Trends and insights to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

February 05, 2016

Enhancing success and experiences of Chinese students for sustainable enrollment strategies

I co-authored "With poor job prospects for Chinese students, is it still worth investing in a US education?" with Di Hu. The article published in South China Morning Post highlights that institutional focus on recruitment and enrollment expansion must match with the investment in campus services to support their success. Here is an excerpt from the article:

investing in career and job success will help Chinese student recruitment

The number of Chinese students in the US rose from 81,127 in 2007/08 to 304,040 in 2014/15, an increase of 275 per cent in seven years, according to the Institute of International Education.

This skyrocketing growth resulted in a corresponding increase in their estimated financial contributions to the US economy, from US$2 billion in 2007/08 to US$9.5 billion in 2014/15, according to Nafsa: Association of International Educators.

The rapid growth of Chinese students was a boon to US higher education as many institutions were feeling the pressure of budget cuts after the 2008 global financial crisis.

With this unprecedented rise of international students came the challenges of integrating them and satisfying academic, social and career expectations. Many institutions have struggled to adapt.

In public institutions, international students pay two to three times the tuition fees of their American counterparts. Chinese students are the most attractive segment for US colleges and universities as they are more likely to enrol at undergraduate level than the next biggest source country – India – whose students tend to take shorter master’s programmes.

In addition to visa constraints, Chinese students often find themselves underprepared for the fierce competition in the US job market. The barriers to cross-cultural communication and confidence which existed at the college admission stage linger. But the stakes are even higher.

We estimate that, this year, nearly 100,000 Chinese will graduate from US universities. Most want to work in the US at least for a few years before returning home. However, given the job search challenges, many are forced to return before they can gain any work experience. On return, many “sea turtles” question the value of the investment in studying abroad.

Many US institutions are now worried about the effect of China’s economic turbulence on Chinese going to study in America. However, their bigger concern should be the doubts among Chinese families and students about the return on their investment. Institutions must invest more in the success and experiences of Chinese students as a part of their sustainable recruitment and enrollment strategies.

Related media links:
Related research articles:
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January 30, 2016

NAFSA Washington Leadership Meeting 2016

With 10,000 members NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. NAFSA annual conference typically attracts over 8,000 professionals. [This year's conference will take place in Denver, CO from May 29 to June 3. I'm especially looking forward to it as I earned my PhD from University of Denver.]

Managing an association of this size and scope requires strong strategic planning and implementation in collaboration with members and association staff. NAFSA achieves this very effectively through its staff, board and volunteer leaders.

A large number of NAFSA members volunteer each year to help create and disseminate knowledge, influence public policy, and maintain a strong organization. These leaders serve on committees, knowledge communities, and task forces. At the same time, serving in a leadership capacity for the association offers a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Last week, I was in DC as a part of my volunteer leadership role (yes, that snowstorm week and staff and members did a great job in planning and improvising with all the logistics). I have been attending and presenting at NAFSA for several years and in 2014 I was elected to the member-leader Chair stream of International Education Leadership Knowledge Community ( IEL KC). IEL KC supports aspiring, new and experienced senior international officers who provide the vision and build commitment for comprehensive internationalization. IEL KC plans and delivers a diverse set of sessions, workshops, networking opportunities, and resources for senior leaders, including Hot Trends for SIOs and the Symposium on Leadership. [Here is a piece from International Educator on SIOs]

As I continue into my third year as a part of the Chair stream, I found my experience as a volunteer leader to be very fulfilling. It provided an excellent opportunity of learning from the colleagues who are committed to and passionate about making an impact in the field of international education and bring diverse background and expertise to the team. I would encourage international educators to get involved and lead.  Here is a photo from the opening meeting with President Fanta Aw addressing new and returning volunteer leaders for 2016 during the Washington Leadership Meeting.

While there are many resources on NAFSA website, here are two resources I would like to highlight:
  • Internationalization strategies increasingly need to be evidence-driven and data-informed. NAFSA Research Connections summarizes new research and provides opportunities for discussion and applications.
Look forward to Denver 2016.

- Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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January 26, 2016

New Book on International Student Mobility by Bista and Foster

Global Perspectives and Local Challenges Surrounding International Student Mobility, edited by Krishna Bista and Charlotte Foster, explores comparative research regarding the implementation of effective strategies needed when working with native and non-native individuals in educational settings. The book offers perspectives from international student experiences, as well as views on current mobility trends, immigration policies, and challenges with cultural expectations. It includes a range of insightful chapters including "International Students in Community Colleges" and "International Student Mobility Trends between Developed and Developing Countries", and "A Review of Literature on Adjustment Issues of International Students: Recommendations for Future Practices and Research". This publication will be an important resource for educators, policymakers, and university staff who interact with international students.

