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

January 29, 2017

Impact of temporary ban on seven Muslim countries on international students

The overall impact of the recent ban on seven Muslim countries could be severe for enrollments at many higher education institutions. It will sharply drop the number of international students not only from these countries but other Muslim majority countries too like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were among top-15 places of origin sending international students in 2015/16, according to IIE.

Saudi Arabia, a key market for the US was already witnessing the drop in enrollment due to a cut in the Saudi government's scholarship program. The domino effect of this ban will further result in a precipitous decline of students from Saudi. Intensive English Programs and undergraduate programs are likely to suffer from enrollment decline in students from Saudi and Kuwait.

The ban will especially hurt graduate schools as a majority of the students from the seven banned countries and other Muslim countries like Turkey which were primarily enrolled in graduate level programs. According to SEVP data, in 2016, 70% of Iranian students were enrolled in doctoral-level programs (8,603/12,427).

enrollment and recruitment of international students from banned countries

2015/16 Undergrad Graduate Non-degree OPT Total
Saudi Arabia

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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January 28, 2017

Number of international students on Optional Practical Training in the USA: Analysis of data and trends

One of the leaked draft executive orders on Vox focuses on limiting legal immigration. It is entitled "Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs." Among its several provisions are the employment-based visas and Optional Practical Training (OPT). It states:
(iv) consider ways to make the process for allocating H-1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries  of the program are the best and the brightest;
(vii) propose for notice and comment a regulation that would reform practical training programs for foreign students to prevent the disadvantaging of U.S. students in the workforce, better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by such programs, restore the integrity of student visa programs, ensure compliance, and improve monitoring of foreign students
Vox reports that this order could "...reverse Obama’s extension of the duration of Optional Practical Training work visas and decision to allow the spouses of H-1B guest workers to also have work permits."

Optional Practical Training for international students latest immigration policy change

Optional Practical Training is a highly attractive program for international students. It helps them gain work experience, enrich their educational learning, and recover a part of their investment in education. Employers gain by bringing in global talent and explore their skillsets before deciding future steps for an employment visa.

The standard duration of OPT is one year. On April 8, 2008, DHS approved a 17-month OPT extension for a student graduating with a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. A new rule effective May 10, 2016, further extended 17-moht to 24-month for STEM degrees.

STEM OPT Extension is especially appealing to Indian students who are concentrated in master's programs in engineering and computer science. Data from SEVP indicates that in 2016, 83% of Indian students, 43% of Saudi Arabian students, 78% of Iranian students, and 40% of Chinese students are enrolled in STEM programs.

Here are some of the trends related to OPT during the eight years between 2007/08 and 2015/16. The academic year 2007/08 is selected to compare the enrollment trends prior to the approval of 17-month STEM Extension.

- In 2015/16, there were 90,732 more international students on OPT as compared to 2007/08
- In the eight years, the rate of growth of students on OPT was higher than growth in total enrollment
- Two out of every third international student on OPT is from China or India (2015/16)
- One out of every sixth Chinese student in the US is on OPT (2015/16)
- One out of every fourth Indian student in the US is on OPT (2015/16)

With only 20,000 H1-B visas allocated for international students graduating with advanced degrees from the US, a majority of the international students have to return to their home countries. OPT provides a critical experiential opportunity to complement the academic curriculum with practical skills.

OPT is one of the key differentiators in an increasingly competitive landscape of attracting international students from around the world. International students contributed US$ 32.8 billion to the US economy, according to NAFSA. Any policy which destabilizes the prospects of gaining work experience will hurt the American economy and higher education institutions.

- Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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January 23, 2017

AIEA 2017: Intercultural strategies for enhancing campus inclusion and student success

The 2017 AIEA Annual Conference focuses on the interplay between boundaries and connections in internationalization. Among the several challenges of an SIO is navigating departmental silos and managing competing priorities. In an era of resource constraints, many well-meaning institutions are struggling to support the inclusion and success of international students.

