Press Release

US Study Abroad Increases By 9.6%, Continues Record Growth

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Briefing - November 14, 2005 - 9:30 a.m.
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Open Doors 2005: U.S. Students Studying Abroad

Deborah Gardner

Data Tables for Open Doors 2005 Study Abroad: Click here >>



More interest in non-traditional destinations; study abroad in China up by 90%

WASHINGTON D.C., November 14, 2005 - With a growing recognition of the importance of international experience, U.S. students are heading abroad in record numbers. The number of American students studying abroad for academic credit increased by 9.6% in 2003/04, building on the previous year's 8.5% increase. This surge in interest brings the total number of U.S. students abroad to a record 191,321, according to Open Doors 2005, the annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Findings from the report will be discussed at a press briefing on November 14th at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the nationwide observance of International Education Week. (See for additional statistics and analysis from Open Doors 2005).

Although U.S. study abroad has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, the 9.6% increase reported for 2003/04 is the latest evidence of the greater importance of a study abroad experience in the post-9/11 world. Since the academic year 2000/01, the number of U.S. students studying abroad has gone up by almost 20%. In 2003/04, 61% of all U.S. students abroad studied in Europe (with 46% of the total going to the leading four destinations, all of which are in Western Europe.) However, there were significant increases in the number of students going to other host countries, including several nations in which English is not the primary language.

"I am pleased that American students are studying abroad, which signals their keen interest in learning more about the people and nations beyond our borders," said Dina Habib Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. "Department of State initiatives such as the Fulbright Program and Gilman Scholarship Program are at the forefront in helping American study abroad participants obtain the skills and experience they need for leadership and responsible action in our interdependent world."

According to IIE President Allan E. Goodman, "Many U.S. campuses now include international education as part of their core educational mission, recognizing that increasing the global competence among the next generation is a national priority and an academic responsibility. To encourage more U.S. students to strengthen their language and intercultural skills, as well as their ability to collaborate across borders, business leaders need to demonstrate the economic value of study abroad by rewarding international experience in their hiring and advancement practices."

Study abroad in non-traditional destinations is expanding rapidly, especially to countries where American students see potential career opportunities. Of particular note are large increases in the number of Americans studying in China and India, two countries of growing economic importance to the United States. Study abroad in China increased by a dramatic 90% (4,737, up from 2,493 in 2002/03), making China the 9th-leading host destination for American students, up from #12 the previous year, while the number of students going to India increased by 65% to 1,157.

The United Kingdom continues to be the leading destination for U.S. students (32,237, up 2%) followed by Italy, with a very strong increase of 16%, to 21,922. The remaining "top ten" host destinations saw increases in the range of 5 to 7%: Spain (20,080, up 6%), France (13,718, up 5%), Australia (11,418, up 7%), Mexico (9,293, up 6%), Germany (5,985, up 7%), Ireland (5,198, up 6%) and Costa Rica (4,510, up 5%), with the exception of China's 90% increase, described above.

The dramatic increase in study abroad enrollment in China is an encouraging example of the rebound - and continued growth - in study abroad in East Asia following the SARS epidemic, which closed down many programs in Spring and Summer 2003. In 2003/04, overall U.S. study abroad in Asia (13,213) increased by 36%, with American student numbers in China exceeding pre-SARS levels (4,737, up 90%), and increases in students going to Japan, (3,707, up 7%), Korea (879, up 19%), Hong Kong (487, up 6%), and Taiwan (195, up 32%). However, even with all of these increases, only 7% of all Americans studying abroad selected Asia for their overseas academic experience.

Open Doors 2005 data show that among the leading 20 destinations for study abroad in 2003/04, all but two saw increases. The two that declined -- Austria (down 13%) and Netherlands (down 6%) were in Western Europe; of the six destinations with double-digit increases, all but one (Italy) were outside of Western Europe. Study abroad in European countries increased by a total of 6% this year to 116,446, with a 6% increase in students going to Western Europe (110,948) and an increase of 10% in students going to Eastern Europe (5,498), including significant increases in Russia (up 18% to 1,797), Hungary (up 16% to 654), and the Czech Republic (up 5% to 2,089). The number of students going to Oceania remained very strong (up 11% to 14,113), due to the continued popularity of English-speaking host nations Australia (up 7% to 11,418) and New Zealand (up 24% to 2,369).