How did you decide to write a book on international student mobility?
This book is a result of our friendship and dedication to the field. In the early days, Dr. Bista explored his journey as an international student in the United States by comparing and contrasting educational and cultural differences. He started writing early research on this topic. He was very familiar with the obstacles and circumstances many international students have to work around and through in order to study in a foreign country. As both of us (Dr. Foster and Dr. Bista) began studying together as graduate students, we had more and more conversations surrounding these phenomena. As we began the work to build a research journal dedicated to these topics, we quickly realized the need to develop a more comprehensive resource for faculty, staff, and students to use to navigate the journey for more effective international student interactions.

What are the current issues and challenges in international students in the US?
As you will see from the context of this book, Global Perspectives and Local Challenges Surrounding International Student Mobility, international students face multiple challenges while studying abroad. Immigration policies can be prohibitive, cultural expectations of both the student and the host culture can be difficult to navigate, and university policies often need to be revisited and rewritten in order to support international student challenges and needs. These are just a few of the issues facing the growing international student population.

How does your book address the gap in the field?
As faculty members at different state institutions, we observe on a regular basis the need for more research that addresses the issues and challenges facing faculty and staff at the university setting. This book provides examples of institutional and classroom practice and policy that may be used by higher education institutions to begin the process of welcoming internationalization. By broadening the research base of information pertaining to this growing higher education population, this resource supports the sharing of best practice in order to accommodate the new phenomena of internationalization on our higher education campuses.

Krishna Bista is Assistant Professor of Education in the School of Education at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, USA. His areas of interest include international student studies, multicultural education, and leadership practices. Dr. Bista is founder/editor of the Journal of International Students, a quarterly publication in international higher education. He is also associate editor of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education. His recent publications appear in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, International Journal of Doctoral Studies, College Teaching, and The Educational Forum. Dr. Bista is an active review board member of serval academic publications including Kappa Delta Pi Record (Routledge), Sociology Compass (Wiley), International Journal of Leadership in Education (Routledge), Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies(Sage), Journal of International Education Management (Emerald), Journal of Research in Education (EERA), and Current Issues in Education (ASU). He teaches educational leadership practice, multicultural education, and research and statistics.

Charlotte Foster is currently an Assistant Professor at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. She serves as the mathematics and multicultural education specialist for the Education department at MWSU. She most recently piloted an innovative program that provided future teachers more hands on opportunities to work directly with a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse population of elementary students while learning to teach mathematics. Dr. Foster holds a specialist and doctoral degree from Arkansas State University where she focused on Educational Leadership. Dr. Foster and Bista have collaborated since 2011 on multiple projects including producing the Journal of International Students, which serves as another exceptional resource for international student experiences and research. Dr. Bista serves as the Editor in Chief of that journal and Dr. Foster is an Academic Advisor. The creation of the journal in 2011 was a major catalyst for the colleagues to begin work on their three current publications pertaining to international student issues and research, which are all published by IGI Global.
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January 18, 2016

IUNC 2016 Miami for establishing internationalization strategies in emerging markets

Building international higher education partnerships and collaborations in emerging markets
International Universities Networking Conference (IUNC) will be hosting its North America conference in Miami from February 11-12, 2016. IUNC is supported by Universities Union of Eurasia (UUE) and Eastern European University Association (EEUA). Given the affiliations of IUNC in emerging markets, the conference offers an excellent opportunity to universities which are seeking to diversify their global engagement and internationalization strategies.

The Conference provides value at two primary levels:

1. Best practices and insights on internationalization:
I will be delivering opening keynote session at the conference on the theme of "Three Trends Shaping Global Higher Education and its Implications for Institutional Strategies." 

