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US: international scholars total rises by 13%

A 13% year-on-year rise in the number of international scholars in the US saw a total of 102,366 international scholars engage in research, teaching, and clinical activities on campuses across the country.

Some 76% of international scholars came to the US in 2022/23 to conduct research, which researchers said is consistent with data from prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: pexels

South Korea, Brazil and Canada followed China and India as the top five places of origin

The 2022/23 Open Doors figures show a similar rebound trend as the international student number growth, according to Mirka Martel from IIE.

“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we really had steady growth of international scholars coming to the US,” she said.

International student numbers during the 2022/23 academic year rose by 12%, bringing the total back to over one million, Open Doors data from November last year showed.

The 2028/19 peak of 136,000 international scholars has not yet fully recovered but the two years of growth is cause for optimism, Martel indicated.

“That [growth] has reflected the sustained commitment of US higher education institutions to hosting international scholars.”

Some 10% of scholars were in the country for less than three months in 2022/23, 9% from three to six months, and 18% from six months to a year, the data showed.

A further 38% were in the US for one to three years, with the remaining 25% for more than three years.

The researchers said a 6% growth in the proportion of international scholars in the country for less than six months was “likely due to the continued easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions and fewer institutions suspending new international scholar appointments”.

Some 92% of international scholars are hosted at doctoral universities in the US.

Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Yale were the top hosting institutions for the year, with 78% of all international scholars focusing their activities in the STEM fields.

The top two origin countries for international scholars in the US – China followed by India – both saw growth.

“That [growth] has reflected the sustained commitment of US higher education institutions”

China accounted for 19,556 scholars (+1% on 2021/22 figures), while India’s 8% rise saw it hit a 16,068 total in 2022/23.

Photo: IIE

The total number of scholars from China is still some way off the 2018/19 peak of 47,964.

India was joined by countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which have all surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Nigeria (+43%), Bangladesh(+36%) and Brazil (+36%) “experienced the most robust growth rates”, IIE noted.

South Korea, Brazil and Canada followed China and India as the top five places of origin.

Within the top 25 places of origin for scholars, only totals from Canada fell in the last academic year, with the 3,832 scholars a decline of 4% on the previous year.

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