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

January 15, 2017

Latest data on international students: Comparing US and UK enrollment trends

International student market in entering a phase of hyper-competition and turbulence. On the side, leading institutions with the brand recognition and ranking will face no challenges and on the other side, the majority of institutions will struggle to recruit international students and meet their enrollment goals.

I have analyzed the data from HESA, UK and IIE, US for 2015-16 enrollment. Here are some of the inferences based on the comparative analysis of the international student mobility data:
  • American higher education institutions are more dependent on China and India as compared to British institutions 
  • US and UK have witnessed contrasting trends with at least four places of origin—India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Hong Kong 
  • The growth rate for Chinese students in the US far outstrips than in the UK 
  • Ten times as many Indian students are studying in the US as in the UK 

data comparing US UK China India international student enrollment recruitment trends

British universities rely heavily on international students for meeting its enrollment goals. The biggest challenge for British universities is that its top two source countries—China and India—are not driving the enrollment growth. These two countries account for over one-third of the total international student enrollment in the country. For the last four years, the overall enrollment for China has grown at a much slower pace (compared to the US), while India has been experiencing a consistent decline.

While the UK has an advantage over the US in attracting international students from Nigeria, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, it cannot underestimate the Indian market because of its scale and growth potential. UK faces stiff competition for Indian students against the US, which experienced a dramatic increase in the number of Indian students primarily in Engineering and Computer Science fields.

With Brexit, the post-graduation employment and immigration opportunities will become more restricted. It will likely hurt the enrollment for the master’s programs for non-EU international students and undergraduate programs for EU students.

The US higher education is also facing a tougher environment for attracting international students for fall 2017. Three of the four top source countries—China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia—are witnessing a slower rate of growth. India was the only market among the top four countries, which witnessed a double-digit growth rate.

Indian students are value-seekers and hence they are concentrated in master’s programs, which offer a more likely work experience through three-year long STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT). However, with the recent demonetization of Indian currency and a perception of stricter immigration policies, Indian numbers are likely to be affected at the master’s programs.

In a globally competitive market of international student recruitment, the outcome of the American Presidential election seems like a saving grace for the UK universities. To some extent, the unfavorable perception of Brexit among international students has been “trumped” by the uncertainty of the American immigration policies and its implications on work opportunities.

Related coverage of the analysis




Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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January 01, 2017

Trends with Chinese Students in American Business Schools and Specialized Master's Programs

Many American Business Schools are increasingly relying on international students to meet their enrollment goals. I was quoted in a recent story highlighting that Chinese students constitute 40% of total enrollment at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

I analyzed the data of Chinese GMAT test-takers to see the growth trends. The number of Chinese citizens taking GMAT test increased by 22% to reach 70,744 between the testing year (TY) 2012 to 2016, according to GMAC or Graduate Management Admissions Council During the same five years, the growth for Chinese test-takes residing in China grew at a slower pace of 13% to reach 50.465 test-takers.

data analysis of GMAT test takers for international students from China


The difference in the number of GMAT test-takers who are Chinese residents from those who are Chinese citizens is the number of Chinese GMAT test takers from overseas. There were 20,279 such students in TY2016. The number of GMAT test-takers increased at a much faster rate of 48% (TY 2012-2016) for Chinese students who were overseas. These more likely to be Chinese undergraduate students already in the U.S. and aiming to pursue a master's degree.

Here are few additional characteristics of Chinese students considering to study for a graduate business program:

  • The majority were not applying for traditional two-year MBA programs. Over 73% of Chinese citizens sent their GMAT score reports to "non-MBA master's" programs as compared to 19.3% of American citizens.
  • Chinese students are more likely to be younger and hence straight out of college with no work experience. The mean age of Chinese citizens was 23.1 years as compared to 26.5 years for the American citizens. 
  • Female students from China are more likely to take GMAT test. Female formed nearly 67% of Chinese citizens taking GMAT test. In contrast, only 39% of American citizens taking GMAT test were female.
[ Related post: How many students from India, China and Korea study in the US for business and management programs? ]

The implications of younger Chinese students are evident in the classroom and campus experiences where many may find it more difficult to culturally adapt to the business school environment. For example, speaking up and participating in classroom discussion is key to learning experience at a B-school while it may be culturally incompatible for many Chinese students.

At the same time, it would much harder for many of the young Chinese students with no work experience to find job and internship opportunities in a competitive employment market. Even if they succeed to find an (OPT (Optional Practical Training) or job, many of them struggle in acculturating to an American workplace. A lot of success of continuing to attract Chinese students will hinge on the supporting the success of students in the US or elsewhere.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 22, 2016

Indian higher education institutions aspire to recruit more international students

Here is an excerpt from my article published in The Economic Times based on a panel presentation at 2016 FICCI Higher Education Summit.

