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

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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