The parallel sessions will bring diverse perspectives from
- Brazil, Laura Ancona Lopez Freire, Director of International Relations, Universidade Paulista - UNIP
- Japan, Donald Sturge, Associate Prof, International Relations,University of Tokushima
- Mexico, Manuel Garduño, Researcher, Internationalization of HEIs, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
- Azerbaijan, Shahin Bayramov, Vice-Rector for International Affairs & Programs, Azerbaijan State University of Economics

 2. Action-oriented networking opportunities:
One of the key features of IUNC North America 2016 is the format of prescheduled one-to-one meetings. IUNC networking e-scheduler allows participants to make appointments with potential partners in an efficient manner. So, it helps in not only gaining access to more people but also increasing the chances of building deeper relationships. Higher education institutions seeking to establish new partnerships in emerging countries are likely to benefit from having these prescheduled meetings. This will include opportunities for student recruitment, exchanges and joint degrees and research activities.

I will be blogging a follow-up update after Miami conference.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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December 17, 2015

What are the latest trends with international student enrollment for master's degree?

The latest report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) suggests that the demand for American degree among international students is strong.

latest enrollment data of international graduate students in America

Only 1 of 8 international students who applied to study for a master’s degree or certificate succeeded in enrolling in U.S. higher education. The report is based on a survey of 351 institutions, which enrolled nearly three-fourths of all international students in graduate programs in the United States.

In 2015, American institutions received more than 520,000 applications from abroad. Only 65,000 students enrolled. American universities made offers to only one out of three applicants, rejecting over 346,000 students. At the same time, 111,000 students received the offer but decided not to enroll at a U.S. institution.

Transnational education programs offer new opportunities of absorbing the demand from international markets by leveraging technology and still offering value to "glocal" students who want to earn an international credential while remaining near home. This will require a deeper understanding of the decision-making processes and their motivations and barriers to study aboard.

Here is the link to my full article "The Global Strength of the American Master's Degree", published in The Washington Post.

Here are related articles which quoted me the analysis of the CGS report:

For international students enrolling in graduate schools, master’s programs rule, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Growth in foreign grad students, Inside Higher Ed

US: Three-quarters of first time graduate enrolees on master’s path, The PIE News

My doctoral dissertation was on developing a competency-based, new program for a master's degree in engineering and management. It was very insightful to see the CGS report and analyze the data broken-up by doctoral level and master's level for the first time.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 09, 2015

Investing in informed enrollment strategies and adapting to trends in international student mobility

US higher education enrolled nearly 975,000 international students in 2014-2015, an increase of 52% since 2007/08 or 350,000 students more in seven years. What are the underlying growth patterns and implications for institutional strategies? 

Looking deeper into the numbers, it becomes apparent that not all institutions have been successful in attracting international students. For example, 1 out of 5 international students is enrolled in just 25 institutions. Beyond these few institutions, majority face challenges in attracting international students. On the one hand, there are challenges of limited resources and expertise and on the one hand, there are constraints of location and rankings. Higher education institutions must invest in a deeper understanding of international student mobility trends with a focus on shifting needs, expectations and decision-making processes to build informed and sustainable enrollment strategies

Here are three charts from IIE Open Doors’ data that indicate growth based on the year-to-year changes in international student enrollment by academic level, source country, and type of institution.

  • Enrollment in master’s degrees drives growth 

In this post-recession environment, bachelor’s level enrollment increased not only because of interest from higher education institutions to recruit more full-fee paying students but also due to expanding demand from Chinese students, who were less price-conscious.

Masters, Bachelors, Doctoral International Student Data and Trends

In the last three years, master’s level programs experienced a growth in international student enrollment. In 2011/12, the enrollment at master’s level decreased by 1,100 students as compared to 2010/11. However, in 2014/15, enrollments in master’s degrees increased by nearly 30,000 students as compared to previous year. Indian students, who were less price-conscious and aimed for shorter duration programs, supported the shift in demand for master’s level programs.

  • India catches up with China 

In 2006/07, China added only 4,400 students more as compared to previous years. For next six years, China witnessed a rapid growth momentum. At its peak in 2012/13, China added 41,500 more students as compared to 2012/13. For next two years, China grew at a slower pace adding 38,800 and 29,600 students than the previous year.

China, India, Saudi Arabia, Korea Number of Students in USA Universities

In contrast, India witnessed three continuous years of contraction in enrollment between 2010/11 and 2012/13. This was when the Indian currency was devaluing, and US employment market was unstable. With Indian students getting used to the new normal of the cost of studying abroad and employment prospects in the US improving, India added 30,200 students in 2014/15 as compared to previous year.

  • Master’s level institutions become attractive 

While there are 300 doctorate-granting institutions and over 700 masters-focused institutions, according to the Carnegie Foundation, the number of international students enrolled in doctorate-granting institutions is nearly four-times than those at masters-focused institutions.

