However, said an IIE spokesperson, “We also, compare our data to data from the federally-mandated SEVIS system to ensure that it is accurate and complete.”

The Open Doors report also found New York and California were the most popular hosting states as in 2009/10, and that Business and Management and Engineering were the two most popular subjects taken. The annual survey also charts outbound student trends and US numbers studying abroad also increased from 260,327 to 270,604 last year, with the biggest share going to the UK followed by Italy and Spain.

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