US student imports and exports hit record levels

November 22, 2012

The number of overseas students attending university in the US reached a record 764,495 during the 2011-12 academic year, according to figures from the Institute of International Education.

The data, published annually in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, show a 6 per cent increase on the previous year and reveal that foreign students contributed $22.7 billion (£14.3 billon) to the US economy during 2011-12.

The number of international students in US higher education has risen for six consecutive years, and there are now 31 per cent more of them studying at US colleges and universities than a decade ago.

According to the data, the number of Chinese enrolments was up 23per cent in total, 31 per cent among undergraduates alone - the largest increase at that level.

There was also a 50 per cent rise in student numbers from Saudi Arabia, explained by the greater availability of Saudi government scholarships.

There was a 2.7 per cent rise in the number of UK students opting to study in the US, increasing from 8,947 to 9,186.

However, numbers from India, South Korea and Japan declined (down 4 per cent, 1 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively), a downturn driven by global economic factors, improved domestic higher education and stronger employment opportunities at home.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans opting to study abroad hit an all-time high in 2010-11, with 3,996 earning credit at foreign institutions - an increase of more than 1 per cent on the previous year.

The UK remained the leading destination (33,182 US students), followed by Italy (30,361), Spain (25,965) and France (17,019). Twelve per cent more went to India to study, while the numbers heading to China rose by 5 per cent.

Conversely, there was a 33 per cent decline in the numbers opting for Japan, with the 2011 earthquake and tsunami putting Americans off.

There was also a 42 per cent decrease among students heading for Mexico after the State Department issued travel warnings.

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