F-1 and M-1 international students in the USA in November 2016 by region. Source - Sevis by the Numbers, Student and Exchange Visitor Program
Overseas students in USA up in 2016 Q4

The number of international students on F-1 and M-1 visas in the USA increased by 2.9 per cent to 1.23 million in November 2016 compared with the same period of the previous year, according to the latest data released by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The quarterly Sevis by the Numbers report, issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), uses student visa data to calculate the number of international students on F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) visas.


Asia accounted for 947,967 students in November 2016 - 77 per cent of the total - and increased the number of students by 3.1 per cent compared with the same period in the previous year.


There were also regional increases from South America (5.9 per cent), despite the suspension of Brazil's Science without Borders scholarship programme, Africa (4.1) and North America (1.1), with only Europe registering a slight decline.


China remained comfortably the largest individual source country, increasing by 5.2 per cent to 378,986 students.


Within Asia, India and Vietnam also registered growth of 14.1 and 4.5 per cent respectively. However, there were declines from the third and fourth largest overall source countries: Korea at 8.3 per cent; and Saudi Arabia at 19.9 per cent.


Restrictions in the latter's King Abdullah Scholarship Program (Kasp) have impacted on enrolments, while continuing economic issues affecting the Korean outbound market were highlighted at the recent StudyTravel Alphe Korea agent conference.


California, New York and Texas remained the three largest host states of international students, and SEVP said over the last five years they have registered growth of 49 per cent, 30.3 per cent and 34.5 per cent respectively.


In the November 2016 report, the largest year-on-year increases were recorded by Arkansas (14 per cent) and Alabama (13).


New York University remained the largest host institution with 15,819 international students, followed by the University of Southern California (13,750) and Northeastern University (12,393).


The total number of schools certified by SEVP to accept international students declined slightly to 8,697 in November. Three quarters of certified schools currently enrol 50 or less overseas students.


By educational level, the largest cohort of international students in November 2016 were pursuing bachelor degrees (33.2 per cent), while 30.9 per cent were enrolled on master's programmes and 11.8 per cent were studying doctorate courses.


Almost 42 per cent of all F-1 and M-1 students were enrolled on STEM programmes, with the total increasing by 10 per cent to 513,902, compared with 2015. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) post-study work scheme for international students graduating in the STEM subjects.


The vast majority of STEM students (87 per cent) were sourced from Asia. India had the highest ratio of F-1 and M-1 students enrolled in STEM programmes at 83 per cent, followed by Iran (78) and Nepal (58).


The Sevis by the Numbers report also tracks the number of international students enrolled on the J-1 exchange visitor programme, and recorded a 1.8 per cent decrease to 198,217 students, compared with the same period in 2015.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor