Restrictions fail to curb desire to study in US

December 6, 2002

The number of international students in the US has increased 6 per cent this year in spite of terrorism, visa restrictions and the economic downturn, to the surprise of university officials.

The number of students from many Middle Eastern nations was down. But enrolments from India, China and South Korea were up, marking the third year of large increases from Asian nations after decreases during the economic crisis there in the late 1990s.

In all, international student enrolment rose 6.4 per cent, matching last year's increase, which was a record. That brings the number of international students in America to 582,996.

Patricia Harrison, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said: "These numbers are encouraging. International education has become of paramount importance to economic, political and social conditions in both developing and developed countries."

The number of Americans studying abroad rose by 7.4 per cent, though the rate of increase has slowed after four years of double-digit growth. In all, 154,168 Americans were enrolled in foreign schools - double the number who travelled overseas just ten years ago.

Ms Harrison said: "Some feared that in the wake of September 11 young Americans would shrink from international experiences." But she added that "more students are studying abroad than ever before, a sign that young Americans clearly recognise the crucial role they will play in leading our nation into a world even more connected than it is today".

US students who study abroad are, however, doing so for shorter periods of time. Nine out of ten Americans who studied abroad stay there for one semester or less.

American students are also increasingly travelling to schools in regions such as Latin America, instead of Europe and other more traditional destinations. The number of US students choosing to study in Europe has declined by 17 per cent since 1985.

Among international students coming to the US, the largest number comes from India, followed by China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Thailand.

International students comprise more than 4 per cent of all US enrolment and account for an estimated $12 billion (£7.66 billion) in economic impact.

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