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A ‘Near-Record’ International Student Surge [surpassing pre-pandemic levels]

Hamartia Antidote

Nov 17, 2013
United States
United States
November 13, 2023

International student enrollment skyrocketed in the 2022–23 academic year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and landing at over one million students, according to the new “Open Doors” report from the Institute of International Education.

American institutions hosted 1,057,188 international students last year, a 12 percent increase over 2021–22 and the fastest rate of growth in 40 years. International students represented 5.6 percent of the total higher education student population.

First-time international enrollments were particularly robust. The number of new international students grew by 14 percent in 2022–23, “soaring beyond pre-pandemic levels” and building on the 80 percent partial pandemic rebound of 2021–22 to reach a “near all-time high,” according to the report. It’s a welcome recovery for the international student market, which was predictably pummeled by the pandemic.

“We were very happy to see this rebound, and especially happy that it happened so quickly, just three years after the pandemic,” said Mirka Martel, IIE’s head of research, evaluation and learning.

A bar graph showing the decline, then rise, of international students in the U.S. since 2018

Courtesy of the Institute of International Education

Despite a small decrease of about 0.2 percent, China remained the top country of origin for international students, with 289,526 studying in the U.S. But India, which has long been second to China, saw enormous growth: 35 percent year over year, reaching an all-time high of 268,923 students in the U.S. and inching closer to taking the top spot. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa also saw significant growth, sending 18 percent more students to U.S. colleges than in 2021–22.

International student enrollment rose across all degree levels and fields of study for the first time since the 2014–15 academic year. But that growth was concentrated most heavily in graduate programs, which saw a 21 percent increase—the largest in the report’s history, according to Martel. Undergraduate enrollment, by contrast, rose by a little less than 1 percent.

The report also noted the number of U.S. students studying abroad, though those data are a year behind international enrollment statistics. In 2021–22, U.S. study abroad numbers rebounded to about half their pre-pandemic level, which the report’s authors called a “critical turning point.” Nearly half of those who studied abroad did so during the summer, and the top destinations remained the same as in recent years: Italy, the U.K., Spain and France.

A bar graph comparing international enrollment growth by academic level.

Courtesy of the Institute of International Education
The report also noted the number of U.S. students studying abroad, though those data are a year

but according to @beijingwalker @etylo chinese no longer coming to america

That's because he only wants to see one side of the picture.

China Relaxes Entry and Exit: Many students hope to resume studying abroad

Chinese students are making plans to study abroad again, as restrictions are lifted. While the number of people coming to study at Chinese universities is also expected to bounce back, over the next few years. Our correspondent Chen Yilin reports.

This overseas education agency in China's capital Beijing is getting busier.

Since the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, they're seeing more Chinese students making plans to study abroad again.

LIAO XIN Overseas Study Consultant "Our services are fully booked. The pandemic has delayed Chinese students' plans to study overseas but the demand is still there."

The pandemic has taken a toll on the overseas study market.

Cancellation of cross-border travel and English tests, higher risk of health and safety issues were among the reasons.

But experts say the situation will improve.

REN LEI Executive Chief Editor, China Education Online "There will be a recovery in the overseas study market. While the number of Chinese students enrolled in U.S. universities has declined, the number in UK has continued to grow over the past three years. As the international travel resumes, the number of people studying overseas is expected to return to normal levels."

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