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

April 27, 2014

Why applications from Indian students to US graduate programs increased?

Indian students applying to master's programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at Master's-Focused Institutions by Carnegie Classification have mostly contributed to the recent growth trend in the number of applications to the U.S. graduate schools.  The number of applications from India grew by 32%, according to the recent Council of Graduate School report.

A previous story in the New York Times/The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the trend of increase in GRE test-takers. I mentioned that there is a "pent-up demand" among Indians to study in the US. The economic and political uncertainty in India had kept many to defer their study abroad plans. As the prospects of employment in the US have improved and the supply of fresh graduates continued to expand, the number of Indian students seeking to study in the US has increased.

As I mentioned in the recent story by the Science magazine, only a part of the UK-bound Indian students would have been redirected to the US. The reason is that the U.K. market had always been business- or management-related courses, due to their one-year duration of program, which makes it cost-effective.

In contrast, the U.S. market is primarily STEM market, driven by the attractiveness of large IT services industry which provides employability potential and a transition pathway provided by 17-month OPT extension for STEM-related degrees. This is reflected in the enrollment pattern of Indian students. More than two-third of all Indian students in the US are enrolled in STEM related fields. who form more thanHere is a previous analysis on how 17-month STEM OPT extension influenced international student enrollment trends?

Another important facilitator of the growth is proactive outreach by Master-focused public institutions to recruit students from India—especially those who can pay their own way. This trend can be seen in 34% increase in applications to public, Master-focused Institutions as compared to 7% increase for All Institutions. I had analyzed this trend in my previous post - what institutional drivers explain different enrollment trend of Indian and Chinese graduate students in the US?

However, this interest in studying in the US (as indicated by applications) may not be fully reflected in the similar percentage increase in enrollment in fall'2014 (as indicated by enrollment trends in Nov'14 report). The reason is that some student will still find it difficult to overcome the financial and visa barriers.

In sum, the need of Master-focused public institutions for full fee-paying for master's programs is perfectly meeting the "pent-up" demand of Indians to study in the US.

Here is a related analysis from WES on International Student Mobility Trends which compares the STEM related enrollment patterns, beyond India.

What are your thoughts/comments/experiences?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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April 06, 2014

International students contributed ~17.7 billion USD to the UK economy

In 2011–12, there were 435,235 international students contributing ~17.7 billion USD to the UK economy in tuition fee and related living expenses, according to a recent report by Universities UK entitled "the impact of the higher education sector on the UK economy." In specific, non-EU international students paid $5.4 billion in tuition fees to the universities. While, one out of six students enrolled in the UK higher education is from outside the UK, the number of international students in the UK have declined in last couple of years, indicating that the British universities will feel the impact on their budgets. This relates to the previous discussion on foreign students becoming integral to budgets of universities in the US. 

Contributions of foreign students

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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April 02, 2014

Latest statistics on international student enrollment in higher education in England

Higher education institutions in England experienced their first decline in enrollment of foreign students in nearly 30 years, according to the latest report by HEFCE--The Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The decline is primarily attributed to decline in two primary segments--
1) students from Indian and Pakistan enrolling in postgraduate taught masters courses in STEM related fields (halved since 2010)
2)  European Union (EU) undergraduate students (who now have to pay the same increased fees as UK students)

This again points out the shifts in mobility of international students based on factors like cost of education, employment potential and immigration prospects. It also supports that institutions need to be strategic and proactive in planning and diversifying their enrollment strategies.

Here are the key charts indicating the data on trends related to international student enrollment in the UK from HEFCE report entitled "Global demand for English higher education: An analysis of international student entry to English higher education courses."

Postgraduate (master's) Enrollment 
- For last couple of years postgraduate students have been declining
- In 2012-13, three out of four students in full-time taught masters entrants were from outside the UK (including other EU countries)

Undergraduate Enrollment
- Number of undergraduate students from EU countries dropped sharply
- In 2012-13, one out of six students in full-time taught masters entrants were from outside the UK (including other EU countries)

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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