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International Science, Engineering Students Increase at U.S. Universities

The number of science and engineering students from abroad jumped 20%
at American institutions in the 2008-09 academic year, with the biggest
gains recorded in engineering and computer science. Science and
engineering students now comprise about half of all international
students in the U.S. and nearly two-thirds of international graduate

According to the Open Doors survey,
conducted annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE,
funded by the U.S. Department of State), the number of science and
engineering students increased from about 267,000 in the 2007-08
academic year to about 319,000 in 2008-09, an increase of nearly 20%. 
That’s about half (48%) of the 671,600 international students in the
United States in 2008-09, up from 43% of the total in the previous year.

for agriculture, international students in all the scientific and
engineering categories increased by double-digit percentages in
2008-09. Engineering and computer/information science students
increased by about a quarter (24%), while life, physical, social, and
health science disciplines all increased between 14-17%. The number of
agricultural students from abroad stayed about the same as in 2007-08.

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Nearly two-thirds (65%) of international graduate students at American universities during the 2008-09 study science or engineering. About a quarter (24%) of international graduate students are in engineering programs and 13% of international graduate students are in the physical and life sciences. About 11% of international graduate students are studying mathematics or computer science,  and 9% of international graduate students are in the social sciences.

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About 4 in 10 international undergraduates are in science or engineering programs. Some 12% of international undergrads are studying engineering, while nearly 1 in 10 (9%) are majoring in the social sciences. About 5-7% each are in undergraduate physical/life science, mathematics/computer science, or health programs.

Overall, the number of international students in the U.S. increased by nearly 8% in 2008-09, to 671,600. Of the total, about 41% come from India, China, or South Korea. The number of students from China increased by about 21% year over year. Vietnamese students increased by 46%, to about 12,800, compared to 2007-08 — the largest increase for any country. (IIE did not provide country breakdowns by field of study.)

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