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US sees increase in foreign students

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The number of international students enrolled in United States colleges and universities has increased for the first time since the 2002-2003 academic year, according to a report entitled 'Open Doors' by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The number of students increased by 3.2 percent over the previous academic year to a total of 582,984.

The leading country of origin for international students was India (83,833), followed by China (67,723), South Korea (62,392), and Japan (35,282).

The top fields of study for foreign students was Business and Management (103,641), followed by Engineering (89,137), Physical and Life Scientists (51,863), and Social Sciences (48,978).

US Re-Opens its Doors

Until the 2006-2007 academic year, foreign student enrolment in US had been declining because of tougher visa requirements in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 2003-2004 academic year was the first decline in foreign students (-2.4 percent) for the report's study period, which dates back as far as the 1959-1960 academic year.

In response to the drop in numbers, the US government is trying to improve its image as a welcoming destination for international students.

"The increase in enrolments we see in this year's Open Doors statistics reflects the dynamism, diversity and excellence of U.S. higher education institutions in a competitive international environment, and demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. government and U.S. higher education leaders to welcoming international students," said Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes.

Complimenting the report, figures from the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs showed that the number of student and exchange visas issued during fiscal year 2007 ending 30 September increased by 10.2 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of IIA, highlighted the need for the US to encourage attracting talent from abroad.

"Given increased global competition for talent, as well as expanded higher education options in many of the leading sending countries, America needs to continue its proactive steps to insure that our academic doors remain wide open, and that students around the world understand that they will be warmly welcomed," Goodman said.

Competition from Abroad

The United States is competing for foreign students with nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia that have programs in place to encourage immigration from foreign graduates of their respective educational institutions.

For example, foreign graduates from UK educational institutes can remain in the country for one year after graduation using a program called the International Graduates Scheme. Students of Ireland institutions have a similar program called the Third Level Graduates Scheme.

Australia allows foreign graduates to apply for a temporary 18-month Skilled Graduate visa that allows them unrestricted rights to take further study and work, and they can apply for a permanent visa at any time. New Zealand allows applicants for skilled migration to gain a significant advantage on their points test if they have received an educational qualification from a New Zealand educational institution.