Australia, Britain, France, and Germany all try to attract more students
By BETH McMURTRIE
The number of foreign students in the United States is growing fast,
Foreign Scholars in the U.S. by Places of Origin, 2000-1
Colleges With the Largest Numbers of Foreign Students, 2000-1
Men and Women
U.S. Colleges With the Largest Numbers of Students Studying Abroad in 1999-2000, by Type of Institution
Top Destinations for U.S. Students in 1999-2000
Their anxiety may be hard to understand, considering that the United States still dominates the market. Last fall, 425,433 international students enrolled in bachelor's or graduate programs at American universities and colleges, compared with 223,465 in Britain, the next largest competitor. The United States also outpaced Britain in growth last year, as international enrollments at universities jumped 7.5 percent, compared with 2 percent in Britain.
The statistic most troubling to American educators, however, is market share. The United States held 39 percent of the market back in 1982. By 1995 -- the most recent year with figures available -- that had dropped to 30 percent, according to the Institute of International Education. Since then, the competition has only increased, as other nations have begun wooing for eign students with sophisticated campaigns. The September 11 terrorist attacks are likely to complicate such efforts, as recruiters scale back trips overseas and governments scrutinize visa applications more closely. But, by and large, those campaigns remain on track. Australia, Britain, and other European countries are among the most aggressive:
* Two years ago, Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, started an $8-million effort to attract 75,000 additional international students to British universities and "further education colleges," which are similar to community colleges. The plan includes additional student scholarships, easier visa procedures, and a polished pitch that presents British universities as sophisticated and cutting-edge. The result so far: University enrollments from countries outside the European Union rose 6 percent in the fall of 2000.
* Australia's universities have become the envy of others worldwide with their coordinated approach to recruitment. The country's 39 public universities operate a nonprofit organization that provides one-stop shopping for international students, and the government actively promotes Australian education abroad. Since 1994, the number of international students in Australia has risen 73 percent, while the number at American institutions has increased 21 percent.
* European countries other than Britain are also angling for a piece of the action. A new, government-backed effort in France aims to attract 500,000 more international students. And this year, a German consortium of universities started a $16-million recruitment campaign with a focus on the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America.
Some Asian countries that historically have sent many of their students abroad may end up competing with the United States as well. Singapore and Hong Kong have begun expanding their university systems in order to become regional hubs. Meanwhile, Japan, suffering from a drop in the number of college-age students at home, has aggressively gone after students in China and South Korea to fill classroom seats. As a result, the number of foreign students in Japan jumped 23 percent this fall.
Some educators in the United States are calling for a national strategy similar to that in Australia and Britain. Even Canada, which does not have a national ministry of education, has developed a nonprofit network, backed by both government ministries and educational institutions, to draw more international students.
"You can't deny we have taken a lackadaisical attitude about foreign students," says Victor C. Johnson, associate executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. "It's been very difficult for us as a country to view them as a resource and adopt a strategy designed to attract more of them."
A major factor in that attitude is the sheer size of the American higher-education system, with more than 2,300 four-year colleges and universities, and 1,700 two-year colleges. It seems unlikely that the United States could develop as tightly coordinated an approach as its much smaller competitors.
Another impediment is success. Despite the growing competition, the United States remains the 800-pound gorilla in the market. The number of international students seeking degrees, vocational education, or language training grew more than 6 percent last year, to a record 547,867, according to "Open Doors," an annual statistical report by the Institute of International Education. That increase was the largest one-year growth rate since 1979, thanks in large part to demand from China and India.
"The U.S. is still the preferred destination by far," says Kenneth A. Rogers, associate dean of international programs at Indiana University at Bloomington.
Yet people remain worried, especially in the aftermath of September 11. Educators abroad are already predicting that relatively quiet places, such as New Zealand, could see a jump in enrollment next year. Others wonder whether a worldwide economic slump could lead students to stay home.
So far, signals are mixed. A survey released this month by the international-education institute found that 41 percent of American universities were hearing more questions from potential applicants abroad about security in the United States or on campus since the attacks. And intensive English-language programs are expecting a "very sharp decline" in enrollments, says Mr. Rogers, who has been talking to program administrators in his region.
But New York University's Stern School of Business reports that interest in its M.B.A. program is higher than ever. And Purdue University has seen a jump in undergraduate applications from abroad compared with this time last year. "While the terrorist attack has had some effect, I think students in general feel it's safe to come here to study," says Michael A. Brzezinski, director of the office of international students and scholars.
NAFSA argues that the government must take action to show that the United States doesn't take foreign students for granted. The association set up a committee this year to develop specific strategies on three fronts: legal and regulatory, financial, and marketing.
On the regulatory front, educators have long complained about the difficulties some students, particularly those from China, have had in securing visas to study in the United States.
While he understands the need to tighten visa-oversight procedures, Mr. Johnson says, he hopes that some of the more extreme proposals now being made -- such as a flat ban on students from countries that sponsor terrorism -- will fall by the wayside.
"I think we will come to a realization that international understanding is more rather than less important to our country now," he says, "and that we as a country need to have policies to promote it."
