US: International graduate recruitment stalls

After four years of growth, international recruitment to graduate schools has stalled, according to the latest data. A survey showed that between 2008 and 2009 there was zero growth in recruitment from the top three source countries.

International recruitment had already been slowing before the latest figures - from a 12% increase in 2006, 4% in 2007 and 3% last year. Offers of admission fell by 1% over the same period, the first decline since 2004.

India, China, and South Korea are the top three countries of origin for international graduate students, representing a half of all non-US citizens on temporary visas at graduate schools.

The council also monitors recruitment from countries in the Middle East and Turkey because of the region's geopolitical importance. Graduate students from the Middle East and Turkey currently account for about 5% of all international graduate students in the US.

The CGS says that monitoring student flows from the three countries provides a good indicator of overall international applications trends. But the trend is not uniform: first-time enrolment of students from China, one of the two countries that send most graduate students, actually increased by 16% - the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth.

There was also a 22% rise in numbers from the Middle East and Turkey, on top of an 8% gain in 2008. But enrolments from India showed a 16% drop, the other largest sending country following a 2% decline in 2008 and an 8% increase in 2007.

South Korea also experienced a decline of 13% after a 4% decline in 2008 compared with a 3% increase in 2007.

In contrast to the international trends, first-time enrolment of domestic graduate students grew 6% although the overall number masks a significant split with 68% of schools reporting an average increase of 11%, while 32% said enrolments had fallen by an average of 7%.

Council President Debra W Stewart said: "The strong growth in first-time enrolment of US students shows that they recognise the value of graduate education, especially in a tight job market.

"However, the lack of growth in first-time international enrolment raises questions about the future of our nation's share of the global student market."

The CGS represents more than 500 universities and colleges in the US and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. Collectively, the 100 largest institutions enrol about 60% of the total international graduate student population in the US.

A high response rate among these institutions suggests the survey results accurately depict recent trends in international offers of admission and enrolment at graduate schools.