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More trouble for the US: Graduate enrollment and Study Abroad Providers

A recent survey from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) in the US reveals that though the number of foreign graduate students attending US institutions has risen by 8% this year, the rate of increase in enrolment has slowed by 12%. Of the institutions that responded to the survey, 78% had fewer foreign applicants currently than in 2003. This is telling information for the optimists that speculated the US was on the upswing since 9/11 in terms of re-engaging foreign students. Despite the negative effects of 9/11 on the US’ open study destination image, it has become widely acknowledged that other countries are grabbing pieces of the foreign student market.

The survey also indicates that nearly 30% of US institutions had established dual degree programmes with foreign universities and a quarter planned to set up collaborative courses. Though this is laudable, a recent investigation led by NY State attorney, Andrew Cuomo (see ACA Newsletter- Education Europe May), indicates that the study abroad industry in the US may be of concern. Cuomo, avidly pursuing student loan lenders and universities for limiting student choice, has now been handing out subpoenas to study abroad providers. These private companies often arrange study abroad periods for US undergraduate students, and have been accused of offering perks to universities to utilise their services. This has ultimately limited student choice in study abroad and resulted in overly high fees for the students.

Over 200,000 US higher education students study abroad annually, mostly on partnerships established by their university. However, up to one fifth of the students use independent overseas study providers. It is these providers that are accused of abusing and over-commercialising the industry.