Number of International Graduate School Applicants Continues to Grow

By Catherine Groux
Posted August 24, 2012 02:00 PM

More international students are applying to American graduate schools.
More international students are applying to American graduate schools.
For the third year in a row, the number of international students receiving an offer of admission from an American graduate school has increased, according to new data from the Council of Graduate Schools. The report shows that between 2011 and 2012, international graduate admissions rose by 9%, following a 9% growth last year.

Still, not only are more foreign students being accepted to U.S. schools, but more are applying as well. The council reports that there was a 9% increase in the number of applications from international students in 2012, after an 11% gain in 2011 and a 9% growth in 2010.

China Continues to Provide the Most Graduate School Applicants

The council's report indicates that a majority of foreign applicants to American graduate school programs come from China, and this figure is still growing. In 2012, the number of applications from China increased by 18%, following a massive 21% growth in 2011 and a 20% rise in 2010. In fact, 2012 marks the seventh consecutive year for double-digit growth in the number of graduate school applications from the Asian nation.

Aside from China, other foreign countries also saw significant gains in the number of prospective students applying to U.S. graduate schools to earn a doctorate or master's degree. For example, the number of applications from Mexico rose by 17%, while Brazil saw a 14% growth. 

A Majority of Foreign Students Study STEM Subjects

While international students plan to come to the U.S. to study a wide range of topics, the report shows that engineering and science are the most popular fields of study. Approximately 26% of all foreign graduate students are enrolled in engineering programs, while about 20% are enrolled in physical and earth science programs, which include mathematics and computer science.

Although science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are popular among foreign students, liberal arts courses tend to attract few international degree seekers. Currently, only about 8% of all global graduate students are enrolled in social sciences and psychology programs, while 6% are taking arts and humanities courses. 

International Students Seek High-Quality Programs

Debra W. Stewart, president of the council, said the overall increasing number of graduate school applications from international students reflects the high quality of doctorate and master's degree programs in the U.S. In a statement, Stewart said these courses of study have "world-class reputations."

However, Stewart also believes that U.S. graduate programs cannot take their solid reputations for granted and should continue to reach out to foreign students.

"Given the current global economy and increasing global competition for talent, we must continue our efforts to attract students from countries where numbers of student applicants are slowing, as well as those such as Brazil and China, where there is renewed momentum to pursue graduate study in the U.S.," she said.

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