The 2003/04 academic year also saw increased U.S. study abroad interest in destinations throughout the developing world. The number of students going to Africa increased 18% to 5,699. South Africa remained one of the 20 leading host nations worldwide, with an increase of 26% to 2,009, and there were significant gains (78%) in the numbers of students going to North Africa, especially Egypt (573, up 89%) and Morocco (up 56% to 298), although these large percentage increases reflected small base numbers. Increases in the number of students going to Cuba (2,148, up 46%), Chile (2,135, up 10%), Ecuador (1,678, up 7%), Brazil (1,554, up 16%), and Argentina (1,315, up 52%), contributed to an overall increase of 9% in the total number of students going to Latin America (29,053, or about 15% of all study abroad students).

In 2003/04, the small number of Americans studying in the Middle East rose by 62% to 1,050, based primarily on a resurgence of students going to Israel (up 96% to 665), which hosts the most U.S. students in the region. There were also large percentage increases in the very small number of students going to Jordan (65, up 124%), Lebanon (23, up 64%) and the United Arab Emirates (20, up 67%). The number of students going to Turkey declined by 12% to a total of 200.

Open Doors 2005 data show that American students continue to study abroad in larger numbers but for shorter time periods, with a continued decline in popularity of traditional semester and year-long programs. Only 6% of students who studied abroad did so for a full academic year (compared to 14% a decade ago in 1993/94), while 38% studied abroad for a semester. The majority (56%) of U.S. students elected Summer, January term, and other programs of less than one semester. These short-term programs have played an important role in increasing the popularity of study abroad, offering international study opportunities to students who might otherwise have been unable to afford to participate in traditional-length programs.

Open Doors 2005 reports that 26 U.S. campuses, primarily large research institutions, awarded academic credit for study abroad last year to more than 1,200 of their students. New York University sent the most students abroad again this year (2,475), followed by Michigan State University (moving up to #2 with 2,269), University of California-Los Angeles (2,034), University of Texas at Austin (2,011), Penn State University Park Campus (new this year to the top ten list with 1,874), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1,657), University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (1,644), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1,609), University of Georgia (1,595), and University of Arizona (1,591).

However, many smaller institutions report sending a much higher proportion of their students abroad. Open Doors 2005 also provides data on study abroad participation, and lists those campuses that send very high proportions of their students abroad for some period during their undergraduate career. The top ten campuses, each sending more than 40% of their students abroad, are (in alphabetical order): Austin College, Carleton College, Centre College, Elon University, Grace College and Theological Seminary, Lee University, Lewis and Clark College, Lynn University, St. Olaf College, and Wofford College.

To help students identify study abroad opportunities, IIE offers an interactive website called IIE Passport ( with more than 6,000 study abroad and learning travel opportunities worldwide for participants of all ages. The program listings on IIE Passport include data on up to 35 fields, including location, field of study, cost, college credit availability, and eligibility for scholarships. The program listings are also available in two annual print directories published by IIE: "IIE Passport: Academic Year Abroad" and "IIEPassport: Short Term Study Abroad". In addition, the IIENetwork offers resources and an online community for international educators (, with a "Best Practices" section featuring Study Abroad and other internationalization programs that have won IIE's Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education.

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The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. IIE has conducted the annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since 1949, and with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s. The census is based on a survey of over 2,700 accredited U.S. institutions. Open Doors also reports on international scholars at U.S. universities and international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs, as well as U.S. students studying abroad, based on separate surveys. A full press kit and further details on the Open Doors 2005 surveys and their findings can be accessed on, and the full 100 page report can be ordered for $49.95 from IIE Books at

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State manages a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchanges that include approximately 30,000 participants annually, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. For more information, visit

Data Tables for Open Doors 2005 Study Abroad: Click here >>

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