India retained the number one position in sending students to US universities for the eighth consecutive year. This despite a 21 per cent increase in Chinese students in the US. American institutions saw an overall increase of 8 per cent international students this year.

The Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased to an all-time high of 6,71,616 in the 2008-09 academic year. The report further says that this is the largest percentage increase in international student enrollments since 1980-81.

The report is based on a comprehensive survey of approximately 3,000 accredited U.S higher education institutions of all types and sizes, regarding international students at all levels of study.

The report says India remains the leading place of origin for the eighth consecutive year, increasing by 9 per cent to send 1,03,260 students. Students from China, once again the second leading sender, increased by 21 per cent for a total of 98,510. South Korea took the third place while Canada is the only non-Asian country figuring in the top five with Japan taking the fifth place.

Universities in California hosted the largest number of foreign students with 93,124 candidates followed by New York with 74,934 students and Texas with 58,188 students. The New York City metropolitan area continues to be the leading city for international students, with 59,322 enrolled in area schools while the Los Angeles metropolitan area is in second place with 42,897 international students. For the eighth consecutive year University of Southern California hosted the largest number of international students with 7,482 students followed by New York University with 6,761 international students and Columbia University hosting 6,685 students.

Business and Management remains the most popular field of study for international students with 21 per cent of total applicants opting for the stream and it saw an increase by 12 per cent. Engineering followed with 18 per cent applicants and an increase of 11 per cent. Applicants for Mathematics and Computer Science also increased significantly by nearly 10 per cent from the previous year. Among Indian students, however, engineering and related studies remained the stream of choice.

The report also makes it clear that the findings do not reflect the full impact of the past year’s economic downturn, since decisions to come to the US to study were made before the financial effects were fully felt in the sending countries. However, teachers and consultants here believe that the growing number of Indian students is directly attributed to fewer jobs in India in the IT sector and a growing desire to hold a foreign degree. "Students think a US degree will fetch a job in any part of the world, if not in the US itself," says D.N. Reddy, Vice Chancellor, JNTU, Hyderabad. There are also social factors that force students to opt for US education.

Academics claim that the US has also tried to stem any decrease in enrolment. After the Indian media reported that US visas to Indian students reduced by nearly 25 per cent last year, 57 percent of campuses reportedly took special steps to help with recruitment. Apart from enhancing staff time devoted to international recruitment, additional funds for recruitment travel marketing were allocated.