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Admission Offers Drop for Foreign Grad Students at U.S. Universities

For the first time in 5 years, admission offers from American universities to foreign grad students–including science and engineering students–dropped compared to the year before. Grad-school applications from foreign students increased slightly for the 2009-2010 academic year, but the increase was the smallest since 2005. These findings come from a Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) survey released last week.

The number of applications from foreign students rose 6% in social sciences and psychology, but life sciences applications remained flat and physical sciences, earth sciences, and engineering applications rose just 2-3%. In 2005 and 2006, these fields recorded double-digit increases in applications.

U.S. graduate schools offered fewer admissions to these students, a trend reflected in most other disciplines as well. While the number of offers to social science and psychology students increased by 1%, offers to life science students dropped by 1%, and engineering, physical science, and earth science offers dropped 4% in 2009. Overall, the number of offers to foreign grad students was down 3% compared to 2008.
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The number of grad-school applications from South Korea and India were both down 16%  in 2009. Applications from China, and from Turkey and the Middle Eastern countries, were up by double-digits over 2008. Offers to Chinese grad students increased 13% in 2009. For students from Middle Eastern countries and Turkey, offers rose 10%. . The survey report does not give data on students from Europe or the other American countries.

Universities with the largest numbers of foreign grad students continued to offer more foreign science and engineering students positions in their graduate departments. The 25 institutions with the largest foreign-student enrollments made 10% more admission offers to engineering and life science students from overseas in 2009, while social science and psychology offers increased by 5%. For foreign physical and earth science students, the number of offers barely increased (a 1% gain). For institutions with smaller numbers of foreign students enrolled, the numbers of offers were either flat or declined in 2009.

CGS conducted this survey in June, the second of three surveys of international graduate students conducted each year. The first survey in February provides a snapshot of initial applications. The last survey, in October, assesses foreign-student enrollments.