U.S. Students Pursuing Degrees Overseas

Over forty thousand American students earning full degrees overseas in diverse fields

NEW YORK, January 18, 2012—More than 43,000 U.S. students are enrolled in academic degree programs outside of the United States, according to a new report from the Institute of International Education (IIE). The publication,U.S. Students in Overseas Degree Programs: Key Destinations and Fields of Study, presents findings from the first-ever survey on U.S. students pursuing full degrees abroad at the post-secondary level, their specific level of study, and their chosen field of study.

The Survey on U.S. Students Enrolled Overseas in Degree-Seeking Programs was administered from May – July 2011 by IIE, the U.S. partner and Secretariat for Project Atlas®, a global network of over 20 country and research partners collaborating on data collection and research in student mobility. Data on U.S. degree students was received for 13 countries from Project Atlas partners representing four world regions: Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America. The countries that submitted data include the largest host of U.S. degree-seeking students, the United Kingdom, and a dozen other countries that host 100 or more U.S. degree-seeking students.

According to the report, of the more than 43,000 U.S. students who pursue full degrees abroad, most are enrolled in master’s degree programs (44 percent), followed by students in undergraduate degree programs (39 percent), and students in doctoral degree programs (17 percent). The top fields for degree study by U.S. students abroad are the humanities, social sciences, and business and management. Field preferences vary depending on level of study and host country.

The tens of thousands of students documented in the new publication U.S. Students in Overseas Degrees Program are in addition to the number of U.S. students who receive academic credit for study abroad from institutions in the U.S., which is reported and published annually by IIE in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State in the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. According to the most recent Open Doors Report, 270,604 U.S. students received academic credit for studying abroad in 2009/10.

This Open Doors figure is comprised of U.S. students who are enrolled in U.S. institutions and receive credit at their home institution upon return from a study abroad program. In the last 20 years, the number of U.S. students participating in study abroad programs for which they receive credit at their U.S. home institutions more than tripled. The new report released today represents a first-time count of students from the United States who are pursuing full degrees abroad at all levels of post-secondary study.

“The new report not only contributes to our understanding of U.S. students’ priorities and diverse countries’ international education policies, but also broadens the scope of our knowledge of global student mobility to include a significant component that had not yet been quantified,” said Dr. Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President of Research and Evaluation at IIE. “This baseline data is critical to understanding the full range of international education exchanges between the U.S. and other countries, and we hope to pursue it in even greater depth in the future.”

While data on the number of U.S. students who study abroad for credit at their home institution has been available through the Open Doors Report since 1985, this new report offers data that complements Open Doors and helps to complete the picture of outbound post-secondary mobility in the United States. The report also provides an overview of the internationalization strategies employed by the 13 countries that participated in the Project Atlas survey and policy recommendations for the international higher education community.

The overview in the report draws on another recent Project Atlas publication, Student Mobility and the Internationalization of Higher Education: National Policies and Strategies from Six World Regions. The book examines how the last decade’s unprecedented growth in global student mobility is changing higher education policies around the world and provides an extensive look at what 17 countries are doing at the national, regional and institutional level to attract more international students to their higher education institutions and to send more of their students abroad.


Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 18 offices worldwide and over 1,100 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.


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