India is the second largest source of internationally mobile students around the world. According to the UNESCO data, in 2015, nearly 234,000 Indian students were enrolled in universities and colleges abroad. In contrast, Indian universities and colleges hosted nearly 39,000 degree-seeking international students.

The Government of India is keen on enhancing the attractiveness of India as a destination for international students. At the same time, some Indian institutions are keen on making use of the 15% additional seats available to them for enrolling foreign students.

However, India faces increasing competition as many other destinations have already been active in creating government policies and institutional capacities for attracting global talent. For example, in 2015, Malaysia and China hosted more than 60,000 and 123,000 degree-seeking international students, respectively.

The recent FICCI Higher Education Summit convened institutional leaders, policy makers, and education experts to deliberate on opportunities for and challenges in attracting foreign students to India.

I participated in one of the panels at the Summit and presented four primary strategic approaches that can help Indian institutions attract more international students.
  • Enhancing country image 
  • Bridging information gaps 
  • Understanding international student segments
  • Investing in international student experience 
In sum, some Indian institutions have the right blend of ambition and potential to attract international students. However, realizing the goals will require proactive and informed strategies which are designed to support student success.

Click to read the full article.

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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December 19, 2016

Demonetization of Indian currency and its impact on mobility and enrollment of Indian students in 2017

What will be the impact of demonetization of Indian currency on Indian students planning to study abroad in 2017? Here is an excerpt of the article published in Forbes by Rahul Choudaha and Di Hu. 
What is the impact of demonetization and Trump on Indian students studying abroad
On November 8, the Prime Minster of Indian announced a demonetization policy which made 86% of the currency in circulation invalid as a legal tender. With the application deadlines for most institutions ranging from November to February, the timing of demonetization could not have been worse as many were still making sense of the implications of the recent Presidential elections.

Student visa processes require showing proof of availability of funds for the first year of tuition and living expenses. Given that total annual expenses can range from US$ 30,000 to US$ 70,000, many Indian students were using short-term borrowing for visa approvals and education abroad.

Clearly, in this context demonetization is likely to affect the willingness and ability of Indian students to study abroad, however, the impact will differ by the level of education.
Traditional segment of master’s students: Seeking career advancement 
Nearly 80% of all Indian students in the U.S. enroll at the master’s level. This is the traditional segment of Indian students who seek to minimize the cost of education and maximize the potential for job and career advancement opportunities.

Most of the Indian masters’ students fund their education through loans. Demonetization is going to make it tougher arranging for short-term funds. This in turn can result in visa denials and hence, lesser number of students finally showing up on the campuses.
Emerging segment of undergraduate students: Seeking global experiences 
Only 10% of all Indian students abroad are enrolled at bachelors’ degree level. A previous analysis projected the trend of the growth of Indian undergraduate students. The emergence of Indian undergraduate students can be traced back to the changes in the economy have transformed the structure of society.

Children of professionals working in new-age industries like IT, financial services and telecommunications who started their career in 1990's are now college ready. Given that these children come from families with substantial financial resources, their ability to fund their education abroad would not be affected by the demonetization.

While the full impact of demonetization is yet to be seen, many Indian students would find it challenging to arrange for finances and visas. It is especially going to affect enrollments for 2017 at the masters’ level. Institutions making proactive efforts in understanding the diversity and complexity of the Indian student market will gain in maximizing from these shifting trends.
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December 02, 2016

Commentary and media mentions on Trump and international education

American universities and colleges face many uncertainties under Trump’ Presidency including the future of the internationalization of higher education. Will universities and colleges become more globally engaged? Will universities and colleges be successful in attracting more international students? Will American students get resources and support to engage in more education abroad experiences?


I have published two commentary pieces and my perspectives have been mentioned in 20 publications including The New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, and Slate.

In sum, the sociopolitical environment in the countries that are the leading destinations for international students has dramatically changed. In this turbulent environment, upholding the values of international education and student mobility is more important than ever.
Over the next four years, international educators must remain optimistic and reaffirm their commitment to building bridges that advance global engagement and mutual understanding.
One of the core values of international education is about celebrating diversity and learning from differences. Trump’s viewpoints are insular and not in line with the values of international education. 
Career advancement is one of the prime motivations for international students to study in the U.S. Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may create stricter visa and immigration policies which may make it even more difficult for students to come to the U.S. and find internship and job opportunities. 
- Rahul Choudaha, PhD

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November 07, 2016

Data on mobility of international students to and from India

How many Indian students go to study abroad every year? How many international students come to study in Indian universities and colleges?statistics and analysis of how many Indian students go abroad and international students in Indian higher education
It is often reported in media that somewhere between 200,000 -400,000 Indian students go abroad every year. It is incorrect due to misinterpretation of the data. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics reports enrollment data on degree-seeking internationally mobile students.

