IIE’s head of research, evaluation and learning Mirka Martel presented the findings that 89% of the 527 institutions surveyed had rising or levelling application rates for international admissions for the next academic year.
“From doctoral universities to associate’s colleges, we did see that those applications were either increasing or staying the same,” she said.
The amount of institutions actively seeing increases in applications stood at 61%, while 28% said that their application numbers had stayed the same.
However, the big headline for inbound data was that of the absolute dominance of India in both undergraduate and graduate programs across the US.
In terms of international student recruitment priorities in undergraduate programs, 57% of institutions called India a priority – the most of any nationality – and even more so with graduate programs, with 77% saying the same about India.
“We see that numbers from India are strong and [they] will continue to be quite strong around what we are seeing in terms of graduate and undergraduate numbers,” Martel told The PIE News.
“Because of the slowing of numbers from China, there are some predictive reports that are looking at the trends in five years and 10 years. Some are looking at the possibility of by about 2030, India outpacing China as the top market of international students,” she predicted.
“You have a large tertiary age population that is growing in India. You also have a growing middle class – the number of international students able to afford a global education is growing.
“While the Indian higher education market is very strong, with a number of excellent HEIs, the market is still not large enough for the amount of international students who will be coming up to tertiary age,” Martel added.
As for other countries, the highest priorities recruitment-wise for undergraduate study are Vietnam (48%), South Korea (41%) and Brazil (40%).
Looking at graduate study, China is still second in line with 42%. Nigeria close behind with 37% calling it a priority, and just after that is Vietnam (35%).
Not only did the applications roll in for all institutions, but the return to largely in-person study was almost completely solidified.
“[There is] the possibility of by about 2030, India outpacing China as the top market of international students”
“We’ve really seen a change in the dynamic from spring 2021 to spring 2023 of a return to in-person study for international students. This is very important because of the latest guidance by SEVP that was released on May 11,” Martel noted.
The Department of Homeland Security ended flexibilities earlier this year that it had introduced during the pandemic.
The report also noted that only 20% of the reporting institutions said international students were “facing difficulties regarding visa status”.
Touching on methods of recruitment, it was clear that institutions are increasing their active engagement with their alumni. Some 70% of institutions were using them as a recruitment strategy for undergraduate programs, with 66% doing the same for graduate programs.
For undergraduate programs, the second most-used method was international partnerships with 63% using them – much larger than the 56% who said they were using them as a method to recruit for graduate programs – online recruitment events were instead the second largest recruitment method.
Looking at outbound programs, the return to in-person study abroad was so prevalent that no institutions out of the 527 surveyed were offering only virtual programs.
“This indicates that many institutions are not viewing online virtual exchanges as a replacement for traditional in-person study abroad opportunities, but rather an additional opportunity for students to gain those global insights and perspectives,” said Julie Baer, research specialist in Research, Evaluation, and Learning at IIE.
“The vast majority, about 96% of US colleges and universities, reported increased or stable student participation in study abroad compared to the past year,” she added, referring to the demand for study abroad opportunities.
Around 82% of institutions saw increased applications for study abroad programs for the coming year, showing a true bounce-back to the “pre-pandemic state”.
“About 96% of US colleges and universities, reported increased or stable student participation in study abroad”
“We do find it promising that colleges and universities are working to rebuild many of the programs that had been suspended during Covid-19 and really looking to return to those pre-pandemic levels,” Baer noted.
A notable point on both the inbound and outbound side was the lack of data collected by 60% of institutions in two areas.
Some 60% said they did not collect data on inbound refugee students or students that have experienced displacement. Outbound, 60% of institutions also did not have any sort of sustainability initiatives around study abroad.
“Part of our goal in asking this question is to begin to elevate this issue and to better understand what institutions are doing,” Baer told The PIE.
“Hopefully, also, just by asking the question, it prompts folks to think more about these different types of sustainability initiatives,” she added.