Third of international students in US ‘discriminated against’

Survey released as new data show the majority of US universities have seen a decline in new international students this year

November 20, 2019
Source: Getty

Almost a third of international students in the US have faced discrimination because of their nationality, with Chinese students being particularly affected, according to a study.

A survey of 1,921 overseas students and recent graduates reported that 38 per cent found living away from home and family more challenging than they had expected and 41 per cent said they found it hard to form relationships with domestic students.

While the overwhelming majority of participants (91 per cent) said they were satisfied with their study experience in the US and felt welcomed in the country (79 per cent), 31 per cent said they had faced discrimination because of their nationality, rising to 40 per cent among participants from China and 39 per cent among those from other parts of east Asia and the Middle East and North Africa region.

The study, Are US Higher Education Institutions Meeting International Student Needs?, from World Education Services, an organisation that provides credential evaluations for international students planning to study or work in North America, suggests that these higher figures could reflect that relations between the US and China and countries in the Middle East are “currently strained and have a history of conflict”.

“Likewise, prevailing patterns of domestic discrimination in the US, particularly toward racial minorities, presumably influences which international students are more likely to face discrimination,” it adds.

The survey, published on 20 November, was conducted in February and March this year.

The findings follow the release this week of preliminary figures from the US-based Institute of International Education that show that international enrolments in US colleges and universities have fallen by 0.9 per cent this year, based on a survey of more than 500 institutions.

The 2019 Fall Snapshot Survey was published alongside the IIE’s more comprehensive Open Doors report, based on responses from more than 2,800 institutions, which found that there was an identical 0.9 per cent decline in new enrolments last year, down from a 6.6 per cent fall the previous year.

However, while the overall rate of decline is slowing, the share of universities reporting a drop in international students has increased. Overall, 51 per cent of institutions cited a dip in new international student numbers for the 2019-20 academic year, up from 49 per cent last year, while 42 per cent reported a rise (down from 44 per cent). Just 7 per cent held steady, the same proportion as last year, but down from 24 per cent in 2017-18.

The majority of universities (58 per cent) said they were continuing to prioritise international student recruitment efforts on China, while half were focusing on Vietnam and 45 per cent were targeting India.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Third of overseas students in US report facing discrimination

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