Washington, Nov. 18: Indian students seeking education abroad have displaced the Chinese as the biggest source for international students in the US.
In the academic year which began around the time of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, a record number of 66,836 Indians enrolled in American universities, according to a report released here today by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
During the same period, the number of Chinese students enrolled was 63,211. Hitherto, the Chinese had the top slot among foreigners seeking admissions in universities in the US.
According to figures released today, Indians constituted 11.5 per cent of the nearly 583,000 foreign students who enrolled in the last academic year. The number of Indians in US universities has nearly doubled in five years. The institute is the leading non-government organisation here for educational and cultural exchange and today’s annual report was funded by the state department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The IIE’s claim appears to contradict reports in the Indian media and elsewhere that Indian students are turning away from US universities to those in Europe in view of the uncertainties about getting American visas following the war on terrorism.
The shift away from the US in the latest academic year has also been prompted by a determined effort by the French and other European countries to attract students from India. French universities have even launched special courses in English to attract Indians.
Figures for university admissions this academic year in the aftermath of sweeping changes in visa and immigration rules were not available at this time.
However, Jane E. Schukoske, the New Delhi-based executive director of the US Educational Foundation in India (USEFI), claimed: “Indian students interested in US higher education have been undeterred by September 11. Their main concern has been whether changes in visa application processing would delay or interfere with their plans. USEFI has consistently sent the message that legitimate students need not be concerned about visa processing changes, but should allow extra time.”
“Students who do not gain admission to India’s premier institutions see the US as an alternative that will open doors for them in the future,” she said.
The institute said that last month it had conducted a survey asking educators whether there was any decline in enrolments from major countries sending students — including India — to US universities. “The results suggest that there has not been a substantial or dramatic change in enrolments by students from most of these countries,” an IIE press release said.
Of the 114 educators who answered this question, one-third noted a substantial drop in student inflow from Saudi Arabia and a quarter noted a substantial drop in the number of students from the United Arab Emirates. Between 10 and 19 per cent of respondents noted substantial decline in the number of students arriving here from India, Kuwait, Malaysia, and China.
Todd Davis, director of the institute’s Higher Education Resource Group, said: “Despite some reported decreases, nothing in the distribution of responses suggests that the trends we have observed over the past few years, namely continued growth in international student enrolments, have been knocked off track.”
Interestingly, in the current academic year, study abroad by American students is more popular than ever. “These findings support educators’ comments that the events of September 11 have raised student awareness in world affairs,” according to the IIE.
Allan E Goodman, IIE’s president and CEO, said: “One year after September 11, it is welcome news that American students continue to demonstrate an increased interest in world affairs and seek opportunities to study abroad.”
The report described higher education as “one of this cou-ntry’s leading exports brin- ging nearly $12 billion to the US economy”.