On the financial front, some educators are concerned that the United States remains a more costly place to study than Britain, Canada, or Australia. And European universities on the continent are still largely tuition-free. Jerry D. Wilcox, chairman of the NAFSA Strategic Task Force on International Student Access and director of the international office at the University of Texas at Austin, says the NAFSA group will study ways to accelerate the Immigration and Naturalization Service's approval of certain types of part-time jobs.
On the marketing front, Mr. Wilcox and other educators say the government should beef up overseas advising centers, which are often the first place students go for information on study in the United States.
The budgets for those centers, which number around 400 and are overseen by the State Department, have been cut significantly in recent years.
Meanwhile, other countries have already begun to dismantle potential roadblocks for international students. As part of the Blair plan in Britain, students who wish to work no longer must register at a government job center before seeking employment.
Jenny Scott, director of education for the United States office of the British Council, the United Kingdom's international organization for educational and cultural relations, says the government also has worked to speed up the visa process for students from key countries, including China, India, and Pakistan. "It almost happened literally overnight," she says. The number of students from China jumped 70 percent last fall, to 10,332, and the number of students from India grew 17 percent, to 4,241.
Ms. Scott says the new marketing campaign has been effective as well. The British Council conducted extensive surveys to determine what students liked and disliked about Britain and other study-abroad spots. Among other things, students said that while the quality of British universities is well recognized, the United States and Australia seemed more exciting places to study. British marketing materials now stress both educational quality and cultural and social life.
Australia had the opposite problem, says Tony Crooks, executive director of the Australian Education Office in Washington, D.C. Students liked the country's outdoorsy image, but didn't always think the academics were on a par with those in other English-speaking countries. So marketers began playing up the number of Nobel Prize winners it has produced, and began promoting Australian education as an "intellectual adventure," says Mr. Crooks.
Some institutions have been particularly aggressive in seeking out students from abroad. The University of Sydney, the oldest and one of the most prestigious institutions in Australia, has doubled its foreign enrollment, to 4,500 students, in the past four years. Peter Dodd, head of international programs, said the university's success has been the result of hard work, not novel strategies. The university sends representatives to trade fairs and has a network of agents scouting abroad, "24 hours a day, seven days a week," he says.
Australia, Canada, and Britain are also angling to get into new markets. Australia, in particular, has long relied on Asia for most of its international students. It has been so successful, in fact, that its universities draw more students from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia than the United States does.
But the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s burned some Australian universities that had become dependent on Asian students. After the crisis, many students could no longer afford to study overseas, and Australian tuition revenue dried up. As a result, says Mr. Crooks, institutions began branching out into other regions, such as Western Europe, Latin America, and Russia.
Canada, by contrast, is aggressively pursuing Asian students. It issued more than four times as many visas to Chinese students in 2000 than it did in 1998, and more than three times as many visas to South Koreans.
In Europe, some countries are introducing American-style degree programs and courses in English to help them compete for international students. France, Germany, and the Netherlands are among the countries that have tried to make it easier to secure student visas, and some nations have smoothed the path for graduate students and researchers seeking part-time work.
"Traditionally, there was no interest in recruiting foreign students," says Guy Haug, an education-policy expert with the European Commission. "All this is changing now."
While the debate over an international-education policy is likely to go on for some time, some American universities are taking matters into their own hands. Purdue University, like many public institutions, once did no international recruiting at all at the undergraduate level. In 1995, the university decided to go after foreign students. It streamlined the application-review process; began recruiting trips to the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and Asia; got staff members more involved in recruiting; and started working with recruiters abroad.
Its undergraduate enrollments have jumped, from 721 in 1995 to 2,005 this fall. Purdue now ranks first among public universities in international enrollments, and third over all. In 1995, it ranked 21st.
"We consider ourselves to be an international university," says Mr. Brzezinski, director of the international-students office, "and wanted to reflect that philosophy in our student body."
