2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange – Any surprises?
Since 1948 the Institute of International Education, in collaboration with the United States’ Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has been gathering data and publishing statistics on the number of international students enrolling on American colleges and universities, their countries of origin, and the number of Americans studying abroad. On November 19, 2019 the Institute published statistics for the 2018-19 academic year.
Newspapers like the South China Morning Post, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe all reported the following:
For the third year in a row, enrollment in American colleges and universities decreased at all academic levels. Undergraduate students declined by 2.4%. Graduate student enrollment declined by 1.3% and the number of international non-degree students declined by 5 %. Only the numbers for Optional Practical Training increased, with a 9.6 % increase over the previous year.
History of decline
In 1970, the percentage of international students enrolling in American colleges and universities was 36.7%. By 2001, the percentage was 28 and by 2017 the figure declined to 24%.
In 2015-16, international student enrollment in the United States increased by 7% from the prior year but that was a slowdown in growth from a 10% increase in 2014.
In 2016-17, international student enrollment in the United States increased 3.4%. The following year, the increase was 1.5 percent, the slowest growth since 2002 and was mostly due to an increase in the number of international students participating in Optional Practical Training, which increased by 15.8%.
In 2018, enrollment of new international students in the United States decreased 6.3 % in undergraduate programs, and 5.5% in graduate degree programs. Chinese students, who make up one-third of all international student enrollments in the United States, increased 3.6 %. However, in the previous year, the growth in Chinese student enrollments was 6.8%. Indian students, who make up nearly a fifth of all international studying in the United States, increased 5.4%. However, in the previous year, the growth in Indian student enrollments was 12.3%.
2019 International enrollment decline
A survey of international student enrollments for fall 2019 revealed a 0.9% decline in new enrollments. Approximately 51% of the more than 500 institutions surveyed reported decreases in new international student enrollments. 42% reported increases and 7% reported no change.
Recruiting agents in China and India report a softening of interest from prospective students to study in the United States.
Reasons for decline
What are all these prior statistics telling American international deans and educators? Simply, the decline and proportion of international students selecting to study in the United States has been in decline for several years. The 2019 report should not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the economic, political, and technological worldwide changes of the past several years.
The rest of the world has been creating quality international educational infrastructures that are less expensive than many schools in the United States. The rest of the world makes it easier for international students to obtain visas to study and work after graduation. In many parts of the world, the environment is safer and more welcoming than in the United States.
Many countries with robust international outreach programs are safer than many states in America. As of November 19,2019 there were 371 mass shootings in the United States. In a 2017 Open Doors report, Paul Schulmann, research manager for the Institute of International Education, reported that 80% of Indian institutions surveyed indicated safety was a concern.
Many countries have national programs to encourage international students to study. For example, when I searched for data for the University of Alberta in Canada, I first received information about the benefits of studying in Canada.
This year’s report lists efforts of the State Department and its educational offices worldwide to promote study in the United States. However, on January 3, 2019, the State Department announced that it was closing all of its offices in China that promote American education.
IIE research manager, Paul Schulman, wrote:” The political environment in the United States plays a role in declining international student enrollment, not just in terms of student perceptions, but also in the public policies that are manifestation of this environment.”
A survey conducted by Royall &Company in 2017 revealed that one-third of prospective international students were less interested in studying in the United States because of the political climate and 74% of surveyed admission officers agreed that travel bans and negative rhetoric have made it more difficult to recruit international students.
International students contribute more than $45 billion to the United States’ economy and directly or indirectly support more than 450,000 jobs. Between 8 and 10% of total net tuition comes from international students’ tuition and fees.
Higher education enrollment is projected to reach 332 million by 2030, an increase of 56%, or 120 million. How many international students will decide to enroll in the United States in the future?
Much will depend on the political environment in the United States and efforts to strengthen America’s “soft power” around the world. Much will depend on international deans and recruiters to re-visit international enrollment plans and decide to recruit students using the strategic use of technology, creating international alliances and diversifying their recruitment portfolios.
The decline in international students coming to the United States to study represents a shift not only in the perception of the value of an American degree but also a shift in the value of the educational opportunities in many other countries.
Predictions for higher education in 2005 came true in 2019
I have often written about the folly of making predictions about the future of higher education in the United States and around the world. However, I recently came across this article and realized that the 25 predictions I made 14 years ago about the future of higher education have for the most part, become reality.
In 2005, in a monograph, Ten Trends in Higher Education, I predicted the following:
Higher education providers will become more numerous and diverse.
Part-time college attendance will increase and schools will offer more classes in the evening and on the weekend.
An increasing number of American colleges and universities will either close or merge with other institutions of higher education.
An increasing number of colleges and universities will work in partnership with employers to meet workforce needs.
Telecommunications options will become standard practice, with students taking classes at home, on campus, everywhere, anytime.
Technological capabilities will render the “traditional” semester irrelevant. Students will create their own “third” semester in the summer months.
Technological capabilities will encourage the rise of global universities.
Women, minorities, and adult learners will dominate higher education enrollments in the future.
National and state funding for higher education will decrease and private educational providers will increasingly become the funders of higher education.
International students will continue to come to the United States but colleges and universities in America will continue to lose market share of the internationally mobile student.
China will emerge as a leading importer of students.
China’s higher education strategy will create Chinese universities that will compete on the international stage.
International educational hubs in Asia and Southeast Asia will compete for the internationally mobile student.
International student enrollment will increase in the future by instead of in-person enrollment driving the increase, many international students will study online, in MOOC courses, or in hybrid programs.
Traditional colleges and universities will not disappear, but they will change organizationally and will be managed differently in the future.
A diverse student population will demand a more flexible educational delivery system. This includes when and where courses are taught, how students register for courses, and how they pay their tuition.
