US international postgraduate applications up for 10th year running

Increase led by rise of applications from India and growing popularity of STEM subjects

June 30, 2015

Applications from prospective international students to US postgraduate programmes increased for the 10th consecutive year, led by double-digit growth in India, a report has found.

According to the Council of Graduate Schools' annual report on preliminary international graduate applications, 676,484 overseas students applied to postgraduate degree programmes in the US between autumn 2014 and March 2015, a rise of 2 per cent since the previous year. However, the rate of increase has slowed by eight percentage points compared with last year.

This is partly due to a 12 per cent increase in applications from prospective students in India, and, to a lesser extent, increases from Mexico (8 per cent), Brazil (4 per cent) and Canada (2 per cent). South Korea also saw a 4 per cent increase in applications after three straight years of decline.

The largest sending country is still China, which represents more than a third (39 per cent) of all international graduate applications, despite the fact that applications from the nation declined (2 per cent) for the third consecutive year.

The report states that the continuing decline of applications from China and further growth from India “suggests the beginning of a new trend”.

Suzanne T. Ortega, CGS president, said that as China heavily invests in its higher education institutions "the competition for China's top talent is heating up".

She added: "The Indian economy is experiencing some challenges; middle-class growth has slowed. But the fact of the matter is, the best thing to do when that is happening is to strengthen your credentials. And for many, that means pursuing a US degree."

The overall increase in applications was also driven by a rise in the popularity of STEM subjects, with programmes in life sciences (16 per cent), physical sciences (14 per cent) and engineering (4 per cent), the largest field of study among international students, all seeing growth.

Overall STEM fields account for 50 per cent of all applications to US postgraduate programmes from prospective international students. Applications to business programmes dropped by 2 per cent – the first decline in this field since the survey launched in 2004.

The report was based on survey responses from 377 schools, including 80 per cent of the top 100 institutions awarding the largest number of degrees to international graduate students in the US. Final application and enrolment numbers will be outlined in a follow-up report later this year, after institutions have completed their application cycles. 

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

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