BLOG: Insights from inside Open Doors

Natalya Andrejko

The Open Doors® annual publication is the only long-standing, comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars at U.S. higher education institutions and U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit. The report is a suite of four surveys, the International Student Census, the U.S. Study Abroad Survey, the Intensive English Programs (IEP) Survey, and the International Scholars Survey. Each piece is vital to understanding academic exchange into and out of the United States.

Why I enjoy working on Open Doors

As the 2021 reporting cycle ends (check out our research findings), I wanted to reflect on why I enjoy working on Open Doors. After five years as a research analyst on this project, the answer to that question is simple: I am proud to be a part of the dynamic and interesting field of international education. I find it exciting to contribute to an important longitudinal research project. The opportunity to work on a historical project such as Open Doors is of lifelong significance. These reasons drive me in my everyday work.

Learning from history

The Open Doors project has been collecting and publishing data on higher education student mobility since 1948. When I first joined the Research, Evaluation, and Learning team in 2016, I spent hours diving into historic Open Doors print publications, reading through insights and data on mobility trends from the past. The data held stories that I could see by linking spikes or dips in the data to political and social movements over the decades. We’ve recently looked to historic Open Doors data to understand student mobility flows during past pandemics.

Learning from the present

As I am sure is true with many of you, the COVID-19 pandemic was always on my mind as we conducted our work on Open Doors this past year. As part of the Open Doors team, I am honored to take on the significant responsibility of chronicling our research findings over the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the field of international education. I learned through the findings that the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the U.S. higher education landscape is varied, and the importance of reporting on these distinctions is as critical this year as for future years. The longitudinal continuity of data in Open Doors is essential, and the contribution of this year’s publication will provide historical reference for future researchers.

Learning from college and university colleagues

Mobility data can certainly tell a story, but the most effective way to understand what is happening behind the numbers at higher education institutions is to ask them. International education professionals have valuable perspectives, and our team makes every effort to add their voices to the research. We view them as valued contributors, adding input on survey questions, providing context to Open Doors key findings, and responding to the annual Fall International Student Enrollment Snapshot Survey.

In early 2021, the Open Doors team interviewed several U.S. higher education institutions to understand the complexities of reporting data on international students and scholars and U.S. students abroad during a year of primarily virtual learning. We discussed new survey questions to capture the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, scholars, and institutions. These valued conversations allowed us to take our ambitious research questions and mold them into quantifiable data points that added context and nuance to Open Doors reporting in an anomalous and unprecedented year.

While the international education field continues to navigate the complex issues around the COVID-19 pandemic and student mobility, I hope Open Doors serves the international education community as a helpful and trusted resource.

We invite you to the Open Doors website to explore, download, and share the Open Doors data. The annual Open Doors print report is also available for purchase. This publication contains over 100 data tables and special sections for each survey called “COVID-19 in Context” that provide additional analysis and insights into the data this year.