Trump is ruining US universities' 'brand America'
A big thumbs up to America from France. Source: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Universities all around the world agree there is one force behind the double-digit increase in enrolments in study destinations outside of US: The current occupant of the White House, Donald Trump.

According to Politico, New Zealand saw the highest jump in international enrolment (34 percent), whereas Canada and Spain saw an 18 percent and 25 percent increase respectively. And while China can hardly be called a top study destination ten years ago, is now aggressively marketing itself to foreign students and succeeding in doing so, seeing an 11 percent increase in enrolment in 2016.

Janet Napolitano, University of California President told Politico: “Where the United States retreats, there’s a vacuum, and other countries will rush to fill it.”

“American education has always led the world — and it still leads the world, and it should lead the world. But we are leading the world in an atmosphere where the White House, at least, is sending a very kind of ‘stay away’ message — and that’s a challenge.”

With growing anti-Muslim sentiment by the Trump administration – most obviously felt through the travel ban – countries like Australia are seeing big jumps in interest from Muslim-majority countries, like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East.

Phil Honeywood, the CEO of Australia’s international education association said: “We don’t actually need to be negative about the American academy, as President Trump is doing more damage to ‘brand America’ on his own than any competitor country ever could.”

“There is no doubt that President Trump’s much-publicized antagonism toward Muslims and migrants has sent out negative messages to students who would otherwise have America at the top of their list as a study destination,” he added.

France is making it easier for climate change scholars to make their base in the European country via four-year grants to professors, graduate students and other researchers. Meanwhile, Canada is poaching faculty members from US universities and trying to convince start-ups to move up north instead to take advantage of their friendlier immigration policies.

America’s drop in popularity is notable. For decades, it was the top study destination among foreign applicants but recent data from nonprofit Institute of International Education show the decline is the first for US universities in the 12 years the group has collected such data.

For the upcoming 2017-18 data, the drop is expected to more than double, according to a separate online enrollment survey IIE conducted last year.

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