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Drastic fall on international scholars in US

A total of 85,538 international scholars went to study the United States in 2021, according to new data from IIE’s Open Doors.

Harvard hosted the most international scholars, with over 3,000 attending. Photo: Pexels

"It’s not hard to figure out that 2020/21 number suffered because of the pandemic"

The places of origin data showed that Asia brought by far the biggest percentage of international scholars this year, with 31% – 26,254 – coming from China, and a further 15% at 12,714 coming from India.

The number is over a 30% fall in figures from the 2019/20 data when there were 123,508 international scholars across the US. The number dropped below 100,000 in 2021 for the first time since the 2006/7 academic year.

Numbers coming from China show an almost 40% fall coming to the US, with the biggest percentage fall in students by country coming from Germany – fewer than 2,500 scholars travelled to the US, a 42% fall on the previous year.

The 12,714 coming from India was a 5.9% drop on the previous year. South Korea, which was third most common place of origin accounting for 5.8% of all international scholars, fell by 29.7% to 4,928, followed by Canada (-12.2%) to 3,863 and Brazil (-39.5%) to 2,584.

In terms of function, international scholars overwhelmingly conducted research in the US, with 77% coming for that purpose, while 9% came from teaching, and 7% for a combination of the two.

Once again overwhelming is the figures regarding the fields of specialty – 81% of international scholars focused their academic activities in STEM fields, including engineering and life sciences.

“It’s not hard to figure out that 2020/21 number suffered because of the pandemic – international travel overall plummeted,” Laura Kosloff, head of The Exchange Mom, told The PIE News.

“Even 2021/22 so far has been lower than what we would like to consider a normal year – many high schools at least in the US declined to have students this year even if the students could travel.

“It’s similar for college level study abroad programs – some began to come back this year, many did not,” Kosloff explained.

Nathan Camp from the Yale international affairs office tweeted at the news: “Kudos to the international scholars and the many people worked so hard to support their efforts and teach in the United States in the heart of the pandemic.”

He also added that he was happy to see Yale among the leading host universities.

Harvard University topped the list with over 3,000 international scholars – Columbia and Yale were the next most popular, with 2,272 and 2,100 scholars respectively.

“We need to bring numbers back up by boosting the confidence of schools at all levels for one thing,” said Kosloff.

“[We must] encourage them that these programs are worthwhile and that students want to come,” she added.

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