If you read the education news during the past two weeks, it was nearly impossible to miss the headlines: international students are coming to the United States in greater numbers, and they are going to more U.S. universities in more U.S. states. More than 1,000 news reports across the country and around the world announced the latest statistics and trends, illustrating the growing impact these students have on the U.S. economy and communities, on the institutions that host them and the American students with whom they live and learn, and on their home countries.
Over the past fifteen years, the number of American students studying abroad has more than doubled. In 1998/99, there were just 129,770 American students studying abroad for academic credit from their home institution, and in 2012/13 that number has grown to 289,408. When you also consider that more than 46,000 American students pursue full degrees abroad and over 15,000 students travel overseas for non-credit work, internships, and volunteering, the current number of U.S. students overseas grows to more than 350,000. What is clear is that American students are increasingly interested in studying abroad and that U.S. higher education institutions are active in providing study abroad experiences for their students.
It was my privilege to be one of the keynote speakers at the China Annual Conference for International Education in Beijing. The other was a former foreign minister. As it turned out, we both never had the opportunity to study abroad. Although our jobs later gave us the chance to travel— in Minister Li's case to 183 countries—we both spoke about the opportunity we wished we had.
More and more US students are seeking out short-term jobs, internships, and volunteer work overseas, and with good reason. Overseas employment and volunteering has big appeal. Working in another country gets students out of the classroom and into the community. They interact not just with professors and other students as they might with traditional study abroad programs, but they get to engage with workers and community members at all ages and stages of life and in a variety of settings.
At the recent EducationUSA Forum, I participated in a panel about how higher education institutions can harness Open Doors® to inform their international student recruitment. Open Doors, an annual survey of international educational exchange in the US, produced by IIE with the support of the US State Department, offers valuable information for higher education institutions. The session provided useful insights into different ways to use Open Doors data in planning for international student enrollment. Here are the top takeaways for international educators:
The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are the three primary English-speaking destinations of international students worldwide. Among the three, Australia has the most centralized, proactive international education policies and, arguably, the most highly developed international student data collection system in the world.
Did you know? Throughout the 62 year history of Open Doors, only seven places have been the #1 place of origin of international students.
Canada, our northern neighbor, held the title for the first 23 years of the report (1949-1971), the most of any place of origin. These days, over 27,000 Canadians cross the border to pursue higher education in the United States. That is more than the 25,464 total international students from all places of origin that were studying in the United States in 1949, the first year of the Open Doors survey.