According to the last data available for 2014, nearly 234,00 Indian students were enrolled in different parts of the world. Here enrollment refers to students in various stages of their educational program and not just the first year students (new enrollment). Assuming that majority of the Indian students are pursuing two-year master's program, the total number of students going abroad every year will be around 100,000.

Most of the international students studying in Indian universities and colleges come from the neighboring countries inAsia and the Middle East. Given that Indian institutions are allowed to enroll additional 15% students from overseas, there is an increasing interest among some institutions to proactively recruit international students. The Government of India is also keen on elevating the visibility and attractiveness of India for foreign students.

I will be participating in a panel at FICCI Conference to discuss opportunities, challenges, and strategies in recruiting international students for Indian institutions.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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November 04, 2016

Making India as a destination of choice for international students: Institutional strategies and best practices

12th FICCI HIGHER EDUCATION SUMMIT will take place from November 10-12, 2016 in Delhi. The overarching theme of the conference is opportunities and challenges for attracting foreign students to India.

I will be participating in a session "Making 'Learn in India' Happen!" which will deliberate on making India the preferred choice of study for the international students. The panel comprises of following speakers:

  • Dr Rahul Choudaha, CEO, DrEducation, USA 
  • Prof Furqan Qamar, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities (AIU) 
  • Mr Rakesh Ranjan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) 
  • Mr Daniel C. Stoll, Associate Dean, Georgetown University 
  • Dr G Vishwanathan, Chancellor, VIT
  • Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Vice Chancellor, Symbiosis University 

I will focus three critical success factors for institutions:

  • Understanding diverse segments of international students 
  • Investing in international student experience 
  • Developing a profession on international education administrators 

how to attract foreign students to emerging countries Indian policies strategies

A related panel will include following panelists:


  • Dr Jo Beall, Director, Education and Society British Council (Exec Board)
  • Ms Sumita Dawra, Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Andhra Pradesh
  • Mr Franciso Marmolejo, Higher Education Coordinator, The World Bank
  • Mr. Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Corporate Services
  • Prof Ashish Nanda, Director, IIM Ahmedabad 
  • Mr Mohandas Pai, Chair, FICCI Skills Committee & Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services

DrEducation is the International Outreach Partner of FICCI HES. 

Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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November 02, 2016

Research on International Student Success: Principal Researcher of DrEducation Serves as the Special Issues Editor

The Journal of International Students has released a special issue on International Student Success featuring a selection of research articles and commentaries to enhance institutional readiness for supporting and advancing the success of international students.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha, principal researcher, DrEducation served as the guest editor of the special issue. Dr. Krishna Bista, Chase Endowed Professor of Education, University of Louisiana at Monroe, is the editor-in-chief of the Journal.



The aim of this special issue is to advance the research agenda about the needs, experiences, and expectations of international students so that research can help build institutional readiness for supporting academic and career pursuits of international students.

This special issue includes a collection of 18 articles from 32 authors. They address several research concerns related to international student success including leadership self-efficacy, writing proficiency, mentorship, retention, student satisfaction, sense of belongingness, plagiarism, and career services.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial "Campus Readiness for Supporting International Student Success."

International student enrollment in the U.S. universities and colleges has been growing at a healthy pace. Between 2001/02 and 2014/15, the number of international students in U.S. universities and colleges increased by 67% to reach nearly 974,926 students (Open Doors, 2015).

However, source countries and destination institutions skew this growth. For example, international students from the leading 10 places of origin grew by 121% and likewise, the leading 10 institutions of international student enrollment increased by 166%.

This dramatic and skewed growth has implications for international student success. It has exposed the lack of readiness of many campuses to engage and support international students. At many campuses, support services for international students only address immigration and visa compliance. International students need, deserve, and want more in terms of academic and career support.

It’s high time to stop treating international students as cash cows and embrace the values which institutions expect their students to manifest. To build a sustainable and an inclusive model of enrolling and integrating international students with local students and campus communities, institutions of higher education must invest in campus readiness.
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November 01, 2016

AIEC Conference Invited Session: International Student Mobility Trends and Implications for Institutional Strategies

I was invited to speak at the recent Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) in Melbourne. More than 1,500 international education professionals from around the world convened at the conference.

