IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

The G7 of Open Doors

By: Patricia Chow on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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.

While it is common knowledge that India is currently one of the top places of origin (having occupied the top spot from 2002-2009), large numbers of students from India have been coming to the United States to study since the early years of the Open Doors survey. India previously held the top spot for two years in 1972 and 1973. Over 100,000 students from India are now in the United States, most studying science and technology fields such as engineering and computer science.

Canada and India are the only two countries that have figured among the top 10 places of origin for the entire history of Open Doors.

Leading Place of Origin of International Students, 1960/61 - 2010/11

Open Doors Blog

Vibrant and international Hong Kong was the top place of origin for one year in 1974, while still under British rule. Over 10,000 students from Hong Kong came to study in the United States that year.

The Middle East is a region with which the United States has had a longstanding and well-needed engagement in international education. While Saudi Arabia has been the top sending country in the Middle East in recent years (due to a Saudi government scholarship program launched in 2005), Iran is the only Middle Eastern country to have been the #1 place of origin overall, a post it held for nine years (1975-1983), when over 50,000 Iranians were studying at U.S. colleges and universities.

East Asia has been the region where most international students have come from since 1984. China, Japan, and Taiwan have all had their turn occupying the overall top position. The People’s Republic of China is currently the leading place of origin of international students in the United States by a wide margin: there are over 157,000 Chinese students in the United States. Interest in U.S. study is particularly strong among Chinese high school students; the number of undergraduates from China has increased six-fold over the past five years. China has been the top place of origin since 2010, but was also #1 from 1999-2001 and from 1989-1994.

Japan was the top place of origin for four years (1995-1998), when over 47,000 Japanese students studied in the United States in one year. Since then, the number of students from Japan has steadily declined and is currently just over 21,000—less than half the total from the peak years.

While Taiwan held the top spot for five years (1984-1988), the peak year for enrollments from Taiwan was actually 1994, when over 37,000 students from Taiwan were studying in the United States. Currently, there are about 25,000 students from Taiwan in the United States.

While South Korea has never been the top place of origin overall, the number of South Koreans studying in the United States now exceeds 73,000—more than currently come from Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan.

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