Nine Ways to Use Open Doors Data for International Enrollment Planning

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:

Understanding U.S. Trends

Open Doors, is a rich data source that allows you to compare your institution with national trends to see where you might be ahead of the pack, as well as identify growth areas that you might want to develop at your institution.

  • Data on Places of Origin can help you identify areas of the world from which student mobility is increasing, but that you may not be recruiting in yet. For example, did you know that growth in students studying in the U.S. from Kuwait was 24% this year, that students from Bangladesh grew at 15%, and that students from Venezuela and Spain increased by 14% each? These are just some of the countries outside of the top 10 places of origin that are sending growing numbers of students to the U.S.
  • Place of Origin data can also alert you to countries that are sending fewer students to the U.S. It is prudent to be alert to potential declines from certain places of origin, especially if your international student body draws heavily on a small number of countries. Even a small percentage drop can translate to big numbers for top countries of origin, such as India, which declined 4% in 2011/12, sending about 3,600 fewer students than it did in the prior year.
  • Information on Academic Levels and Fields of Study is useful for assessing how your international recruiting activities mesh with your schools’ academic offerings.  For instance, did you know that 12% of South Korean students pursue the fine and applied arts? Or that 17% of UK students study in the social sciences and 14% of Nigerian students pursue the health professions? Knowing this kind of information can help you reach international students who are likely to be interested in the programs offered by your institution.


Benchmarking your college or university against other institutions allows you to compare your college or university to similar institutions and to situate your international enrollments within your state or region, and to mark progress over time.

Making the Case for International Education

Many international educators are called upon to justify their institution’s focus on international education or to advocate for increased support.

  • Each year Open Doors publishes data on the primary sources of funding for international students as well as an analysis of the economic impact of international students by state. The economic analysis is based on Open Doors data and is conducted by Jason Baumgartner at Indiana University in association with NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which has recently launched an economic value tool based on this analysis.
  • Data from IIE’s Project Atlas puts Open Doors statistics into a wider context by providing insight into the global marketplace for international students. For instance, China is a top place of origin for all the top host countries for international students, while students from India are highly represented in the Anglophone countries (Australia, Canada, UK, and US), and South Korea is a top sender of students to the US and Canada, as well as to China and Japan.

Understanding Specific Segments of the International Student Population

U.S. institutions can learn about prospective international students by using Open Doors in conjunction with other complementary data sources.