Some 0,128 overseas learners started programmes at US institutions during 2013-14, compared with 250,920 the previous year, according to the latest Open Doors report from the New York-based Institute of International Education.
The figures demonstrate the scale of the challenge faced by British universities in the global market for student recruitment. The number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK institutions fell by 1.3 per cent in the two years to 2012-13.
Open Doors puts the total number of international students in the US during 2013-14 at 886,052, up 8.1 per cent year on year, and representing 4.2 per cent of the total higher education population.
Significantly, the number of Indian students in the US increased by 6.1 per cent, reversing a three-year trend of decline, and contrasting with expectations of continued reductions in recruitment by UK institutions. Improved enrolment at graduate level was a key factor, the report says.
The overall growth was driven by students from China, with a 16.5 per cent increase year on year. Chinese students now represent 31 per cent of all international learners in the US.
There was a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of British students at US universities, up to 10,191.
Countries that have scholarship programmes to send their students to the US generated the fastest growth, with increases of 22 per cent from Brazil, 21 per cent from Saudi Arabia and 42.5 per cent from Kuwait.
The number of Iranian students at US universities also increased significantly, up 16.6 per cent to 10,194.
The report also looks at the number of US learners studying abroad, and says that 289,408 gained academic credits overseas in 2012-13, up 2.1 per cent year on year.
The UK remained the most popular destination, attracting 36,210 US students – up 4.5 per cent compared with 2011-12. However, it now attracts only 13 per cent of US students going abroad, compared with 21 per cent in 1998-99.
The IIE aims to double the number of US students studying abroad by 2017-18, with a goal of getting 600,000 learners going overseas by 2017-18.
“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st-century education, and study abroad should be viewed as an essential element of a college degree,” said the IIE’s president Allan Goodman.
“Learning how to study and work with people from other countries and cultures also prepares future leaders to contribute to making the world a less dangerous place.”