After all the “hype” passes, Massive Open Online Courses, online courses and stackable credentials will change how higher education is delivered.
Incoming first-year students will bring to college credits from either AP courses, IB courses, or MOOC courses.
MOOCs and online programs will increase the number of students graduating in four years as more and more students opt to study year- round.
Most students will have transcripts from more than one school.
Colleges and universities will “buy” online courses from each other.
Strategic enrollment plans will be written in conjunction with the directors of career counseling and alumni relations.
Accreditation criteria will change with more focus on outcomes.
CHANGE WILL BE OUR CONSTANT COMPANION.
Time to dust off my crystal ball for next year’s predictions.
AFRICA: The Next International Student Recruitment Frontier
Consider the following:
Six of the world’s fastest-growing economies between 2001 and 2012 were in Africa.
Goldman Sachs recently issued a report, “Africa’s Turn,” comparing business opportunities in Africa with those of China in the early 1990s.
Google is the single biggest private sector influence in Africa. Its internet search and email services are transforming the continent. The company is also attempting to help African governments digitize information and make it freely available and is improving translation software to bring more Africans who speak only one language online.
Online Africa is developing faster than offline Africa. According to the May 12th issue of “The Economist,” undersea cables reaching Africa on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts, plus innovative mobile phone providers, have raised internet speeds and slashed prices. This connectivity is making Africa faster and more transparent in almost everything it does.
China will implement the African Talents Program to train 30,000 personnel, offer 18,000 government scholarships and build cultural and vocational training facilities. China will also continue to implement the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan to sponsor 100 programs for research, exchange and cooperation between colleges and universities and research scholars.
On July 17, 2012, Australia launched an expanded Australia-Africa Universities Network, a consortium of 17 Australian universities and research institutes and 30 African institutions.
Colleges and universities around the world should consider developing African recruitment strategies and begin to consider building strategic academic and research alliances. To ignore the potential of African student, faculty and administrator exchange programs is to limit a school’s ability to become a player in the next international “hotspot.”
Sheer Ambition: How the connectivity of China’s Belt and Road Initiative will change international higher education
Marguerite J. Dennis
In his book, China Versus The West The Global Power Shift of the 21st Century, the economist Ivan Tselichtchev presents a comprehensive picture of the changing balance of power between China and the economies of the West.
Statesmanship and vision are the hallmarks of the current Chinese government and leadership. The country has ambitious goals. Perhaps the most ambitious goal is the Belt and Road Initiative.
Often referred to as the Project of the Century, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to impact a substantial portion of the world’s infrastructure, transportation and finance, and unravel the geopolitical order in place since World War II. Because of the connectivity of Belt and Road projects, the potential to unravel international higher education and current international student mobility cannot be underestimated.
Announced in 2013 as a global trade strategy, based on China’s ancient Silk Road’s trading routes, Belt and Road initiatives are estimated to cost more than one trillion dollars and include 68 countries south and west of China, creating a network of connected railways, ports, tunnels and other infrastructure projects and plugging China into economic hubs across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. When complete, Belt and Road projects will connect approximately 65 percent of the world’s population. A recent World Bank study concluded that the transportation projects alone could lift global GDP by 3 percent.
No one can predict with certainty where commerce ends and international higher education collaboration and research begins. But the magnitude and integration of the initiatives will inevitably strengthen Chinese economic, political, and maritime power throughout the world, and by extension, Chinese higher education dominance.
What likely impact will China’s Belt and Road Initiative have on international higher education? The Chinese Ministry of Education has its own Belt and Road Initiative plan to develop joint education, training and research programs throughout the countries in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative Education Action Plan, released in 2016 by the Chinese Ministry of Higher Education, outlines China’s determination to play an influential role in the future in shaping higher education worldwide. Romi Jain, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, wrote: “China is determined to play an influential role in shaping future educational architecture. Chinese education Belt and Road proposals are based on a three pronged framework of ground-laying, support-building, and forward-thinking actions.”
There are many examples of China’s progress in meeting its stated strategic educational goals, including:
Nearly 500,000 overseas students studied in China last year and 65 percent of the students came from countries in the Belt and Road Initiative.
In 2015, Jiaotong University launched the University Alliance of the Silk Road, to create a platform for educational cooperation. According to Liu Xn, writing in the Global Times, the Alliance has, so far, 151 member universities from 38 countries.
In 2017, China founded the Asian Universities Alliance with the goal of promoting student and faculty mobility within Asia and promoting collaborative research. Fifteen universities joined this Alliance.
In 2018, Xi’an Jiaotong University enrolled 2,804 overseas students from 136 countries and regions. Seventy percent of the students are from Belt and Road countries.
Chang’an University, one of China’s best schools for road, bridge, and automobile engineering, has increased the number of overseas students from 409 in 2013 to 1,600 in 2019. Lu Weidong, director of the International Student Affairs office at the university, wrote the following: “Many large construction engineering companies that are participating in Belt and Road construction projects came to us for cooperation. Cultivating local student talent is our responsibility.”
China doles out thousands of scholarships to attract international students. There are more than 50,000 African students studying in China and in 2018, more than 1,000 Pakistanis students received scholarships to study in China.
The Chinese Academy of Science has created centers for research and collaboration with researchers in colleges and universities in South America, Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
While Europe wrestles with political infighting, Britain wrestles with Brexit and the United States wrestles with protectionism, China is marching ahead with clear objectives and strategic plans to connect the world politically, economically, technologically, and educationally.
The country’s economic, political and technological goals, as well as its educational objectives, are driven by sheer ambition.
International higher education as well as international student mobility are in flux. The headwinds of change are evident in almost every current international statistic and report. The international higher education landscape, in my opinion, will not resemble tomorrow what it is today.
The dark alchemy of change and disruption make this inevitable.