International Student Numbers Hit All-Time High

International Student Numbers Hit All-Time High

New York University is the most popular destination for overseas students wanting to study in the The number of international students in the U.S. has hit an all-time high, with one in 20 of those in higher education coming from overseas.

China remains the largest single source of overseas students, accounting for one in three of those studying in the U.S., while more than half of international students are pursuing courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

More than one million international students are studying in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row, with the total in 2018/19 reaching 1,095,299, according to figures released today.

This is a slight increase on the previous year but is the highest ever recorded, according to Open Doors 2019, published by the International Institute of Education and the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

It also represents a 63% increase over the last 10 years, a period when overall numbers in higher education have risen by less than 4%. Overseas students as a proportion of the total in higher education has risen from 3.5% to 5.5% over the same time frame.

Promoting student mobility remains a top priority for the Bureau, according to Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

‘We want even more students in the future to see the United States as the best destination to earn their degrees,’ she said. ‘International exchange makes our colleges and universities more dynamic for all students and an education at a U.S. institution can have a transformative effect for international students.’

Overseas students also have an economic impact, contributing an estimated $44.7bn in 2018, 5.5% up from the previous year, according to Department of Commerce data.

Around one in three international students are from China, with India the next largest country of origin, followed by South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.


Some of the largest increases have been among students from emerging market countries, including Bangladesh (up 10.0%), Brazil (9.8%), Nigeria (5.8%) and Pakistan (5.6%).

More than half (51.6%) of overseas students are following STEM courses, with engineering the most popular option, followed by math and computer science and business and management.

The most popular destination is New York University, followed by the University of Southern California and Northeastern University – Boston.

The number of U.S. students studying abroad has also reached a new high, of 341,751 in 2017/18, a 2.7% increase on the previous year, according to the report.

The U.K. is the most popular destination, attracting almost one in 10 U.S. students heading abroad, followed by Italy, Spain and France.

While more than half of those coming to the U.S. are taking STEM subjects, just a quarter of those heading abroad from the U.S. (25.6%) do likewise, although this is still the largest single field of study.

One in five of those heading abroad are studying business, while 17.1% pursue social sciences.

White and Asian students are proportionately more likely to study abroad, while Hispanic or Black students are less likely.

White students made up 70.0% of those studying abroad, although they constitute just 61% of the total U.S. higher education population, while Asian students represent 5.7% of the total college population and 8.4% of those who study abroad. Hispanic or Latino students make up 18% of total students but just 10.6% of those studying abroad, while Black students constitute 12.3% of those in higher education but just 6.1% of those heading overseas.

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November 19, 2019