Students choosing graduate studies in the US on the decline, reports indicate

February 6, 2018

Sources :

The number of international students applying to post-graduate study programs in the US is dropping, two recent studies suggest.

A survey by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) indicates that applications from prospective international graduate student decreased by three per cent between fall 2016 and fall 2017, and at the same time period first-time foreign post-graduate enrolment at participating US post-secondary institutions dropped by one per cent.

The is the first time since the launch of the survey in 2004 that results show a decline in both the number of applications and enrolments from prospective international graduates.

The report, entitled “International Graduate Applications and Enrollment: Fall 2017,” looks mainly at changing trends in the flow of international graduate students to the US. The first survey was launched by CGS to monitor the impact of post 9/11 visa policy changes.

Further insights from this year’s results show a substantial decline in applications from the Middle East and North African regions, which dropped by 17 per cent from the previous year.Students choosing graduate studies in the US on the decline, reports indicate 2

International graduate first-time enrolments have also witnessed a slight drop of one per cent in comparison to last year’s intake cycle, including a drop in enrolments from India.

A similar study by the National Science Board found a similar trend at science and engineering schools in the United States.

Entitled “Science & Engineering Indicators,” the report found the total number of international students enrolled at the graduate level between 2016 and 2017 fell by 5.5 per cent from a total of 389,310 in 2016 to 367,920 in 2017.

The Trump Effect?

The declining number of foreign students choosing the US has been attributed to the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, namely his so-called “travel ban” that limits travel by citizens of Syria, Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen to the United States.

More recently, the Trump administration released a revised National Security Strategy that calls for limiting the number of international students from specific countries interested in studying in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related fields.

According to The PIE News, the restrictions aim to prevent “technology transfer and intellectual theft.”

The Washington Post previously reported that during the days following the signing of Trump’s first travel ban in January 2017, the number of page views on the University of Toronto’s prospective students website section increased significantly.

Additionally, many post-secondary institutions in Canada reported an increase in applications from prospective students — including a rise in applications from the US.

In late November, 2017 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) policy analyst Angie Larocque reported that 268,631 international students entered Canada in 2016.

Students from India represented 57 per cent of students with a valid permit as of December 2016. The United States was among the top five countries of origin for study permit holders in Canada, according to recent IRCC data.

Students choosing graduate studies in the US on the decline, reports indicate 3

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Canada the more favourable study destination

More and more international students are choosing Canada over the United States and the United Kingdom.

Recent studies ranked Canada the most appealing international study destination thanks to factors like the quality of academic institutions at both the university and college level, the comparatively low costs of tuition and living expenses, flexible work opportunities, and overall safety.

International students are also being encouraged to stay and settle in Canada after graduation. Canadian provinces are easing pathways to immigration for international students who graduate from their schools at both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Recently, the Canadian province of Manitoba announced a new stream that will nominate qualified international graduates from STEM fields for Canadian permanent residence.

Ontario and British Columbia are two provinces that have immigration options that cater to international post-graduates and don’t require a job offer: the PhD Stream and the International Post-Graduate Category.

At the federal level, the Express Entry Canadian Experience Class is a popular option for international students who have at least one year of experience working in the country.

Canada also offers eligible international graduates open work permits once they’ve graduated that allow them to work anywhere in the country.



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