According to recent data from IIE’s Open Doors, 85,538 international scholars will study in the United States in 2021.
As per the data on countries of origin, Asia had by far the highest percentage of international scholars this year, with 31 per cent – 26,254 – coming from China and a further 15 per cent – 12,714 – arriving from India.
The amount represents a more than 30% decrease from the 2019/20 data when there were 123,508 international scholars in the United States. For the first time since the 2006/7 academic year, the figure fell below 100,000 in 2021.
Figures from China reveal an almost 40% drop in students travelling to the US, with Germany having the largest percentage drop in students per country – fewer than 2,500 scholars travelled to the US, a 42 per cent drop from the preceding year.
The 12,714 from India represented a 5.9 per cent decrease from the previous year. South Korea, which accounted for 5.8 per cent of all overseas academics, dropped by 29.7 per cent to 4,928, followed by Canada (-12.2 per cent) to 3,863 and Brazil (-39.5 per cent) to 2,584.
In terms of function, international scholars come to the US predominantly to carry out research, with 77 per cent coming for that purpose, 9 per cent for teaching, and 7 per cent for a combination of the two.
The results for fields of specialization are once again overwhelming – 81 per cent of international academics focused their academic activity in STEM fields, including engineering and life sciences.
“It’s not hard to figure out that 2020/21 number suffered because of the pandemic – international travel overall plummeted,” Laura Kosloff, head of The Exchange Mom, said.
“Even 2021/22 so far has been lower than what we would like to consider a normal year – many high schools at least in the US declined to have students this year even if the students could travel.
Yale’s international relations office responded to the news by tweeting: “Congratulations to the international scholars and the many others who worked so hard to support their efforts and teach in the United States in the midst of the pandemic.”
He also expressed his delight at Yale’s inclusion among the top host universities. With nearly 3,000 overseas scholars, Harvard University led the list; Columbia and Yale were the next most popular, with 2,272 and 2,100 scholars, respectively.
“We need to bring numbers back up by boosting the confidence of schools at all levels for one thing,” said Kosloff. “[We must] encourage them that these programs are worthwhile and that students want to come,” she added.
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