International graduate enrolments to U.S. universities go up by 5%

University of California at Berkeley at the main entrance into the campus. Students are shown walking under the historical landmark, called Sather Gate. Image via cdrin/Shutterstock.

The number of first-time international graduates enrolling to American universities in autumn 2016 went up five percent, reported U.S. non-profit Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).

This rate matched the rate of growth in 2015, but the report also noted a downturn in the total number of international graduate applications in 2016, which fell to one percent compared to three percent in 2015.

U.S. institutions are concerned that American President Donald Trump’s policies could discourage prospective students from pursuing their studies in the country, which has long held the distinction of being the most popular study destination for international students.

Suzanne Ortega, president of CGS, commented: “Universities in the U.S. and around the world are waiting to see the potential impact of the uncertain policy environment on the mobility patterns of international graduate students.

“The continued increase in enrolments is good news for U.S. universities… but we can’t take that position for granted.”

Following Trump’s travel ban last month, which barred entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, those in the higher education sector opposed the ban, arguing that international students are “essential contributors” to the U.S. economy and research.

The council was among many local higher education groups which asked the president to reconsider.

According to the report, overseas enrolment from India, Saudi Arabia, and Europe have seen significant changes.

University applications and first-time enrolment from Indian students to U.S. institutions have declined by one percent and seven percent respectively, continuing the trend over the past few years.

Meanwhile, applications and enrolments from Saudi Arabian students dropped by 20 percent and 13 percent respectively, with the entire Middle East and North Africa regions showing similar drops.

The number of first-time graduate students from Europe enrolling to American institutions, however, has seen a spike of eight percent, breaking the downward trend over recent years.

Despite universities’ concerns that Trump’s election would have a negative effect on prospective students considering studying in the U.S., the CGS said that its figures were not likely to have been affected by the election.

Students undertaking Master’s and certificate programmes comprised 68 percent of international graduate applications and 78 percent of first-time international graduate enrolments.

China and India remain the top origin countries for foreign students to the U.S., while the most popular fields of study for international postgraduate students commencing their studies in Fall 2016 are engineering (26 percent of enrolments), mathematics and computer sciences (20 percent), and business (20 percent).

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