Carnegie Classification, Doctorate-granting, Master's focused, Baccalaureate College Foreign Students Data

The brand pull of leading doctorate-granting institutions has been strong enough to make them less sensitive to the recession. They continued to drive most of the enrollment growth. However, for last two years, master’s level institutions are picking up the pace. In 2014/15, master’s level institutions added 21,200 more students as compared to previous year. This growth correlates with growth in Indian students who sought affordable education at master’s level.

Although record high numbers of international students indicate the sustained attractiveness of the US as a top destination, the shifting trends and complex relationship with the macroeconomic environment highlights the importance of informed strategies to recruit international students.

At the same time, higher education institutions must balance their efforts in international student recruitment with investments in support services to deliver positive experiences and meet the diverse needs of international students. Sustainable enrollment strategies require the engagement of successful international student ambassadors.

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November 18, 2015

Highfliers from India and Explorers from China Drive Growth in Enrollment in US

Here is my article first published on Huffington Post.

The latest Open Doors data indicates yet another year of growth in international student enrollment. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of international students has increased by 41 per cent to reach a total of 974,926. They contributed over $30 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

foreign students top four countries-china, india, korea, saudi arabia

In last ten years, international enrollments skyrocketed at some institutions, while others have lagged behind, resulting in an imbalance which can have negative implications for both institutions and individuals. Despite the growth, the proportion of international students to total US higher education enrollment is only 4.8 per cent. There is also a skew in terms of source countries.

More than half of all international students in the US come from four countries, China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Often, international students are lumped as one monolithic block and their diversity of motivations, barriers, needs, and expectations for coming to study in the US is compromised. Here is a snapshot from the recent data that highlights the diversity of international students in the US as reflected by their country of education and level of education.

The number of Chinese "explorer" students continues to grow, especially at the undergraduate level. This is consistent with the large upper middle-class population that invests in the international education experience of their single child. In fall 2014, the number of Chinese students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) (temporary employment of 29 months for STEM majors or 12 months for all other majors) increased to by 29 per cent to reach 43,000 students. In my previous analysis, I projected this continued growth of Chinese students, despite economic turbulence.

diversity of Chinese students in US higher education OPT, career, undergraduate

India market is characterized by "value-seeking" students who want to minimize cost and maximize employment prospects. Thus, the number of Indian students expanded at the graduate level (mostly master's level in STEM programs) which provides them better pathways for finding jobs in Information Technolgy industry. Consistent with my previous analysis of an emerging wave of "highflier" Indian students, the enrollment at undergraduate level have increased by nearly 30 per cent.
indian student enrollment US-highflier growth, OPT, H1 pathway

South Korea 
South Korea is witnessing the same pattern of declining number of students coming to the US as Japan. This is a function of a number of factors including decreasing gap in quality of life and earnings between Korea and the US, increasing options of improved quality education available in Korea and finally, demographic factors which are resulting in a shrinking population. Given a higher ability of paying for education, more Korean students come at the undergraduate level, more than double than the number of Indian students.
Korean students enrollment analysis in US

Saudi Arabia 
The majority of Saudi students are studying in undergraduate level programs and their primary pathway is through "non-degree" which include Intensive English Preparation (IEP) programs. In contrast to Chinese, Indian and Korean students the growth of Saudi students has been supported by Saudi scholarships. At the same time, very few Saudi students are on OPT which indicates that majority will not gain work experience in the US.
Saudi Arabia students in US, IEL, english, pathways, scholarships

This analysis of enrollment pattern of just four countries illustrates that international students are driven by a diverse and complex set of motivations and expectations for coming to the US. The rest of the countries bring their own nuances and characteristics in terms of student drivers of mobility. To maintain the competitiveness and leadership of American higher education institutions as the destination of global talent, lot more needs to be done in terms of understanding the richness of the international student diversity and invest in improving their academic and career success in the US.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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November 13, 2015

Open Doors 2015: What to expect with international student enrollment trends?

How has the enrollment of international students at higher education institutions in the United States changed in fall 2014 as compared to fall 2013? The Open Doors 2015 will be released on November 16, 2015 to answer this question.

projections of future enrollment of international students IIE

Here is my forecast of two leading source countries, China and India, from previous articles published in UniversityWorldNews:
"Universities need to get ready for India’s highfliers" August 2014 
"A new wave of demand for global education among Indian ‘high fliers’ is set to take-off. These children of professionals who started working in new-age industries in the late '90s will create a new opportunity for foreign higher education institutions interested in engaging with India."

