International graduate student applications and enrolments in the US fall again
New international student enrolments in US graduate schools have declined again. Source: Shutterstock

International graduate student applications in the US have dropped for two consecutive years, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The report, which saw 240 institutions participating in the survey, found that the number of international graduate applications from prospective students fell by four percent between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018. By comparison, the number of graduate applications declined by three percent in the same period the year before.

The overall decline was due to a six percent fall in master’s applications. Meanwhile, the number of doctoral applications increased by one percent between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018.

“By fields of study, engineering continues to receive the most applications from international students for both master’s and certificate programmes (26 percent) and doctoral programmes (24 percent). However, the percentage share of engineering applications among all international applications declined for both types of degrees from the last admission cycle,” noted the report.

Engineering programmes suffered the biggest decline in international applications and were down by 16 percent. This was followed by physical and earth sciences (down by nine percent) and business (down by eight percent).

China and India – the two most populous nations in the world – remain the two biggest contributors of international graduate students to the US.

China had surpassed India by 11 percent; applications from Indian nationals decreased by 12 percent, while the first-time enrolment of Indian nationals decreased by two percent between fall 2017 and fall 2018. The first-time enrolment of Chinese nationals remained unchanged.

The authors said: “However, institutions may want to consider strategies that broaden and diversify countries of origin for their international graduate students, so their enrolment trends are not disproportionately dependent on any particular country.

“It should also be noted that international graduate enrolment trends differ at the master’s and doctoral levels and across different types of universities.”

According to the The Daily Beast, the report’s co-author Hironao Okahana said the decline could be attributed to several reasons, including:

  • Prospective students not believing they’d get a visa allowing them to stay after their studies
  • Anti-immigrant sentiment in the US
  • Programmes are more expensive due to the strength of the US dollar
  • A cutback in scholarship money provided by countries, especially those dependent on oil revenue

Meanwhile, Inside Higher Ed reported: “‘This is the first time we’ve seen declines across two consecutive years, and while we think it’s too soon to consider this a trend, it is troubling,” Suzanne Ortega, President of CGS, said in a statement.

“‘We continue to monitor issues, including changes in immigration and visa policy, with growing concern over the possible negative impact to the US’s image as a welcoming destination for international students and scholars.’”

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