Source - Open Doors 2016, IIE
More than one million overseas students in the USA

The number of international students in higher education in the USA increased by 7.1 per cent in 2015/16, surpassing one million for the first time, according to the latest annual data from the Institute of International Education (IIE).

In the Open Doors 2016 report, IIE records 1,043,839 students, a rise of 69,000 compared with 2014/15 and the 10th consecutive year of growth. International students now represent 5.2 per cent of all higher education students in the country, the highest-ever ratio.


China remained comfortably the largest source market, accounting for 31.5 per cent of all higher education international students in the USA, and increased by 8.1 per cent last year to 328,547 students.


However, the largest growth was recorded by second-placed India, which rose by 24.9 per cent to 165,918 students - 15.9 per cent of the total.


Saudi Arabia leapfrogged Korea into third place, although changes to the government scholarship programme have curtailed growth to 2.2 per cent, compared with at least double-digit increases in the previous 10 years of funding.


Another source country declining in the face of reductions in government spending was Brazil, which dropped by 18.2 per cent in 2015/16 after a freeze on the Science without Borders scholarship, a reversal of the 78.2 per cent growth in the previous year.


Six of the top 10, and 16 of the top 25, source markets recorded growth, with notable increases from Nepal (18.4 per cent), Vietnam (14.3 per cent), Nigeria (12.4), Kuwait and Iran (both 8.2).


The ratio of self-funded students increased from 63.6 per cent in 2014/15 to 66.5 per cent last year. A report commissioned by Bridge Education Group and unveiled at Nafsa earlier this year suggested that institutions in the USA were increasingly using agents for overseas student recruitment.


However, there was evidence that the USA's growth trajectory was slowing last year: the number of new international student enrolments rose by 2.4 per cent in 2015/16, lower than the 8.8 per cent increase in new entrants in the previous year.


The international education industry in the USA and agents worldwide have also expressed concerns about the impact of Donald Trump's victory in last week's presidential election, following campaign pledges to introduce tougher immigration measures.


California was again the largest host state with 149,328 students, and was one of two top 10 host states to register double-digit increases (with Florida). Across the country, 36 of the 50 states welcomed an increased number of international students in 2015/16.


With 15,543 international students, New York University retained its position as the largest host institution, followed by the University of Southern California (13,340) and Arizona State University (12,751).


By educational level, 427,313 international students were enrolled on undergraduate courses - a 7.1 per cent increase; 383,935 were pursuing graduate programmes - up six per cent; 85,093 were on non-degree courses, including intensive English courses - down by 9.1 per cent; and 147,498 were registered in Optional Practical Training (OPT).


The US government confirmed extensions to the post-study OPT scheme for international graduates from STEM subjects earlier this year.


"The Open Doors findings show that international students value the quality, diversity and strong reputation of U.S. institutions and recognise that these institutions will give them opportunities that can help them not only in their education but also in their careers," said IIE President, Allan Goodman.


"At the Institute of International Education, we believe American colleges and universities offer a premiere education and valuable training to students from around the globe and that students from other nations also teach us a lot about the world we share. The more we can open doors to other cultures for our students, the better off our country and our world will be."


The Open Doors data also tracks the US students studying abroad, which increased by 2.9 per cent in 2014/15 to 313,415, a slower rate than the 5.2 per cent growth recorded in the previous year.


The UK remained the most popular destination, but there were increases for Italy (8.3 per cent), Spain (5.1) and France (3.4).



By Matthew Knott

News Editor