International enrolments in US down for third straight year

Rate of decline has slowed, but more universities are reporting problems with visa delays and denials

November 13, 2018
US border

International enrolments in US universities have fallen for a third consecutive year, but the rate of decline has slowed, according to a snapshot study by the Institute of International Education.

survey of 540 colleges and universities in the US found that the number of new overseas students dropped by 1.5 per cent this year, compared with a 6.6 per cent fall the previous year. Last year’s data represented the first international student enrolment figures since Donald Trump was elected US president.

Almost half of universities (49 per cent) reported a drop in new international student numbers for the 2018-19 academic year, up from 45 per cent last year, while 44 per cent recorded an increase (up from 31 per cent). Just 7 per cent held steady, down from 24 per cent last year.

Universities cited a mix of factors for the overall 1.5 per cent drop in new overseas enrolments but, compared with last year, more institutions referenced problems with visa delays and denials (83 per cent, up from 68 per cent), the US’ social and political climate (60 per cent, up from 57 per cent) and student decisions to enrol in another country (59 per cent, up from 54 per cent), according to the Fall 2018 International Student Enrollment Hot Topics Survey, which was conducted in September and October 2018.

Around a quarter (24 per cent) of institutions said that international students expressed the desire to leave or have left the US due to the current climate, up from 16 per cent last year.

The survey, which was led by the institute in partnership with nine other higher education associations, also found that universities were increasingly concerned about recruiting international students from Asia.

Four in five universities (80 per cent) said that they were worried about recruiting from China, while almost three-quarters (72 per cent) said that they were apprehensive regarding future intakes from India. Almost half of universities (48 per cent) said that their number of new Chinese students had dropped over the past year, while 42 per cent cited falling numbers of Indian students and 38 per cent noted decreases in students from South Korea, Nepal and Vietnam.

Last month, recruitment experts told Times Higher Education that Chinese students were becoming increasingly nervous about studying in the US, after it was revealed that Mr Trump considered implementing a ban on student visas for the country’s nationals.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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