US postgraduate enrolment sees biggest rise since 2009

International students accounted for over two-thirds of the growth in enrolments in past decade, says study

September 16, 2015
United States map
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The number of first-time postgraduate university enrolments in the US increased by 3.5 per cent between autumn 2013 and autumn 2014 – the largest rise since 2009 – a report has found.

According to the Council of Graduate Schools’ annual report on trends in US graduate enrolment, US institutions received more than 2.1 million applications, extended over 850,000 offers of admission and enrolled nearly 480,000 incoming, first-time graduate students in autumn 2014.

From 2004 and 2014, international students accounted for over two-thirds of the growth in first-time enrolment at US graduate institutions, the study revealed. It also found that overseas students are more likely than their domestic counterparts to study in STEM fields. In autumn 2014, 66 per cent of all temporary resident graduate students were enrolled in  biological and agricultural sciences, engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, physical and earth sciences, or social and behavioural sciences. In contrast, only 27 per cent of US citizen graduate students were enrolled in these fields.

CGS president, Suzanne Ortega, said the increase in overall enrolments is “good news”, but the disparity between US and international growth is “a cause for concern”.

She pointed to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting employers to add nearly 2.4 million jobs requiring a graduate degree or higher between 2012 and 2022.

“Greater investments in graduate education and research—supporting both domestic and international students—will be required to keep up with the demand for graduate level talent in the future,” she said.

The fastest-growing fields in terms of first-time enrolment between autumn 2013 and autumn 2014 were mathematics and computer science, which grew by 21 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, while the largest fields were education and business, respectively accounting for 19 per cent and 15 per cent of total graduate enrolment in autumn 2014.

The report, which was based on responses from 636 US institutions, also revealed that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of all graduate students in autumn 2014 were enrolled in programmes leading to a master’s degree or graduate certificate.

According to survey respondents, women earned nearly two-thirds (66 per cent) of the graduate certificates, 59 per cent of the master’s degrees, and 52 per cent of the doctorates in 2013-14. This marked the sixth consecutive year in which women earned a majority of doctoral degrees.

Furthermore, nearly one quarter (24 per cent) of first-time graduate students who were US citizens and permanent residents were from racially or ethnically underrepresented populations.

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