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Press Release

International Student Enrollments Rose in the United States Despite Economic Downturn

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Indian student enrollments in the U.S. for 2009/10 increased by 2% over the previous year, while total foreign student numbers increased by 3%

NEW DELHI, November 15, 2010—The number of students from India studying at colleges and universities in the United States rose 2% to a total of nearly 105,000 during the 2009/10 academic year, according to Open Doors, a report published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Indian students represent 15% of all international students in U.S. higher education, and India is now the second leading place of origin. In the previous year, there were more than 103,000 international students from India studying in the U.S., an increase of 9% from 2007/08. India was the leading place of origin for international students in the United States from 2000/01 through 2008/09.

President Obama’s visit to India on November 7-10 and the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative signal a strong commitment by both countries to building partnerships that help foster US-Indo educational and economic cooperation. In addition, a visit to India this month by representatives from 10 U.S. campuses, led by the Institute of International Education as part of the International Academic Partnership Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), seeks to increase the number of international partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and those in India.

The United States is by far the leading destination for students from India who study outside of their own country, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia. With nearly 105,000 Indian students in U.S. higher education, the United States hosts nearly three times as many Indian students as the UK, which hosted about 36,000, and four times as many Indian students as Australia, which hosted approximately 21,000 Indian students according to currently available estimates.

The total number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year, a record high number of international students in the United States. This growth was primarily driven by a 30% increase in enrollments of students from China. The number of Chinese students in U.S. higher education rose to a total of nearly 128,000, or more than 18% of the total international student population, making China the leading sending country. There are tens of thousands more students from India in U.S. higher education than from any other country except China. In 2009/10, there were approximately 72,000 students from South Korea.

Together, the top three sending countries—China, India and South Korea—comprise nearly half (44%) of the total international enrollments in U.S. higher education. Canada, Taiwan and Japan each represent close to 4% of the total international student population, with these top six places of origin comprising 56%. Each of the other sending countries represents 2% or less of the total number of international students in the United States.

Open Doors 2010 reports 2009/10 enrollments, affected by decisions made in a period of economic downturn in the U.S. and in many countries around the world. The data reveal a complicated picture of international student enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities, with enrollment patterns varying widely according to place of origin and academic level. There were strong increases in the number of students from a few countries, but more than half of the top 25 sending countries showed decreases, resulting in a slower rate of overall growth than had been seen in recent years. Open Doors 2010 reports increases in enrollments of 6% or less from India, Vietnam, Turkey, U.K., Brazil, France, Nigeria, Malaysia and Venezuela.

According to Open Doors 2010, 65% of Indian students studied in the U.S. at the graduate level in 2009/10, and the top three fields of study for Indian students were engineering, math and computer science, and business and management. While several studies have shown that the United States remains the preferred destination for Indian students who go overseas for higher education, recent reports also indicate that changes in the home country economy and higher education sector in recent years have encouraged Indian students to pursue graduate education or enter the job market in India.

Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal has committed himself to policies focused on building capacity within higher education in India to educate more students. Policies also support developing linkages with foreign partners to advance the country’s participation in international education. The Institute of International Education presented Minister Sibal with the Stephen P. Duggan Award for Mutual Understanding, IIE’s highest honor, at an awards dinner in New York in September, in recognition of his resolute support of global collaboration in education.

Minister Sibal’s leadership plays a role in the larger context of the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, designed to build an enhanced India-US strategic partnership in education. The initiative was announced in November 2009 and is being finalized in 2010, with both the governments pledging $5 million each that will fund university partnerships and faculty development.

The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) will play a role in working with U.S. higher education institutions on developing partnership programs. USIEF serves as the Fulbright Commission in India and has been a longstanding partner with IIE. Since 1950, more than 5,000 Indian students and scholars have come to the U.S. and more than 3,100 American teachers, scholars and students have gone to India since 1950 through the Fulbright Program. IIE has administered the Fulbright Program activities in the United States since the program’s inception more than 60 years ago. The U.S. and Indian Governments recently signed a historic new Fulbright agreement, effectively doubling the number of Fulbright-Nehru grants for American and Indian students and scholars.

Open Doors also reports figures for American students who study abroad. Open Doors 2010 reports that 260,327 students studied abroad for academic credit during academic year 2008/09. This is a modest decrease of 0.8% from the previous year, following decades of steady growth, with increases of 9% and 8% in the preceding two years. The figures released today were for study abroad that took place during academic year 2008/09, representing decisions made by students and parents during the economic downturn. Early indications from an online survey conducted in October 2010 show that these numbers are already beginning to rebound, with 55% of campuses reporting that they saw an increase in the number of their students who studied abroad in 2009/10 compared to the previous year.

India is one of the top 25 study abroad destinations for U.S. students, with close to 2,700 U.S. students receiving credit for study abroad in India in 2008/09, despite a decline of nearly 15% from the previous year. However, the number of U.S. students who study abroad in India has increased dramatically since a decade ago, when Open Doors reported that only about 700 Americans studied in India in 1998/99.

Background: building institutional partnerships

From November 7-12, a delegation of leaders from ten U.S. colleges and universities are visiting India as part of the International Academic Partnership Program, an IIE program funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). Participating campuses represent the full diversity of the U.S. higher education system, including women’s colleges, large research institutions, liberal arts schools, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Accompanying the delegation are Eduardo Ochoa, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, along with Molly Maguire Teas, Senior Advisor for Education at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State. The study tour includes visits to potential Indian partner campuses and international organizations in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. It is the culmination of a year-long training program focused on implementing and sustaining partnerships with higher education institutions in India. Visit to read the delegation press release.

In March 2010, IIE’s President Dr. Allan Goodman and Dr. Martha Kanter, the Under Secretary of Education, led a delegation of U.S. higher education leaders in a week-long visit to India, to promote U.S. higher education and to expand linkages with Indian higher education institutions. During that visit, IIE released International India: A Turning Point in Educational Exchange with the U.S., the third in a series of Global Education Research Reports published with support from the American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) Foundation, bringing together the perspectives of Indian and U.S. specialists to focus on U.S.-India higher education exchanges at a critical moment in this important relationship.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, IIE has network of over 20 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

The Institute of International Education has been engaged with higher education in India for over 50 years and has had an office in New Delhi since 2005. IIE India works closely with businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations in the region, and has developed and implemented a strong set of activities in higher education scholarship administration, leadership development, and critical development fields, including energy.