What institutional drivers explain different enrollment trend of Indian and Chinese graduate students in the US?

Indian and Chinese graduate students are showing contrasting enrollment patterns at US universities, according to a recent report released by the Council of Graduate Schools. For India, first-time enrollment increased by 40% after two years of flat growth. In contrast, first-time enrollment of Chinese grew by measly 5% as compared to over 20% growth in previous two years. What explains this different trends?

Student mobility is a complex phenomenon with multiple variables influencing the future directions. The current state of graduate student mobility can be explained by at least three primary dimensions–institutional side, student side and external environment. In this blog post, I analyze the change in the institutional side and subsequent blog posts will cover remaining two dimensions.

Increasing acceptance by master’s level, public institutions 

One of the biggest contributors to the spike in Indian number had been the higher acceptance of Indian students by master’s level public institutions outside the 100 largest institutions awarding graduate degrees to international students. First chart suggests that larger number of Indian students were enrolling at institutions outside the top 100 as compared to Chinese students. First-time enrollment of Indian students at institutions outside top 100 increased by 73% as compared to only 2% for Chinese. As nearly 2/3rd of Indian students enroll in STEM related fields, the enrollment in Engineering and Physical & Earth Sciences also shot up at “All Other Institutions.”

Although, only one out of every six international student is enrolled in “master’s focused” institutions (IIE Open Doors), majority of growth for Indian students seems to be driven public institutions in this Carnegie Classifiction. Post recession, many public institutions are compelled to look at recruiting international students to meet their financial goals. At the same time, some master’s institutions which usually struggle to attract Indian students, had also been experiencing over-dependence on Chinese students. Thus, with a combination of aggressive outreach and higher offer rates, many master’s focused institutions seem to be successful this year with Indian students.

What are your thoughts/comments/experiences?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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