"In sum, I define Indian ‘high fliers’ as children born in the late '90s to parents working in new-age industries like IT, financial services and telecommunications. Many of these ‘high flier’ students will start exploring undergraduate colleges in 2015 and many others will apply for masters programmes in a few years’ time."
"The end of the China growth story?" July 2015 
"In sum, the overall demand for foreign education among Chinese students will continue to be robust. However, there will be a shift in student segments and their decision-making processes. "

"The increase in Chinese students at the undergraduate level was primarily driven by the growth of ‘Explorers’, those with high financial resources and low academic preparedness....Given the size and scale of the wealthy class in China, the demand for undergraduate and high school education abroad will continue to be strong. However, self-funded graduate education at both the masters and doctoral levels will face challenges for the next couple of years."

While the upcoming report will again indicate important mobility trends, we should not forget the importance of investigating and investing in international student success and their experiences. "By only focusing on input metrics like recruitment goals rather than student success, institutions run the risk of damaging their reputation and competitive positioning."

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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November 08, 2015

Investing in Success of International Students: Understanding Needs and Behaviors of Diverse Segments

International student segmentation is one of the frameworks that helps us understand the changing needs and behaviors of international students. First launched in 2012 with the research report Not All International Students Are the Same, the segmentation framework aims to inform enrollment strategies and practices in the context of the diverse needs, motivations and preferences of international students.

The framework identified four segments of students along two dimensions: academic preparedness and financial resources.
-Strivers: High academic preparedness; low financial resources
-Strugglers: Low academic preparedness; low financial resources
-Explorers: Low academic preparedness; high financial resources
-Highfliers: High academic preparedness; high financial resources

The core contribution of this framework is to encourage higher education institutions to understand students beyond aggregate numbers and recognize the diversity of their needs and expectations. This framework also provides a lens to understand “glocal” students in transnational education or in a cross-border context. Several scholars have further investigated the framework to deepen our understanding of international students. However, this has to widen in scope if we are to discover and define international student success.

Research on international student success 

An emerging and expanding area of research goes beyond international student mobility trends to investigate and invest in student success. Research and evidence on how campus experiences contribute to and inhibit the success of international students are rather limited.

In the US, one of the first attempts to research and understand areas of improvement for institutional practices was through NAFSA’s research report titled Bridging the Gap: Recruitment and retention to improve international student experiences. It illustrated the gap between what students think are important areas of satisfaction and what institutions think are important for students. Likewise, the UK and Australia are attempting to better understand and address these issues.

To advance this research agenda, I am serving as the guest editor on the special issue on International Student Success for the Journal of International Students. The aim of this issue is to provide evidence and insights for institutions to improve institutional practices and help international students succeed in their academic and career pursuits.

In most countries, international students pay more in tuition fees and receive less in services than their domestic counterparts. By only focusing on input metrics like recruitment goals rather than student success, institutions run the risk of damaging their reputation and competitive positioning. Institutions cannot take the academic and career success of their international students for granted. Let us work toward investigating and investing in international student success.

* This is an edited version of my article published in UniversityWorldNews *

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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November 06, 2015

Global student mobility: Is your international enrollment strategy future ready?

I will be presenting a free webinar-"Developing International Enrollment Strategy"-on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm EST. The audience for this webinar is higher education administrators interested in international student enrollment, recruitment and retention.

international student segmentation trends, practices and insights

Here is the brief context:
A small proportion of higher education institutions in the U.S. command a majority of international student enrollment. While 108 doctorate-granting universities enroll just 11 percent of all students in the country, they enroll some 44 percent of all international students. What explains this trajectory of so many international students towards a small number of institutions?

And how can other institutions deepen their understanding of the needs and desires of international students, and build informed enrollment strategies to become more competitive in recruiting, enrolling and retaining these students?

This webinar will share the latest trends and insights about international student mobility as well as the decision-making processes of different segments of the prospective international students, and how to use these insights to help develop sustainable and competitive international enrollment strategies.

Topics will include:
  • Trends and insights on international student mobility 
  • Strategies for developing sustainable international enrollment, recruitment and retention strategies
  • Best practices from diverse American institutions with large international student populations
Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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Research on International Student Success: Call For Contributions

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