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The Institute of International Education (IIE) and the US Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) have both produced this month reports on international student mobility. IIE’s annual Open Doors publication shows a slowdown in both inbound and outbound directions. International student numbers in the US for 2009/10 do show an increase of 3% over the previous year, to an all-time high of 690 923, which continues a 4-year trend in increases of international student enrolment in the US. However, this figure represents less robust growth than was seen in 2007/08 (7%) and 2008/09 (7.7%). Meanwhile, American study abroad numbers (which reflect data from 2008/09) fell slightly from the previous year, registering a change of -0.8%. This stands in significant contrast to the 8.7% growth in study abroad numbers registered in 2007/08 over the previous year, and it is notable that the most recent data mark the first time in the 25 years of such record-keeping that US study abroad numbers have registered a decline.
Other key findings of the report include:
• Chinese and Indian students continue to account for a significant chunk of the international student population in the US, at 128 000 ad 105 000, respectively. However, while Chinese enrolment grew by a dramatic 29.9% over the previous year’s figures, Indian enrolment expanded by just 1.6%.
• Saudi Arabian students registered the second largest increase among top 25 sending countries, growing by 24.9%. Apart from China, this is the only other country showing an increase in numbers of over 6%.
• Strong growth in US student interest was seen in several non-European and non-traditional study abroad destinations, including Peru (32.1%), South Korea (29.1%), Chile (27.9%), Argentina (14.5%), and South Africa (12.4%).
For its part, Findings from the 2010 CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey “Phase III” contains information about foreign students’ final offers of admission and enrolment for fall 2010. This study found that both offers of admission and first-time enrolment rose by 3% in fall 2010 over fall 2009 figures. These findings represent positive developments when compared to the 1% decline seen in 2009 admissions (over fall 2008 data), and the 0% change in first-time enrolment in fall 2009 when compared to fall 2008. The CGS report also found that first-time graduate enrolment from China grew by a considerable 20%.
It is interesting to note that both sets of data report that China has contributed significantly to the inbound flow of students to the US. Just as outbound US students seem to be increasingly open to diversifying their destinations, ensuring diversity of sources of international students may be an important consideration for the US in the future, in an increasingly complex and competitive global student mobility framework.