Alongside the boom in numbers, the economic impact of international students’s spending increased 12% totalling $26.8 billion and supported some 340,000 jobs.
Up 17% on the previous year, Chinese students now number 274,439 and account for 31% of all international students in US higher education. The growth has been seen mostly in undergraduate programmes as figures released last week show that first time Chinese enrolments in graduate programmes have fallen for the first time in a decade.
“We’re also attracting those who no longer feel welcome in countries, for example, like the UK which has recently seen a drop in the numbers of Indian students”
Indian students are the second largest cohort in the country now totalling 102,673 students after a 6% rise– the first upturn after three consecutive years of decline. Researchers attribute the reversal to the Indian Rupee’s stabilisation against the US Dollar and stricter visa policies in competing destinations.
“I believe the quality of US higher education attracts Indian students but we’re also attracting those who no longer feel welcome in countries, for example like the UK which has recently seen a drop in the numbers of Indian students,” said Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation at IIE.
The overall 8% growth rate for the country was the highest in a decade and for the first time ever, four universities– New York University, University of Southern California, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, and Columbia University– are hosting more than 10,000 students.
As a recruitment market, MENA continues to heat up with numbers from the region increasing the most, 20%. Thanks to government funded scholarship programmes Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are among the fastest-growing origin countries as Saudi student numbers grew 21% to 53,919 and Kuwaiti figures jumped by 43% equating to 7,288 students.
As a recruitment market, MENA continues to heat up with numbers from the region increasing 20%
Brazil’s Scientific Mobility programme, now in its second year, is also beginning to make an impact with enrolments growing 22% to 13,286 students.
Commenting on the national scholarship programmes in the three countries, Bhandari said the influence goes beyond just funding overseas studies.
“The scholarships have an impact at all levels of education in motivating students to go study in another country,” she said. “The Brazil programme for example, is a programme primarily targeting undergraduate students but we’ve actually seen an impact at all academic levels.”
Elsewhere, figures from South Korea, the third largest origin country, continue to decline (-4%) as well as from Taiwan (-3%). The steep drop in Japanese students seen in recent years has levelled off with numbers falling only about 1% thanks mostly to national campaigns launched last year to promote international education in the country.
The report has been released to coincide with the 15th annual international education week and highlights the 72% rise in international students from 514,723 in 1999-2000
Compared with figures from 2000, in 2014 there are five times as many Chinese students, two and half times as many Indian students and ten times the number of Saudi students. Numbers from top senders Taiwan and Japan meanwhile dropped 59% and 27% respectively during the same period.
But despite dramatically increasing in the past 15 years, international students still represent just 4% of the 21 million students enrolled in US HEIs.
Meanwhile, US students studying abroad for credit increased by 2% to 289,408 students representing 1.5% of total domestic enrolments. The UK remains the most popular country of destination and there’s an upward trend to study abroad among students majoring in STEM subjects after increasing 9%.
“US engineering schools and science departments are really themselves pushing students to study abroad which didn’t used to be the case”
“The big difference we’ve seen over the past 15 years is that US engineering schools and science departments are really themselves pushing students to study abroad which didn’t used to be the case; it used to be students in the social sciences, students in the humanities and arts. ” commented Peggy Blumenthal, Senior Counselor to the President at IIE.
“But now I think there has been a real change among the academics themselves, the faculty members encouraging this and making possible this kind of short term study abroad within your academic degree.”
Earlier this year, IIE launched the Generation Study Abroad campaign to double the number of outbound US students by the end of the decade.
To date 450 partners have joined the initiative including 298 US colleges and universities from 48 states; 67 higher education institutions and organisations in other countries; 16 education associations; 56 organisations including study abroad, K-12, and social network agencies; and 13 US and foreign government entities.