Burton Bollag and Geoffrey Maslen contributed to this
|Place of Origin||1999/00||2000/01||% Change|
|80||Trinidad & Tobago||57||56||-1.8%|
|94||Bosnia & Herzegovina||40||33||-17.5%|
|146||United Arab Emirates||4||5||25.0%|
|149||British Virgin Islands||6||4||-33.3%|
|169||Papua New Guinea||1||2||100.0%|
|172||Central African Republic||24||1||-95.8%|
|181||Republic of Maldives||0||1||--|
|SOURCE: Institute of International Education|
|Top research institutions||Number of students||Proportion of total enrollment|
|1. New York U||5,399||15%|
|2. U of Southern California||5,321||18%|
|3. Columbia U||4,837||22%|
|4. Purdue U Main Campus||4,469||12%|
|5. Boston U||4,443||16%|
|6. U of Texas at Austin||4,320||9%|
|7. Ohio State U Main Campus||4,035||8%|
|8. U of Michigan at Ann Arbor||4,004||11%|
|9. U of Wisconsin at Madison||3,938||10%|
|10. U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||3,798||10%|
|Top doctoral institutions|
|1. Florida International U||3,603||11%|
|2. U of North Texas||2,073||8%|
|3. U of Texas at Arlington||1,851||9%|
|4. Illinois Institute of Technology||1,804||30%|
|5. New School U||1,732||22%|
|6. Drexel U||1,671||15%|
|7. Western Michigan U||1,669||6%|
|8. American U||1,665||15%|
|9. George Mason U||1,619||7%|
|10. New Jersey Institute of Technology||1,600||18%|
|Top master's institutions|
|1. City U of New York Bernard M Baruch College||3,135||20%|
|2. San Francisco State U||2,274||9%|
|3. Hawaii Pacific U||2,136||26%|
|4. U of Texas at El Paso||1,838||12%|
|5. California State U at Long Beach||1,751||6%|
|6. U of Bridgeport||1,629||55%|
|7. U of Central Oklahoma||1,610||11%|
|8. San Jose State U||1,471||6%|
|9. National U||1,400||9 %|
|10. City U of New York City College||1,376||11%|
|Top baccalaureate institutions||Number of students||Proportion of total enrollment|
|1. Brigham Young U Hawaii Campus||904||38%|
|2. Columbia College Chicago||642||7%|
|3. Lock Haven U of Pennsylvania||414||12%|
|4. U of Houston Downtown||351||4%|
|5. U of Findlay||349||8%|
|6. Mount Holyoke College||333||16%|
|7. U of Maine at Fort Kent||270||33%|
|8. Pennsylvania State U Commonwealth Campuses||256||1%|
|9. Eckerd College||251||16%|
|10. Metropolitan State College of Denver||242||1%|
|Top community colleges|
|1. Northern Virginia Community College||3,877||10%|
|2. Montgomery College||3,264||16%|
|3. Houston Community College||3,201||8%|
|4. Santa Monica College||2,939||11%|
|5. Miami-Dade Community College||1,686||4%|
|6. De Anza College||1,630||6%|
|7. City College of San Francisco||1,501||2%|
|8. Foothill College||1,462||6%|
|9. City U of New York Borough of Manhattan Community College||1,410||9%|
|10. Orange Coast College||1,244||5%|
|Top professional or specialized institutions|
|1. Academy of Art College||1,813||31%|
|2. Fashion Institute of Technology||1,312||12%|
|3. Johnson & Wales U||1,169||14%|
|4. Berklee College of Music||1,116||33%|
|5. Pratt Institute||898||21%|
|6. Thunderbird, American Graduate School of International Management||814||61%|
|7. New Hampshire College||728||16%|
|8. Babson College||615||18%|
|9. Bentley College||561||7%|
|10. Southern Polytechnic State U||559||16%|
|SOURCE: Institute of International Education|
|Top 20 research institutions|
|1||Brigham Young U||1,967|
|2||Pennsylvania State U at University Park||1,743|
|3||Michigan State U||1,674|
|4||U of Texas at Austin||1,619|
|5||New York U||1,471|
|6||U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||1,337|
|7||U of Wisconsin at Madison||1,297|
|8||U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||1,217|
|9||U of Pennsylvania||1,196|
|10||Florida State U||1,154|
|11||Indiana U at Bloomington||1,143|
|12||Ohio State U Main Campus||1,106|
|13||U of Colorado at Boulder||1,096|
|14||U of Notre Dame||1,069|
|15||U of Minnesota - Twin Cities||1,058|
|16||U of Georgia||1,058|
|17||U of Arizona||1,053|
|18||U of Southern California||1,049|
|19||Arizona State U Main||1,014|
|20||Iowa State U||1,003|
|Top 20 doctoral institutions, 1999/00|
|4||George Mason U||659|
|7||Ball State U||555|
|8||Wake Forest U||509|
|10||Southern Methodist U||457|
|11||San Diego State U||452|
|12||College of William & Mary||440|
|13||Georgia State U||438|
|14||Binghamton U - SUNY||421|
|15||U of Denver||393|
|16||Florida International U||382|
|17||U of San Diego||375|
|18||U of New Hampshire||373|
|19||Texas Christian U||343|
|20||Western Michigan U||336|
|Top 20 master's institutions, 1999/00|
|1||U of Saint Thomas||725|
|2||James Madison U||712|
|4||California Polytechnic State U./San Luis Obispo||473|
|7||Appalachian State U||426|
|8||Truman State U||425|
|9||U of Nebraska at Omaha||410|
|10||U of Northern Iowa||392|
|11||Grand Valley State U||388|
|12||Pacific Lutheran U||354|
|13||College of Charleston||352|
|14||U of Dayton||348|
|16||U of Wisconsin at Eau Claire||333|
|17||Loyola College in Maryland||326|
|18||Western Washington U||322|
|19||U of Evansville||313|
|20||U of Wisconsin at Stevens Point||305|
|Top 20 baccalaureate institutions, 1999/00|
|1||College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's||617|
|2||Saint Olaf College||558|
|7||Gustavus Adolphus College||372|
|13||Concordia College - Moorhead||328|
|18||Lewis & Clark College||317|
|SOURCE: Institute of International Education|
|SOURCE: Institute of International Education|
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Novmeber 16, 2001