At the upcoming AIEA conference, Di Hu, will chair a session entitled "Intercultural Strategies for Enhancing Campus Inclusion and Student Success" on Wednesday, February 22 at 9:15am. This interactive session will bring together Senior International Officers--Amir Reza, Amy McNichols, and Torian L. Lee--to share their leadership perspectives and experiences from diverse institutional settings.

The session will engage the audience to discover and discuss intercultural programs with a focus on what works and what doesn’t. The panelists will share their institutional contexts how they are applying cost-effective, high-impact intercultural strategies to enhance intercultural competence for all student groups including international students.

Learning Objectives:
  • What is the role of intercultural competence in shaping student success and experience? 
  • What are the key strategies (programs/practices) in achieving optimal outcomes? 
  • Di Hu (Chair) co-founder and principal coach of 
  • Amir Reza, Ph.D., Vice Provost, International & Multicultural Education, Babson College Panelist 
  • Amy McNichols, Ph.D., Associate Dean, International and Intercultural Programs, McDaniel College
  • Torian L. Lee, J.D., Director, Center for Intercultural and International programs (CIIP), Xavier University of Louisiana

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January 22, 2017

Webinar: Are universities crucibles of transformative leadership?

University World News, The MasterCard Foundation, and DrEducation partnered to host a free webinar on the role of higher education in fostering transformative leadership. It received over 1,100 registrations from around the world.

Role of higher education in shaping leaders for social transformation-DrEducation-UniversityWorldNews-Mastercard online global discussion

Are universities crucibles of transformative leadership?

Transformative leadership is broadly defined as a process of generating positive and lasting change. What would our university campuses look like if the transformative leadership were to become core fabric of the student life? How do we infuse transformative leadership into academic programmes and campus experiences? How do we measure and assess its impact on individuals, universities and societies? What is the role of university administrators and academics in modeling or leading the change we would like to see in our students and societies? Are universities willing and ready to bring a positive and lasting change as the crucibles of fostering transformative leadership skills within students?
  • Rahul Choudaha, (Moderator) Co-founder, DrEducation, LLC &, USA 
  • Barbara Stocking, President, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, UK 
  • Lucia Lebasha, MasterCard Foundation Scholar, Costa Rica
  • Fred Swaniker, Founder, African Leadership Academy, South Africa 
  • Patrick Awuah, President, Ashesi University, Ghana

Previous webinars from UniversityWorldNews and DrEducation
Interested in exploring partnership? Email at

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January 19, 2017

AIEA 2017: Aligning institutional strategies with emerging global trends

The Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) is a professional association dedicated exclusively to senior leaders in the field of international education (senior international officers). The 2017 AIEA Annual Conference focuses on the interplay between boundaries and connections in internationalization.

scenarios and future trends impacting global engagement strategies

Dr. Rahul Choudaha will be chairing a session entitled "Getting Future Ready: Aligning Institutional Strategies with Emerging Trends" on Tuesday, February 21 at 1:30pm. 

This interactive session will bring together leadership perspectives of Senior International Officers Dr. Cheryl Matherly and Dr. Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela on how they are preparing for the future and aligning their strategic plans with the emerging trends.

The confluence of cost pressures, demographics shifts, and technological forces is shaping the context of global higher education. Deardorff, de Wit and Heyl (2012) in “Bridges to the Future: The Global Landscape of International Higher Education” note “International higher education is at a turning point, and the concept of internationalization itself requires rethinking to take into account the emerging new world and higher education realignments” (p. 451). Senior International Officers are charged with developing internationalization strategic plans which are informed by key trends to help an institution achieve institutional goals.

Learning Objectives:
  • What are the key emerging trends of relevance for SIOs? 
  • How to inform strategic plans with these emerging trends?
Dr. Rahul Choudaha, Principal Researcher & CEO, DrEducation (Chair)
Dr. Cheryl Matherly, Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs at Lehigh University
Dr. Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, Vice-Provost for International Affairs and Global Strategy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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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. With the changing political contexts, the top two destinations for international students--US and UK--are experiencing challenges in maintaining their attractiveness.

At the institutional level, universities and colleges with the global brand recognition and rankings will face limited challenges while the majority of the 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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