One of the key messages of my session on “Three Megatrends Shaping the Future of International Student Mobility” was that the number of students seeking global educational experiences will continue to increase. However, sustainable growth will require a deeper understanding of shifting profiles, needs, and expectations of international students.



International students take their global experiences and educational credentials as a pathway to advancing their career and improving their life. Moreover, career and employability outcomes in the host country through immigration or on return to home country are among the most important motivations to study abroad.

Several sessions at AIEC conference suggest that Australia has already recognized the value of career outcomes for international students and is synchronizing efforts to enhance their professional development opportunities. Here are some of the indicative titles of the sessions related to student employability and career-readiness.

Australian Government recently released National Strategy for International Education 2025. It states that “The employability of our graduates will be a key measure of success against Australia’s goal to be the global leader in education, training, and research. We will focus on developing employability and opportunities for work integrated learning, enhancing the nexus between education and employment.”

As competition for international students intensifies, nations and institutions cannot continue to charge a higher differential fee to international students and deliver unsatisfactory career outcomes. Higher education institutions and countries interested in recruiting international students can learn from Australian experiences which show that growing attractiveness for international students will require constantly thinking, planning and acting upon strategies that align with international student success.

Based on the summary of the Forbes article with Di Hu.

- Rahul Choudaha, PhD
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October 27, 2016

Global Leaders Series: Chris Rudd, Provost, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

DrEducation Global Leaders Series: Interview with Professor Chris Rudd

Professor Christopher D. Rudd is currently University of Nottingham’s longest serving Pro-Vice-Chancellor – a position he has held since 2008. In August 2015 he accepted the role of Provost at University of Nottingham Ningbo China and is currently based in China where he oversees the growth and development of China’s first and most successful Sino-Foreign University. Chris is Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He has been a Board Member of the China Britain Business Council since 2010 and chairs the Nottingham Confucius Institute. Chris was awarded the Changbaishan Friendship Award by the Chinese Government in 2013. He was awarded the 48 Group Club Icebreaker Laureate prize for services to Sino-UK relations by HE Liu Xiaoming Chinese Ambassador to UK and won the Model Confucius Institute Award presented by Vice-Premier LIU Yandong in 2015. 


Rahul- How has the broad notion of leadership in higher education different in this decade as compared to last decade? How will it look like in the next decade?

Chris-Whether we like it or not, successful HE leaders need to exhibit the same instincts as any other CEOs. They need to respond to market dynamics and steer their institutions in volatile circumstances, innovating to create new business opportunities, manage risk, recruit and retain talent. They need strong vision and considerable personal integrity to carry stakeholders with them through increasingly frequent cycles of change.

Rahul- More specifically, what are the top three competencies for a Provost/Chief Academic Officer? How are they likely to evolve in the next decade?

Chris- My top 3 have always been Vision, Integrity and an uncompromising commitment to Quality. These are fundamental characteristics but the successful leader needs to be great reader of people, using the available talent to best effect, to anticipate the market and to have great emotional intelligence.

Rahul- What would be your couple of suggestions (e.g. do's and don'ts) to higher education professionals aspiring to take the Provost's role?

Chris- Recognise your fallibility and your finite bandwidth. Try to define the space where you can play effectively and the outer spaces where it is your team that must deliver. Provide feedback to others in generous measure but ask for it sparingly yourself. Admit your own mistakes candidly and deal with them expediently, learn and move on.

Rahul- How is leading an institution outside your country of origin different (e.g. challenges, operating styles, skillsets or people)?

Chris- It introduces complexities due to culture, communication and context. It makes business more complicated but also more interesting, bringing unpredictable elements and factors outside your personal influence. You will rely on others to bridge you into their world and you must quickly learn to discriminate between those who help you with a pure heart and those who seek personal advantage. You must adapt your own approach to suit the environment but at the same time, hold true to your mission and personal values.

Rahul- How do you draw your inspiration and energy as a leader? What is your leadership motto?

Chris- I have worked with some inspiring leaders in the past and borrowed freely from each - learning as much by observing mistakes as well as witnessing great leadership in action. Leading UNNC is an intensive, exciting responsibility. However, it is important to stay fresh and so personally I need a counterpoint - time with my kids, a climbing trip, playing music with people - all of these things bring peace and happiness. When I came to UNNC I started saying “Being the first is now longer enough, we also have to be the best” - I think that this works for our students as well as for the business  I hope that it sticks for a while.
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