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On 10 February, the Institute of International Education (IIE) released findings on international scholars from the Open Doors 2021 Report on International Educational Exchange.
U.S. higher education institutions hosted more than 85 000 international scholars in 2020/21, a decrease of 31% from the previous year. This was the second consecutive year of decline, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. International scholars on appointments either left early or completed their activities and returned home at the end of the academic year, while fewer new international scholars arrived due to pauses in programming or visa processing, or travel restrictions.
In 2020/21, 81% of international scholars focused their activities on the STEM fields, predominantly in the physical and life sciences. The number of scholars in STEM fields fell by 27% from the previous year, in line with the global decline across all major areas of specialisation.
More than half of all international scholars were from Asia, with one in every three international scholars (31%) being from China. India, South Korea, Canada, and Brazil rounded out the top five places of origin of international scholars. Scholars from China declined by 39%, likely due to travel restrictions between the United States and China, starting in January 2020.
Overall, U.S. institutions remain committed to international scholars in the United States. Institutions supported international scholars in many ways amid the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., providing updated information on changes in policies or guidelines, travel restrictions, and visa regulations; offering virtual office hours or advising appointments for their scholars).