fbpx
Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
Help shape the future of international education at the ICEF Monitor Global Summit London, September 23rd 2024
3rd Oct 2018

Foreign graduate enrolment in the US dips for second year in a row

Foreign students occupy nearly one in five (18.5%) seats in American graduate schools. But their numbers started to decline marginally in 2016 and now the latest data from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) shows that 2017 was a second consecutive year of decreasing international student numbers. While first-time graduate enrolment for domestic students increased modestly between 2016 and 2017 (up by 1.1%), CGS reports that foreign commencements in US graduate schools fell by nearly 4%. The pattern is similar with respect to total enrolment where domestic numbers grew by just over 1% and international student numbers dropped by 2.4%. first-time-graduate-enrolment-by-field-of-study-and-citizenship First-time graduate enrolment by field of study and citizenship, 2007–2017. Source: CGS This follows a 1% decrease in foreign graduate commencements in 2016, which at that point was the first time the number of new international students had declined in the US in a decade. Also worrying in that 2016 data was a 3% dip in international applications to US graduate schools. That pattern continued through fall 2017 with a nearly 2% decline in overall application volumes for that admissions cycle. The CGS analysis does not extend to the reasons behind these downward trends but it is clear that many are looking to the current political climate in the US as a factor. “The decrease in application and flat first-time enrolment rates are not unexpected given the robust economy and job market. After years of steady growth, the slow down aligns with typical cycles in the economy,” said CGS President Suzanne Ortega. “What is worrisome, however, is the decline in the number of international students pursuing graduate education in the US. The 3.7% drop in first-time enrolment between fall 2016 and fall 2017 is the second consecutive decrease we’ve seen since 2003. While it is difficult to pinpoint what caused the decline, the current policy climate around US visas and immigration may be a contributing factor.” A related report from Inside Higher Ed adds, “While actual visa and other policy regulations appear to have impacted relatively few prospective students, there also have been reports of students being rejected for visas, signaling that even if rules haven't yet changed all that much, enforcement has.” In a similar vein, it is reasonable to imagine that some notable pending changes in US policy may also bear on the decision making of foreign graduate students. These include planned reforms to the H-1B “working visa”, as well as anticipated changes to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme and some recently introduced restrictions on study visas for Chinese students. The impact of these policy changes will vary by sending market and field of study – but taken together with the US administration’s travel ban on citizens of several Muslim-majority countries – they appear to be contributing to a climate where international students may feel less welcome in the US.

The India factor

As the preceding table indicates, the sharpest declines were registered in the humanities, education, and engineering fields. CGS does not break down enrolment changes by sending market in this latest report, but a separate survey report released earlier this year highlights that application volumes were especially depressed for Indian students (down 15% between fall 2016 and fall 2017). The significance of this is that India, along with China, accounts for more than half of all foreign enrolment in US graduate schools. Any material change in the growth trends or one of these key markets will, as we see in these latest figures, have an impact on overall application volumes, commencements, and enrolment. For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Australia: Study visa grants down nearly a third through April 2024 Read More
  • Study maps employment pathways for international graduates in US; calls for expanded career services Read More
  • Home Office data confirms downturn in UK visa issuances through Q1 2024 Read More

Most Popular

  • Comparing student visa proof of funds requirements across 20 study destinations Read More
  • Canada: More provincial cap numbers announced; IRCC moves up end date for post-graduate work for partnership programmes Read More
  • Lessons from Denmark: The downside of limiting international student flows Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Australia: Study visa grants down nearly a third through April 2024 Data from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs shows that study visa grants are down significantly for the first...
Read more
Study maps employment pathways for international graduates in US; calls for expanded career services Career motivations are consistently revealed in major global research studies to be a primary driver of the choices...
Read more
Home Office data confirms downturn in UK visa issuances through Q1 2024 A 13 June data release from the UK Home Office confirms a decrease in student visa issuances for...
Read more
Australia moves to curtail onshore “visa hopping” Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil announced today the next phase of implementation in the package of...
Read more
ICEF Podcast: The outlook for international education in the USA – live from NAFSA Listen in as ICEF’s Craig Riggs and Martijn van de Veen recap some recent industry news, including an...
Read more
Canada’s Immigration Minister signals that changes are coming to post-study work rights For more than 15 years now, international students have been able to come to Canada, complete any type...
Read more
IDP investor guidance warns of market downturn through 2025 IDP Education is one the largest service providers in international education. As a publicly traded company on the...
Read more
Number of English-taught degree programmes rises by 22% from 2021 to 2024 A new report from British Council and Studyportals, “Mapping English-taught Programmes Worldwide,” reveals that in 2024, there are...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links