A steady decline in Chinese students studying in the U.S., its largest group of foreign students, has opened up opportunities for Indian students as the top global destination for higher education seeks to fill the gap in international enrolments since COVID-19.
Though students from nearly all source countries saw a growth in the number of foreign students in the U.S. for the first time since the pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic session, China was among the few exceptions. For the second consecutive year, Chinese students in the U.S. saw a decline of 8.6% in 2021-2022 at 2.9 lakh students, according the Open Doors 2022 report on international students released on Monday and brought out by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The student numbers from China are the lowest since 2014-2015. In 2020-2021, China reported a decline of 14.8%.
The report includes international students enrolled at colleges and universities in the U.S. and those pursuing online courses and on “optional practical training” from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022.
The biggest source
China is the biggest source of foreign students for the U.S., and accounts for 30.6% of total international students there.
On the contrary, India, which ranks second among source countries contributing 21% of total international students in the U.S., has seen a growth of 19% in 2021-2022 after seeing a slump of 13.2% the previous year. A total of 1.99 lakh students from India were studying in the U.S. in the last academic session.
In fact, new student arrivals from India now surpass those from China as seen recently in other key destinations such as Australia.
In June-August 2022, the peak admission season, a total of 82,000 student visas were issued to Indian students, the highest number globally. A total of 50,000 visas were issued to Chinese students in the same period, Donald L Heflin, Minister Counsellor for Consular Affairs said during a press briefing. The decline in visas to Chinese students, he said, was due to lockdowns in both the countries, and embassy staff unable to travel due to restrictions.
Last year, Chinese students received 1,10,000 student visas, and Indians received 62,000 student visas.
“A part of the deficit [from decline in Chinese students] has been handled by giving out 20,000 extra visas to Indians [this summer]. But there is still a deficit of 40,000,” said Mr. Heflin.
He added that the reaction to this could be that U.S. colleges and universities would be “even more eager” next year to attract Indian students.
Overall, in 2021-2022, there were a total 9.48 lakh international students in the U.S. — an improvement of 4% over the previous year when students from across the world reported a sharp decline due to travel restrictions during COVID-19. But international student enrolments continue to be behind pre-pandemic level (2019-2020) by 11.8%.
Apart from China, only four other countries saw a decline in students heading to the U.S. These were Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Hong Kong, however their contribution in absolute numbers is much smaller.